It's been a long time coming, but Gran Turismo is finally coming to the PSP. Gran Turismo 4 Mobile was announced way back in 2004, but it was only at E3 this week that a release date (October 1, alongside the PSP Go) and a new title (Gran Turismo for PSP) were confirmed, and the game appeared in playable form somewhere other than behind closed doors. The E3 demo weighs in with an impressive 100 cars and 14 tracks, but that's just a fraction of the 800 cars and 35 tracks (60 with variants) that will be included in the finished game.
With so many options at our disposal, we set about testing the demo's extremes. First, we took the incredibly quick Toyota Le Mans for a spin around Laguna Seca, and then, after scrolling to the other end of the vehicle selection screen, we climbed into an ancient and extremely slow Citroen 2CV to take a look at the Tsukuba circuit. We were tempted to check out the Nurburgring, but that takes a long time even in a race car, so in the 2CV (which took a long time to get up to 40mph before we hit a corner), it would likely have taken a good portion of the day.
The fact that Gran Turismo features such a broad range of vehicles is truly impressive, and though some might say that cars like the 2CV, the Daihatsu Midget, the Fiat 500, and the Nissan Cube have no place in a racing game, it's immediately apparent as you scroll through the list that Polyphony Digital is picking and choosing which vehicles to include very carefully. Some have been chosen because they're fast, some because they're fun, many because--at least to some people--they are considered classics. DMC's DeLorean, the 1990 Toyota Supra, the Pagani Zonda, the 1973 Alpine A110 1600S--the list just goes on, and you'd do well to approach Gran Turismo as the "driving simulator" that it is, rather than wishing it were a racing game (like some of us).
Taking the controls of any car in Gran Turismo is fun, even if the game rarely forgives mistakes. The PSP controls work well regardless of whether you choose the D pad or the analog nub, the visuals are impressive and move at a steady 60 frames per second, and the racing line feature borrowed from Forza serves as a great learning tool. Where the game falters, depending on your criteria, is in its lack of believable or competitive AI drivers, its lack of damage models, and its lack of customization options outside of those offered by manufacturers. These things have been true of every game in the long-running series, and Gran Turismo for PSP is no exception.
On the upside, GT for the PSP will support ad-hoc play for up to four players, so there's some realistic racing to be had provided you can find a friend or three with a copy of the game. We're also told that you'll be able to trade cars with friends, though it's unclear if you'll be swapping them one for one, exchanging in-game money, or just unlocking cars you've already gained access to for your friend.
Gran Turismo for the PSP will be released both as a UMD and a download on October 1. Based on what we saw of the game today, it's unlikely to attract many drivers who aren't already fans of the series, but it could well be a must-have for those who are fans.