Gran Turismo Sport has finally arrived, marking the launch of the famous series’ first Playstation 4 generation title. It comes with support for Playstation VR as well, which we of course tested during our review process.
The Gran Turismo series is one of the franchises that’s seen a release for every Playstation console generation so far. It sadly never made it to the Vita though, and the disappointing sales for 2013’s Gran Turismo 6 made me curious to see what would happen to the series. Of course, I wasn’t holding my breath, because Polyphony is notorious for taking their time between releases.
When Gran Turismo sport was announced, I was more excited than I thought I was going to be. Part of that is because I never really counted the series as my favorite (I tend to veer more towards arcade racers), but also because some of the visual “wow factor” of the serious had faded a little bit simply because other games have caught up and simply look stunning these days. There’s Project Cars 2 and Forza 7 just in recent months, to name two of them. Nevertheless, with GT Sport I felt I was going to get more of that competitive racing, some of it even arcade-like – and there was going to be VR support too. A ton to look forward to, but having played the game I now realize I probably built it up to be more than I should have been expecting. GT Sport is still a wonderful racing game and it looks gorgeous, but it’s also lacking in certain key areas.
At its heart, GT Sport still features the kind of driving model and the beautiful cars that made the series famous. The cars handle great, and even more so over time – putting in practice really feels like it pays off. They’re also wonderful to look at, which is of course easy to see in garage mode but also clear in-game – the reflections on and in your glass and paintwork are almost mesmerizingly good to look at. I’ve watched replays just to pay attention to all the visual details, completely forgetting about the racing performance I was supposed to look at.
Racing performance is, however, important – no matter how you play. In single player, GT Sport can feel like a driving school simulator, as the importance of constant improvement and collection of achievements seems to outweigh the thrill of the race. Getting a better understanding of how your car handles is great, but it would be better if there were more options to put this into practice. There are challenges to complete, but single player feels like a case of underdeveloped content, because even the arcade mode didn’t feel like it provided the excitement I was hoping for (and which is present in online multiplayer).
Your performance when racing also plays into your reputation, which becomes a bit of a thing online. Others can see if you play nice, which can affect who you’re paired up with. It’s a clever mechanic, but I found that a bit of diversity in the group can also help keep things interesting. No one wants a pack of crash test dummies – at least not after a while – but having a few risk takers in the race certainly spices things up a bit.
If online play is not your thing, then you’ll want to hold off on GT Sport for now – it’s the meat of the entire package at the moment, even though the number of online modes is limited. If you get sucked in, then the online play is stellar and won’t let you go – but more modes would have made the chances of that happening far greater. When not playing online, you’ll quickly notice the relative lack of cars and tracks as well – there’s only a fraction of what was available in the last two Gran Turismo games, although I’ll readily admit that Polyphony went overboard a little with the overwhelming amount of cars (over 1,000) in GT 5 and 6.
VR mode, sadly enough, is also underwhelming and feels more like a proof of concept than a way to play. The unfortunate thing is that this proof of concept is amazing – the car handling physics are all still there, checking your rear view mirrors in VR is a thrill, and the visuals are wonderful despite the downgrade from the non-VR version. VR can’t be selected for any of the regular game modes though, making it feel like a tech demo when it could have been a groundbreaking mode for Playstation VR – which is still waiting for Sony to provide a great racing experience after Driveclub VR was met with so-so reactions.
At the end of the day, GT Sport feels like it’s still a work in progress (with more content promised), and it’s a good work in progress as well. It could have been so much more though, and hopefully we’ll see it evolve into just that over the next few months. With the framework that’s here, we can’t wait.