The best word to describe Gran Turismo Sport is consistent. Developer Polyphony Digital found a niche and slammed the accelerator out of the bend that was the last entry in the series and headed for the finish line—Tuesday's release.
Fans of the series won't be able to resist comparing this long-awaited offering to Gran Turismo 6, which boasted more than 1,200 cards and seemingly endless tracks. Gran Turismo Sport checks in at a modest 162 and 40, though the end result leaves room for the "quality over quantity" conversation.
Less means more here. GTS is a finely turned package in which there is a lot to like, even if always-online requirements and Polyphony Digital keeping a sharp handle on a player's progression is something different for the series.
Like a late attempt at an overtake, GTS takes a notable gamble in pursuit of crossing the finish line first.
Graphics and Presentation
GTS rivals any offering, new or old, on the market with ease in this arena.
Each vehicle is faithfully recreated with eye-catching lighting and true-to-form angles found on the real thing. Whether it's rain beading off the hood of a supercar or the sun glancing off the spoiler of a racer, it's easy to get lost in the game—and it all weaves into a neat package recreating a must-have sense of speed.
Part of said package is the superb sound effects. Each vehicle mimics the real-life offering in this regard as well. Tires and vibrations offer feedback, and various surfaces and those unfortunate thumps into other vehicles and walls have devastating audible responses.
Tracks themselves have plenty going on besides the race itself. Planes and fighter jets trailing colorful smoke are a few of the realism-seeking additions bringing each stage to life, from a vast cityscape to colorful greens and even tans of the desert.
It's hard to pick out a flaw in this area. One a few might point out is the inability for weather to change over the course of a race. A small, yet disappointing, gripe for a game so long in the making, though one won't think on it often while getting lost in the immersion this area as a whole provides.
Polyphony Digital goes out of its way to reward players who pay attention to the pristine detail in the game.
GTS isn't necessarily a strict simulation experience. But those who don't learn and master the weighted system and toe the line with braking to ensure proper grips on tracks will have a hard time, often watching as those who put in the time drum up the advantage.
This weighted system sets GTS apart from its peers in an immeasurable way. Maybe the game doesn't have more than 1,000 vehicles, but rest assured each feels like it has its own personality. The difference between each is significant. Certain cars will excel in certain real-life situations, and this doesn't have a video-game feel to it here.
In this area, players can have fun with a little Honda on a curvy course or go full-blown sport mode with an in-depth Formula One offering. The developers even brought on a F1 world champion for feedback, so it's the go-to destination for those who have an itch for the blinding speed and risk of the sport.
For those intimidated, GTS offers a robust, lengthy tutorial system worth running through. Each challenge, starting with simply braking a vehicle into a highlighted zone, comes equipped with a full-blown tutorial video players can watch while the challenge itself loads. Assists are also present in the game, should players want help while improving.
Progressing skill in a game like this has always been a rewarding experience, but rarely has a game offered so much quality help while learning a refined, fun system.
Polyphony Digital's offering looks light on features, but so do some of the smaller vehicles in the game before they zip off around bends at 130 miles per hour.
GTS has a lot going on under the hood. Arcade Mode is the only option available offline. But it has plenty of depth, even boasting customizable race creations and a lobby for friends to get together and play.
Campaign Mode is where players will spend most of their initial time while learning the ropes. Driving School got a nod above and is a must-play affair, if not for improving skills, then for the car rewards at the end of each stage.
Mission Challenge falls under the same umbrella, and it is a blast to work through the stages while not knowing what the game might throw at a player next. Sometimes it asks players to pass as many cars before the timer expires; other times it wants players to knock down as many traffic cones as possible.
Circuit Experience is the final offering under this mode. Players select a track and can play a segment of it (fully equipped with a video just like the tutorials) before trying the entire track while earning medals. Like the other two campaign modes, it becomes an exercise in fun perfection trying to earn a bronze, silver or gold medal and the corresponding rewards.
Sport Mode is the esports-inspired mode overseen in conjunction with the FIA. This is where Polyphony Digital really steps in and exercises some control over the experience. Players have to watch two sportsmanship videos before even being allowed to play. The Sportsmanship Rating next to a player's name increases or falls based on behavior. Drive off road, swerve to prevent passes or hit other cars and the rating takes a nosedive. It's a smart, if not polarizing, way to create tiered lobbies.
Even with the oversight, the Sport Mode does an excellent job of creating a tense, sweaty-palm feel to the action. Players sign up for an event that goes down every 20 minutes, then qualifies until they get an invite to a lobby. There's something almost anxiety-creating about the idea of blocking off a plot of time for a showdown like this.
Of course, it wouldn't be Gran Turismo without the game writing a love letter to the sport itself. When idling, the game fades into a close-up of a car and contrasts it with a screensaver of sorts for historical context.
The game offers a digital history course for each of the major manufacturers in the game via Brand Central, which offers a showroom to buy cars in, a channel to peruse YouTube videos bringing the manufacturer's history to life and a timeline, which goes above and beyond by visually outlining the key points.
Scapes follow a similar passionate formula. It sounds basic—slap an owned car onto a photo and edit it. Except the editing options at a player's fingertips offer as many options as a pricey photo editor on a computer, and there are more than 1,000 alluring scapes to choose from right out of the box.
To round out the feature list, the game offers what it calls the Livery, where players can go deep on car and driver customization. Mileage Exchange allows players to trade in points based on the sheer mileage they've driven in the game for rewards ranging from driver helmets to exclusive cards not accessible anywhere else, leaving plenty of room for future additions players can earn simply by enjoying the game.
Gran Turismo Sport takes itself seriously—something in of itself that is a big risk in the video-game realm.
But the payoff is a finely tuned racing experience few others can hope to rival. Sheer numbers like the car and track lists being smaller in this game gets quickly lost in an immersive experience as close to the real thing as gamers will find on the market.
As a whole, GTS is the most focused racing offering in years. It knows what it wants to accomplish and does it better than anyone. If the game keeps receiving updates throughout its life cycle to expand the universe in meaningful ways, it won't have a hard time solidifying itself as the best entry in this series since the third and the racer with the most staying power on the market.