Gran Turismo Sport Review: More Similar to the Prologue Series Than We'd Like [Now With a Score]

GT Sport looks incredible, but does it have the content to back it up?

I just realized that it's almost exactly 20 years since I fell in love with the original Gran Turismo. I first saw it in October of 1997 when I was working at IGN (back when it was still known as the Imagine Games Network). Sony came in with a preview copy of the game, and I remember seeing it from across the room—someone was driving a Honda Civic around a race track lined with trees—and my jaw pretty much hit the floor. It looked so incredibly realistic.

The more I watched it, the more impressed I became. As a racing game fan, it seemed like a dream come true—especially when the PR person reeled off details about the game. So many cars. Real cars! And loads of tracks too. It vastly eclipsed what we'd seen in previous benchmark racers such as Test Drive and Need for Speed, and after getting the chance to sit down and actually play it, Gran Turismo immediately became The Game I Absolutely Had To Have.

Fortunately, I didn't have too long to wait. That December, on the day after Christmas, I picked up an import copy of the game, and ended up in peak gaming heaven for the rest of the vacation. Gran Turismo was utterly incredible. It raised the racing game bar by such a degree, it would take years for anything even remotely resembling a competitor to appear. I'd certainly never played a racer like it, and I loved it with a passion. I collected all the cars, won every one of its contests, and still came back for more.

Here we are, 20 years later, and I'm still feeling the passion for Gran Turismo. The release of a new game in the series is a banner event for me, and I've been keenly anticipating GT Sport ever since playing it at E3 last year. It showed a tremendous amount of promise, and my excitement was further heightened when I got the chance to speak to series creator Kazunori Yamauchi, and he told me that GT Sport represented the first of a new generation of Gran Turismo games. Once again, it became The Game I Absolutely Had To Have.

So now—finally—I have it, and I've been playing it obsessively. I'll be up-front with you: In many respects GT Sport is a truly fabulous racer that melds absolutely outstanding audio-visuals with a deeply impressive and involving handling engine. It delivers by far the finest driving experience the series has ever offered. However—and I bet you knew that was coming—there are some issues.

A Hard Reset for Gran Turismo

Since it's an all-new game that contains no legacy assets, GT Sport is essentially a hard reset for the series. Gone are the huge car and track rosters of yore, and instead we have a far more modest affair that sits somewhere between the original game and Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec in scope and scale. There are 17 track locations with 40 variants (including reverse modes), and 162 cars to drive. It's a decent amount of racing content, but not outstanding.

The track selection is good, but may well be a little disappointing to those who enjoy racing world famous circuits. While fifteen real courses sounds reasonable enough, it breaks down to five Willow Springs tracks, four Nürburgring courses, two Brands Hatch and Suzuka circuits, and single loops for Interlagos, and Mount Panorama. The rest are fictional circuits. Not that there's anything wrong with that per se—some of the new tracks are actually really enjoyable to drive around—but I feel that I should mention that for a game that brands itself The Real Driving Simulator, it is somewhat lacking when it comes to real-world courses.

Some elements of the car list are also disappointing. While there are more than 150 different cars to race, look a little closer at the roster, and you'll see plenty of single-model variants. There are five versions of the Mitsubishi Evo Final Edition, for example. Along with a standard road model, there are Gr.B Rally, Gr.B Road, Gr.3 and Gr.4 versions. Each features its own unique tune, engine power, and bodykit, but nevertheless, there's no getting away from the fact that they're all based on the same chassis.

Yet despite the feeling that GT Sport's car roster is a little padded out with same-model iterations, there are still plenty of notable and desirable motors available to win and buy. Top marques include Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, Jaguar, McLaren, and Aston Martin, and these sit alongside the kind of everyday manufacturers you expect to see in a Gran Turismo game, such as Ford, Nissan, BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot, Volkswagen, and Renault. In all, GT Sport's car offering encompasses a broad selection of modern vehicle types, from humble hot hatches all the way through rally and race cars, to highly exotic GT Vision concept vehicles. This ensures the game delivers a wide array of driving experiences, even if it does lack the sheer variety, as well as historical and modern classic depth of previous iterations of Gran Turismo.

The biggest change for the series this time out, however, comes in the form of GT Sport's all-new campaign. Out goes the traditional tiered racing structure we've enjoyed over the past two decades, and in comes a trio of modes that seem largely designed to teach you how to properly drive on a track. It's a change in focus for the series that I think may well prove divisive for some.

