Polyphony Digital have never really been a developer who liked to rush things. Their last title – Gran Turismo 6 – came out nearly four years ago, and was developed entirely for the PS3 despite the fact that the PS4 had already been released. In fact, in the 20 years that the Gran Turismo series has been going now, they’ve only created seven full-sized games.
Whilst that might be frustrating for the legions of fans that the series has built up, it does mean that you can count on an almost unmatched level of polish and professionalism in Polyphony Digital’s games. Well, we’re pleased to report that it’s no different when it comes to Gran Turismo Sport.
On paper, the statistics involved with GT Sport might raise some eyebrows in alarm; most notably, the number of drivable cars has been reduced considerably since GT6. There are a couple of immediate counterpoints you can make to this, however.
GT6 may have had around 1,200 vehicles that you could drive… but did you actually drive them all? Of course not! You probably got nowhere near! GT Sport might have “only” 162 cars in its lineup, but in reality, that’s still a pretty hefty selection.
It’s also the case that “more” doesn’t always mean “better”, and really this is the crux of what makes GT Sport such a great game. The whole thing feels completely streamlined, in contrast to the unwieldy (although admittedly entertaining) behemoth that was GT6. There may be fewer cars, but every single car feels like it has a distinct personality. This comes courtesy of both the vastly-improved sound, which gives each car a different voice, and the handling.
That handling, regardless of which particular car you drive, is absolutely magnificent. We may be living through something of a golden age of racing games, with Forza, Project Cars and Assetto Corsa all at their peaks, but Gran Turismo might just have the best handling of the bunch. Even if you play with a Dualshock instead of a driving wheel, the controls are incredibly responsive and provide you with a tremendous amount of feedback. The driving feels difficult, but in a pleasingly challenging rather than frustrating way. And again, the handling really does feel different for every single car, depending on its weight distribution, its power, and so on. The simple act of driving – which is by far the most important part of every racing game – is a joy in Gran Turismo Sport.
Another area which has been streamlined is the career mode. Instead of being an endless grind-fest – in which you spend hours toddling around the same old tracks in boring, slow cars as you scrabble coins together – the focus is very much on helping you to become a better driver. This is done firstly through a series of excellent challenges (similar to the license tests you took in the old Gran Turismo games), and then through progressively harder events, in which you learn the importance of managing your tyres, your fuel levels, and so on.
In truth, all of this could simply be viewed as a training ground for the real main event: the online multiplayer. This has been completely revamped, with Polyphony Digital… “borrowing” the system which has made iRacing so popular on the PC.
The most noteworthy feature of this new system is the safety rating system: you’re rewarded for safe driving (i.e. not treating the game like a high-spec reimagining of bumper cars), and penalized for making contact with other drivers. This mixes together with the rating you earn through your actual race performances to determine which events you’ll be entered into going forward. For those who have long avoided the online section of racing games because of the unfriendly and physical nature of other players, this is a massive addition: disciplined drivers will now, in theory at least, race against each other.
One final note: if you’ve looked at the feature list of GT Sport and found it insufficient, please don’t let this be the thing which dissuades you from buying. Polyphony Digital are prolific at adding content following the initial release of their games, and future tracks, cars and online events should all be coming soon.
Again, the most important thing of all in a driving game is surely, you know, the driving. This is something which GT Sport absolutely nails, arguably better than any other modern racing game. GT Sport is a streamlined, gorgeous game which – whilst it is incredibly realistic – is a whole lot of fun to play too.