The second of this year’s console-exclusive driving simulator juggernauts is finally here. Gran Turismo Sport launched a couple weeks after Forza Motorsport 7. While the latter was a carefully hewn evolution of the series, adding cars, graphical fidelity and updated physics and features, Gran Turismo Sport tossed out key ingredients the franchise was known for to create something new. The result is something that’s still fun, makes some key improvements, but also suffers from major flaws.
As mentioned, Gran Turismo Sport is different from past installments. While the last six full releases were similar to Forza in offering hundreds of cars and a deep solo campaign with many racing series for all different types of cars, this new game is all about racing and competition. As a result, the car list is smaller at less than 200, and most of them are racing cars both real and imagined. Additionally, the campaign is focused on teaching and improving driving technique in order to get players ready for the online Sport and Lobby multiplayer parts of the game.
Not everything is new, though, and most of what remains is still excellent and in many ways improved. Though there are fewer cars this time around, they’re absolutely stunning, and they’re fully modeled inside and out, unlike in Gran Turismo 5 and Gran Turismo 6. This editor finds them to have a slight edge in detail and accuracy over those in Forza Motorsport 7. Part of that may have to do with the game’s excellent lighting that makes every car look dazzling and look perfect in every environment. The realism can also be captured in the “Scapes” mode, which is a photo mode. Here, players can position their cars in real photographed locations. The effect is impressive, though the choice of angles is restricted compared with modes in past Gran Turismo games.
The trade-off is that Sport lacks detail in other places. In Forza Motorsport 7, everything feels alive and dynamic. Windshield wipers shimmy and threaten to be swept up the windshield from wind, wires and hoses vibrate, and the tracks are full of movement from crowds, off-track tents, and other motorsports paraphernalia. Gran Turismo Sport‘s cars and tracks are comparably static. The stands are filled with stiff spectators, trees have sparse modeling, and there isn’t much happening in or around the cars.
Another core competency on display in Gran Turismo Sport is the driving physics engine. The subtlest differences between different cars, be they related to powertrain, drive wheels, weight or more, are all discernible. It’s also generally easy to tell what the cars are up to just from what you see on screen. The physics are more demanding than ever, making high-horsepower rear-drive cars a bit tricky on-course. In fact, even low-horsepower cars without much grip can be a handful at times.
Moving on to the ways Gran Turismo Sport has changed reveals more mixed results. One major improvement is the inclusion of a full-fledged livery editor. This is the first time Gran Turismo players have been able to do more than just change a car’s paint color. Now complex patterns, sponsor logos and more can all be created with enough creativity and fine enough analog stick control. The interface is just as easy to use as anything from Forza, Need for Speed and others.
Though paint scheme editing has made a quantum leap to the present, other customization has diminished. Players can still pick out custom wheels, but that’s about it. There are no performance parts or other exterior upgrades to choose from. Instead, to make a slower car competitive, you’ll rely simply on a slider to increase power and decrease weight. Additionally, wheels have to be purchased with mileage points, which are accrued for driving so many miles. These are harder to obtain than credits, which can be bothersome.
The campaign mode is very different now, too. In past games, there were loads of series and championships to participate in with different vehicles, as well as special mission challenges and the license tests. Now, the campaign is 100-percent focused on driver training. It’s split up into three parts, two of which include the driving school, which is made up of license-test-style tasks meant to teach you how to handle driving situations, and the missions, which usually require you to use a specific car to overtake a certain number of vehicles in a short period of time. The third mode is called “Circuit Experience” and it breaks up every track into sections, with the goal of completing each in a certain period of time. The point is to teach players how to drive each track.
All of these modes are as fun as ever. They offer some good variety to just simple races, and they offer a good opportunity to practice and improve driving technique. But where these events fall short is in the lack of events that allow you to choose your preferred car from your garage. Most provide you with one car to complete the challenge, and the ones that let you pick a garage car typically restrict your choices substantially. The lack of straight races for garage cars is disappointing.
There is a reason for the lack of traditional racing in the campaign. Now the meat of the racing comes from the Sport and Lobby modes. Both are online, with Lobby representing a place for people to set up racing with any number of people up to 16, on any track, with any car criteria. This mode is just like what was present in Gran Turismo 5 and Gran Turismo 6, and the quality of racing can vary greatly depending on who is in a lobby and who is running the lobby. You might find a large group of skilled, considerate players, or a bunch of sparsely populated ones with a couple people driving like idiots.
The Sport mode is more enticing. There’s a section of Sport mode of single races that are changed out every day, and another section of championships that feature races on specific dates. We were only able to try out the daily races because there aren’t any championship races scheduled until next month. The daily races are fun, and usually full of drivers. You still run into haphazard drivers more interested in wreaking havoc, but they’re usually switched to ghosts to prevent them from ruining your race. Qualifying high on the grid helps avoid worse drivers, too.
But the biggest issue here is that there aren’t enough of these races. There are only three new unique events every day. Most players will breeze through these in an hour or so, if they play all three. Once the championship races roll around, that will help, but only for a day. And although the solo campaign offers more to do in the meantime, that will only last as long as there are unfinished challenges, or challenges where gold hasn’t been obtained. It’s because of this that the lack of races in the campaign mode is even more frustrating.
There’s one other massive flaw in Gran Turismo Sport, and that’s its online requirement. It’s understandable for the Sport and Lobby modes, since those involve person-to-person competition. But being able to connect to the Gran Turismo servers via Internet is required for just about everything else. You can’t access your garage, livery editor, photo mode or solo campaign when the servers are down, or you’re not connected to the Internet. Only the arcade mode is available, which offers some challenges and awards credits and experience. But that’s actually pointless since you can’t even save your progress when not connected to the servers. Effectively, Gran Turismo Sport is an online-only game.
In the end, Gran Turismo is still very good in many ways. And if you can look past the reduced car count and thinner campaign, and you have a fast, reliable Internet connection, there’s still lots of fun to be had. And perhaps with the focus on online multiplayer racing, there will be plenty of reason to pick it up from time to time in the future. But if you have Internet issues or want a traditional Gran Turismo experience, you’re better off skipping this and picking up Forza Motorsport 7.