Gran Turismo Sport is the latest entry in Polyphony Digital’s long running Gran Turismo series. It’s been the flagship racing game franchise on the Sony Playstation since 1997 and has appeared in some form or other on almost every Sony games console and handheld. When I bought GT Sport in January it marks the first time I’ve played a Gran Turismo game for quite a while. The Forza series has mostly filled that niche for me up to now but after getting a PS4 Pro it felt only right to hop back over to this side of the fence. Even though I’ve usually enjoyed myself with Gran Turismo and Forza games, I’ve always felt that they were never quite for me. I like motorsport and racing cars but I’ve never really been one for general car culture or drooling over the latest unobtainable road-going supercars.
Before we go any further, this game requires an internet connection to access the majority of the content. Even most of the single player modes. I know that could be a deal-breaker for some players so I thought I would say it straight away. It’s increasingly common for single player games to require an always-on connection but no matter how widespread it is, I’ll never be okay with it.
As you might guess from the always-on requirement, GT Sport is very much an online-focused game. The big selling point is the FIA-backed online multiplayer which promises players the so-far rather nebulous reward of being able to apply for an FIA racing license in the future. Details on this are still sketchy at best but it would appear to allow an eligible player the chance to apply for a new class of license designed to help facilitate the transition from eSports to real motor racing. Of course, the players who choose to take the FIA up on this offer will most likely have to pay for their license, like all other FIA racing license holders. This feature has not been implemented yet so it remains to be seen how it will play out.
The online play takes the form of custom lobbies, three rotating daily races and two competitive racing series with multiple-week seasons. Public online races have a bit of a bad reputation for being absolute carnage but so far in my experience it hasn’t been a complete mess. GT Sport has an iRacing-style safety rating system, or “sportsmanship rating”, to try and keep a lid on bad behaviour or at least allow the safer drivers to rise out of the swamp and find clean races. Rating systems like this are a good step but they always have their drawbacks. In GT Sport‘s case the big flaw is that it’s so easy to maintain the top sportsmanship rank that I question the effectiveness of it. There is still no guarantee that an S-ranked driver won’t dive-bomb you or just sideswipe you off the road. Something I’ve seen happen more than once. In spite of some examples of questionable behaviour I’ve had a lot of fun with the online play so far and although it’s far from perfect I think the daily races provide a good low-pressure, low-commitment option for new or occasional players to dip their toe into the online pool.
As far as the single player experience goes, it’s…okay. There’s a lot of obsessively detailed cars to collect and a fair number of hours worth of single player races but I wasn’t bowled over by the main campaign. A lot of the races boil down to fighting your way through a line of painfully slow cars to catch up to the faster drivers at the front. This is pretty much the way Gran Turismo has always been but I think I would have preferred a normal race format to a game of chase the rabbit. I found myself enjoying the secondary single player challenge modes more, particularly “circuit experience” mode. This is a sector-by-sector time attack that serves as a great way to learn the tracks and improve your overall lap-times.
I’m not really qualified or inclined to discuss the game’s handling or physics in terms of “simulation value” but the Gran Turismo series has always tried to strike a balance between realism and accessibility. GT Sport seems to continue that tradition with controls that require precision and practice but still remain within the reach of mere-mortals, especially with the range of driving assists on offer. You get the standard range of assists such as ABS, traction control and counter-steer assistance, all of which can be dialled in to your preference rather than just a binary on-off choice. It also supports motion-controlled steering with the Dualshock 4’s tilt sensor which is surprisingly good but I doubt it’ll convince anyone to throw their steering wheel away.
As much as the quality of the content on offer in GT Sport is fantastic, I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed by the track selection. All the tracks look amazing but there just aren’t many of them, particularly when it comes to the real-world circuits. Yes, you get the Nürburgring Nordschleife, and that’s enough for some people but not me. Leaving aside my own personal favourites, classic racing game staples like Laguna Seca, Spa and Le Mans are missing. These are tracks that were in previous instalments of the series. It’s particularly odd that you can drive the entire range of Le Mans Prototypes from 2016 but there’s only one track from the WEC calendar. On the plus side, the latest update added Monza as well as some extra layouts to one of the fantasy tracks so hopefully we’ll see the track list filled out a little bit in the future.
Overall GT Sport throws up no real surprises and delivers the kind of quality you’d expect from a long-running flagship franchise. As usual it will probably appeal to car enthusiasts the most but the slight increase in emphasis on motorsport and multiplayer might just draw in a slightly wider crowd. People willing to play online will definitely get the most out of the game but for those less inclined to trade paint with the masses there’s still a good amount of single player hours, even if it’s not as many as some earlier games.