Gran Turismo's classic license tests are back with a vengeance, with Driving School comprising six tiers of ten increasingly tricky challenges that are run against the clock. It starts out with straightforward braking and cornering tests, but eventually reaches the point where you have to run a full clean lap around a track within the target time limit. The game then moves onto a more advanced set of tests, and ends in another timed lap. It's challenging stuff, but nothing that a competent Gran Turismo driver won't be able to work their way through over the course of an evening or two—although getting all gold medals will likely take considerably longer.

There are more gold medal tests waiting to challenge you in the campaign's Track Experiences. Here, you race specific sectors of each of the game's circuits, attempting to beat the target time before moving onto a full lap of the course itself. I like that you can win a prize car for getting all gold medals on a particular track's tests, and it's certainly a good way to learn the intricacies of each circuit, but I just didn't find Track Experiences particularly exciting: It's more a teaching mechanism than truly enthralling racing.

Finally, there's Mission Challenges, which comprises a variety of racing activities—many of which again feel like driving tests. There are 64 in all, arranged in tiers of eight. Missions include passing and top speed challenges, gymkhana-style autocross tests, and even full, multi-lap races. Each has a specific target to beat, which earn you medals when you do. As you work through the tiers, the action gets increasingly demanding, and features such events as a 30-lap endurance race that requires pit stops for refueling and new tires.

Considering that Mission Challenges is essentially the core of GT Sport's PvE, it feels distinctly lacking compared to prior editions of the game. Although 64 missions sounds like plenty, some of them only take a few minutes to complete. Sure, if you want to challenge yourself and get gold medals on each one, it'll take plenty of practice, but ultimately the paucity of PvE racing in this mode really disappointed me. What little there is certainly delivers a real taste of racing excitement—the highly competitive endurance races and some of the shorter sprint races are thrilling white-knuckle rides thanks to the game's competent AI—but there's just not enough of them.

Rather than competing against AI opponents, it seems that Polyphony Digital wants you to spend your time racing real players in its online Sport Mode. While I'm sure that many will love this, especially considering the online component has strict matchmaking based on your own personal Sportsmanship Rating that sorts non-contact players from the roughhousers, it does leave those who enjoy PvE racing distinctly wanting. Yes, GT Sport does feature an arcade mode, and options to set up your own custom PvE races, but it's just not the same as a full-on career mode.

In some respects, it feels like this new generation Gran Turismo game is more hardcore—designed for those who relish PvP action and really want to learn how to race properly. GT Sport's myriad of tests and lessons certainly help improve your driving skills and teach you how to effectively race around its tracks, and I'm very impressed with the general design and execution of the online racing component, complete with daily events, qualifying sessions, and strict matchmaking. It's just that I'm not always in the mood for the kind of exacting competition that GT Sport seems to now be focused upon. At the risk of sounding like I'm belaboring the point, I want more interesting and varied PvE than the game currently offers. The good news is that Kazunori Yamauchi has said that more PvE events can and will be added via DLC. I just wonder how long it'll take.

However, while GT Sport's PvE content feels lean at launch, many of its other aspects are very impressive. The overall presentation is absolutely gorgeous, and the game shows off its cars in spectacular fashion using hyper-realistic cut scenes and stills. Acquiring a vehicle feels like a real event—whether you buy or win it—and if you're into taking pictures of your favorite rides, the incredibly comprehensive and detailed Scapes photography mode can deliver quite astonishing results. I haven't been able to spend much time with the livery editor so far, but what little I've seen of it feels like it has potential. It's a tad clunky to use, but features an extensive selection of stickers and shapes that should enable budding livery artists to produce complex and interesting designs.

As I've already said, GT Sport is graphically outstanding, featuring top-of-the-line car models, and clean, crisp, and exceptionally realistically-rendered racing environments. The audio is similarly excellent. It's vastly improved over prior versions of the game, especially the high-end racers, which sound hair-raisingly raw and mechanical. Its sublime handling engine feels very Gran Turismo, with the distinctive weight and heft that the series is known for, and the overall driving experience is as involving and detailed as I could hope for. GT Sport really does look, sound, and drive exceptionally well.

All that remains for me to be able to score this review is to more thoroughly test the online component and see how it performs under real-world conditions—something that has been impossible so far due to GT Sport's servers being offline for the last three days, and it requiring an always-online connection for it to fully function. I'll be playing it extensively over the next few days, and will have a rating and further thoughts and comments by close of play Wednesday.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, or there are aspects of the game that you want to know more about, let me know in the comments section. I'll do my best to address them, either by responding to you directly, or incorporating more information into my updated review on Wednesday.

