Gran Turismo Sport marks the 7th full release in the series’ history, and the first release for the PlayStation 4. For the past two generations, Gran Turismo has arrived years into a console’s lifespan, with Gran Turismo 5 being released four years into the lifespan of the PlayStation 3. It’s been seven years since I hunkered into a Gran Turismo game, as Gran Turismo 6 released just as the PS4 hit, the last gasp for a PS3 that was already being eclipsed by a newer, more powerful system. I was excited to play a new Gran Turismo game, and excited to see what it would look like on the PS4 as the series continues to strive for more realistic visuals.
When it comes to visuals, I wasn’t disappointed in the least by this newest offering in the Gran Turismo series. In the world of racing simulation games, Gran Turismo has always excelled at delivering the best simulation possible, although at times that has cramped actual enjoyment and gameplay. As a simulator, it’s been hard to beat. The presentation of GT Sport is impeccable; clean menus, with a polished and almost at times stuffy style. When you are awarded a prize car, there’s a certain level of pomp which is almost laughable.
If you purchased GT Sport digitally, you better be prepared for a long wait until you’re able to truly enjoy your purchase. The initial 15 GB or so only allows you to play the arcade mode, which is pretty much the only thing a player can enjoy if the Internet connection goes down or if the servers crash for any reason. In offline mode the game is so stripped down it’s laughable. Even game elements which don’t actually have you playing online, such as the Driving School, Mission Mode, and Circuit Mode, are completely restricted and unavailable if there’s no internet connection. For a game like GT Sport, a long download time isn’t exactly a surprise, but the fact that so little is accessible while the other 30 GB downloads is more than a little frustrating. If you do play the arcade mode while waiting for installation, know that NONE of your data is being saved, so any credits and experience you earn is all going to be lost.
The gameplay experience feels very narrow compared to prior releases. My last experience with the series was Gran Turismo 5, so I’m unaware of any changes that came with Gran Turismo 6, but the solo race options felt very limited and nowhere near as expansive and interesting as they were in the past. In previous entries, you would unlock races as you progressed, earn more money, buy more cars, supercharge them, and eventually buy the cars you needed for the additional unlocked races. Gran Turismo 5 also had B-Spec, which was a weird but also oddly addictive game mode.
There are progression elements which are potentially enticing in GT Sport, where you earn experience points which level you up and unlock additional courses for arcade mode as well as other unlockables. If you race a certain amount of distance in a day, there’s a reward for doing so. You earn two different types of currency, which can be used for purchasing additional vehicles, as well as liveries, boosts, special cars that can’t be purchased with credits, special paint colors, modifications to your racer, etc.
However, the car list in this game is miniscule compared to prior releases, with a very small number of courses to race upon. That being said, in arcade mode there’s more customizability with the visuals, so that when you choose a track, you can also determine the time of day and overall weather. The graphics are stellar, and the details in the weather are spot-on.
The set-up to get started and jump into racing are relatively simple, and nicely customizable depending on your overall comfort level with racing games and Gran Turismo in particular. The online component of the game is where this game is geared, and as a fan of campaign modes and solo racing, this game felt like it failed to deliver a full experience. Mission modes are fun, but feel a little limiting. There doesn’t feel like there’s as much diversity in the driving modes compared to prior releases. The circuit modes break down particular courses in a manner which feels like mission mode, as you do certain turns or stretches of a course, and then do a lap battle at the end. The better completion, in terms of bronze, silver or gold, the more rewards you will get when you complete a particular course. At times the ability to customize your cars feels unnatural or more obtuse than in prior releases.
Online racing isn’t nearly as intuitive as I expected. Players must sign up for official races and start at specific intervals throughout each hour of the day. For those who are uninterested in official races there’s a lobby, which felt a little difficult to navigate and wasn’t all that intuitive. The game runs well online, with gameplay remaining solid. In order to unlock the online game mode, players will have to watch two short videos that tell players about the importance of sportsmanship in sport, which includes online racing in Gran Turismo Sport. It really lays it on thick, and although I appreciate the intent, it comes across as irritating and condescending.
Gran Turismo Sport returns the Gran Turismo series to the Playstation 4, with fantastic graphics that push the boundaries for realistic driving simulation. However, this game feels thinner than its predecessors, with less of a focus on solo driving and campaign simulation. The gameplay is crisp and smooth, the menus are well built for the most part, but the lack of a polished campaign mode like what was found in prior releases reduces overall enjoyment for the player who isn’t intent on playing online in the official races each day. The overall racing experience in the solo player mode feels broken down into chunks, suitable for mission and driving school modes, but lacking in a true racing experience that prior releases in the series were able to deliver.
Gran Turismo Sport was reviewed using “retail” PlayStation 4 download codes provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.