Review: GT Sport

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Review: GT Sport

It’s finally happened. After countless delays, blog posts and interviews, GT Sport is finally here, 20 years since it first appeared on the original PlayStation. Back then it was comfortably the best racing game around, but now titles such as Assetto Corsa, Project Cars 2 and Forza Motorsport 7 have given Sony’s racing simulation serious competition. Simply put, GT Sport has a lot to prove and, on the surface at least, it looks like Sony has delivered.

 

GT Sport brings 162 cars and 27 track layouts to the PS4 – in glittering 4K and HDR quality if you have a Pro console – and there’s also an extensive campaign mode, new photo tools, and the same mix of license tests and challenges, too. There’s also a Sport mode, which is heavily focused on competitive online racing.

As soon as you boot it up, and watch the classical-backed opening movie, it’s clear that GT Sport is going to be one of the most ambitious racing games ever made. In the four years between now and the last game, Kazunori Yamauchi and the Polyphony Digital team have clearly looked at the competition and tried to better it.

On paper, GT Sport is a monster of a game, but just how good is it to actually play, and how does it compare to the competition? For the last few days, I’ve driven an unhealthy amount of virtual miles to answer both those questions. So to find out what I thought of the most anticipated racing game ever, keep reading.

GT Sport review: Presentation

When it comes to looks, Gran Turismo has a reputation for raising the bar of whatever console it’s on, and somehow GT Sport continues the trend. Even without the 4K and HDR equipment needed to look at its best, GT Sport is comfortably one of the most visually impressive games I’ve ever seen. Car models are detailed, crisp and sharp, and the tracks are rendered in pretty much perfect detail – you have to look incredibly hard to find a jagged edge.

The lighting in this game is stunning too, and you can tell it was partly made by someone with an interest in photography: the golden hour, a period of sunlight favoured by photographers, looks incredible in this game. At night, headlights glow, while street lights bathe the track in warm light – and when rallying, even the dust looks more realistic than other games.

I haven’t raced in the game's limited VR sections yet, but if they look as good as the rest of the game, they might be a reason to get a PSVR.

In-game graphics are a level ahead of Project Cars 2, with small touches such as reflections on your windscreen really adding a layer of realism – but it’s in the replays that GT Sport really shines. Simply put, there’s a level of detail here that's ridiculous. Track marshalls wave yellow flags when someone crashes, and camera drones can be seen hovering around some stages.

As for the sound? Gran Turismo has never been that great in the noise department, but that’s been fixed with GT Sport. Instead of the trumped-up vacuum-cleaner noises we’re used to hearing, GT Sport features some of the most visceral, aggressive and detailed engine noises of any racing game.

When you drive the Mercedes-AMG GT race car, its engine sounds like a living, breathing, thing – revving it sounds organic and lifelike, not a sampled sound file noise. Change down a few gears, and you’ll hear some phlegmy overrun as it spits unburnt fuel out of the exhaust, let it hit the rev limiter and it’ll bounce on it frustratingly. And even the gear changes are satisfying.

The whine of turbos and the car’s transmission are captured incredibly well in this game, and even the gear changes in pretty much every car you’re in sound amazing – and different. The AMG GT car seems to clunk through every gear change, while cars like the Porsche 911 RSR feel more poised. There’s a level of nuance here that serious car fans will love.

GT Sport review: Game modes

I haven’t had the game for a huge amount of time, so I’ll just outline what I’ve used, and how good it seems to be. When you first boot up GT Sport, you’ll see a social media-esque profile tab, and a range of other tabs and I’ll explain what each of them is for.

As you’d expect, arcade mode is the place where you complete single races, time trial, drift trials and split-screen races. Campaign mode is where most players find the majority of the fun in GT Sport. This time around it’s split into a driving school, like the old licenses tests, a mission challenge where you have to complete tasks and Circuit Experiences where you learn tracks bit by bit for prices. The latter seems far easier than you’d expect, and I didn’t actually find it that hard to get Gold on pretty much all the tracks I attempted.

On the main menu, you’ll also find the Scapes mode, which is a ridiculous but rather addictive photo editor. And alongside Sport mode, which I'll get to later, GT Sport also features Brand Central, which is a mix between a virtual car museum and brochure, and where you spend your credits.

