He’s back again, Dylan Magner has returned I surprisingly didn’t scare him off and this time around he’s talking about Gran Turismo Sport.
Car porn. Those were the best words I could come up with when attempting to sum up Gran Turismo Sport in a single phrase. Because, well, that’s essentially what it is, whereas in other games cars are a tool used by your avatar to go from one objective to another, here the car is the objective, the car is the avatar, and this will ultimately determine your long-term enjoyment of Gran Turismo Sport. Totally uncompromising – as it should be – the vehicle is the star in this, an unadulterated love letter to car fanatics and racing devotees.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s played a Gran Turismo game before that one of Sport’s biggest strengths is its graphics and presentation. The game’s main menu is ultra sleek, with access to its various modes and options lined up at the periphery of the screen, with the vast majority of the space of the screen being occupied by a slideshow of shiny automobiles, displayed in beautiful locals and showrooms, again putting maximum emphasis on the cars themselves. The graphics themselves are gorgeous; aside from the cars which, naturally enough, are wonderful to behold, the tracks themselves and the various locations all look fantastic: from bustling enclosed racecourses to wide open mountain ranges and sea horizons glistening in the far distance, they are a joy to behold while driving through, and all look great at the first light of dawn, dusk or anytime in between (different times of the day can be selected when taking part in arcade races). The only criticism I have about the graphics of the game – and it is a big one – is the absence of vehicle damage. I noticed this emission early on when a badly timed turn had me careening into the side of a barrier; at one point I drove a high powered sports car I was racing head-on into a barrier at over 120mph and it didn’t even dent it. It is an oddity which cannot escape notice, as if the game is attempting to preserve the beauty of its various automotive works of art at the cost of realism. It’s an unforgivable omission, and as a consequence can totally cast aside the experience of immersion for the player. Speaking of the cars, there are hundreds of cars from over a dozen real-life manufacturers to be unlocked and test driven – these can also be customised, with paint jobs, wheels and logos all alterable, along with smaller details like your driver’s helmet and racing jacket.
Aside from all this, how do the cars actually handle? In previous console generations, Gran Turismo could distinguish itself by offering a genuinely unique driving experience when other games with driving elements utilised very basic control schemes in order to compensate for limited disc space and technological power. Now, however, games like Grand Theft Auto offer genuinely enjoyable driving mechanics with realistic physics and handling, so a game like Gran Turismo has to distinguish itself by offering a more nuanced simulation of driving. Thankfully, Gran Turismo Sport achieves this by offering the player a host of different vehicles types, all of which handle differently. For example, while a high powered four wheel drive race car proves advantageous when speeding past opponents on long stretches of straight road, it can prove disastrous when approaching a sharp corner or navigating trickier passages of a track or rougher terrains like dirt roads. This is not a bad thing though, because not only does it add an additional element of realism to proceedings, it also provides additional in-game challenges for the player; the first time I negotiated a difficult corner with a high powered vehicle at full speed with a well-timed drift was a genuinely satisfying moment. More advanced players looking for an additional challenge can also choose to drive the car manually, putting the responsibility of things like changing gears in the hands of the player.
Gran Turismo Sport is comprised of three main modes: arcade, campaign and online racing. While arcade mode allows you to explore the tracks more freely, engaging in races (either alone or in two player split-screen), of the two offline modes campaign is the most appealing. Comprising of three main parts, driving challenges, missions, and circuit challenges, your goal is to complete all the challenges in each section, getting a gold, silver or bronze rating depending on how well you do. Most of them are timed challenges, such as travelling a certain distance, drifting around a corner or coming to a stop within certain parameters by quickly applying the brakes; failure to complete them within the time period, or committing certain penalties (such as going off the track) resulting in a fail. These challenges are extremely addictive, and you will unlock rewards such as new vehicles as you complete more of them, getting higher scores and gold rating also result in more experience points which, in turn, result in more unlockables; campaign is also the quickest way to level up, appealing to the completionist which exists inside most gamers. The only problem with this mode are the lengthy load times, which prevent you from quickly moving onto the next challenge (you also have to go back out to the challenge menu to access the next challenge, with a next challenge button being gallingly conspicuous through its absence), which disturbs the modes flow when you’re in the thick of it.
Online play is excellent when you’re actually racing, with the presentation and gameplay from the single-player mode translating beautifully and naturally into online races which, in my experience, were smooth and devoid of lag. However, it takes a long time to actually access a race, as they are synchronised to real-world time (i.e. one race may begin at 4.00pm, one may begin at 4.20pm), with the shortest time I had to wait to access a race being eight minutes. Sport manages to alleviate some of the frustration by giving you the option to engage in time trials which affect the starting position at the beginning of the race which can have a significant impact on your final placing. For those engaging in online tournaments – or with a lot of time to kill – it’s a neat touch which adds an additional level of immersion to the online experience; however, it makes dropping in for a quick match almost impossible.
The bottom line is this, if you’re a real-life motorhead with a PS4, then the decision to purchase Gran Turismo Sport is a no-brainer. You simply will not get this kind of driving simulation, customisation and real-world licenses in most other titles. For the car fanatic, Gran Turismo Sport gives them the opportunity to amass their dream garage in virtual form, allowing them to customise their toys and race them across a variety of beautiful tracks in fun and addictive game modes. If this sounds like you, then go out and fulfill your fantasy in the virtual world of Gran Turismo Sport.