The Gran Turismo series has always left racing fans feeling accomplished, trained and ready to tackle the toughest racing courses known to man. The enormous selection of cars and daunting content featured in the series’ Career mode were both namesakes in the long-running racing franchise. With Gran Turismo Sport, the series does away with both, leaving long-time fans a bit sceptical to the change. However, Polyphony Digital manages to create something the genre desperately needs to stay competitive and does so with astounding visuals and sounds, ambitious online competition and a campaign mode geared toward making every player a better, more sound racer.
Taking the racing genre to new heights in online competition
If you’ve played through the beta last week, the layout of GT Sport should look familiar. Opened with a beautiful shot of one of the 160+ racing machines featured in Sport, the options on where to first go seem limitless. With various racing modes like Arcade, Campaign and the online hub of competitive racing – Sport, the best way to tackle this daunting racer is to hone your skills on the track. Campaign mode allows you to do exactly that, tasking you with various driving tactics like conquering S-curves, to full lap time trials.
The absence of favourite modes blinded by the glimmer of gorgeous visuals
One thing many fans of the GT series will notice almost immediately is the absence of the traditional career path. While I felt extremely disappointed by this initially, I collected my thoughts, took a few deep breaths and continued forward. The game alone looks and sounds like no other Gran Turismo in the series, which was enough to push me reluctantly further into the game. The exhausts growl, engines rumble and the turbo hiss all breathe fresh life into the series; which before shoved otherwise stale and recycled sounds of below standard racing motors.
The level of detail found in every car featured in Sport is astounding and, above all, quite appetizing to the eye. The shimmer and gloss, the detail when racing in the cockpit view (which is by far the best looking cockpit camera view I’ve seen in any racing game to date) and liveliness of every course immerses the player into every race. The shadows that graze across the road follow the cars effortlessly as you patiently bend and curve around the course. The details and sharpness of Sport are quite possibly above all other racing games, however, there still lie a few hiccups in the overall production and appearance in the gorgeous racing title.
Dynamic weather – something us racing fans have seen a lot of over the past couple of weeks in other new releases – is missing from the formula altogether. The challenge that comes about from slippery and icy courses or dirt stirred up from off-track racers found in other racing sims, which have recently hit the market, is nowhere to be found in GT Sport. The day-to-night cycles which help add a sense of time and endurance to longer races remain untouched in the Gran Turismo series, which easily could have helped push the latest instalment with even more challenges to conquer for the racer.
Making strides in providing enjoyable online races
That being said, this still doesn’t shred the fact that Gran Turismo provides a true racing experience at a high level of competition. In Sport mode, players are free to enter and participate in online races. From daily challenges to legitimate championships, Sport is (obviously) the centrepiece of what this release tries to narrow in on. However, before entering the ring of professional and dignified racing amongst the eager grid of online racers, the player is forced to complete the Racing Etiquette class for proper racing guidelines on how to – more or less – not race like an ass.
The ‘class’ is simply two instructional videos highlighting what counts as proper racing manoeuvres, and what makes you look like the king of all things awful in the world of online gaming. Bumping other racers in the back, boxing racers out around turns, blocking other racers from passing, cutting corners to gain ground; there are tons of rules to follow in the world of competitive online racing in GT Sport, but they do in fact help to make a much more enjoyable experience when diving in online.
If stuck with a penalty, the driver is then instructed to slow down for a set amount of time. While the cars are ‘in the penalty’ they appear as a ghost car to help alleviate any further burdens for other racers. If the driver fails to follow the penalties, they seconds begin to add up throughout the length of the race, and the total is then tallied to their overall time; in turn losing a few spots in the final standings. However, if one racer spins out or smashes into a barrier/wall by an unfair racer, there’s not much help to retain the position you previously held. Sure the disobedient racer was punished, but that has little effect on the innocent racer at hand.
Drivers are separated by driver rankings and sportsmanship rankings in online competitions. The driver ranking shows off how fast you are and comes in a rank from S-A-B-C-D-E, with an S ranking as the best possible outcome. The sportsmanship ranking keeps track of your penalties and overall etiquette form, helping to place racers in evenly matched competitions. The proper racers earn better rankings, increasing their score and rank higher amongst the competition rankings.
Though missing the Career mode, there is still tons of content in GT Sport
Throughout Sport mode, there are a handful of options to choose from, most of which are unavailable at this time. The Daily Races is the only option to dive into right now, but once the online championships begin, there are three other events to partake in. For now, Daily Races will do as it helps to build DR and SR points in your driver’s profile. Each day three different courses are available with a broad range of vehicle classes to choose from. Giving players an evenly matched group of racing machines, players are able to enter the race and begin qualifying rounds. Again, there isn’t much to Sport mode right now, but the promise of taking your online racing career further is inching closer with the approach of competitive championships at stake.
The Campaign mode is where players go to learn the basics, and eventually graduate to more difficult challenges. Like other entries in the series, there are loads of tests taking the player through acceleration/braking, tackling s-curves, out-in-out manoeuvres, as well as tons of other useful skills to help build a better racer.
Accomplishing all tests with a bronze time or better will reward the player with a car at random. Aside from the new vehicle upgrade, the knowledge of how to conquer turns and other difficult manoeuvres are enough to help push the player a little further into the depths of the multiplayer experience.
Mission Challenge and Circuit Experience are the other two events found in Campaign mode. Mission Challenge gives players difficult situations usually involving the player behind a handful of spots on a specific sector in a course and urged to place the highest position possible before the finish line. Circuit Experience acts as a practice session for every sector, or an entire lap, in every course, with a gold, silver and bronze time to beat. There are tons of challenges and courses to conquer, of which does help to give some of the playability the traditional career mode provided in previous entries.
In Arcade mode, players will finally have the chance to get down and dirty with AI racers in actual full-scale races. Fans of career mode in the other GT games may find themselves hashing out races here, as it provides the closest familiarity to the missing career mode. The course and car selection may be the smallest ever featured in a Gran Turismo title, but the thrill of competing in this expertly handled racer is well worth the downsizing.
Other modes offered in the game are Brand Central, which is the manufacturing market for all of the cars in the game – where players purchase the cars of their dreams, Scapes which is the shiny and spectacular photo mode and the all-new livery editor. Buying your dream car to take on the road, placing it in gorgeous, jaw-dropping settings, or perhaps covering it with custom wraps and liveries to help personalize your ride, all give Sport a casual approach when the heat of the racing grid is too much to handle. The views and scenery in Scapes present a truly remarkable image, some even looking near identical to real-life photos.
Throughout Gran Turismo Sport players will race, crash, learn, and occasionally win; all in repeating order. With a strong emphasis on multiplayer racing, and an even stronger swinging hammer crashing down on racing etiquette, I can honestly say my reluctance has subsided almost entirely to the eSports approach. Earning points for your overall driver ranking and sportsmanship ranking, players are easily matched for a better quality of racing.
Find Polyphony Digital’s latest entry in the popular racing series – Gran Turismo Sport – out now for the PS4.