Yes, credits are still here. Just like other GT games, you get credits for completing challenges, and also random gift cars if you do things well enough. In a nod to Forza Motorsport 7, GT Sport also features daily workout rewards, which are designed to keep you checking in and playing the game. Given the amount of content on offer, I can see them working.

GT Sport review: Handling

Of course, all of this content is nothing without great handling, and on the whole GT Sport delivers. With a pad or a Fanatec wheel, cars are easy enough to drive fast but sensitive and raw enough to be treated with respect. It’ll take you a while to go fast on this game without traction control, but you won’t be thrown off the track immediately like you would in Project Cars 2, for example.

Instead, I’d say this game feels a little like a watered down Assetto Corsa. With all assists off, you do need to be careful with throttle and brake control, but on the whole, you can throw the car around without too many issues.

Put all the assists on, however, and GT Sport is an accessible, gorgeous-looking racer. Even in rallying mode, cars are pretty simple to drive, and you can even commit heinous crimes such as braking while turning, without any real punishment.

eSports and online

As you probably already know, GT Sport also has a huge eSports element, but I haven’t raced at the time of writing. What I have done, however, is get my racing license, which is one of the weirdest experiences I’ve ever had in a game.

To race online, you have to watch two videos about sportsmanship (I know), and both are a bizarre blend of mistranslation, strange narrating, and hilarious statements. Without giving too much away, sentences such as “sportsmanship means you don’t do things that make you look bad” and “when you are late on the brakes it is not considered well-mannered driving” occur. I’ll update this review when I’ve got a few online races under my belt.

GT Sport review: Verdict

So there’s a lot to get through here, and with online races to do, and a Thrustmaster TGT wheel on its way as I write this, there’s even more to talk about in the next few days. But what’s GT Sport like so far?

That’s a tough question, because elements of it are fantastic, while other elements can only be disappointing. Firstly, it’s an incredibly immersive game that seems to soak you up with car culture, from beginning to end.

Features such as the ridiculous Scapes mode, or the ability to view cars driving around town before you buy them make it clear this is a game made by car lovers. What’s more, the game also periodically flashes up important car dates and knowledge, reminding you that it’s a fountain of car talk.

However, much of that dedication to car culture is undone by its disappointing car lineup. Sure, a total of 162 cars isn’t that bad at all, but the cars in GT Sport seem to move away from all that motoring passion shown in the rest of the game. As a rule of thumb, if it’s more than five or ten years old, it probably won’t be in this game. 

Gran Turismo has been out for 20 years, but doesn’t want to look back at its history. and that’s a huge shame. Instead, the GT Sport car lineup is more like a contemporary brochure than an enthusiast magazine, and as a car fan, that's infuriating.

You won’t find a Jaguar E-Type or D-Type in GT Sport, but you will find three different, modern F-Types. In the same way, BMW fans will rush to Brand Central only to find four racing cars, an M4, an i3 – and a GT Sport Vision concept car. If you want to race something like a classic M1 Pro car, or an E30, you’ll need to find a different game. Unless, of course, all this is coming with DLC. 

There’s another weird issue, too. If you’re offline, the game restricts you to arcade mode, and that means you can’t complete any other campaign mode activities such as challenges. But the weirdest bit? The game doesn’t even save if the servers are down. That means you can still play the odd time trial offline, but you’ll never be able to collect the points or miles for it. It's a very odd decision.

Finally, there's not a huge amount of content to play through, but I expect that issues to be nullified when the eSports element of the game begins to pick up. It's a bit like knocking Battlefield for its somewhat short campaign, when the game is mainly focused on online play.

But back to the original question. Just how good is GT Sport, and should you be buying it? If you’re a car fan, you’ll have to, because it’s the most ambitious and immersive racing game ever made. From eSports to exclusive concept cars, photography modes and circuit challenges, GT Sport tries to do more than any other racing game, and for that, it has to be commended. It looks and sounds fantastic, too. 

However, if you’re someone who loves driving classic cars old and new, and you want to experience some seriously challenging physics, you may have to head towards the likes of Assetto Corsa and Project Cars 2. At the time of writing, without DLC, GT Sport can’t match those games in those departments.

GT Sport
8 10
Verdict
GT Sport tries to do more than any racing game I’ve played – and it largely succeeds.
Overall
Rating
8 / 10
• Sony
• Developer: Polyphony Digital • Publisher: Sony
Copyright © Alphr, Dennis Publishing
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