GT Sport, announced way back in October 2015, is a game trying to re-mold what a car racing game can be. With CEO of Polyphony Digital and professional race car driver, Kazunori Yamauchi, saying "...it's about turning GT [Gran Turismo] into an official FIA motor sport." speaking of the international governing body of motor sports. With that goal in mind Polyphony Digital set to the task of creating the long awaited successor to Gran Turismo 6 and eventually announced a release date of November 2016 with an open beta. In May 2016 Yamauchi announced there would be no beta for GT Sport ensuring the studio could keep to their promise of a 2016 release. Three months later, in August, it was announced that the 13th title in the Gran Turismo franchise would be delayed until 2017. As it fails to get off the line will this PlayStaion 4 exclusive be worth the wait?
Since its launch in 1997 Gran Turismo has been a game franchise focused on realism, branding their games as realistic driving simulators. GT Sport is no exception, taking the best concepts from GT's long history of games and applying them to a new physics engine that will have you feeling every bump and divot in the pavement. Polyphony Digital has worked closely with track sites all over the world to bring you the most accurate representations of these courses ever. Keeping things tied to real world racing, even the cars have been tuned to match four racing classes represented in real life motor sports. Race Etiquette is another integral part of GT Sport teaching you to drive like a pro, sportsmanship is just as important as performance.
Building on its strong foundations GT Sport brings many incredible additions, most notably the intergeneration of PlayStation VR. Yamuchi has said the studio is committed to PS VR being available in all parts of the game at launch. Imagine the exhilaration of rocketing down the track at 270mph with the Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo, in VR. Rounding out the additions are a livery mode, a photo-mode known as Scenes, online esport style racing, championship cups, a live broadcast feature, and even an FIA Digital License -more on that later.
The intense focus on realism does not stop there, Polyphony Digital has made great strides on the graphics front. The use of HDR is stunning and you will often find yourself wondering if you are looking at a game or live television. The way the sun glints off a fence or glares blindingly from another car is like nothing you've seen in any racer. While you may not notice it as much hurtling down the track you will certainly appreciate the attention to detail when watching re-plays. Cars and tracks are modeled beautifully, as scenery and props around the tracks are given the same treatment.
All 137 cars in GT Sport have been completely remodeled since GT6 and it shows. The realism of these vehicles cannot be overstated, combining real car models with some fantasy to match GT's style. Polyphony Digital worked with car manufacturers to create their vision of the ideal Grand Touring car. The result is the super premium Vision GT cars like a Lexus LF-LC FT or Aston Martin DP-100 tricked out with the very best. Each car is tweaked to fit within 4 racing categories, allowing for reasonable competition from others in your class. These vehicle classes mirror those used in real world FIA racing events. Even the interiors have been customized to feature standard gauge and information layouts used in actual racing cars.
New and classic tracks make it into GT Sport's 19 iconic racing locations. Featuring 27 different layouts on real world tracks like the high-speed Willow Springs Raceway and testbed Nürburgring Nordschleife. Tokyo Expressway, a new offering bringing racers to a Tokyo-like expressway, will have you weaving around buildings and plunging through tunnels at breakneck speeds. While Northern Isle Speedway provides an American style half-mile short oval to Gran Turismo fans for the first time. Live Mode allows you to root for your favorite driver or country while watching TV-like live broadcasts of each race series.
The typical solo, challenge, and arcade modes are there along with everything you would expect from a racing game. Starting with Beginner's School GT embarks on its mission to create a real racing simulation by teaching you real racing skills. Move on to the Mission Challenges followed by a Circuit Experience to further enhance your skills. Race Etiquette is another integral part of GT Sport teaching you to drive like a pro, sportsmanship is just as important as performance.
Where GT Sport really starts to pull ahead of the pack is with its Sport Mode online game mode, the focus on realism is as apparent here as anywhere throughout the rest of this car love story turned driving simulation. Daily tracking of racer's performance and etiquette on the track provide Sportsmanship Points, these points are used as both a ranking system and as part of matchmaking. In an effort to curb unequal matches Polyphony Digital feels by using daily metrics tracking both behavior and performance it can reach the goal of providing fun online racing by matching players in a fair and equal way.
Once you have learned the lines of the tracks and perfected your handling of the Chevy Corvette C7 enter in one of two FIA certified championships. Race for the glory of your country/region in the Nations Cup or prove which manufacturer is best by participating in the Manufacturers Fan Cup. Not in the cup races? No problem. Live Mode allows you to root for your favorite driver or country while watching TV-like live broadcasts of each race series, complete with commentary. A brilliant addition given the recent explosion in esport popularity. Continuing toward Yamauchi's goal of making GT an official motor sport, the winner of each championship cup will be recognized at the annual FIA award giving ceremony alongside professional drivers.
Gran Turismo Sport is so close to a perfect simulator the FIA has agreed to issue licenses to the very best drivers. The FIA Gran Turismo Digital License is obtained by completing specific tasks and challenges such as etiquette lessons and advancement in Sport Mode. This license, issued by your local sports authority or automobile club is equivalent to a real life license. Currently 22 countries and regions, including the UK, Mexico, and Australia have announced their support of the program. Though details regarding conditions and associated fees for obtaining the license are yet to be announced.
Show off your creative skills with the long awaited addition of Livery. By allowing you to manipulate various decals' shape, size, and placement Livery allows you to create the racer of your dreams. Once you've completed your masterpiece show it off in online races or share it for all to see and use. GT Sport also includes a powerful photo-mode called Scenes. Providing over 1000 unique backdrops Scenes lets you position vehicles within the photo and gives you access to a huge selection of tools and options to create the perfect photo op. Light sources move dynamically over surfaces as you move cars within the scene, adding an additional level of realism. With so many tools to play with and the amazing results I can see many people losing hours just making pretty wallpapers. Seriously, take a look at some of the photos to come from Scenes, you won't be disappointed.
Worth the wait? Absolutely. GT Sport has come a long way since it was delayed, recent game footage shows marked improvements in framerate and even the long ridiculed engine sounds, as the game continues to look more beautiful than ever. You will often find yourself wondering if you are watching a game or a live TV broadcast with the top of the line HDR graphics, and really what more could you ask for? The inclusion of PlayStation VR support adds to the immersion and practically begs for a PS4 racing wheel. From beginner to pro, gear head to photo geek, everyone will find something inspiring and artfully crafted.
Gran Turismo Sport's attention to real details like gauge layouts, track topography, vehicle handling, and race rules propels the idea of car racing simulators ahead in a huge way. Yamauchi along with Polyphony Digital have created something altogether different from anything on the market and have said they set out not to compete with the car racing game market but to re-define it. Their success is punctuated by the first of its kind partnership between the FIA and GT, even offering valid racing licenses. It looks like Gran Turismo is indeed becoming a sport and the next generation of professional drivers could be those who play GT Sport. If you are excited, then why not place your pre-order? Be sure to leave your comments and questions below.