A change of approach.
GT Sport on PlayStation 4
2017 is continuing to be a wonderful year for fans of racing games. The fourth numbered iteration of the excellent Dirt series released earlier in the year, the F1 franchise returned to form with F1 2017, Project Cars 2 mastered the driving experience last month, Xbox One owners have been treated to another game in the always impressive Forza series, and finally, Need for Speed returns next month after a short break. However, one of the most anticipated titles has been the much-delayed return of the Gran Turismo series, GT Sport.
GT Sport is quite a departure from the traditional Gran Turismo experience in terms of how the content is structured. Gone is the race focused career mode that sees you progress through a series of championships, collecting cars along your way, in favor of a more online-centric experience with a campaign mode that strives to improve you as a driver. The Campaign Mode of GT Sport is split into three sections: Driving School, Mission Challenge, and Circuit Experience. The first of those three takes you through the basics, teaching you how to turn corners at the right speed, showing you which racing line to take, and helping you learn how early you need to brake with each car class. Mission Challenge tasks you with reaching first place in a short section of a race or meeting other objectives in smaller, more racing focused events. Finally, Circuit Experience takes you through each sector of each track in the game, before attempting one full lap, familiarizing you with them as you play.
Whether that structure appeals to you or not is dependant on how interested you are in online racing and how much actual racing you want from a single-player mode. If you’re planning on jumping into GT Sport’s Sport mode, the online racing hub, then playing Campaign is the perfect way to hone your skills and learn the ropes. The order of the events has clearly been carefully curated, with you being led through each skill that is vital to becoming a great racer. It can feel like your hand is being held a little too tightly and some of the events are a little repetitive or basic (there are events that ask you to just start and stop) but playing them will result in you being a better driver. Also, slowing familiarizing yourself with the selection of tracks makes the transition to online races smoother. Instead of blindly speeding around each corner and finishing far away from the podium places, you can jump into the online modes with enough experience to make yourself competitive. The single-player modes may look a little shallow at first glance but there’s actually a lot for you to sink your teeth into, especially if you’re going to strive to get gold in each event, and the way it slowly improves you makes it worthwhile if you plan to dive into the online content.
The online racing is also clearly geared towards making GT Sport an esport experience. Before you start, you’re asked to watch a Racing Etiquette video to prompt you to be a respectful driver and you’re then asked for an email address so that you can be contacted about upcoming events and your potential participation. The in-game events themselves have also been designed with the competitive scene in mind. There are Daily Races for each car class, and the round based championships ask you score points with podium finishes to improve your ratings. Aside from single offline races, this is also where the majority of GT Sport’s actual racing content is kept, all of which is structured around a ranking and season format. GT Sport is also almost unplayable without an internet connection. All of the single-player modes, aside from Arcade mode, and the ability to save your progress require you to be connected to the game’s server due to Polyphony’s desire to collate every player’s statistics for the game’s esports ambitions. If you plan to stay offline when playing GT Sport, then the experience will be severely limited.
Once you get behind the wheel, in whichever mode, GT Sport is a joy to play. While all feeling completely unique, each car handles wonderfully. Handling is quite weighty but it’s responsive enough that you’re given enough control as you hurtle through corners. Cars grip more tightly than they do in other racing titles, and it’s certainly easier to play than more straight-shooting sims like Project Cars 2, but that doesn’t mean it won’t test you. Entering a corner too enthusiastically can ruin a race and being over-zealous when passing over a curb will see it bite back at you. There’s also a huge number of ways for you to tinker with the handling settings to make it match what you’re comfortable with.
Where GT Sport is lighter than the competition, however, is in its roster of cars and track selection. With more than 160 cars and 22 individual tracks, GT Sport is far from bare bones, but the numbers do pale in comparison to some of the competition and even previous Gran Turismo games. Gran Turismo 6 launched with over 1000 vehicles when it came to PlayStation 3 and Forza Motorsport 7, which released just a couple of weeks ago, boasts over 700. It has been promised that more cars and tracks are on their way in the form of updates but GT Sport can feel a little light on the vehicle front, with historic cars a noticeable absentee.
What content there is, however, is stunningly presented. From the well-designed menus to its celebration of the history of motorsports. Each car is detailed to perfection, with every reflection bouncing off each curve. GT Sport also does all it can to allow the player to bask in the beauty of the cars you drive. The main menu features a scrolling screen-saver of the world’s most expensive vehicles in stunning real-world locations, and the showroom allows you to see your favorite cars in perfect, slow-motion videos that showcase how beautiful they are. In 4K, it is eye-wateringly pretty. You can even read up on the history of some world famous car companies, with real-world events adding context for the time. Everything in Polyphony’s game is geared towards pleasing the gearhead in each of us.
GT Sport also offers something that only a couple of this year’s racers have done, VR compatibility. PSVR play is limited to just a gimmicky feature that lets you look closely at more pixelated versions of the game’s vehicles and VR single races. It’s a shame that the compatibility couldn’t be extended to the main campaign but jumping into the well-detailed cockpits and racing around the tracks you’re now familiar with is an incredible rush. There’s a significant visual downgrade but the sense of speed is intense and it is a much smoother experience than in PlayStation 4’s other virtual reality racer, Driveclub VR.
Through its celebration of both the art and intricacies of driving and the cars that make it such a joy, GT Sport is a stunningly classy racing experience. It handles wonderfully and does all it can to make you a better driver through its campaign’s structure. If you’re looking for a more traditional Gran Turismo experience, however, one that is solely single-player focused, GT Sport may feel more like another prologue experience than the winning entry you’ve been waiting for.
Score: 4/5 – Great