The plan was to have a weekend-long binge on everything that Gran Turismo Sport has to offer, but it didn’t quite pan out that way.
You might have read about GT Sport requiring an Internet connection when it comes to saving, but it actually goes further than that: the vast majority of the game is locked out unless you and the server is online. And for most of the weekend, the server wasn’t.
With the game now officially launched in North America, thankfully all is now working for us to review. And after playing what we could with the game offline and putting in as much time as possible when the server finally woke up, we can bring you our first impressions:
When trying out Forza 7 for the first time, I was a little taken aback to find that in no time at all I’d ‘accidentally’ earned half a million credits and had a garage stuffed full of gifted cars. But GT Sport does things a little differently.
In-game credits arrive at a gentler rate, and cars are gifted much less frequently. What’s more, you can’t just drive any car on any track as soon as you fire the game up. You have to put the time in to gradually unlock things, which will be a pain if you’re impatient, but for me, the satisfying progression is half the motivation for turning on the console in the first place.
Of the handling models from the three racing games that have come out over the last few weeks, Project Cars 2’s is unrealistically twitchy, Forza 7’s is perhaps a little too forgiving, and Gran Turismo Sport’s is just right.
There’s a real sense of the designers thinking properly about things like body roll, steering response, balance and what a car is supposed to do on the limit. All the cars I’ve tried thus far are wholly satisfying to drive, but it’s arguably the slower, softer stuff where the developers’ understanding of car physics really shines.
The only real blight is with the front-wheel drive cars - they’re a little more two-dimensional. Like many driving games, GT Sport isn’t brilliant at replicating lift-off oversteer, nor the operation of a limited-slip differential in a FWD application.
Special mention has to go to the traction control settings. It operates on a sliding scale from 0 - 5, so you can wean yourself off as your driving improves, rather than having to go cold turkey and switch it off entirely when you want to up the challenge.
So long as you have the right gear, there is an HDR mode for Gran Turismo Sport. I don’t, and without it swiched on, the graphics are just a bit meh. There’s nothing strictly wrong with what you’re seeing, it’s just that nothing pops out and dazzles you. The scenery all seems a little flat, and a little underwhelming.
While Sport takes the win for handling out of the trio of most recent racing games, it comes stone dead last when it comes to the all important noise test. Sure, it’s better than Gran Turismo games of old that often featured cars that sounded like vacuum cleaners, but they’re still disappointingly hit and miss here.
Cars packing big engines with many cylinders are just OK rather than scintillating as they should be, and there’s not much distinction between the ‘lesser’ machines powered by inline-fours and the like. The game does claw it back with some fantastic transmission whine in the race cars, though.
The whole point of GT Sport is online gaming: if you’re not going to partake, it’s simply not worth buying the thing. There is a limited arcade mode with decent AI (albeit AI that’s hamstrung in a weirdly artificial way on lower difficulty settings), but that’s not what you buy the game for.
The online stuff is good, though: ‘official’ races are happening all the time, and you’re given the opportunity to practice and qualify while you wait for the start. There are even FIA-endorsed championships to work up to if you’re feeling especially serious.
I’m not a massive fan of racing online - unless it’s with people I know - but GT Sport has a knack of drawing you in and getting you hooked from the off. After watching the ‘Racing Etiquette’ videos (which are like those videos you watch before going karting which explain how not to be a douchebag), I entered my first race, span out, and came second to last, beating someone whose driving was so bad they must have been either blind drunk or a toddler.
That wasn’t good enough, of course, and before I knew it, I was already in my second race, bagging a better grid slot and finishing in a (slightly) more respectable position. I’m now an online racing convert, and it’s all thanks to this game.
From the applause/booing you get during the Drift Trial challenges to the guitar shred music that plays when you set a ‘gold’ time in Circuit Experience, GT Sport feels like a game from another era.
The initial opening trailer (which changed after the first update was installed) featured orchestral music that sounded like it was from the film Independence Day, and yes, the usual Gran Turismo menu bings and bongs are still present.
I’m quite fond of all of the above…
Sadly, Gran Turismo Sport is one of those games that leaves you with a sinking feeling of ‘is that it?’ as you navigate around its slick menus and find out that it doesn’t actually have masses to offer.
First up, the cars: in a gaming world where the latest Forza installment offers 700 cars, 162 seems pathetic, particularly when the cosmetic damage to each model is so shockingly limited. There’s a heavy focus toward racing machinery and there are myriad Vision concepts, leaving many manufacturer line-ups with just one or two road cars. This would be just about acceptable if the Gran Turismo Gods picked out one or two of a manufacturer’s latest and greatest machines, but often they don’t.
Take the Ford garage for instance. A Focus RS and a Mustang GT350R would be great, right? Certainly, but GT Sport instead gives you a 2015 Focus ST and a Mustang GT. Then over at Aston Martin, there’s just one road car, and it’s the ancient, soon-to-be-replaced V8 Vantage. Right.
Thankfully, more are apparently on the way. There’s a decent selection of tracks too, and the Circuit Experience section will take some time to work through. But at the moment the ‘Sport’ online section doesn’t have a huge amount to offer right now, and while FIA-approved championships will be kicking off in a few days, it’s a curious decision to do away with offline championships against AI entirely.
What Gran Turismo feels like is the bones of a great racing game that hasn’t quite been fleshed out, which is a shame given how long we’ve been waiting for it. That may change over time to some extent as more things are added, and the good stuff here is generally very good, but at the moment it leaves you wanting more.