Awesome racing sim - possibly the best racer on the PSP
The answer to that is a resounding yes, with 800 cars, 35 tracks with a total of 72 course variations, awesome graphics, realistic handling and the promise of being able to transfer your car collection to GT5 (PS3) when it arrives - hopefully in March 2010.
Gameplay: There is no structured career mode in the sense of win this event to unlock some more events but in a sense the entire game is a career mode! With 800 cars to buy you need to do some serious racing to earn all the credits you need! To win credits there is the challenge mode - with 54 challenges (much like the license tests in earlier versions) where you learn to brake, take corners etc. Each event comes with the usual gold/silver/bronze ratings and while bronze should be attainable for all the golds take a bit more work! Then there is the single player mode where you can create individual events in 3 different types -
1. Time Trial - pick a car and course and set some times
2. Drift - pick a car and course and have some fun drifting round bends - all drift points are doubled and turned into credits at the end!
3. Single Races - all 72 course variations have 5 difficulty levels to beat. To begin with all 72 are available at D level only and as when you beat D then there is C then B, A and finally S. Note that while a single win at D or C unlocks the next level to unlock A you find yourself needing to beat B a couple of times! The number of laps you choose changes the number of credits you win as does the level you play at! So you can either do one lap races to unlock the later difficulties quicker or do more laps and earn more credits along the way (I've been doing 3 lap races throughout!). The car you choose to race with in these events determines the cars the AI drive so no point buying a fast car hoping to blow the opposition away - wins are only achieved by good driving!
There is a great records page that shows stats such as races won, challenges completed, total credits won, credits available to spend, number of cars, number of tracks unlocked to each level etc.
A nice touch is that although all the cars are unlocked from the begining - on any given "day" (it's a new day after each race) there are only 4 manufacturers open for business and each carries no more than 10 cars. This makes the do I buy car A or wait for car B question an important one! It's a nice touch that encourages you to race more and keep checking back for the car(s) you really want.
You can customise up to 30 of your designated "favourite" cars with the tweaks making an instant difference out on the track - only 30? Well it's been enough for me so far!
All in all the best racing Sim on the PSP to date and possibly the best racer!
Why only a 9.5 I hear you ask - well on-line racing as well as ad-hoc racing would have been nice and I know a lot of people would have prefered a more structured career mode and maybe some damage modelling would have been good! Other than that it's darn near perfect!