This could have been called Gran Turismo 7, Kazunori Yamauchi admitted yesterday during a round table interview. Of course, it’s not, and the ‘Sport’ in the title points toward how Polyphony Digital see the game and the genre evolving, but it could have been a numbered entry quite easily.
On the plus side, it’s given Polyphony license to cut ties to a lot of the weaker parts of Gran Turismo on the PlayStation 3. All of those hundreds of cars that had been ported forward from the PS2 have been banished, and even the Premium cars that were meticulously crafted for GT5 and GT6 are gone. Instead, there are 137 cars in the game at launch, all of which have been recreated as “Super Premium Cars” for the PS4, and all of which have interiors for those who love to race in first person. Put into perspective, Project CARS shipped with 65, while arch-rival Forza 6 featured 450.
Despite the game’s name, there’s the same eclectic mix of everyday road vehicles, through to GT3 and on to the absolute pinnacle of racing technology. These real world cars are mixed in with refreshed versions of the Vision Gran Turismo prototypes that were created for Gran Turismo 6, with everything shuffled, somewhat unusually, into four rough categories, from GR.1 at the top end, to GR.3, GR.4 and then N-Series for road cars.
Getting them out on track at this moment in time is an exercise in disappointment and a chastening lesson in the vagaries of game development. You read stories about how Uncharted 4 was a mess of a game six months before release, and Gran Turismo Sport is bearing that burden as well. The frame rate is far from smooth, there is more than a little bit of tearing on show, shadow and scenery pop in is very noticeable, and the chainlink fences around the Nurburgring Nordschleife flashes white as you drive around.
At full 1080p, it’s still a lot cleaner and sharper, with higher resolution textures, better lighting and so on, but it retains that very clinical look that Gran Turismo games have clung to over the past decade. This will far from eclipse the sublime graphics on show in Driveclub, but while it’s churlish to make such comparisons, given the different target frame rates, those are the kinds of expectations that could be heaped onto Polyphony’s shoulders.
The performance will improve – and has to if there’s to be any hope of VR support – but what’s less likely to change before launch is the actual gameplay. Love it or loathe it, this is not a significant departure from Gran Turismo 6. In fact, the above caveats aside, Sport looks and feels like an improved version of that game in many ways, as I took to the Nordschleife and Brands Hatch.
The handful of relatively downforce heavy cars that I tried handled perfectly well, whether on wheel or pad, and it’s building on the years of expertise that Polyphony have built up for the physics model. That it doesn’t wow is perhaps a testament to the physics and handling from the series’ last outing.
When it comes to the game modes, the shift away from the single player side of the game is masked by a campaign that seems like an attempt to educate players in how to race. That’s always been the case with the licenses of previous games, of course, but this is geared towards online play. The Beginner’s School segues into the Circuit Experiences, which help you to learn specific sections of tracks, before you embark on race missions and are then tutored on racing etiquette.
That’s obviously important, given the new eSports focus and the expansion of the online functionality. The collaboration with the FIA is groundbreaking for the genre, but for the 99%, it will look to include everyone with a system of divisions for you to compete in. For the best racers – those who might vaguely consider going for a Gran Turismo Digital License – their skill will be recognised by progressing through regional finals and being able to compete in the Nations Cup and/or Manufacturers Cup for an FIA sanctioned award.
A lot of this will be streamed along the way, with the climactic races from each championship weekend to be broadcast live. I’m not sure that there’s quite the same appeal to watching a live Gran Turismo race, as there is to sitting down for an F1 grand prix, but even at a glance, the observer mode has been improved immeasurably, with cars clearly marked by the player details that hover above them. They can, of course, gain a little more individuality with the game’s livery editor, a first for the series.
That livery editor is possibly the only example of them bowing to popular demand. Alongside interesting curiosities like the new Scapes photo mode, that blends the real world with the digital in a truly impressive fashion, the Museum and the new Car Dealership which glorifies cars and their history, it’s quite clear that Polyphony will continue to forge their own path in the racing sim genre.
Last night saw a lot of details come out about Gran Turismo Sport. Head over here for all that we now know about the game.