It was with great excitement that I stepped into a Gran Turismo Sport racing pod to check out the E3 demo of the game. I’m a hardcore fan of the series, and have been keenly anticipating driving this newest iteration of the game ever since it was first announced in 2015.
The thing that intrigues me is that this is essentially an all-new game. It has been created from the ground up specifically for PlayStation 4, and contains no legacy code at all. Indeed, in a conversation that I had with the game’s producer Kazunori Yamauchi (which I’ll be publishing in full next week), he said that you can think of the first six Gran Turismo games as chapter one of the series, and Gran Turismo Sport as the start of a second.
Its specs certainly feel that way. The finished game will contain just 140 cars. I say just like that’s an insignificant number – it’s actually still a lot, but compared to prior versions of the game, and indeed its main rival Forza Motorsport 6, that does feel somewhat lean. The good news, however, is that these are all brand new, "super-premium" cars, complete with meticulously-crafted interiors, not hand-me-downs from earlier editions of the game, as has been the case with the bulk of the cars from the last few entries in the series. There are also fewer tracks than previous Gran Turismo titles - 19 in all, with 27 different layouts. Based on the numbers alone, GT Sport could be construed almost as a disappointment.
However, as I slip behind the wheel of my racing pod, I’m not feeling disappointed. I believe a hard reset is what the series needed. Gran Turismo 6 represents the apex of an era, something that couldn’t be topped – at least not without several more years of development. This new game represents step one of what will undoubtedly be several evolutions for this generation.
As I wait for the other 11 players in our multiplayer demo to get ready, I drive the car I’ve chosen – a Jaguar F-Type racing car – in practice mode along the new Tokyo Expressway track. It’s blisteringly quick, yet smooth and responsive as I get a feel for the steering and braking. Suddenly I’m faced with a black screen – everybody is ready, and we go into race mode. The game counts down the grid, and I’m at the back of the field in 12th place. No problem – I’ll just have to pass everyone!
The race starts and the field takes off down the narrow, undulating street course. It’s a technical track that offers little room to maneuver. The racing is exciting, and I work my way up to 6th place. But then disaster strikes. As I round a particularly sharp corner, there are three cars stopped in the middle of the road just beyond the apex, evidently having crashed into one another. I can’t pass, and am stuck as they slowly untangle and reposition themselves on the track. I notice that despite what looks like a serious collision, there’s no damage to any of the cars.
I continue onwards, but that’s it for me – 6th place is the best I can do. Ultimately, I don’t mind. I finally got to drive GT Sport, and it feels great. Of course, it’s bound to – it’s presented in the best possible way, with a large-screen TV mounted on the front of a full racing rig setup. But even so, I can feel that its handling engine is another step forward for the series. Not necessarily a huge one, however – a subtle upgrade over GT6 that’s more precise and planted, and with a touch more finesse and definition.
The graphics are similarly improved: Evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. The gorgeously-detailed cars gleam and glisten in the sunlight, and light reflects off the road beautifully. The backgrounds look spectacular, and highly realistic. Sure, we’ve seen it all before, but it’s just better, and more convincing. Although it was hard to hear, the audio also seemed to be improved. The cars just sounded a little more throaty, with a harsh metallic edge.
I’ll talk in more detail about the new features of Gran Turismo Sport when I post my interview with Kazunori Yamauchi next week, but so far, I’m very happy with the state of the game. While it doesn’t feature the sheer wealth of cars and tracks that Gran Turismo 6 boasted, it’s finally free of its own legacy. It’s taking advantage of the PS4 hardware to push the series to new heights, delivering the most accurate, realistic, and best-looking Gran Turismo game yet. It’s both what I’d hoped for… and what I expected.