PlayStation 4 Pro And Gran Turismo Sport – A Match Made In Heaven?

There’s no denying that Gran Turismo is an acquired taste. It once ruled the roost as the driving game to go to on PlayStation and PlayStation 2, but its shining light has waned some since then, as challengers have sprung up and Polyphony have danced to their own tune as if to spite the upstarts.

https://youtu.be/x_yeFZ-jd0k

The first public showing of Gran Turismo Sport didn’t exactly inspire much confidence, but more recent demonstrations have had a much better frame rate, and a more refined look and feel. The delay until some time in 2017 also helps to affirm that this will be as good as it can be, giving Polyphony the extra time to polish and refine – hopefully the wait isn’t too long. Some of that time also goes toward supporting the 4K and HDR on PlayStation 4 Pro and PlayStation VR – VR support was something that Kazunori Yamauchi was particularly cagey about earlier this year, refusing to guarantee it for release.

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So yes, it’s on PS4 Pro, and it looks fantastic. It’s not a native 2160p frame buffer, nor does it reach 2160p via the checkerboarding technique that is so integral to getting an Ultra HD output from the PS4 Pro. Instead it runs at 1800p checkerboarding. It still looks fantastic. Certainly, you can get up close to the TV and peer at the image – which I did, and I’m sure I looked bloody stupid doing so – and pick out the aliasing, but take a step back, just one, and the sheer pixel density starts to resolve itself.

Kaz asserted that the human eye struggles to make out the difference between 1800p and 2160p when in motion, so they chose 1800p to improve the game’s stability. That said, there was an amusing moment when asked if they were using the 16-bit floating point calculations – another important technical wrinkle to the PS4 Pro’s GPU design. They’re not, but after Mark Cerny had some quiet discussions with two Polyphony engineers off to the side, it turns out that they’ll be looking into it in the hope of finding a few more performance gains. Maybe 2160p isn’t such a lost cause? It doesn’t matter, it looks great.

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Having known that HDR was on the way, Polyphony have left no stone unturned in trying to take advantage of that. They even developed their own camera because they weren’t happy with what they could get TV and film cameras to record for them. GT Sport is about as future proof as it comes in terms of HDR. They’re using the full Rec. 2020 colour space and the engine supports up to 10,000 nits of brightness, more in line with the more refined Dolby Vision specification than the HDR10 that many companies have plumbed for. To put this into perspective, TVs are considered excellent if they can achieve just 2/3rds of Rec. 2020 and have more than 1,000 nits of brightness. It will be years before any TV can make the absolute best out of GT Sport’s game engine.

But it’s also still a Gran Turismo game, and everything that entails. Sampling a few of the cars for a fairly short amount of time, playing with a top end Thrustmaster wheel, it was difficult to escape a feeling of neutrality to the handling. When I’m pushing the car to the limits, I want the force feedback to really fight me, to make me know that I braked too late and I’m only just keeping it on track.

I have to make exceptions for the fact that these were demo builds with slightly flakey sound because of having to run long extension cables, and needing me to flick through the settings to turn off all the assists. And there were glimmers of the kind of feeling I expect and want. Rallying is back, and chasing after an AI car on hardest difficulty, I struggle to make headway as I slide through corners on the lengthy Fisherman’s Ranch dirt circuit – spotting Polyphony devs out of the corner of my eye as I’m doing so doesn’t help – and with a nippy McLaren in my hands, some corners and braking zones had me right on the edge… but when I failed to control to control it around Tokyo Expressway, it was just a barrier or another car there to greet me and help me on my way.

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But wait, I haven’t talked about PSVR yet. There’s a feeling that, while PSVR is a very good system, the power of the standard PS4 holds it back and the PS4 Pro should unlock something extra, something a little bit more special. Without the two base consoles side by side, it’s impossible to know how true that is for GT Sport’s VR  – something felt lost in translation, but Kaz skirted round a question about if PSVR support would be a PS4 Pro exclusive feature – but it looks very good with a Pro pushing the pixels.

The limitations of PSVR are still there, and so there was some obvious aliasing wherever you wanted to look for it, but compared to Driveclub VR, where pop in is rife, this was pretty much spot on. As natural to look around you, tilt your head into corners and look to the apex, just couldn’t find the options to fiddle with my seating position. So driving around in a (soon to be defunct) Audi Le Mans Prototype had the steering wheel and my virtual hands uncomfortably close to my face.

For all the technical wizardry, the years of development, it really boils down to this: if you love Gran Turismo, it feels like it’s more of the same. This is an evolution on the track married to a revolution for the game’s multiplayer. If you and GT don’t see eye to eye last generation, it’s probably time to give up on the series changing.

But perhaps my favourite thing from the demonstration was Kaz showing off the new, and genuinely very impressive, photo mode, inserting digital cars seamlessly into photos and scenes from the real world. The game keeps running as a handful of questions are fielded from the journalists in the room, but Kaz can’t stop playing around with this thing even as he’s answering back. I think he genuinely loves just fiddling around with this.

A car appears in the middle of the street, the blue box around it, he moves it over to the side, lining it up with the real cars parked there, fiddles with a few settings, the luminosity, the aperture and exports yet another image. Sure, Gran Turismo is an acquired taste, but this is what Kaz lives and breathes.

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I'm probably wearing toe shoes, and there's nothing you can do to stop me!

12 Comments

  1. Sounds like it’s worth the wait, especially with the PS4 Pro and PSVR.

  2. “Kaz skirted round a question about if PSVR support would be a PS4 Pro exclusive feature”. If this starts to happen with some games then I reckon there’ll be a bit of an uproar after Sony made it quite clear that existing ps4 owners wouldn’t get left behind with anything.

    • I feel something was very much lost in translation with that question, so he basically didn’t answer it at all.

    • Every game has to support both PS4s. No PS4 Pro exclusives.

      • Yes, but the question wasnt if the game supports the standard ps4, but if you can play in vr on both of them. Are we sure thats guaranteed too?

      • Yes, no game features may be exclusive to Pro.

  3. Fascinating comment about him continuing with the Photo Mode and tinkering. I know a few “tinkerers” at his level. Sublime minds coupled with very high IQs. However, absolutely the worst to head a project and think about things properly as they usually get caught up in whatever they’re currently dabbling with (i.e. new code, ideas, etc.).

    For me, that’s where Gran Turismo has truly lost out but I’m glad it’s still looking after its fan base.

    • At the same time, he’s being asked for a question, getting the translation, answering it, having his answer translated, being asked another question. He wasn’t being inatentive, but there’s a lot of gaps and pauses when things cross language barriers.

  4. 1800p – The new 900p for 4k :P

  5. That fourth paragraph is interesting. Cerny have a quiet word and all that. It seems to be PD do their own thing and that’s it these days, the success comes from the franchise name rather than core improvements on the ‘real driving simulator’ philosophy.

    I’m glad the racing genre is still being invested in by other developers, as they seem to be the ones doing new things and evolving the formula. I’ll enjoy playing Sport, but I won’t be relying it to be the holy grail of racing games as was once the case.

    • So, to be clear, a lot of this was written with a light twist of humour. I love the idea that Mark Cerny was cracking the whip and telling PD that they need to get their act together on 16-bit Floating Point, but in reality, he will have just been trying to help clarify the answer to the question that Kaz was asked.

      Or maybe they were talking about where to go for dinner? Honestly I have no idea.

  6. GT Sport PS4
    Game

    Released: 31/12/16
    That’s what Tesco’s has as a release date on there web page.

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