After a fairly long wait, we’ve finally got a chance to play Gran Turismo on PlayStation 4 – and it’s more than a little underwhelming. Kazunori Yamauchi has said GT Sport offers a level of innovation not seen since the first Gran Turismo. Having played it for 30 minutes before today’s big reveal conference, I’m not entirely sold.
Perhaps it’s because we’ve been spoilt by the splendour of Forza Motorsport, already into its second iteration on Xbox One, or Assetto Corsa, which is about to make its console debut later this summer. Gran Turismo Sport, however, looks, sounds and plays just like Gran Turismo 6 on the Playstation 3.
It’s a compliment of sorts – Gran Turismo 6 is still, a few years and a generation later, an exceptionally handsome game, and Sport benefits from a solid foundation. Right now, though, it doesn’t look to do much with that foundation – to an untrained eye (albeit one that’s poured countless hours into Gran Turismo 6) it’s hard to tell the difference.
Even more disheartening, it’s hard to hear the difference. I tried some of the noisier cars available in the current build, and the GT3 458 Ferrari droned rather than screamed, the Corvette whined rather than rumbling the earth as it does in real life. (For his part, Yamauchi says the sound has been worked upon significantly since Gran Turismo 6 and that it’ll meet people’s expectations – although I played it on headphones, perhaps it’s best to wait until it’s away from a busy show floor).
Still, it handles like a treat, the 20 cars on offer on the 6 tracks available for today’s event acquitting themselves well (the final game, it’s worth noting, will offer a generous 137 premium model cars and 19 locations with some 37 track layouts). Existing tracks such as Willow Springs, Brands Hatch and the Nordschleife are joined by two new tracks, an oval called Northern Isle Speedway and a street circuit around Tokyo that looks similar to the classic Route 246.
Cars are split into four distinct groups, with the more fictional GT Vision concept cars being introduced alongside some other new additions. There are some neat new GT3 cars, and taking the fresh Audi R8 around the Nordschleife is a pretty electric experience, even if the frame-rate chugs with 19 other cars on the circuit. Hopefully there’s room for optimisation on what’s always felt like a stopgap for the series before a Gran Turismo 7 proper.
On the plus side, there’s at least a nice new online focus for GT Sport, and it’s already like looking a much smarter, deeper taster than the earlier Prologue games. The menu is split, with a campaign across four areas – Beginner’s School, Circuit Challenge, Mission Challenge and Racing Etiquette – while the online Sport mode seems to be the heart of the new game, offering scheduled daily races in a mode that looks to take its cue from iRacing, while a calendar nestled on the main menu offers up a regular series of live events.
Perhaps what’s most heartening is that Gran Turismo is as barmy as ever. There’s a new Museum mode that gives you access not only to videos and assets provided by car manufacturers – it also gives you a whistle-stop tour of art, opera and high culture relevant to the year each car was made. Yamauchi, it seems, has mellowed in his maturity. What’s most impressive – and what I’m struggling to get my head around at the moment – is that you can get a real-life FIA licence by playing Gran Turismo Sport, and one that’s recognised by 22 different automobile bodies around the world.
We’ll find out more over the course of today’s reveal event, and hopefully there’ll be some more promising signs once we get to speak to Yamauchi himself. For now, though, don’t expect to be blown away by the grand old dame of driving games’ debut on the PlayStation 4.