Gran Turismo Sport

Platform(s): PlayStation 4
Genre: Racing
Publisher: SCEE (EU), SCEA (US)
Developer: Polyphony Digital
Release Date: Oct. 17, 2017 (US), Oct. 18, 2017 (EU)


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PS4 Review - 'Gran Turismo Sport'

by Cody Medellin on Oct. 17, 2017 @ 1:45 a.m. PDT

Building on its legacy as the most realistic and accessible driving simulator, GT Sport has partnered with the FIA to push the boundaries of racing games, introducing an online racing series that will be recognized alongside real world motor racing by the FIA.

Buy Gran Turismo Sport

If you only owned a PS3 and accepted nothing but Gran Turismo as your racing game of choice, you had to exhibit lots of patience. A proper entry in the series didn't arrive until Gran Turismo 5 in 2010, four years after the system's release. Gran Turismo 6 came out on the PS3 in 2013, one month after the PS4 debuted. Being a fan of the series on Sony's latest console has been just as rough, if not more so considering the competition. The rival Xbox One already has three entries in its main flagship series, Forza Motorsport. On the PS4, both Asseto Corsa and two entries in the Project Cars series have chipped away at a simulation racing game audience. After four more years of waiting, the series finally arrives on the PS4 in the form of Gran Turismo Sport. As indicated by the lack of a number, this game is very different from expectations.

On the surface, just about everything that fans have come to expect is back. Despite the Sport moniker, GTS is still a simulation-style racing game where players drive with finesse across 17 different tracks. The handling remains precise, so players need to learn each car to avoid spinning out on turns or slamming against the wall. The AI remains hell-bent on driving according to the suggested line, and while it doesn't adhere to the line as strictly as before, AI foes muscle into you if you're in their way. Like GT6, GTS has a variable assist system where players can toggle steering control assists and automatic braking and acceleration. One curious thing that's missing is a color-coded driving line, a feature in GT6 and almost every other simulation racing title. The new method places traffic cones and other markers to let you know what to do in a curve, but it's not intuitive at all. There is the option for the HUD to tell you exactly when to brake, but considering how crowded the screen is, it's difficult to notice. Generally, those who loved the way the game handled in the older entries will have no complaints here.

If you were taken aback by the presence of only 17 tracks, you're not alone. When you dismiss the variations, GT6 had more than double that number, so this selection feels paltry in comparison. The car selection is similarly gutted, as GTS features around 167 cars, and a number of manufacturers have gone missing this time around, but Ferrari and Porsche are now in the fold. On the one hand, this means that you no longer have a parade of Japanese cars with little to no variations. You also don't have to worry about some PS2 models sneaking in, as all vehicles were done from the ground up specifically for the PS4. On the other hand, there were over 1,000 cars in GT6, so we're going from feast to famine in that regard.

If you're playing GTS with the bare minimum loaded, then you'll only have access to Arcade mode, where you take on races and time and drift trials. You'll either use cars you've already purchased or a small sampling of other cars that vary depending on the selected track. Completing each race gives you cash that can be used to buy new cars. You'll also earn milestone points that can be exchanged for other items, like a driving avatar or special cars. Driving mileage is also earned, and the game encourages you to race every day, tempting you with the chance at a new item or car when you reach that daily goal. Then there's XP, which gates most of the tracks in this mode. XP and currency are gained at a decent clip, but if you're playing exclusively in Arcade mode, it'll be a grind to level up since you only have five courses available at the start and each level only opens up two courses at best.

Let the game fully install, and a bevy of modes opens up. Getting the superfluous stuff out of the way first, GTS now has a livery, which lets you customize your car, suit and helmet. All you can change for the last two is the color scheme, but the former allows you to place decals and shapes on any part of the car. Unlike the Forza Motorsport series, you can only have 300 shapes (instead of 1,000) per side, but you can download liveries from the community, and the early results are rather impressive. There is a feature to upload custom liveries online, so the disadvantages of a lower shape count are immediately nullified, though you'll have to wait for that to get implemented.

Scapes is the photo feature, where you can place any car you own into any photo and take a snapshot of it. It might seem like a silly addition, but since the feature is gaining popularity in Sony's games, it makes sense to put it on its flagship racing title. The photos are of real locations, and the game has way too many of them to count, with the variety ranging from ruins to a Long Beach pier. The good news is that the digitally constructed cars and the real-life photos don't clash at all, and the photos look very nice, even before you add filters or change the exposure to make it more artistic.

Brand Central is the place to buy cars, but in typical Gran Turismo fashion, the mode is esoteric. Pull up any car manufacturer, and you'll get a small collection of commercials and videos related to that brand. The videos are from YouTube, but there isn't an option to play them full screen, so you're forced to watch them in a tiny window; only a privileged few, like watch manufacturer Tag Hauer, get the full-screen treatment. Some manufacturers get a small photo gallery, while others get a timeline with their milestones and some world and pop culture events of the time, such as Amy Winehouse winning five Grammys and the release of Windows 95. They're strange to have, but that's become a signature trait of the series.

