Gran Turismo Sport Review – Pretty Lights

It’s been four years since we got a proper Gran Turismo game (Gran Turismo 6 for the PS3), and after a few delays, Polyphony Digital’s first PlayStation 4 game, and the first PS4 Gran Turismo title, races out with Gran Turismo Sport. Booting the game up, you’ll be greeted by a “welcome gift” automobile that you can use without spending a dime of in-game currency (more on this later).

After that, you’re suggested to try the “campaign” which consists of challenges ranging from the basic tutorial, to more challenging maneuvers that will test your resolve and patience. For racing fans used to arcade racers, I suggest doing the tutorials first given the game’s more sim-like approach to game mechanics and automobiles. 

Sexy Back

If there’s one thing I’m sure of when it comes to Gran Turismo Sport, it’s that it looks amazing. Cars look shiny (sometimes a tad too much), reflections bounce of correctly, and watching it in motion will make your jaw drop. If there’s a game that’s the perfect showpiece game for your PS4, then it’s GT Sport. Only thing I noticed that seemed a little off were the trees, but given how we have actual responsive crowds (to some degree), fantastic lighting effects, and just flat-out gorgeous in-engine gameplay (no bullshots here), then that’s a compromise I’m fine with. 

Polyphony knows GT Sport looks beautiful, too as the “Scapes” mode is essentially a screenshot mode that makes everything look as good as it can, and don’t be surprised if you spend more time with it than necessary even for non-photo fans. 

Another cool aspect Polyphony has done is that the options menu gives a wide range of color saturation and other settings that can be fiddled with, so players can optimize the visuals to their liking, and should be appreciated by fans, and car enthusiasts alike.

While the audio design might not be as impressive as the visuals, the engine sounds, tire screeches and more are handled brilliantly as well thanks to the help of Sony’s audio tech department. Don’t expect exaggerated sounds when it comes to car collisions, hitting walls and such, as these sounds and other auto audio effects are presented in a more subdued way than your typical arcade racer.

Speaking of audio, the game’s soundrack is fantastically curated. Expect mellow beats, hard-hitting songs and the like to match the race. It’s pretty evident that Polyphony made a conscious effort to ensure the soundtrack won’t overwhelm racers, and instead act as something that’s made for cooler heads. 

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Tight Corners

Over on the progression and “carrot-on-a-stick: department, Grant Turismo Sport continues the franchise’s legacy. Prepare to spend hours on races to earn in-game credits to purchase better cars, customization items and more. Essentially, everything you do in GT Sport nets you some sort of reward via credits or getting automobiles as “gifts” for completing certain challenges. Thankfully, these credits can only be obtained by actually playing the game and not through microtransactions. I have to applaud Polyphony when it comes to this, since it’s super easy to abuse the in-game credits system and have microtransactions dictate the unlocks.

As for the actual gameplay, expect that familiar Gran Turismo feel; controls are easy to learn, but the nuances on when to brake, or hit the pedal while turning a curve, is something that needs to be mastered to do well. Sure, you can play it as your regular racer, but don’t expect to beat those who pour in the time to study their car and how to steer properly. There’s a “Driver Assist” feature in the game that some people might find useful. If you’re an experienced racer, then you can turn it off completely, but for those who aren’t as seasoned? You can set it to “beginner” and the AI will help you around corners, notify you when to brake and more. It’s a handy tool that should make transitioning from learning the game to mastering it, all the more easier. 

Same with other racing games, players can choose whether to use a manual or automatic transmission on their race car during a race, modify the tires, and so on. In some cases, there are recommended and mandatory car settings in order to qualify for a match, and it’s just a button press away to make the adjustments, which is dead useful for those who just want to race, and aren’t really gearheads. Polyphony might also have gone a bit overboard with the HUD when viewing the game in first-person navigation mode since there are a ton of car meters, icons and such that might prove confusing to some. It’s not a big deal however, as drivers can toggle between multiple viewpoints all with a single button press. Personally, I like the third-person view the most given I’ve played the first few Gran Turismo games that way.

