In the racing and driving simulator genre, few games offer up the same allegiance amongst fans as the Gran Turismo series. After an arduous wait, the game was finally skimmed-down for its own PSP release and let loose for fan consumption on October 1, 2009. The game’s launch coincided with Sony’s new PSPgo, and you can purchase GT in UMD and digital forms. While playing Gran Turismo for this review, we had to keep reminding ourselves that this is a PSP title, and right from the beginning we were blown away with the sleek graphics. But beyond the visuals, we felt a little disappointed at the lack of a career and online game modes.
You’ve likely heard the basic specs regarding Gran Turismo on the PSP; it features some 800 vehicles, about 60 tracks (if you count driving a track backwards as a separate track), and this all occurs while running at 60fps. For people who don’t play many PSP games, you may not consider the graphics all that great. However, you shouldn’t forget that this is a PSP, not a PlayStation 2 or PlayStation 3. The graphics are smooth, and the video replays are pure eye candy. The vehicles look realistic and the different track settings come to life as you cruise down straight-aways at 150 mph. Chances are you won’t have all that much time to enjoy the scenery as you’ll keep your eyes focused on the road ahead. The game flows beautifully without the slightest worry of graphical lag or hesitations.
Gran Turismo is exactly what you’d expect from the PSP iteration of the series. This is not a ‘dumbed-down’ version of GT; it’s simply a thinner version. Without the power of a DVD or Blu-ray, there’s only so much Polyphony Digital can squeeze in to Sony’s handheld device. Unfortunately, what Gran Turismo loses in its transition to portable heaven is fairly substantial. There is no career mode, making the desire to progress through the game fairly weak. It’s unfortunate that the game lacks this most basic feature.
The game offers two main game modes, Single Player and Driver Challenges. You can think of the Single Player mode as a quick play option, with drift challenges, time trials, and standard race as your options. All of the 30 tracks are available right from the beginning. You can ‘progress’ through these tracks by increasing your driver rank, but all this really does is make the AI better. You’ll gain game currency that allows you to purchase new rides by winning races. The higher your driver rank, the more money you’ll earn on each track. You’ll also earn more money depending on the type of track, its difficulty, and the number of laps you race.
Your single race experience is limited to competing with three other vehicles. The PSP likely can’t sustain many more vehicles per race, but having only four vehicles on a track at one time doesn’t feel very competitive. The game’s drift trials are a lot of fun, though, and are a welcome break from the standard single player races. Here, players are judged on how well you can drift through a turn and earn points accordingly. Still, this mode lacks the progress we hoped for, as there are no rankings to beat. The other game mode, Driver Challenges, is the one part that resembles a career mode. The various challenges are designed to teach you how to play the game, but again, there isn’t all that much incentive to play through the entire challenge.
All of our complaints about the game’s progress will not necessarily translate into a negative feature for every gamer. It’s important to remember, again, that this is a PSP game. Sony’s handheld device is intended to offer you quick, high quality gaming experiences. That’s exactly what Gran Turismo offers; it’s a great driving simulator that you can pick up and play for 10 minutes, have a great time, and put it down for a day or two without feeling like you are missing some sort of progression.
If you are a driving and a vehicle fan, you are going to love this game. With 800 vehicles to buy, you’ll spend a large amount of time in the garage, trying to find that perfect ride. Still, there are some glaring niggles present when buying a new car. First of all, there are only a handful of vehicles every day (days progress in the game every time you complete an event). Each day there are four manufacturers that are ‘open’ for you to purchase a vehicle from. In that given day, not all of that manufacturer’s vehicles will be available. In addition, there’s no easy way to figure out which vehicles you already own. For the people who want to spend a lot of time purchasing their vehicles, you’ll have a lot of fun collecting all that GT has to offer; just don’t expect to be able to upgrade your ride. Before each race you can make small tweaks to your vehicle by adjusting its torque, handling, power, and more. The lack of aftermarket customization is certainly missed.
It should be noted that you will be able to transfer your garage to Gran Turismo 5 on the PlayStation 3 when the game is released. You can also trade and share vehicles with friends via an Ad-Hoc connection. There’s a limited amount of multiplayer options for use with an Ad-Hoc connection. Nonetheless, we sorely missed the inclusion of a more comprehensive online component for Sony’s portable racer.
Gran Turismo is certainly not a bad game, but it feels a little less than we had hoped for. The franchise is so strong, yet the PSP version feels a little tenuous in comparison to its console counterparts. However, we feel that racing fanatics, car aficionados, and most importantly, Gran Turismo fans will still find the game an enjoyable experience. With some 800 vehicles to play around with, and some 60 tracks to test your skills, there’s a lot to keep you busy. But, without a proper career mode, if you are not interested in buying more cars, the desire to play this game multiple times will decline rapidly. Taking the game for what it is - a quick driving simulator with an extensive list of vehicles - and you will find a lot of enjoyment. Above all, it’s important to remember that this game is on the PSP, and looks amazing running at 60fps. Ultimately, this portable effort has certainly wet our appetite for the latest PS3 entry in this legendary franchise – let’s just hope Polyphony Digital spices things up for an inevitable sequel.
-The Final Word-
Gran Turismo is a fine racing simulator and offers car fans an enormous amount of killer vehicles to collect. Ultimately, the game is marred by the lack of a career mode and online play