When it comes to Gran Turismo, you kind of know what to expect: stunning visuals, living sounds, and stellar driving. All of that is here in Gran Turismo Sport, but what is surprising is how a few critical decisions ultimately affect the way that this game is played.
Really though, GT Sport is gorgeous, and what really stands out is how Polyphony has decided to deliver its game. A lot of major backdrops you see are all rendered in pure, overzealous glory, but what really struck me was how confident this team is in its ability to render cars. When in the Scapes Scene, Sport’s version of Photo Mode, or just watching the main menu cycle, you’ll see these rendered cars in the form of actual photos. The cars themselves are really that well realized, down to how each surface reflects different levels and intensities of light. Even after playing GT Sport for as long as I have, I still sit back from time to time and just gawk at my Aston Martin illuminated perfectly under Champs Elysee at night. It’s simply breathtaking.
As I mentioned above, Scapes Scene is a mode where you can choose any real-life backdrop you like and take tons of pictures with your car. Included in the game is a healthy list of locales to choose from with tons of others free to download from PSN. Before that, you can go into the Livery Editor and customize the aesthetic of your car to your heart’s content, though you still can’t touch the interior. You even have the ability, after level 5, to customize how your helmet and suit appear.
HDR, for its part, is a huge jump from SDR. Cars pop out more vividly, bodywork exhibits a wonderful sheen, soft shadows cascade onto leather gloves and the steering wheel, and headlights pierce through the night while glorious sun blinds sunset and sunrise. It all just oozes a quality that outshines even DriveClub in places. Night races is where HDR is most noticeable and the contrast you get seeing the buildings light up the town where you’re racing is something to behold.
However, the textures – particularly at night – can look flat despite the lighting effects. The cars still look phenomenal, but the tarmac, walls at the side of the road. and buildings suffer a bit. But at other times of the day, the textures have a much more detailed look.
There are rewards aplenty in all modes, granting you a plethora of cars for everything you do. Even leveling up grants you cars, and it’s just great. Each race, event, or course you complete, awards mileage, currency, and experience. Build these higher, and you get access to more rewards and additional available cars from Brand Central, GT Sport’s in-game store.
Another franchise staple is how wonderful the game’s sounds are. Ranging from the music to the cars themselves, the audible side of Gran Turismo Sport is in a league of its own. This time around, the only issue I have – mostly because the soundtrack works in harmony to what you’re doing – is the fact that not all engines sound authentic, and some don’t have the kind of oomph behind them that one would expect. I experienced this mostly during Driving School, since I was put into cars I would never drive in-game if I had a choice, and a fair few of them sound empty and underwhelming to say the least. This does not by any means encompass the entire fleet of cars at your disposal, but it’s noticeable; especially if you wear a headset or have a heavy duty sound system.
The online side of Gran Turismo Sport has some rather appealing quirks about it. In particular, the game modes offered within the Sports, or multiplayer menu are all listed in signups for future matches. Daily Races have time options running throughout the day, so anyone can sign up for a race at his or her most convenient time. However, at least so far, the three offered tournaments works the same way, but they are locked in particular time frames, mainly during the day from 11 am to 3 pm in the US and 1 am to 5 am in the UK. This means that most people won’t be able to join these races due to life obligations like school and work. I can’t say for sure what sort of times will be offered in the future, but for now we’re stuck with having online options we may or may not be able to participate in due to the encroachment of our daily lives. Outside of that, competitive matches can be set up and joined at any time, so there’s enough there to keep the online environment going in these early months.
In regards to online, my play time pre-launch was limited to a few hours due to the servers being under maintenance. Indeed, not all of the game is actually played online, but all aspects of the game are catalogued and recorded onto the Sport servers, meaning that there is no localized save file of your progress. This also means that you have to be online whenever you wish to progress in any of Sport’s game modes, leaving you with solo and local co-op races as your only offline options. Some positives and negatives come to mind with this option. This would allow you to bring your game to a friend’s house and have no issues loading up what you need to continue where you were; but good luck doing anything when the servers are down. I cannot foresee servers for Sport being down often, especially since Polyphony has put so much dependency on them, but the entire life of the game is online in some form or another, which means that, despite all other pros and cons, this game will only be available for as long as the servers are supported.
Using a wheel to play a driving simulator elicits its own feeling, but what really caught me with GT Sport was how Polyphony managed to include a wheel with every game at no extra cost. Motion gaming has been somewhat old hat for a while, but Sport reinvigorates the concept by effectively turning the DualShock 4 into a wheel. Now you can use that lean you do with your body when you’re turning to actually help you turn while a little red dot over the HUD speedometer shows you where your wheel position is to keep you aware of the wheel’s center. Since you don’t have much need to make a full wheel rotation, it works perfectly to rotate the controller this way, and this alone brings a healthy, organic touch to the racing sim. The only thing about it that puts me off in any way is how some races, Driving School in particular, have you in auto drive until the race actually starts. If you’re not holding the controller in the proper position, your car veers off in that direction. Be mindful of this, because it’s a frustration that makes sense, so start those good driving habits early.
The VR side of things initially feels wonderful. Being in the proverbial driver’s seat is the kind of thing that VR was meant for, but the game modes that VR is available in are far too limited. With a VR Showroom and basic VR Driving mode as the only supported options, I can’t help but feel like a stellar opportunity to make this game a VR classic was missed here. There is, of course, a visual drop when comparing VR to the base game, but actually being in the car for every mode would have made this game spectacular, especially in tandem with the new motion controls. The Showroom is exactly what you’d expect, too, where all you do is look at your cars from all sides. Since VR is an offered options, I can’t justify why it’s not more supported, really because it’s just a visual option in this case. You’d be stationary the whole time, so there would be no need to worry about things like multiplayer fairness when it comes to controls. With the level of coverage that it grants, I firmly believe that Sport should have either offered VR universally or not at all.
Gran Turismo Sport mixes things up with its online scene and always-online front, but the heart of the game is still here ever-present as one would expect of such a beloved franchise. Not every issue is major. In fact, most may never bother most. I quite loved the motion control changes Polyphony brings this time around, adding an extra bit of heart to a game already filled with it. However, like any heart, there’s some bad that cannot be forgotten, even if the greatest parts shine so brightly.