Four years ago, Gran Turismo 6 came out to mediocre success. Fans have been patiently waiting for the next in the series, and studio Polyphonic Digital has been hard at work to bring the franchise more in line with modern racing games. Although it suffered delays, the titular PlayStation racing franchise is back with updated graphics and new ideas for the PlayStation 4. This is our review of Gran Turismo Sport.
Right away familiar fans will recognize that the campaign is different than what they are used to in previous iterations; Gran Turismo Sport is not focused on tournaments or racing cups like past entries and instead is more involved with the journey in learning correct driving techniques and perfecting the driving lines on each of its 28 circuits. Although this is one of the smallest track selection of any Gran Turismo game (Gran Turismo 2 had 27 tracks and Gran Turismo and the first Gran Turismo had 11 tracks) I thoroughly enjoyed my time racing on each track and challenging myself to memorize the optimal driving line.
Instead of racing cups or racing series competitions, the main driving mode in Gran Turismo Sport is the aptly named Sport mode. This mode is an online-only competition between drivers from all over the world, competing for top pole position on pre-selected tracks that rotate out every hour or so. Before even hopping in this online mode, however, GT Sport requires players to watch two several-minute long videos going over ‘driving etiquette’ and describing an online etiquette ranking system that is used in determining who you get to play with. Do you frequently use other racers as bumpers for turning around sharp corners? Guess what; you’ll play with people who do that to you too! Got ahead of the pack and never even see anyone else, let alone run into them? Congratulations, you’ve earned an A rating – keep up the good sportsmanship-like conduct! It’s a commendable systematic attempt even if it falls flat when put into practice; I would much prefer a time penalty for dirty racing than having to worry about some ‘Etiquette Rank’.
One altered aspect of GT Sport is how licenses are earned via Gran Turismo’s driving school lessons: they’re not. That’s right, earning your license is a thing of the past, although GT still holds a school with the exact same lessons and trials from previous games. These lessons teach you everything from starting and stopping, to taking corners and understanding racing lines for each track. Its goal is to make a better driver out of all of us; a smarter, more precise racing driver. Although it was fun to try and earn a Gold rating on each lesson, I felt that there were just too many lessons to go through. The only thing that kept me engaged with the Driving School was seeing my friends’ ratings and time on each lesson and trying to beat their score. However, that was short lived when half-way through the lessons my friends seemingly decided it wasn’t worth their time anymore to do these lessons; therefore, I lost all interest in it myself.
Gran Turismo Sport offers a new mode called ‘Missions’ that put into practice the skills you’ve learned through the driving school. These missions can range from overtaking a certain number of cars on a circuit to winning a 1v1 race to even fun mini-games like knocking over enough bowling pins within the time limit. Like the driving school, you can see what times and ratings your friends got. But other than bragging rights, there’s really no point to these missions and it seems like an unnecessary addition.
But enough about the training exercises; this is a racing game and the most important thing to a racing game are the cars! And GT Sport boasts more than 160 of the most ostentatious automobiles the racing scene has ever known. However, much like the track lists, this is one of the smallest roster of automobiles the GT series has ever had (with only the first Gran Turismo having fewer cars at 140). It is worth noting that GT Sport does have several Toyota and Lexus cars, unlike several other racing games that have come out recently, but it’s just not enough for serious petrol heads and car enthusiasts.
GT Sport does add a nice addition for those who care about the history and legacy of car manufacturers and racing history. For each automobile manufacturer, you are treated to a museum that showcases that company’s finest past achievements as well as provides a history lesson. Not only the manufacturers but also important historical races and racing cups are highlighted as well as events that helped shape what racing is today. It’s a nice touch to those who care but, again, feels like an unnecessary addition.
Another neat, but unnecessary, addition to the game is the new Photoshoot mode. You can take any car you’ve purchased or won and set it up however you’d like in a diverse range of settings to take photorealistic in-game screenshots of and share with your friends and the GT community. I had fun playing around in this mode, setting up a Bugatti Veyron driving in a downtown Tokyo setting, with a Volkswagen Golf coming the other way just to make it look slightly more realistic – and then messing with the lightning, and rain effects, and time of day until I had the perfect picture. Did I have fun? Yes. Would I bother doing it again? No, not without them adding more cars to the game – I would definitely put a 1986 Corolla drifting through a mountain pass if I could but that’s not going to happen.
Finally, one of the biggest additions to this generation’s Gran Turismo is the inclusion of VR for the PlayStation VR headset. This is hands down one of the selling points of this title and was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had in VR. That said, you cannot race in just any of the cars available in the game – there is only a select handful that is allowed in VR. And the tracks are limited at first until you increase your driver level by driving a certain amount of miles in-game. But the VR itself is extremely well-done and easily the best feeling and most realistic immersive racing experience on PSVR and did not make me feel queasy or nauseous in the least, unlike some other VR racing games (I’m looking at you Drive Club VR!)
Gran Turismo Sport is the beginning of a new era for the titular PlayStation racing franchise, but some aspects should have been tuned further if they wanted to remain competitive. Unnecessarily convoluted game modes, a pointless photo mode, always-online connectivity, and terrible rosters of tracks and cars bog down an otherwise fun and immersive driving experience. Although this is easily one of the best feeling and best sounding racing games on PlayStation 4, other racing games are just more fun. And as a long-time fan of this series, that is the most heartbreaking of all.
Note: Our copy was reviewed on the PlayStation 4 with a code provided by PR.