Prepare to put your mettle to the pedal.
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After a three years of near total silence, Sony’s flagship racing franchise is finally coming to PS4. The next entry isn’t Gran Turismo 7, though; instead, it’s the unnumbered, competitive-minded Gran Turismo Sport. According to Polyphony Digital president Kazunori Yamauchi--who announced the first firm details at an event in London, Sport focuses primarily on online competition, offerings fans daily races, championship tournaments, and other events. The dev team clearly envisions Sport not only as the definitive competitive motorsports experience but also as a potential racing esport.
Despite this subtle shift in focus, however, Sport is still very much a Gran Turismo game, as I recently learned during a brief but illuminating hands-on session. The game treats cars with religious reverence, painstakingly recreating every detail from the dash to the handling. Sport contains 137 vehicles total, including concept cars, hypercars, and licensed vehicles from 27 different manufacturers. And unlike previous Gran Turismo games, every single ride has been given the premium treatment, with authentic, highly detailed modeling inside and out.
The attention to detail throughout is downright maniacal. You can see the leather stitching on your Audi's steering wheel, and individual flecks of asphalt catch the sunlight as you whip past. Though the environments still can’t quite match the fidelity of the cars, Sports’ world looks substantially better than any previous Gran Turismo game. It’s not afraid to show it off, either: nearly every menu slowly pans over whatever car you currently have selected, lingering on every curve. There’s even a new mode that lets you create custom images, realistically rendering digital cars over high resolution photographs of global locales.
This may also be the best Gran Turismo has ever sounded. Not only does every engine rev come through crisp and clear, you can catch details like crunch of gravel when you slide off the track and the satisfying shunk of a powerful shift. Interestingly, however, Sport still doesn’t contain damage modeling. While that’s consistent with series tradition, it does somewhat detract from the steadfast realism that permeates the rest of the game.
The handling, on the other hand, feels as realistic as ever. During my hands-on time, I had a chance to race a Nissan GT-R ’17 on Willow Springs, a Lotus Evora ’09 on Brands Hatch Indy Circuit, and a Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 ’11 on Nurburgring Nordschleife. In each case, the steering felt tight, weighty, and responsive, especially with Sony’s official wheel peripheral in my grasp (force feedback, high-end metal shifters, a substantial steering wheel--highly recommended). Sport actually includes slightly more robust race assist options than previous series entries, which should allow those who buy the game primarily for the car porn to cope with Gran Turismo’s demanding, simulation-level racing mechanics. I spent one race with both the steering and brake assists turned on, and while I couldn’t quite tell if the steering assist actually helped, I definitely noticed the brakes engage on my behalf when I was heading into a corner a bit too hard. It was subtle but helpful.
Naturally, Sport offers several camera angles: cockpit, hood cam, third-person, and full first-person. The game actually defaults to a first-person view with a slick, intuitive UI that displays all info you need cleanly and unobtrusively. I especially appreciated the helpful RPM meter at top of the track mini-map--which appeared at the bottom of the screen--as well as the slim rear view camera that lived permanently at the top of the screen. The opponent AI seemed solid as well. Races felt competitive, but there was no discernable rubberbanding.
While the build I played contained only a limited amount of content, the final product will feature an arcade mode with single races, time and drift trials, and “two player battles,” as well as single-player focused campaign. Interestingly, the game’s menu lists Sport and Online as separate modes, perhaps suggesting Sport will offer broader, community-focused competition as opposed to traditional online racing. I also noticed a garage mode--which, as in previous games, should allow you to tinker with all your cars’ components--and an option to create your own custom livery for the first time in franchise history.
While there’s still plenty more to see, Gran Turismo Sport is so far shaping up to be worthy addition to the series’ tradition of hardcore simulation excellence. We’ll find out for sure when the game launches this November.