Honestly, I don’t know why we don’t have Gran Turismo 7 yet. We’ve gotten Gran Turismo 6 like four years ago on PlayStation 3, so you’d think that would have been enough time for Polyphony Digital to work on the next evolution of the series, rather than the off-shoot, Gran Turismo Sport, they ended up releasing. That said, you might as well make good with what you have, right?
Gran Turismo Sport isn’t a bad game. In fact, many GT racing fans will easily grow accustomed to it, after they download the big day one release patch and then get into the various races that the game has to offer online. But the thing is, it’s limited – it seems that it wants you to live online. In fact, any attempt to try to do anything offline results in almost the equivalent of hitting a brick wall. Even saving is a struggle – saving. C’mon, I know NES cartridges that have a better save process than what Sport has to provide.
Anyway, let’s talk about how it covers the Gran Turismo bases first before we get into its problems. Through and through, Sport still feels like a racing game in the series. Its controls are still dead-on accurate when it comes to simulation driving, as you master tight turns and feel the ruggedness of your vehicle as you go off-road and back onto pavement. It’s also got a number of assists that you can toggle, should you need some help getting on the road. So the driving itself is sharp, but that’s expected, considering that Polyphony Digital has been pretty much doing it since the whole thing began with the original Turismo on PlayStation.
Also, the game looks great. Not phenomenal by any means, as it really doesn’t seem to go out of its way to bump up the realism like previous games did, but still great. The track variety from all over the world is surprising, even though there aren’t nearly as many circuits as there could be. Still, the trackside details and smooth frame rate should be commended. Not to mention the cars. The cars look like dream machines, and watching each one as it masters corners and takes the first place victory is a real pleasure. If you’re a nut for these sort of things, you’ll delve in and take a glance at every corner like it’s going out of style.
Gran Turismo Sport also has a great audio experience. The engine noises are really something on each of the vehicles, and even though Polyphony didn’t enlist experts to talk about rides like both Project CARS 2 and Forza Motorsport 7 did, it makes up for it with an ambient, smooth soundtrack that will keep you in a happy mood with each new race. It’s not world-changing, but it’s definitively Gran Turismo.
And yet, as well as the gameplay and presentation come together, I came away mostly disappointed by Sport, mainly because of how it’s set up. There is almost nothing to do off-line. There is a “campaign” mode where you can learn the basics before you jump into each race, but they’re more about learning behaviorisms rather than having fun against the AI. No, to take on circuit races, you need a PlayStation online connection. And even then, the track selection is limited until you start unlocking stuff. Half the world isn’t even unlocked once you first jump in. It’s like taking a test drive, but being limited to driving around the back of the dealer lot. (“Doesn’t it feel like a dream machine?” “Well, I wouldn’t know coasting under ten miles an hour.”)
That said, I did like the off-road racing events. They’re the ones that actually feel like you can kick back and have some fun with your driving. The others just seem a bit too serious. If you screw up too often, you’re penalized. Like wayyyyy too often. Maybe relax and let us have a little fun on the road, eh, guys? I know this isn’t Split/Second but lighten up a little.
While the Driving School is a great way to initially get involved with the game, the other two modes don’t really help much when it comes to getting the most out of Sport. Challenges and Track Mastery are okay, but, again, you feel shackled instead of being able to enjoy the open road of each track like you could in Forza Motorsport 7. Again, it’s all due to that online limitation thing. You want to do more, but the requirement to go online and take on others is a bit ridiculous.
Do not get me wrong. Online racing works smoothly, and some of the matches I got into were a great deal of fun, in a realistic sort of way. But Polyphony should’ve taken the time to offer as much off-line with the game as it did online. Here, it just feels totally unfair to those that don’t have a proper online connection. Instead, it forces them to go back to Gran Turismo 6 and patiently wait for Gran Turismo 7.
There is one neat mode that utilizes the PlayStation VR headset, and it is sort of cool, as it makes you feel like you’re really behind the wheel of a car. But the pacing of the race feels a bit surreal in the headset, and not blisteringly fast like it should be. I suppose that was a design decision to make sure a player didn’t feel vertigo or anything, so it’s understood. It’s a neat mode if you’ve got the proper gear for it, but hardly a key selling point since there’s only so much you can do with it. Again, it feels controlled instead of wide open.
In a sense, I can kind of get what Polyphony Digital was going for with Gran Turismo Sport. It wanted to create online challenges for avid fans to enjoy, with a plethora of cars at their fingertips and some good circuit races to take on. But the fact that there’s very little to offer to those that just want to get in and drive is incredibly frustrating. This should’ve been one of those games where the off-line portion had plenty to do, and then you could get online to see what other racers were ready to conquer the planet. Instead, you’re forced to jump in without getting your feet wet, so to speak, and even then, you don’t get access to everything you really want.
Gran Turismo fans will be pleased by what was done with Sport, but it came up quite short for me. Maybe by the time Gran Turismo 7 arrives – whenever that is – we’ll see the true potential of a racing game. And one that doesn’t require us to have an online connection to see everything that it has to offer. The thrill of the race should always be there – even if the connectivity isn’t.
RATING: Three out of five stars.
Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.