How Good is GT Sport With Online Play?

In some respects, it feels like this new generation Gran Turismo game is more hardcore—designed for those who relish PvP action and really want to learn how to race properly. To that end, the game definitely delivers. GT Sport's myriad of tests and lessons certainly help improve your driving skills and teach you how to effectively race around its tracks, and I'm very impressed with the general design and execution of the online racing component. There are three different daily races that rotate every 20 minutes, starting at the top of the hour, and each features an extensive qualifying session before the matchmaking system kicks in and puts players on the track.

So far, I've really enjoyed competing against other players. It seems that the Sportsmanship Rating is at the top of most drivers' minds, and in my experience, racing has been very clean and fair. It certainly bodes well for the future of the game—especially its upcoming online championships—and I'm looking forward to spending plenty more time in Sport Mode to see just how much I can improve my rating. The problem, though, is that I'm not always in the mood for this kind of exacting competition. Online racing requires a very high degree of focus, and sometimes all I want to do is sit back and relax racing AI opponents where I can choose to jostle and barge other cars, and not worry if I'm being a little lax with my skills. Which brings me back once again to GT Sport's lack of PvE races. I just think it would be a much more rounded game if it also included a fully-fledged single-player career mode. The good news is that Kazunori Yamauchi has said that more PvE events can and will be added via DLC. I just wonder how long it'll take.

However, while GT Sport's PvE content feels lean at launch, many of its other aspects are very impressive. The overall presentation is absolutely gorgeous, and the game shows off its cars in spectacular fashion using hyper-realistic cut scenes and stills. Acquiring a vehicle feels like a real event—whether you buy or win it—and if you're into taking pictures of your favorite rides, the incredibly comprehensive and detailed Scapes photography mode can deliver quite astonishing results. I haven't been able to spend much time with the livery editor so far, but what little I've seen of it feels like it has potential. It's a tad clunky to use, but features an extensive selection of stickers and shapes that should enable budding livery artists to produce complex and interesting designs.

As I've already said, GT Sport is graphically outstanding, featuring top-of-the-line car models, and clean, crisp, and exceptionally realistically-rendered racing environments. The audio is similarly excellent. It's vastly improved over prior versions of the game, especially the high-end racers, which sound hair-raisingly raw and mechanical. The game's sublime handling engine feels very Gran Turismo, with the characteristic weight and heft that is a series hallmark. It ultimately delivers a superbly detailed and involving driving experience that does a remarkable job of articulating the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between the different cars' handling traits.

It's a bit of a shame, then, that GT Sport feels more like one of the old Prologue releases than a full-on entry in the series. Like I said at the top of this review, the game is fabulous, but there's just not quite enough of it. I'm sure that Polyphony Digital will add new cars, tracks, and events going forward, and it'll be interesting to see how Sport Mode evolves over time, but the bottom line is that right now, GT Sport feels more like an appetizer than a main course. It's exquisitely-crafted and phenomenally tasty, but leaves you wanting more.

Interface
The interface is a little clunky to use, but it looks fantastic, and packs plenty of interesting information about the game's cars and manufacturers.

Sound
Impressive. The engine sounds are hugely improved compared to previous iterations of the series, and the game features a vast library of varied music tracks.

Visuals
GT Sport is one of the best-looking race games yet seen. Its car models are phenomenally detailed, and its highly convincing racing environments are crisp and beautifully rendered.

Many aspects of this new-generation Gran Turismo are fantastic. It looks absolutely stunning, sounds great, drives superbly, and delivers an excellent online racing experience. However, GT Sport is a little lacking when it comes to its content. Its car roster packs some very desirable motors, but feels somewhat padded out with single-model variants, and the track selection is decent, but not outstanding. Most disappointing, though, is that this game has largely replaced the series' traditionally comprehensive PvE racing campaign with a set of tests and lessons designed to teach you how to race. It certainly does that effectively, but it does mean that those who've always enjoyed Gran Turismo's single-player component are left distinctly wanting. The game's always-online requirement may also be a problem for some. Ultimately, GT Sport is a truly brilliant driving game—it's just that it lacks the scope, scale, and depth of previous iterations of the series.

4/5

Tagged with gt sport, PlayStation 4 Pro, Polyphony Digital, USgamer.

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