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Two Weeks with Gran Turismo Sport: Was it Worth the Wait?

In the world of racing games, there are few titles more respected than Gran Turismo—Sony's iconic driving simulator which debuted on the PlayStation console in '97. It's a game that would influence gamers, drivers and real world carmakers alike, introducing millions to the world of motoring culture and car tuning with its ever expanding scope and dedication to realism.

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Needless to say, it's a big deal every time a new Gran Turismo game is released and last month, after years of waiting, Polyphony Digital released Gran Turismo Sport, the first GT release since 2013's Gran Turismo 6 and the first to be developed for the current PlayStation 4 console.

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After spending two weeks playing through Gran Turismo Sport and exploring its features, we've found a game that's at the same time familiar as well as very different from its predecessors. Does it still have the magic in an increasingly competitive racing sim market? Here are some of our game playing impressions...

Incredible Visuals

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First things first. Gran Turismo Sport looks absolutely fantastic. GT games have always pushed the limit when it comes to visuals, and this one takes full advantage of PlayStation 4's graphics capabilities. Additionally, those playing on a PS4 Pro console will be treated to even more impressive visuals, including 4K resolution.

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Whether you are watching a race replay, using photo mode or playing around with the game's deep "Scapes" feature, GT Sport's graphics are at another level. The cars are hyper detailed of course, but it's really the lighting model that sets things apart. The result is a racing game that's about as close to photo-realistic as we've ever seen.

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Improved Sound Effects

If there was one area where previous GT games clearly lagged behind the competition, it was in the sound effects department. We are happy to say that GT Sport's audio is much improved, with exhaust notes that have more character, and cars that sound more like their real life counterparts.

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The sounds of the cars and the ambient noises might not be quite as visceral or theatrical as Forza Motorsport 7 or Project CARS 2, but it's a massive improvement from the infamous vacuum cleaner sound effects that plagued previous titles in the series.

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The Online Experience

When GT Sport was first announced, it was stated that the focus would be on competitive online racing, and it's clear that's where the majority of development went. The multiplayer features are impressive—with rotating weekly events, series championships, qualifying sessions and sportsmanship ratings to help separate clean drivers from overly aggressive ones.

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In many ways, it feels like the formula established by the popular PC sim iRacing, though that subscription-based game offers infinitely more options when it comes to racing disciplines, real world tracks and vehicles.

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We tried our hand at several different online races, and found the experience to be much improved over other console racing games. There's no doubt that Polyphony did their homework when it came to developing an online racing ecosystem, but it's sill hard to imagine many hardcore sim racers making the jump over from their PCs. Of course, there will always be those who have little interest in competitive online racing, and those are the people who will likely be most disappointed by GT Sport.

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Skimpy Single Player

Ever since the original Gran Turismo of the '90s, GT games have all shared a similar formula—you'd start off by purchasing a cheap, used car then enter it into your first races. Prize money would help to upgrade your humble machine before eventually moving to more exotic vehicles and purpose-built race cars.

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Unfortunately, that part of the classic Gran Turismo single player experience has all but been removed from GT Sport. There are single player arcade races, time trials and drift challenges to do, but there are no vehicle upgrades to purchase, no real career mode and no feeling of becoming one with your car despite how beautiful they look.

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There is a campaign mode—but it's made up of single player challenges in the way previous GT games featured license tests, with some "missions" expanded to include long distance races with fuel and tire management.

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Indeed, it can be challenging and addicting trying to get gold on all of these events, but chances are you will get through them all relatively quickly and won't be left with a whole lot to do afterwards. And be warned, if you don't have an internet connection or the game's servers are down, almost all of GT Sport's features will become unavailable and your progress will not be saved.

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Cars & Tracks (or lack thereof)

In previous releases, Gran Turismo games were known as "CarPGs" packed with hundreds upon hundreds of cars to collect, modify and race. Not just flashy exotics and race cars, but vehicles representing all corners of the globe and all eras of history. Who can forget the fun of battling it out in painfully slow Daihatsu kei cars or transforming your old Honda CRX into a potent track weapon?

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This is another area where GT Sport takes a big step back. At the moment, the game's car roster includes just 162 vehicles, many of which are different versions of the same model, spec'd for various racing classes.

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Those who are fans of classic cars will also be disappointed to find that GT Sport includes just one car built before '09. Forza Motorsport 7 meanwhile offers 700 different cars going as far back as the '30s, and Project CARS 2's 180-car roster is much more diverse.

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Equally important is track selection, and here again GT Sport falls short of its competitors with just 17 locations, 40 layouts and no weather options. The courses themselves look great, but there just isn't a whole lot to keep you coming back. It's also disappointing that none of the series' iconic original tracks have returned, because it'd be awesome to see Grand Valley or Trial Mountain with GT Sport's graphics.

The GT Feel

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Even with the trimmed down content and focus on multiplayer at the expense of the single player experience, GT Sport is not a bad game by any means. It still has great driving physics and the menu presentation, music and general atmosphere of the game still has that classy, uniquely Gran Turismo feel.

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Overall, the game just feels a little underwhelming given how long gamers have been waiting for a new GT release. That and the relative lack of depth compared to other current racing games.

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Polyphony Digital has promised that more content will come to GT Sport, but it's unclear how much will be added and whether it will be paid or free. It's also unclear whether this a precursor to a traditional Gran Turismo 7 release in the future, or if the days of numbered GT games are gone. Time will tell which direction the franchise goes.

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There's no doubt GT Sport has potential to be great, and these days video games can evolve greatly from their release day form. We certainly hope these promising bones become the basis for the deep, next generation Gran Turismo game that so many have been waiting for.

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