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The GT Sport Demo Shows How Gran Turismo's Future Is In Online Racing

The same but different.

After years of waiting (once again) a new Gran Turismo is finally about to be released on PlayStation 4. GT Sport sees the venerable series move slightly away from its insistence on being a “driving simulator” and towards competitive racing and esports.

This is Gran Turismo through and through, from the insistence on teaching you how to accelerate and brake – that it does teach the greater complexities of racing is a good thing though – to the menu system and the obsession with taking photos of digital cars, now transposing them into real world photos. For better or for worse, this still has Polyphony’s now age old oil lubricating its engine.

The huge 43GB beta-cum-demo includes slices of all the entire game, letting you take on the driving lessons, a handful of the missions across a wide variety of tracks, sample a subset of those tracks of your own volition and potentially drive any car in the game if you earn enough cash or get lucky with a randomised reward. A good slice of progress will carry over to the final game as well.

The car handling been further refined and overhauled, the visual effect that suspension and weight have as you drive has been improved, the tyre model revised, and on and on. Yet it feels like Gran Turismo, from the way the Traction Control feels as it smothers your acceleration when steering too far to the tyre squeal that, while more varied, will be a familiar accompaniment to your driving.

However, there’s a vibrancy and life to the graphics that I don’t think the series has really managed to capture in the past. Even with HDR turned off, the colours pop, the sun dazzles when hanging low in the sky, the cars and their liveries look fantastic, and being able to prioritise performance over resolution on PlayStation 4 Pro means you end up with a fantastically smooth experience or one that will make the most of a 4K TV.

Of course, there’s still some major omissions in comparison to its rivals this year, and even to the Gran Turismo games on PlayStation 3. Losing out on dynamic time is relatively forgivable, unless you wanted to run a sped up day-night race and emulate a 24 hour race at Le Mans or the Nurburgring, but the loss of dynamic weather is more disappointing when it’s something in the real world that helps distinguish the very best drivers with their ability to handle changing conditions. You can set a particular time of day, so night races are still a possibility, but we’ll have to wait until next week’s full release to see how extensive and adjustable this is.

Racing against the AI once again exposes Polyphony’s inability to create truly compelling single player races though. Throwing you into a number different scenarios is great, challenging you to race to first and make a pit stop, and it’s a lovely challenge, but it lacks genuine drama when you’re starting from behind and are multiple seconds faster than the AI each lap.

However, since the launch of Gran Turismo 5, the single player has probably meant less and less to the series. For years GT5 was the most played multiplayer game on PlayStation 3, and GT Sport looks to conquer the burgeoning esports racing scene as well.

While the menus have often been maligned since GT5, one thing Polyphony have absolutely perfected is how to host an online lobby. You can change all the settings on the fly, the map loading in the background with a central viewer peering into the track if you’d prefer to sit in the lobby and tinker with your car set up.

A similar consideration has been afforded to the online multiplayer Sport mode, gearing itself toward creating evenly matched races in a fascinating fashion. There’s a hint of Driveclub as you sign up to take part in a race that’s part of a steady schedule and rota, but instead of simply diving into a lobby and just being shoved in by a previously assigned skill level, you’re encouraged to set qualifying laps before the event starts. You can qualify at your leisure, setting times as you explore and practice the map before you decide to enter a race in a 15 minute window before it starts.

In tandem with your driver and sportsmanships rating, it’s from those times across all players entering the race that each set of up to 24 racers is grouped together for a single race, and since you’ve been through qualifying, you’ll start the race near similarly fast players. Yes, some players can be asshats or don’t have the necessary nous and courtesy to race wheel to wheel, but the unique combination of factors that Polyphony draw upon leads to some good racing in my experience and helps keep things competitive.

It also keeps you coming back for more with a Daily Workout challenge to drive a certain distance each day, which rewards you with a random car, while mileage points that will eventually be spent on cosmetics, and further rewards for completing certain feats in the game – don’t worry, there’s nary a microtransaction in sight.

Those that have gone off GT in the last decade likely won’t be won over, and in some ways it will simply be papering over the cracks of age old flaws, but the focus on multiplayer could pay off. Simply put, you’ve got to try this demo for yourself – yes, I’m familiar with the pain of a 43GB download on a not too great connection, but even so, it’s a great opportunity to explore the game, decide for yourself if it’s worth getting, and get an early start to your car collection.

    Since: May 2009

    Ok cool. I’m likely to get GT and I’d like to play online with TSA’ers again so I hope to meet up at some point either when I get a free Monday or another night.

    Comment posted on 12/10/2017 at 17:30.