- Released: 2017
- Played on: Playstation 4
- Also available on: –
- Time to get into: 20 Minutes
- Time to complete: Probably about 10 hours for the Campaign
- Multiplayer: Yes
Gran Turismo Sport may be the most frustrating game I’ve played all year. The actual driving itself is superb, stunning even. The handling feels so authentic that even an uncooperative car is a pleasure to drive around. But Polyphony has completely forgotten to give you any good reasons to do so. The game is so bereft of fun things to do that I regularly put the controller down in frustration and/or boredom, only to pick it up again moments later for the pure pleasure of nailing an apex.
The Drive Of Your Life
Let’s look at the good first. Gran Turismo has always described itself as ‘The Real Driving Simulator‘ but it has never dialed it in as perfectly as it has here in Sport. Of course, car handling has been well refined in these games for years. Project Cars, Forza Motorsport, F1 games – these have all done a great job recently. But the detail, and the balance between accessibility and realism, is perfected here. You can really feel the weight and movement of the cars underneath you. There’s a really lovely uncertainty as you swing through the apex of a corner – the car a little unbalanced as you simultaneously accelerate, brake, turn and change gear. Then it falls into place as you blast onto the next straight. It just feels totally right and driving around a great track like Suzuka in Japan, right on the edge of adhesion, is a real joy.
Off The Line
Unfortunately, you are simply not given enough good reasons to drive. This is primarily an online game, so there is very very little content for you to get stuck into by yourself. And this isn’t a case of cutting away the fat – too much of what you are left with isn’t that great anyway. Where usually we would have some kind of career mode we instead have ‘Campaign‘ mode and GTs usual ‘Arcade‘ mode is here too. (It’s telling that I am even talking about Arcade mode – in previous GT games it has been close to irrelevant but here it gets a mention as there is so little else.) In Campaign mode you face challenges and then are awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze for how well you do. It is in three sections; Driving School, Mission Challenge and Circuit Experience.
Driving School is much the same as earning licences in previous GT games – you are given short sections of tracks and tips of how to complete them quickly. Before, however, they were a means to an end – getting into the career mode. Here they are an end in themselves and are rather dull as a result.
Mission Challenge is where the only real gaming offline takes place. Here the requirements can range from overtaking challenges, to one-make races, to ‘endurance’ races (side note – since when did Gran Turismo count a 15 lap race as ‘endurance’?). Some of this is good as it gets out of the way and let’s the driving shine. Those slightly longer races in particular are good to break up the stream of 30-second challenges. But even here there are huge problems. The worst is when a particular challenge requires you to make no contact with the other cars. Ridiculously, you also lose these challenges if they hit you, so don’t think about trying to out-brake them into corners. I ended up creeping around the track in these races concentrating more on staying out of the way of the AI rather than enjoying the driving. Horrible.
Circuit Experience does what is says on the tin – holds your hand around each of the (very few) tracks in the game, giving you time trials of all the difficult sections until you are deemed ready for the whole circuit. I thought maybe I could learn the tracks whilst I was racing around them, but in Gran Turismo, apparently not. Also very dull.
On The Line
All of this indicates that Polyphony have firmly put all of their eggs into the online basket – the eponymous ‘Sport‘ mode. As such, it had better be great, to recover this game from the threat of mediocrity.
You have the standard ‘Lobby‘ area where you can arrange to play with friends or jump into stranger’s games. This does work pretty well – the flexibility in setup of these rooms allows everyone to race the way they want. But every single racing game on the market has this functionality – it’s not enough to carry this game alone. Perhaps the idea is that they will build on Sport mode over time but for now it is very minimal and very restrictive. You get 3 daily races that take place repeatedly through the day and two championships that run a few times in the evening. It all works in a very slow and cumbersome way; from the long loading times (like, really long) to the inconvenient organisation of race scheduling (usually when you finish one of the daily races the next one you can enter is… the same one you just finished) to the format (you spend up to 15 minutes qualifying for a 5 or 6 minute race, with a completely pointless ‘warm up’ in between).
Not only does it feel like a drag but it’s not saved by the races either. Polyphony are obsessed with trying to make sure everyone is nice to each other so they have instigated something called your ‘Sportsmanship Rating‘. You are forced to sit through a long, pious and badly-translated (I’m going to assume that’s the reason – otherwise it’s just really badly written) talk about how important it is to be nice on the track before you can even get into Sport mode and then in the races your every move is tracked. You gain ‘SR‘ by going through sectors without hitting anyone (in other words, when you are at the back not making any progress) and you lose ‘SR‘ for making contact. Of course, much like in single player mentioned above, you also lose rating points if others bump into you. Finally, they seem to have tried to ensure this doesn’t get out of hand by ghosting anyone’s car who isn’t on the racing line. This works well if someone has forgotten to break in time for an upcoming corner – they just fade out and miss everyone – but it is still not right; in one race I was passed by a ghosted car that went right through me and then solidified again once in front. Perhaps some people have learnt to game the system.
It would have been better to simply let people race and then match those who repeatedly don’t race well away from the rest of us – but once again, Gran Turismo feels the need to hold our hands, and it falls down as a result. When I think about how quickly and smoothly online games like Rocket League work, or how well the additional online content is built in a game like Dirt 4 (on top of a proper single player game, no less) everything about Sport mode is a disappointment.
Gran Turismo Sport gets an extra star by virtue of the great handling model that Polyphony has created. The actual game that they have put together around it is completely average. If you have a few friends that enjoy racing online together – and have no desire to play any other parts of the game – then by all means make this your new destination. I can’t think of any other reason that you’d choose Gran Turismo Sport over other racing games.
Click here to purchase Gran Turismo Sport on disc from Amazon.co.uk: