When you start up Gran Turismo Sport (after a massive day one patch), you’re treated to an opening cinematic that takes you through the history of car racing. There’s no narration here—just a simple, yet elegant classical music piece over the moving montage. This opening movie serves as a perfect metaphor for the game, really. Gran Turismo used to be the pinnacle of racing games franchises, and is a key contributor in the genre’s long history. I, like many others, still fondly remember playing Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec with my friends on the PS2. Much like the footage in that opening movie, however, it’s all in the past. After waiting so long to finally get a proper GT game on the PS4—GT6 launched only on the PS3 at the very end of that system’s life—GT Sport feels like it’s leaning far too heavily on its brand than actually delivering anything new. And, like the classic music bed underneath the movie, it has a very limited appeal when considering modern audiences.
Part of the reason that appeal is so limited is that most of the game’s focus is on preparing you to race online. GT Sport is recognized by the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) and thus has legitimate prizes and trophies surrounding the game and the online competitions it will hold. In order to rank up online and have a chance of competing for the fantastic prizes, you need to do two things: win a lot, and win in a sportsmanlike way. The game even goes so far as to make you watch a pair of “tutorial” videos before it lets you online the first time and how to be a courteous driver. It warns against crashing or taking turns too quickly; better to race smarter and safer. Of course, in the handful of races that I took part in—with official races being held every 20 minutes in order to be counted towards potential advancement—that didn’t stop most people from launching themselves like missiles when it best suited their needs. There were no issues connecting online at the very least, and that’s a good thing, because GT Sport needs to always be online.
Yes, one of the most annoying things a game can do is at the core of GT Sport. If you don’t play the game online, you can’t save your game, and most of the game’s features—only single arcade races are available offline—are locked away. It’s another way that GT Sport tries its damnedest to force you to participate in their ongoing online tournaments.
Even if you are online, but don’t want to participate in the online races, there is extremely little content to enjoy anyway. I can’t remember the last time I saw such a bare-boned racing experience. There is no offline career to speak of in GT Sport; instead, the “campaign” is three modes meant to help you learn how best to drive in GT Sport and how to quickly learn the game’s limited track selection. So, in the hopes you do go online, you’ll be able to perform at your very best without maybe embarrassing yourself.
The first offline mode is Driving School, which is exactly as it sounds in that it starts off with how to accelerate and moves up to taking difficult turns and maneuvers. Then there are Challenges, which give you some oddball scenario on occasion—like knocking over so many cones—but usually just drops you into a race midway through and asks you to win. Finally, there is Track Mastery, which focuses on specific tracks and sections of tracks to help you learn the less than 30 track configurations in the game. GT Sport isn’t a racing game folks—it’s a super-advanced Driver’s Ed program.
From a technical standpoint, I wouldn’t say GT Sport is the best the series has seen either. It feels like Polyphony Digital spent most of their development focus on how this game looked, because—credit where it is due—the game looks gorgeous. If you don’t have a 4K TV it’s going to be hard to fully appreciate the visuals, but even still, it looks really good. Of course, when you only have one-eighth the cars from your last game, it’s easy to focus on the little things. That’s right, there are only 160 or so cars (if you count all the variants) in GT Sport, a far departure from the nearly 1200 in GT6. Throw in only three camera angles to use during races, and ridiculously long times, and you wonder what the heck took so long for this game to come out.
Not everything in GT Sport appears to be a bust, however—the cars do handle well. It’s easily the strongest aspect of the game, and at least that wasn’t sacrificed in this latest entry. The menus of GT Sport are a bit of a mess to navigate, but there are also all the expected driving assists you can turn on or off depending on your driving preferences. Gran Turismo prides itself on being more simulation than arcade, so everything seems to work best when the assists are off—another reason why the game focuses on teaching you everything.
The game also handles surprisingly well in VR, where you can play one-on-one races against the computer or inspect your cars up close and personal. Racing against the computer was exhilarating here, because you could look in your mirrors like you would in a real car, and see where your competition is on the track. However, after a few races, I admit all the twists, turns, and high speeds started to wreak havoc on my stomach a little. Still, playing in VR was supreme fun while it lasted, even if it’s all a bit gimmicky.
The only other aspect where GT Sport competes with its contemporaries is the customization. Not only can you customize your cars, but also your driving suit and your helmet. You can’t choose to be a female racer, though—so close GT Sport, so close. You can save your various liveries and share them with the community online as you place decals and paint everything whatever color your heart desires. You can also earn more cars and gear via the game’s two in-game currencies earned from winning races or completing challenges. Thankfully, there are no microtransactions here, so if you want to pimp your ride, you need to get driving.
For as long as fans of the series have been waiting for Gran Turismo to finally debut on the PlayStation 4, Gran Turismo Sport under-delivers. The game looks nice, and has a few neat bells and whistles like its VR capabilities, but there’s absolutely a dearth of content here that makes it hard to recommend. With everything trying to funnel you into competing online, there’s little room it seems now in the GT universe for anything but the most hardcore racing game fan—and, ironically, that puts GT Sport squarely behind all its competition.
Gran Turismo Sport purposely limits itself as it revolves solely around getting players racing online in various competitions. The VR gimmick and customization options are nice, but otherwise there simply is not enough here for anyone but the gamer that wants to turn video game racing into a potential career. GT Sport is a shell of what we expect from this series, and will disappoint anyone looking for any significant content in its offline modes.
Sony Interactive Entertainment
E - Everyone
|Gran Turismo Sport is available on PlayStation 4. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of one to five stars.|
Ray has extensive roots in geek culture, as he’s written about videogames, comics, and movies for such outlets as Newsday.com, ESPNNewYork.com, Classic Game Room on YouTube, Collider.com, and Comicvine.com before finally settling into his role as EGM’s reviews editor. His main goal in life? To become king of all geek media, of course!