Offline Pit Stop

While there’s a lot to like in Gran Turismo Sport, there is one big “issue” that needs to be addressed: the game cannot be played offline. OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. You can play GT Sport offline, but only the Arcade mode, and you can’t save anything either. I learned this the hard way when servers went down when I was trying to play, and I had to check online to make sure there was something wrong with the servers and not with my actual game.

This is a major drawback as almost everything you want to do in GT Sport means you need to be online to do it. Want to finish the challenges while your ‘net service is down? Nope, can’t do it. I can’t stress this enough, Arcade mode will be the only mode available to you offline. If you’re someone who doesn’t connect their console to the internet, or in an area with a spotty connection, take note of that first before considering GT Sport. 

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When online though, Arcade mode is just one of the many modes in GT Sport. There’s the “campaign,” which consists of the tutorial and challenges (all of these rewards you with credits and a gift upon completion), and of course, racing online. Interestingly enough, Polyphony has a mandatory “Driver’s Etiquette” videos that you need to watch the whole way through (no way to fast foward them, either) before you can join any multiplayer match. They’re videos telling you how to behave online, and is only a few minutes long. It might seem like a hassle to some, but given how bad some players are with internet anonymity, this is a welcome move by Polyphony to at least try and educate people on how to game online.

There are also Daily Races that players can join to get their SR (Sportsmanship Rank) and DR (Driving Rank) up, which in turn lets them join higher-skilled matches. Polyphony makes a big point about matching players against same-level gamers, and that reflects in matches too. Don’t expect to blitz past newbies in races. Regarding SR, it’s algorithm is a bit odd given you’ll sometimes be deducted points for not really doing anything bad or “unsportsmanlike.” 

Playing online is a bit of a mixed bag, with match queues taking a bit longer than what I would have liked, but once you’re in an online match, prepare for a (relatively) seamless experience. Not sure if it’s my dumb luck or whatnot, but I’ve yet to experience any lag or rubberbanding, and felt that my online successes (and failures) were all of my doing and not due to the game’s servers acting up.

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Race Against the Machine

Longtime franchise fans will no doubt, lap up everything GT Sport has to offer. But first-timers might balk at the seemingly bare-bones modes and offerings. Case in point, GT Sport only has 150 cars to unlock and earn, which is a far cry from the  hundreds of vehicles its predecessors dangled onto players noses. Sure, you can customize your car (to some extent) but don’t expect to go overboard with these. It’s a racing sim through and through, and it knows it.

While a lot of Polyphony’s vision for Gran Turismo Sport seems to be on the minimalist side of things (from the menus, credits system, etc.), it knows its audience well, and appeals to them the most. 

Other racing games might be able to offer the same things GT Sport does, and some might even do it better. But for Gran Turismo fans, GT Sport is racing heaven. Prepare to lose hours in hitting gold rank in challenges, saving up cash for the next big car you want to buy, and vying to qualify in races. Sure, it’s not as feature-packed as some would have liked, but what it does, it does well. 

Gran Turismo fans, rejoice! The franchise is back and it didn’t take the entire console generation for Polyphony to get a game out. Just make sure to have an internet connection before playing before you hit the virtual garage.

Score: 8.5/10

Pros:

  • Beautiful visuals, drop-dead gorgeous graphics that will make you jaw drop
  • Lots of features to ease newcomers into the franchise
  • Scapes mode is perfect for taking gorgeous in-game shots
  • Sound design and music curation is excellent
  • No microtransactions!

Cons:

  • Internet connection is essentially required
  • Menu layout/dashboard UI might be overwhelming to some
  • Unforgiving gameplay that might scare off those used to arcade racers
  • Constant loading and queue screens between challenges, online matches

Gran Turismo Sport review copy provided by the publisher. Played on PS4 Pro. You can read MP1st’s review and scoring policy right here.

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