The Gran Turismo franchise has been around since what feels like the dawn of time. Polyphony Digital first debuted the racer on the PlayStation 1 almost two decades ago, back in 1997. Since then, they’ve been releasing a new title every few years, with the latest being Gran Turismo 6, which launched on the PlayStation 3 in 2013.
Now though, three years later, Polyphony Digital are looking to bring that racing goodness they’re renown for to Sony’s current gen console. At an event at London yesterday, they unveiled Gran Turismo Sport. I was fortunate enough to be present at said event, meaning that I got to take their upcoming racer for a spin.
So… how did it handle? I hopped into the driver’s seat to find out…
Though there will be several modes available in GT Sport when it launches – including the traditional career experience for example – I only had access to the arcade and time trial options. I found the lack of multiplayer availability disappointing to be honest, as I was surrounded by dozens of other journalists at the time. They would’ve all made fantastic opponents! No matter, I decided to give arcade a bash, and was thrown up against 19 AI enemies instead.
Look, I’m most certainly not the greatest driver to drive walk this earth, so by all means, I should’ve selected an easier difficulty (I chose intermediate instead of beginner), and I should’ve enabled some sort of brake and steering assists (I chose neither). It’s just that with a crowd of spectators at my back, my ego was on the line, and I couldn’t afford to look like a complete beginner.
Thankfully, that never happened. Instead, I ended up looking like a complete fool. My driving was simply awful! What made the experience all the more embarrassing was that I had chosen the Mazda Roadster – one of the slower cars on offer.
I careened off the road effortlessly on the first corner of the Nürburgring – one of the six tracks on offer during my demo. The same happened on the next corner, and the next, until I decided to take them all safely… at a crawl. I was no longer spinning out of control at least, but I also wasn’t going anywhere fast.
By the time I reached the end of the track however (around a dozen or so minutes later), it felt like something in my brain had clicked into place. Those last few corners were still rough, but they were taken decently enough that the people behind me at least no longer had reason to guffaw.
It dawned on me that I actually hadn’t touched Gran Turismo (or a proper racing simulator for that matter) for a while. All I needed apparently, was a warm up to remember exactly how it played. There’s definitely a sense of familiarity there, so if you’ve dabbled with a previous title in the franchise, you should feel right at home. This is not to say that newcomers aren’t welcome. It’s just that returning fans will feel like they’re hugging an old friend, whereas newbies, well, it’ll probably feel like an awkward handshake, at least at first.
Anyways, after a somewhat respectable finish, my confidence spiked tenfold. I started up a new race, and instead of moving on to something slightly faster than the Mazda Roadster, I scrolled all the way to the right, and decided to try out the Bugatti Vision.
What a beast of a car! I fully expected the roar of its engine to rumble through my ears when the race started but… nothing. The sound of this dream vehicle came out more like a the angry meow of a kitten. It was very underwhelming to say the least. Granted, my immediate surroundings weren’t exactly whisper quiet, and nor were the headphones I wore the loudest, but I couldn’t help feeling that Gran Turismo Sport’s sounds could do with a bit of fine tuning. Something about it just seemed a tad off – which is unfortunately par for the course with Gran Turismo.
Regardless, I wasn’t there to listen to the sounds of the vehicles (though a nice, hearty VROOM never goes amiss in my book), I was there to race. The Bugatti Vision was a lot faster than the Mazda I drove before it, but somehow, I managed to keep it under control. Alright yes, I still had the odd spinout here and there, but my driving had honestly improved significantly in the mere fifteen or so minutes I had played. Thinking what I could achieve with more practice, say, over a good few hours, got me really excited.
And then I moved over to time trial with an Audi R8 LMS in tow, and then the racing bug really bit me. I had settled into a physical pod at the event, and even though my long legs made the ride uncomfortable, I didn’t get up for nearly an hour straight.
Time trial, as you all know, is a mode where the same track is done over and over again, with the goal of improving lap time. I’d chosen a small circuit (whose name is eluding me at the moment), where my first loop took me over a minute to complete.
After, I don’t know, forty or so laps, I managed to shave down my best time to just 47 seconds. I couldn’t believe it. Not that I’d improved my time by 15 seconds mind you (when compared to my first ever lap on that track), but that I remained in that seat, transfixed, for such a respectable period of time, stuck on the same circuit.
I kept telling myself that I’d go around one more time. Dammit, I spun out. Let me go around once more. Oh I screwed up this corner, guess I’ll have to do another lap to make up for it. Ok one more time. Shoot, I clipped the grass on this particular lap. I can definitely do better! Just once more for old time’s sake… It seems so silly to mention this, now that I think about it. I mean, all racing games have a time trial mode, right? Certainly, but there was something about Gran Turismo Sport’s driving that I found mesmerizing.
The only way I can explain it is, if I could spend that much time on a single track, doing so many laps with just one car, how much time will this new racer from Polyphony Digital steal from me when it launches? It’ll have all the content I played at the event (with my limited time), and more. That career mode in particular, I know from past experience, can suck away at a person’s life relentlessly.
So yes, I’m quite keen on Gran Turismo Sport. I don’t think it does too much in the way of innovation (at least not that I got to witness firsthand), but in terms of actual racing, I think it nails it quite well. How it will fare though, compared to other industry giants, is a big mystery. Gran Turismo is no longer the sole name in the racing industry, at least not in the way it used to be all those years ago. It now has Forza, Project Cars, and many others to stand up against.
Are Polyphony Digital up to the challenge? We’ll just have to wait and see when they launch their game on November the 15th later this year.
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Last Updated: May 20, 2016