In terms of actual gameplay modes, solo players have a Campaign mode to conquer, and that's split into three sections. Training mode takes players through tests that would've granted licenses in the old versions, and they cover some of the basics, from handling turns to proper braking. Newcomers to the series or simulation racing in general will want to hit this mode, while veterans will only be interested in the bonus cars that are earned for completing these lessons. The mode can be quite a chore due to the long loads between lessons, a curiosity since the track location is the same and only the cars are different. With 24 lessons to conquer, it can be slow going.

Campaign mode also teaches the nuances of each track as players earn medals based on things like getting a fast time in one lap or taking a corner in a similarly fast time. In a way, this is far more useful than the basic training mode, since mastering these provides a significant advantage once you actually race on that track. Finally, the game offers 64 challenges split into eight tiers, which include standard races, short sections where you need to overtake other cars, and knocking over plastic cones via drifting.

The mode's Campaign moniker is pretty deceptive since there isn't much of a campaign. The challenges can be difficult to overcome, and you'll have a very good time trying to get a bronze ranking on them, let alone silver or gold, but everything else is designed to train you for the online races. Compared to the campaigns of the prior Gran Turismo titles, the one you're presented with in GTS is very anemic.

As the title would imply, Sport mode is the game's focus. It's an attempt to create an official e-sport out of the game, and it does so with the support of the FIA. For the uninitiated, the racing now comes with a set of stringent rules to promote safe racing. Things like actively snaking around a track to stop people from going forward is frowned upon, and hitting cars and walls incurs a time penalty that can only be decreased by slowing down. As such, the game has a dual ranking system where behaving well on the track increases one's sportsmanlike rank, but getting a good placement increases one's racing rank. With the emphasis on sportsmanlike conduct, you're actively prevented from getting a high racing rank if your sportsmanlike rating isn't up to snuff.

The introduction of sportsmanlike conduct is interesting, as you'll be forced to unlearn everything you've learned from other racing titles — this series included. You have to be courteous on the road and stop yourself from using opponents as crash cushions. It seems harder for those concentrating on winning races to adopt this new cautious style, as everyone online seems to stick with what has worked in the past, new rules be damned. Interestingly, those who are constantly in the back of the pack will raise their sportsmanlike rating, since they have little to no chance of hitting anyone.

Sport mode is presented with a pretty rigid racing schedule, as there are 20-minute intervals between each of the three daily races. Getting in early means you get more practice time on the track, which helps with your placement in the starting grid once the race begins, a nice touch since the races take far less time to complete than the suggested 15 minutes. There are also formal tournaments scheduled for early next month, and while you can enter them now, you can't do much else with them at the moment. Your driving rank will determine your tournament placement and prizes, so in the interim, there's some motivation to participate in the daily races.

The idea of racing with stricter rules and behavior will take some time to get used to, and the Lobby mode is for those who want to practice without a penalty. You can set up as many racing parameters as you want, so you can race with penalties enabled, or if you want an old-school experience, you can shut them off completely. You can also choose car restrictions, so if you want to race with go-karts, you have the freedom to do so. The online performance in even the worst of rooms is rock solid, so you'll almost always get a lag-free experience.

Perhaps the biggest blow to the game is how online-dependent it is. If you don't have the console connected to PSN or if the servers go down, you're restricted to Arcade mode. Further, offline play means that all of your progress in Arcade mode is for naught, since nothing is saved. Further, your progress in that offline session means nothing since you can't buy more cars and you can't even make temporary progress in unlocking tracks. When you consider that the rest of the competition doesn't have this restriction, it puts a big dent in the title that was traditionally known for catering to all audiences. This was especially harmful during our review period, as we spent a significant amount of time doing nothing fruitful with the title.

It should be noted that the review of this game was done on a vanilla PS4, so we can't comment on how the game looks in 4K or with HDR. We also don't have a PS VR unit, so the VR mode isn't part of this review, either.

Having said that, the graphics in GTS are impressive. The car models on the outside and inside have an immense amount of detail. From the shine on the paint to the stitching on the wheels and other details of the dashboard and gauges, this is some of the most spectacular vehicle work yet. Elsewhere, the environments are breathing with life thanks to the lighting system. Go through a seaside tunnel during sundown, and the shadows that dance across the road as you zoom by look awesome. While the game doesn't feature any sort of weather system beyond sun, clouds, and a nighttime sky, they still showcase what the system can do. Best of all, the frame rate holds up at a solid 60fps during races and 30 during replays, a big improvement over the PS3.

With the game lacking any voices and the effects being robust — save for the hollow-sounding vehicle and wall collisions — it falls on the soundtrack to impress players. The opening score feels like something out of a Pixar film, as it rouses you for an adventure while showing off the splendor of car racing. Menus go for a smooth, calming jazz, so you're in a relaxed mood before the races. The rest of the soundtrack is made up of rock music and some EDM fare, which suit the races rather nicely.

Your enjoyment of Gran Turismo Sport depends on what you're looking for in a racing game. If you're looking for a beefy single-player experience, you'll have to look elsewhere. Outside of Arcade mode, you can learn how to drive well and get in a good challenge while doing so, but GTS pales in comparison to the campaigns of versions past with respect to long-term, single-player engagement. If your focus is on multiplayer, then GTS is just right for you. You'll have to learn how to drive like a professional and not hit things, but the game provides you with all the necessary tools to achieve that.

Score: 8.0/10

More articles about Gran Turismo Sport
blog comments powered by Disqus