Gran Turismo Sport

Polyphony rolls out its most am­bi­tious racer to date, but fails to raise the pulse



Pressed on the ex­is­tence of Gran Turismo

7, and how Gran Turismo Sport fits into Polyphony’s plans for the next num­bered en­try in the se­ries, stu­dio CEO and se­ries cre­ator Kazunori Ya­mauchi mis­chie­vously avoids the ques­tion. “Think­ing about it now,” he laughs, “we could have called [this one] 7!” A frus­trat­ingly vague re­sponse, cer­tainly, but given what Sport – a project orig­i­nally touted as a Pro­logue- es­que fore­run­ner to 7’ s head­lin­ing act – has be­come, Ya­mauchi’s change of heart feels en­tirely rea­son­able.

The fin­ished game will in­clude 137 “su­per pre­mium” cars, re­built from scratch and all fea­tur­ing in­te­ri­ors. These will be spread across four groups, which will mix real-world ve­hi­cles with Gran Turismo’s ever-grow­ing col­lec­tion of fan­tasy Vi­sion con­cept col­lab­o­ra­tions. The con­tents of this ex­pan­sive garage can be raced on 27 track lay­outs – which in­clude the re­turn of dirt cour­ses to the se­ries – spread across 19 lo­ca­tions. And there will be 117 events avail­able in a suite of new modes, which in­cludes a re­worked cam­paign, as well as a pro­foundly ex­panded mul­ti­player of­fer­ing. As ap­pe­tis­ers go, it’s ex­ces­sive, which sug­gests that if Gran Turismo 7 does emerge, it won’t be any time soon.

But while the raw num­bers make for en­tic­ing read­ing, it’s Sport’s on­line of­fer­ing that proves to be its most strik­ing com­po­nent. Polyphony has spent the past three years in dis­cus­sions with the FIA and au­tosport clubs around the world, and the re­sult is two of­fi­cially sanc­tioned on­line cham­pi­onships (one re­gional and the other split by man­u­fac­tur­ers) in which the best driv­ers bat­tle in week­end events to claim the top spot. But Ya­mauchi stresses that Sport won’t just be try­ing to find the best Gran Turismo driver in the world. “In this race se­ries our ob­jec­tive isn’t to find the one sin­gle fastest driver, it’s ac­tu­ally to cre­ate lots of win­ners through­out the world,” he ex­plains. “Di­vided by age and the ar­eas of res­i­dence, we would like to give out lots of tro­phies to dif­fer­ent win­ners in dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories.”

Ev­ery driver will have two rat­ings at­tached to their pro­file. Driver class is a tra­di­tional met­ric that’s based on your plac­ings and lap times, but you’ll also ac­crue Sports­man­ship points for not barg­ing into other driv­ers. Both of these will feed into your over­all level, mean­ing fast, skil­ful and – for the most part – po­lite driv­ers will climb the leader­boards. Those driv­ers, se­lected based on their per­for­mance in daily races, will be el­i­gi­ble to en­ter Week­end Fi­nals events, which will be broad­cast world­wide. In the Na­tions Cup, semi-fi­nals will be bro­ken down by re­gion be­fore the global fi­nal. In the Man­u­fac­tur­ers Cup – where play­ers align them­selves with a favourite car brand – things are sim­i­larly sub­di­vided, with semi-fi­nals tak­ing place as sin­gle-man­u­fac­turer events. “That broad­cast fi­nal is go­ing to con­sist of play­ers matched to­gether who have the high­est rat­ing through­out the world,” Ya­mauchi ex­plains. “Maybe like the top 20 or some­thing play­ers.”

As­ton­ish­ingly, a good on­line per­for­mance (along with the suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of ten rac­ing eti­quette lessons) makes you el­i­gi­ble for a FIA Gran Turismo Dig­i­tal Li­cense from your lo­cal mo­tor­sport sanc­tion­ing author­ity. Although it’s cur­rently un­clear what else you’ll need to do to qual­ify – and it’s likely that what­ever that is will vary be­tween clubs – once ac­quired, it will hold the same value as a real-life li­cence. So far, 22 coun­tries are in­volved in the pro­gramme.

But se­cur­ing this un­prece­dented re­la­tion­ship has not been easy. “Car clubs ev­ery­where have [hun­dreds of years of] his­tory, and those or­gan­i­sa­tions don’t move at the speed that we’re used to [in the game in­dus­try],” Ya­mauchi says. “When you look at the his­tory of the FIA and au­tosport clubs, it’s al­most a mir­a­cle that we were able to make this hap­pen. The list of par­tic­i­pat­ing na­tions doesn’t in­clude coun­tries such as Ja­pan and Ger­many yet, but I be­lieve that grad­u­ally we’ll have more to add to the list.”

Clearly, Polyphony is think­ing big – Ya­mauchi de­scribes it as the most in­no­va­tive en­try in the se­ries since the first game – but the fas­tid­i­ous stu­dio is pre­dictably fo­cused on

“In this race se­ries our ob­jec­tive is to cre­ate lots of win­ners through­out the world”

the smaller de­tails, too. While the jump to PS4 hasn’t re­sulted in a DriveClub- es­que vis­ual rev­o­lu­tion, it’s hand­some enough and the new car mod­els are as gor­geous as you’d hope. That the game only looks slightly ahead of Gran Turismo 6 is more in­dica­tive of that game’s achieve­ments on prior-gen hard­ware than any fail­ings on Sport’s part. It’s hard not to be a lit­tle dis­ap­pointed by the min­i­mal gains, but one area in which things have im­proved is the light­ing. Where pre­vi­ous games in the se­ries have felt a lit­tle clin­i­cal, here things are warmer and softer with less of the ex­ces­sive con­trast that made in­te­ri­ors im­pos­si­ble to see in cer­tain con­di­tions.

