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Gran Turismo Sport – Review
The intro cinematic of Gran Turismo Sport left me wondering. While intros of past games celebrate the cars first, here we are introduced to the early days of motorsport, and when the cinematic starts proper, there is a new theme replacing Moon Over The Castle, the staple theme of yore.
As Gran Turismo Sport is readying themselves for “the next 100 years of motorsport”, they are shedding away the past 20 years of car collecting and expansive single-player experience to focus on the online multiplayer.
This is a bold move that will surely alienate a lot of fans of the series, but they also have raised another new bar for racing games in the process.
Graphics & Audio
Gran Turismo has always have this air of pompousness to its presentation. The slick mouse-based UI, the nice dings for each menu press, the ambient lounge music that plays in the menus. It’s all there in GT Sport, so fans will feel like home again. The UI isn’t as well laid out as I wanted- some menus feel like they should be merged together, but at least it’s snappy.
The cars this time are all made from scratch. Gone are the days of premium and standard cars, all the cars here are of the same quality. Each car is laser scanned and then hand-modelled by one person for around six months, and the results do show that labour of work. These are borderline car porn.
From the exquisite looking brake lights that are all modelled accurately to the interior decorations, each car is detailed to the extreme. Add that GT Sport has this very soft lighting that feels life-like and what you have is the most realistic car models in a video game at the moment. These cars also blend well in the Scapes photography, where real-life photographs can be used as backgrounds to take pictures of these beautiful, beautiful cars.
The lighting model is also top-notch. Driving at night around the Nordschleife is harrowing thanks to it being very dark and foggy whilst everything is lighted to the brim in the night race for the small oval track Northern Isle Speedway. The ambience is also inviting- lively crowds, fireworks at the final lap of a night race, helicopters, jets and even drones swoosh by occasionally. It’s a shame that to accomplish this, GT Sport has to forego dynamic weather and time, a feature that other racing games of its ilk are now boasting. On the regular PS4, certain parts of the game like replays and the garage menu will drop to 30fps, though PS4 Pro owners should experience 60fps throughout the whole game.
As for the sounds, it has always been a weak link for the series. Cars don’t sound like vacuum cleaners no more, and the horrid tyre screeching sound that was almost in every game has some changes. However, the sound is still a bit muted. You can hear the engines of each car roaring the same tune in real life, but it lacks any punch to it. The rawness of the sound is not there. The racing soundtrack ranges from cheesy rock by composer Daiki Kasho (which is a guilty pleasure of mine) to a few licensed tracks, but even with those turned off the car sounds are still too refined and flat. A step in the right direction, but could have been better.
“The Real Driving Simulator” tagline is now a misnomer, as other racing simulators have proven they can model even more realistic physics. But why GT has proven so popular, aside from being heavily marketed by a very popular console, is how accessible the driving is- there’s even Mario Kart-style steering assists now.
Even on a controller you have enough control of the car while still having its characteristics prevail. The Ferrari LaFerrari is a lumbering rocket, with high top speed but hard to turn, requiring the gentlest steering and hard braking to tame it across corners. That is different from the nimble Porsche Cayman Clubsport GT4, a Gr.4 car tuned for track races that excels at turning hard while maintaining stability, but lacks power on straights. The Honda Project 2&4 powered by RC213V is light car using a motorcycle engine with barely any downforce, making it very slippery around race tracks with many elevation changes.
The simulation models a lot of real physics, like weight balance and suspension. But not all is modelled here, there’s no temperature and tyre pressure modelling so those do not affect grip in GT Sport. Tyre wear, fuel consumption and basic mechanical damage is in the game, which allows for long, hard endurance races- complete with proper pit animations.
You can feel the difference when driving the 150+ cars available, and that alone makes it good enough for me, a casual player who only plays racing games with a controller and automatic transmission only. Your mileage may vary, however, and it’s safe to say that as your familiarity with more realistic sim racers increases, your enjoyment with GT Sport’s handling model decreases.
The Sport Mode is a big departure for the series. This is basically a competitive multiplayer mode, and is now the focus of the game. The game uses two ratings, Driver Rating and Sportsmanship Rating, to gauge player performance. The Sportsmanship Rating is equivalent to iRacing’s Safety Rating, which increases as you race in a clean manner and penalises you for cutting corners and bumping other racers.
The system isn’t explained in full- sometimes you are also being penalised for being rear-ended which clearly you are not the guilty party here. Though over time, the instances of the victim being penalised as well has been reduced, either because I have slowly increased my rating or the game may have changed the way it penalises players. At its best, races are lag-free, the grid is full competitive folks that also respects each other and the experience can be nerve-wreckingly good.
