Gran Turismo has always been known as the game series that pushes the envelope, the game that doesn’t do half measures. And they always improve game on game. That last point is why on first impressions you would automatically rule Gran Turismo Sport into more in keeping with Gran Turismo 5 Prologue instead of the full sequel to GT6. It doesn’t meet the car count of GT6, it doesn’t even come close with only 160 or so versus the thousand plus in previous games. It doesn’t have as many tracks, and it has almost no offline mode.
But Gran Turismo Sport isn’t meant to live up to those stats, if it did, they would have called it Gran Turismo 7. And it is only when you play the game and understand why there aren’t twenty variants of an R34 Skyline – there isn’t even one! – That you understand the premise of this game and that less really is more.
From the opening movie, we are guided as beautifully and artistically as you would expect through the birth of motor racing. Like anything that Polyphony Digital put their hand to, everything in the game is recreated with a life-like realism and an extra effort put into the appearance.
In GT Sport there are four ways to go racing, Arcade, Campaign, Lobby and Sport. If you are offline, or not connected to the server, arcade is your only option. There you can do time trials, drift attacks, or races on any track with any car you have unlocked in the main game. The races have a large degree of customisability. You can choose the difficulty, the length of the race, the type of cars you are up against and make a race as easy or as hard as you like. Like any type of racing in the same vein, it isn’t filled with depth but if you are looking for a quick test of speed, it is always available.
Then we have Campaign. Which, in a new departure for the series, is a single player mode you need a server connection to use. What Campaign does, is teach you the physics of the game and advance you driving skill through what are essentially mini-games. There are three types of Campaign game, you have the Licence Test which would be familiar to any Gran Turismo veterans, you have Missions which is full of challenges where you apply what you learnt in the Licence Tests. And you have Circuit Experience where you learn the racing line of the tracks in the game. All of these are very useful to have, and as well as being fun to complete they are also challenging if you are looking to get a clean sweep of golds.
Lobby is an online lobby like any game. You can join a lobby already in session; you can create your own public lobby, or have a private lobby just for your friends. You can set the parameters as you would like them and either have fun or some serious competition.
If being called Gran Turismo Sport was enough of a giveaway, the main focus of the game is on the Sport mode. This is the crown jewel in the game. This is where you are pitted against the world in a series of organised races. The daily races are running all day, allowing you to set a qualifying time when every you please, and jump in and out of races. One starts every twenty minutes, so you are never waiting too long for one to start. Also once you have entered, you can go to the track and try to improve your qualifying time, there is no waiting or lobbies.
In the races you are monitored both on your driving skill and your sportsmanship. You even have to complete an FIA approved tutorial on sportsmanship before you can race. These rankings mean that the bashers and crashers are weeded out of the races, so the higher you build your reputation, the better racers you are matched with.
Anything you learn from the other modes is brought to Sport, and sometimes you go there and get taught a lesson. The racing is among the best you will find. I never had a rush of adrenaline on my couch as much as during a five lap race on Suzuka East. From second on the grid, I could almost feel the pressure of the twenty drivers behind me, and hope I could string together consecutive fast laps to hold position. In serious terms this is insignificant, but these intense races are constantly ongoing and available.
Sport mode is the reason people should buy this game. The popularity of the game means that there will always be someone at your level to race against. There are global events due to start next month with a full championship structure, and you can assume that more and more of these will appear as the game grows, meaning you will have this structured competition to keep you on your toes.
The physics in Gran Turismo Sport are realistic but not cruelly simulated. Whether you are on a pad or using a steering wheel, you can feel the weight of the car and all of them handle slightly differently and demand a different approach to make the most of them.
What I think the greatest part of the game in the sound. The majority of the cars are all race prepared, and thankfully it has brought with them a glorious transmission whine and gearbox crunch. It is a very small part of the game, and it would be far from lost about it, but it adds to the environment and the senses for a more rounded experience.
If there was something to knock the game down on, it would have to be the lack of offline play-ability. I am not knocking a lack of GT Mode or Career, I understand the game is built for online, but there is no need for Campaign to be locked to online. Same goes for the Garage, the beautiful landscapes photo mode or the frustratingly addictive Livery Editor; if these were made available without an internet connection it would give you a reason to play the game if the servers were down.
What GT Sport has done, is beat the competition to what will be the next big thing in gaming, e-sports for the every-man. It has changed the shape of racing games, and will no doubt be the catalyst for future releases of the genre. It is a stripped down version of a game, there is nothing unnecessary included and it is optimised for the track, much like the cars you are racing.