Saturday 30 December 2017

Gran Turismo Sport

Gran Turismo Sport
Like many people my age, I played a lot of Gran Turismo on the original PlayStation. I have some great memories of starting out in the used car market looking for a bargain car to tune up and progress through the ranks to GT glory.

Trying to get all Golds on the licence tests, and that sense of achievement when you finally beat the clock, especially that lap of Rome Night driving the Alfa 155 in Gran Turismo 2, tricky but great fun. I can even remember having the game disc that smelt of engine oil and burnt rubber.
Fast forward then to the PlayStation 4 and GT Sport was announced but had dispensed with the numbered title, I think a lot of people were surprised and were left wondering what happened to Gran Turismo 7.

The partnership with the FIA and the 'Sport' branding gave the impression this was going to be a small e-Sports title with not much actual 'game' which put many people off, including me.

We all know how terrible online racing can be and there's always that one guy driving the wrong way and crashing deliberately.
Initial reviews seemed to agree that although the game had the high production values fans have come to expect from the series, the game had a much narrower scope than a 'full' GT game and fewer cars and tracks than many had hoped for. With this in mind I had some reservations and decided to hold off a little while before buying.

I then heard about a December update which would add more cars and several new single player modes. The update also happened to coincide with the PlayStation Store's Christmas sale. More content and a lower price? How could I say no? I bought Gran Turismo Sport for £25.

So far I have been really impressed with GT Sport's look and feel. I love the menu music and the way the game has it's own screensaver that highlights cars and some stunning scenery if you just leave the game for a few minutes. There are so many ways to spend time with this game. You could setup a quick Arcade race, a custom race, time trials, drift trials, split screen two player, single player campaign, take lots of photos, explore the museum and discover key events in motoring history, browse the manufacturer showrooms, create a multiplayer lobby, edit some car and race clothing liveries, spend the currency 'mileage points' in the store to unlock new cars and items, browse other players shared pictures, or race online in Sport mode. There's a surprising amount of stuff to do.

The single player campaign mode is where I've spent most of my time. This includes GT League which is a series of races against AI opponents in a variety of cars. There are four levels to GT League, Beginner, Amateur, Professional, and finally Endurance. Old favourites such as the Sunday Cup and Mazda Roadster one make series are found in the Beginner league, while the longer races with fuel and tyre management are found in the Endurance league. Experience points are gained through racing which levels you up and unlocks the more challenging events.
Driving School makes a return and requires you to complete a series of tests of car control such as braking, cornering, knocking over cones etc. It's not as difficult as previous games in the series and I was able to gain all gold awards without too much trouble - earning a Nissan GT-R Safety Car.

Mission Challenge is a new mode and requires you to complete 8 stages of 8 events for 64 driving missions in total. These vary from short 2 lap races with you starting at the back and needing to win, or racing through checkpoints before time runs out, and playing catch up to a car that started a lap ahead. They are pretty fun little challenges to do, especially the 30 lap endurance race where you have to manage your fuel and tyre strategy to win, that particular mission takes about an hour.
Circuit Experience mode takes you through each track corner by corner before giving you a lap time to beat. It's a good way of learning and eventually mastering each circuit and unlocking cars and track decals for your livery as you go. The full Nurburgring circuit is going to take me a long time to get to grips with, especially getting all those golds. There're tutorial videos for each event to offer some tips if you get stuck, which I will probably need!

The online Sport element has an interesting skill tracking feature that gives you a driver rating and a sportsmanship rating. The game clearly acknowledges the frustration of online racing games and makes you watch a video kindly asking you not to drive like a maniac before allowing you to race against online opponents.

You're then given a sportsmanship rating which starts at 'B' and can either increase to A and S, or decrease to C or D depending on how often you crash into others or cut corners etc. You'll then be matched with players of the same or similar rating. The driver rating is pretty self explanatory, the more you win or make up places during races your skill rating will increase. I have found online players to be far more skilled than I am, I guess they must be using a wheel and pedals, I'm just using a controller so that's the excuse I'm sticking to.
I've had a quick play around with the livery editor and it seems pretty comprehensive. There are lots of real world sponsor decals you can apply, and loads of other stickers you can resize and combine till your hearts content. You can even upload your own custom decals as .svg files using the Gran Turismo website and import them in to the game.

Hours can be spent getting really creative with this and by the look of the some of the liveries others have uploaded (which you can browse in game and use on your own car) there're some very talented people playing this game. I made this Gulf inspired livery for the MX-5 and it took me ages!
The new Scapes mode allows you to place a chosen car, or cars, in a scene and take some really nice photos. These can be shared in game or exported to USB, shared to Facebook etc. Again you can spend hours just messing around with camera angles and lighting settings. A free DLC expansion for Scapes adds even more locations for you to visit and read about.

Overall then, if you have a PS4 and like cars GT Sport should definitely be on your list. I highly recommend it, especially if you can pick it up for around £20. The promise of continued updates, the chance to drive the Vision Gran Turismo concept cars, and additional free content should keep us all playing for ages.