More im­por­tantly, the game’s AI driv­ers have been in­stilled with a lit­tle more life too. While say­ing that they now have per­son­al­ity would be over­stat­ing it, Sport has dis­pensed with Gran Turismo’s in­fa­mously pas­sive mov­ing ob­sta­cles, and now cars vis­i­bly at­tack for po­si­tions and spin out. Un­for­tu­nately, de­spite Ya­mauchi’s in­sis­tence that all of the game’s au­dio has been re­worked, we strug­gle to hear much im­prove­ment – cars drone rather than roar, and they feel less po­tent as a re­sult. More wor­ry­ingly, there’s a dis­tinctly un­der­whelm­ing sense of speed in the game right now, and even whip­ping a Vey­ron around tight Tokyo streets leaves us un­ruf­fled. Placed against Forza 6, Project Cars and DriveClub,

Sport feels un­der­whelm­ing in this re­spect. De­spite these is­sues, Sport ex­cels when it comes to han­dling. Gran Turismo 6’ s mes­meris­ing sus­pen­sion physics is even more de­tailed here, and the nu­anced way cars com­mu­ni­cate and then break trac­tion is a con­tin­ual joy even when it feels like you’re plod­ding along at 30mph.

We put in laps of fa­mil­iar re­turn­ing tracks such as the Nord­schleife, Wil­low Springs and Brands Hatch’s Indy and GP con­fig­u­ra­tions, but also get to sam­ple two new stretches of tar­mac. The first, North­ern Isle Speed­way, is a 16-me­tre-wide, half-mile oval of the kind that only Amer­i­cans can get ex­cited about, but it does bring some­thing new to the se­ries. The sec­ond is a tight, wind­ing ur­ban course called Tokyo Ex­press­way, which vis­ually re­calls Route 246, but feels like Spe­cial Stage Route 5 thanks to its changes in el­e­va­tion and tough cor­ner­ing de­scents into un­der­passes.

In an un­usual ex­am­ple of the se­ries re­act­ing to its com­peti­tors, Gran Turismo

Sport fea­tures a liv­ery edi­tor that looks to be just as pow­er­ful and flex­i­ble as Forza’s and should bol­ster the sense of own­er­ship you have for your ex­pand­ing garage. We won­der whether Ya­mauchi is feel­ing greater pres­sure to com­pete in the pres­ence of the Gran

Turismo al­ter­na­tives his work in­spired. “We’re not aim­ing to fight for a share of a lim­ited race game mar­ket,” he tells us. “We’re work­ing to ex­pand that mar­ket. Be­fore Gran Turismo 1 came out, the world­wide rac­ing game mar­ket was about one mil­lion play­ers, so it wasn’t that big to be­gin with. I’ve al­ways made Gran

Turismo to try to ex­pand that.” It has also al­ways been about shar­ing his ap­pre­ci­a­tion of cars, and in this re­spect Sport goes fur­ther than ever. There’s a re­designed Mu­seum mode fea­tur­ing an in-depth au­to­mo­tive time­line, which places land­marks in mo­tor­ing his­tory against those in the wider cul­ture. Want to know what was hap­pen­ing in the evo­lu­tion of cars and mo­tor­sport when Ed­vard Munch painted The Scream? Ya­mauchi has your back. The old car deal­er­ships sec­tion has been re­placed with the flatly named Brand Cen­tral, which is where you can browse and add cars to your col­lec­tion, view a re­pos­i­tory of de­tailed specs and facts, and flick through a chan­nel of man­u­fac­turer-pro­duced videos. “I re­designed this sec­tion be­cause when I cre­ated the first Gran Turismo, I re­ally meant the car deal­er­ships to be a place where play­ers would dis­cover car brands and man­u­fac­tur­ers,” Ya­mauchi ex­plains. “So Brand Cen­tral aims to pro­vide a new way to dis­cover cars.”

Ya­mauchi’s pas­sion for this project is ob­vi­ous, and clearly Sport is a game be­ing de­signed from the heart. Its am­bi­tious scope and mor­eish han­dling just need to be matched with a lit­tle more on-track drama if it’s go­ing to get play­ers’ blood pump­ing.

Ya­mauchi’s pas­sion is ob­vi­ous, and clearly Sport is be­ing de­signed from the heart

Sport’s fo­cus on sports­man­ship, and the fact it re­wards care­ful driv­ers, should make play­ing on­line an un­usu­ally pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence in a genre that of­ten de­volves into cheap tac­tics and ag­gres­sive shunt­ing De­vel­oper Pub­lisher For­mat Ori­gin Re­lease Polyphony Dig­i­tal SIE PS4 Ja­pan Novem­ber 16

Gran Turismo Sport’s car mod­els are the se­ries’ best yet, and look as­ton­ish­ing both on and off the track

Polyphony CEO and GTS­port pro­ducer Kazunori Ya­mauchi

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