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Gran Turismo Sport’s Titular Mode Really Makes You Feel Like A Track Racer
Gran Turismo Sport has shifted its focus from a single-player experience of the past to an online-focused multiplayer racing. This of course have made the game a bit underwhelming for many fans, but if you are into the idea of racing with others online, it certainly delivers.
Think of Sport Mode as a ranked or competitive multiplayer mode. Your performance will be graded in both how well you finish (which affects your Driver Rating- DR) and how clean you race (govern by the Sportsmanship Rating- SR). This mode requires you to really be serious with clean racing- you need to watch two videos that explains about sportsmanship (which unfortunately is very basic, “don’t make yourself look bad” is the main takeaway), agree to a terms of service and provide an email address.
From there, you will have access to daily races. There are three races that cycles daily that you can join and several event races. You have to register to enter these races, with entries opening 15 minutes before the race begins. Yes, you have to follow schedules and sometimes wait a bit to enter a race rather than just immediately jump into a match like most multiplayer games. You can practice or set qualifiying times once you’ve confirmed entry to wait until the matchmaking properly starts.
Matchmaking has been pretty fair. You will be matched with the same SR and DR, with similar SR being a priority. The grid will have a mix of really fast racers at the front and slower ones at the back, but you will guaranteed to be matched pretty close to the car in front and back. Races typically have little lag despite players from Japan to Australia sharing the same server, though more recently, there are slight lag noticeable especially during peak hours.
Thanks to the ratings, you will encounter races where people would not just plunge into each other in turn 1 like most online races in other games. The staggered rolling start and the use of ghosting for cars that drop to a really slow speed helps avoid pile-ups and the severe SR penalties (as well as the game’s lackluster damage model) disincentivise hitting other cars. At its best, everyone on the track will only attempt clean overtakes, gives back position and slows down if they bumped too hard while overtaking, and will run into the grass to avoid slow cars should the ghosting didn’t kick in. GT Sport succeeds in encouraging these behaviors, something we haven’t seen on any console racer.
As an added bonus, the presentation for the FIA GT Nations Cup and Manufacture Series are just top-notch. The preamble for those races will make you feel like a track racer in a very important race.
However, it’s not perfect. Early on you will get punished for being the victim of a bump, despite it being clear that you are not the guilty party. Ghosting changes as you raise your SR, with higher SR having less ghosting- a detail you might have missed if you did not read the official updates. If there’s a new race just being cycled, don’t expect clean races from the get go as everyone tries to get used to the new track. The videos explaining sportsmanship only provides the bare essentials to how a sportsman-like behaviour the game wants to encourage.
And of course, the need to wait. Unless you come in time, there will be long downtimes until you can enter another online race- longer if you don’t like practicing a few laps to kill time. Any casual players will easily be put off by the many quirks the multiplayer has, it’s not as seamless as other multiplayer games. But if you love the idea of how iRacing makes its online races competitive and clean this sure brings a similar experience on the console space.