Gran Turismo Sport Feels Familiar While Breaking New Ground in a Major Way

Our first impressions of the newest entry in to the Gran Turismo franchise.

Polyphony

In its 20-year history, there have only been seven installments in the wildly popular Gran Turismo franchise. That makes the recent launch of Gran Turismo Sport a huge deal. On top of that, Sport represents a huge break from past Gran Turismo games. There's a lot at stake here.

We've been playing it for a week, which isn't nearly enough time to digest all this game has to offer—mainly because many of its online championships don't start until November—but we still have impressions to share. It's a really fascinating game that charts new territory for the series, but feels familiar enough that longtime fans (this reporter included) will feel right at home.

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Polyphony

There are three modes: Arcade, which allows for free play like Gran Turismos of old, Campaign, which expands upon GT's classic license testing, and Sport, which is the game's centerpiece. Sport mode was actually conceived in concert with the FIA and consists of daily Online "Free Play" races and officially sanctioned championship events.

As mentioned previously, we were only able to sample Free Play races in our first week with the game. Races are run every 20 minutes with three classes available, N300 (300-or-so-hp road cars), Gr.4 (GT4-spec cars), and Gr.3 (GT3-spec cars). You qualify for these races and are matched with players of similar ability, so you've at least got a fighting shot at winning. Additionally, Balance of Performance (BoP) levels the playing field, so the old Gran Turismo strategy of showing up with an incredibly tuned car won't work anymore. You've actually got to know what you're doing.

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Polyphony

Before you're even allowed to play Sport mode, Gran Turismo makes you watch two races about good sportsmanship, so you don't ruin other player's races. I got the impression that players were still figuring out the game, since the races were often messy. Still, it's a good concept.

Gran Turismo Sport also breaks from past entries in the series with a significantly paired down car list with 162 in total. Just five are Nissan GT-Rs! With this much smaller group, there's a renewed focus on the cars in the game. Where even Gran Turismo 6 had dozens of cars that looked like they were plucked straight out of Gran Turismo 4, all the cars in Sport are complete, new models, and completely gorgeous.

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Polyphony

The physics are incredibly realistic too. Drive the new Mazda MX-5 Miata in the game, and you get the same sort of body roll you have in the actual street car. It's remarkable. And Gran Turismo finally—finally!—got engine notes right. They're maybe not quite as good as in Forza, but each car in the game sounds reasonably like their real-world counterparts instead of various Oreck vacuums. It's a much welcome improvement.

Sport's graphics are, unsurprisingly, stunning. Gran Turismo has always set the visual standard for racing games, and Sport raises the bar. GT always seems to hit the sweet spot where the cars look and feel real, but aren't so perfect that they look CGI and fake. An impressive blend. It's hard to sum up the entire visual signature of a game in brief, so I'll list a few highlights. The reflection of the dashboard in the car's windshield, the lights of a passed car illuminating your interior, and the incredible weather in the backgrounds.

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Unfortunately, like its car list, Sport's track list could be a little deeper. There are only six real-world tracks available at the moment: Brands Hatch, Suzuka, Willow Springs, Interlagos, Mount Panorama, and the Nürburgring. How can a Gran Turismo game not have Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca? And with so many references to modern-day sports-car racing, where is the home of Le Mans, Circuit de la Sarthe?

A PlayStation spokesperson told us it has "nothing to announce yet," regarding future track additions. Hopefully, Gran Turismo will have something to announce soon.

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Polyphony

Even though Sport brings big changes to the Gran Turismo franchise, it still feels familiar. That's not a surprise since Kazunori Yamauchi, who's led the development of every Gran Turismo game, is at the helm, and his personal touches abound. You feel it in everything from the physics of the cars, to the menu sound-effects.

Gran Turismo Sport might take the series in a new, more-focused direction, but it's still Gran Turismo at the end of the day.

Polyphony
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So should you buy it? I'd say yes, especially if you're a fan of sports-car racing, the Gran Turismo series, and ideally, both. While we somewhat miss the eclectic car collections of older games in the series and the tracks, there's no doubt this is a step in the right direction. Polyphony started with a clean slate, and created something really interesting.

We'll have to play it more, though. We've only scratched the surface of Sport mode, and I'm personally interested to see if skills learned in the game can be translated into the real world.

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