Sport Mode plays host to three daily races, each featuring three different tracks and car choices. The big selling point here is the FIA-endorsed races in the form of the FTA GT Nations Cup and FIA GT Manufacture Series. These two tournaments are sanctioned by the top governing body for motorsports, with the best racer being awarded at the FIA Gala, sharing the stage with other real-life races. This all sounds all grand and ambitious, though we can’t tell yet if it is worth the hype.
If you are not a fan of all the competitive races, traditional online lobbies are still available. Plus, the AI cars encountered in Arcade Mode or the campaign this time are a bit more competent this time.
This leads to another problem: the game is online-only. You can only use Arcade Mode when offline, and early during launch servers are rather spotty. If you are in the middle of a campaign race when a long server maintenance is about to happen, all your progress cannot be saved, especially when a new update is rolled out after the maintenance.
Content & Longevity
The big point of contention for GT Sport is the content. Like all GTs first released in any given console generation, the car and track amount see a significant drop. From the 1200+ cars and 41 tracks in GT6, GT Sport has only 162 cars with 17 tracks. It is missing a lot of big tracks previously available- no Monza, no Spa, not even Circuit de la Sarthe despite being available as a Scapes background. A bulk of the car list are for the main Gr.4 and Gr.3 categories so most of the manufactures are available for the FIA GT races, with some of them not based on real race cars but created just for the game. Technically there are only two unique Ferrari cars (the 458 Italia and the LaFerrari) and two unique Lamborghinis (the Huracan and the Veneno), which can be disappointing for GT fans. At least Porsches are now in the game.
But when considered as a standalone title without the baggage of the series, it’s decent. All the tracks are fun to drive on. Technical tracks like Suzuka and the Nurburgring 24h are still great to drive on, and the new fantasy tracks, now based more closely to real locations, blend well with the real tracks. I thought that a serious-looking circuit Autrodrome Laggo Magiore was a real-life track before I looked it up.
To unwind after a long race, GT Sport offer a few distractions. One is the aforementioned Scapes photo mode, where you can place your cars in real-life locations, including in Malaysia, and snap to your hearts content. You can also snap pictures from race replays as well. The livery editor, a new feature for the series, is a welcome addition. It’s not as robust yet, but there have been plenty of masterpiece works being created, so the inclusion is worth it.
You can discover other player’s work, from photos to custom liveries to even replays through discovery, which also offers a social media-esque experience as you can like, comment and repost content. You can also race in VR, but with limited choice of cars and tracks it’s more of a gimmick rather than a feature.
There are now two currencies- there’s credits to buy cars though you rarely need to- you can get a lot of random prize cars from completing parts of the campaign and by driving enough mileage daily. Then there’s Mileage points, earned as you slowly rack up mileage driven to buy cosmetic items like wheels, helmets, custom paints and new driver poses as well as custom cars not for sale with credits. If you keep on playing regularly you will get ample amount of these to get the car and items you want.
The single-player content is there, but will leave many wanting more. No more licence tests and traditional cups and tournaments against AI of the old as the new campaign combines all of these elements into a smaller chunk of gameplay segments. They are good- some of them can be challenging like the endurance races and timed rallies, but not a good replacement for a traditional GT campaign. You can sort of replicate some of the old races with Arcade mode and Custom races- each rewards you credits for completion.
The circuit experience portion of the campaign is analogous to the Super license tests. It will teach a lot on how to shave your lap times, but don’t expect getting all the golds mean you are now a top-tier driver. At best, it will give you some preparation for Sport Mode, but not a Driving Rating A level of competence.
If you enjoy Sport Mode, then it sure will keep you playing for a long time. Otherwise, you have to be really into the game to spend a lot of time here. I spent more than 40 hours before writing this review, reaching near the end of the campaign and done tons of online races.
Gran Turismo Sport is one of the best in the series, but it will surely be one of the most polarising. The focus on multiplayer meant a lot of the classic car-collecting experience fans are fond of are thrown out of the drain. But the multiplayer is by far the best implementation of its kind on a console.
GT Sport lays the foundation of a fantastic sim-cade racing game, but it’s clear they need to catch up again in terms of content. With very little choice of cars and tracks and an online-only requirement makes it a a great game for hardcore fans who love online races, but not for the rest of the fans.
Give the game some time. Should Polyphony stays true to their word and add more cars, tracks and possibly single-player events, then this will be one of the best games in the series. As it is, it’s a decent racing game, but not what most fans of the series wanted.
Review based on version 1.02, 1.03 and 1.05 of the game played on a regular PS4.
Review copy purchased by the reviewer.