Right from the start Gran Turismo Sport drew a lot of attention. Not surprising, it being one of the oldest and most respectable driving simulators out there. It’s 2017 and the series was yet to visit modern consoles. Still, the attention wasn’t all good: the more we found out about the game, more agitated we grew. Online-only, a lot less cars and tracks… can this game truly be a rival to Forza series?

Nobody doubts that Gran Turismo Sport is one of the most important Sony franchises. Every new game is a guaranteed hit with overall sales surpassing 70 million copies. This is a staple of driving genre, but what seemed perfect five years ago can no longer be considered great in 2017. The previous game – Gran Turismo 6 – came out on PlayStation 3 and had more cars and tracks. So what were they doing all these years? What fantastic new addition will make the game worthy of a purchase?

Gran Turismo has always been about realism – it even says so on the cover. The developers boast about how you can become a real driver by playing their game. Sounds bizarre, but it’s true – there are professional drivers who started racing on PlayStation. Still, Gran Turismo Sport is not all about being as true to life as possible. It’s also about fun – hence “driving is for everyone” slogan. Yes, this game is more approachable to a wider audience than, say, Project CARS, but only selected few will actually enjoy its pedantic realism and strict e-sport rules. This is a different Gran Turismo Sport.

Time to snap some pics

Gran Turismo Sport is proud of its graphics. They are not for driving though – no-no. Gran Turismo Sport wants you not to be a driver, but a photographer. This has been a case for the series for a long time, but never as obvious as right now. Even on the PS3, where gamers couldn’t make screenshots, Polyphony tried their best to give us options to export photos. On the PS4, the previously additional mode seems more like the main thing. They developers have a real fetish for tasty car pics, and in Gran Turismo Sport one can satisfy any fantasies about being a true photographer.

It looks like at some point the guys from Polyphony just… forgot about what’s important in a driving simulator. Why, good-looking pictures of course!

The game has a crazy amount of photos to put your cars into. Yes, that’s right, photos. The developers are very proud of being able to make it possible to insert a virtual car into a real-life photo and make it look real. And it works thanks to amazing lighting simulation and neat reflections. Some might argue that this is cheating – instead of creating a realistic-looking world they just snapped a bunch of photos and made it look like that’s how the game is all the time. Too much photo in this photorealism.

Gran Turismo Sport
Photo editor is impressive with loads of settings. Adjust the contrast, add a filter or remove glares – you can spend a lot of time here.

Normally, exporting photos is easy with the Share button, but it wasn’t enough for these guys. Those who want to share their photos on the Internet can use the export option which allows to copy high-res pictures to a flash drive. Photos are indeed big – 3840x1260p.

In terms of content, no other mode can compare with this one. I want to sound angry, but I actually like spending time here. I’m not much of a car fanatic, but this is just fun. The selection of locations is remarkable: Japan, USA, Spain, Slovenia, France… the whole world, it seems.

But that’s not all – there’s also a very detailed editor. Like a special dedicated Photoshop, the editor allows to adjust different settings like saturation and contrast. Add filters, set aperture and so on. Impressive stuff.

But what do I do with all this stuff, you might ask. My friends won’t appreciate tons of in-game photos of cars! If that really concerns you, don’t despair – Polyphony took care of it. Enter the new social network, since we desperately needed a new one. This is a network for Gran Turismo enthusiasts who want to get all those sweet likes of their photos. Gone are the times when we bought new cars in order to do better on a racing track – now it’s all about snapping the most-liked pic.

Gran Turismo Sport
One of the select screens for photo mode

So is this a problem? Did this mode spoil the rest of the game? I don’t think so. Polyphony have always been obsessed with this mode, and now it’s better than ever. True – Gran Turismo Sport is a weird game for fans, but that’s why it’s not called Gran Turismo 7.

No life without the Internet

A lot of people disliked the fact that Gran Turismo Sport is different. Gone are our favorite modes and the single player campaign has shrunken considerably. This is not Gran Turismo 6 with next-gen graphics – not at all. In fact, the game could have been called Gran Turismo Online because being Online is, like, a big deal here. A really big deal. Gran Turismo Sport needs you to be online. All. The. Time.

I’m not exaggerating: even after a lot of failed online-only games Polyphony decided to risk it all and make its players connect to the net. You might think that I’m talking about multiplayer which obviously needs the Internet, but not at all – you actually can’t do a thing without being connected. The majority of modes (yes, even offline ones) don’t work, and those which do (like the school of driving) can’t save your progress. Once again: you can’t save without being connected to the Internet. The times we live in!

I can hardly defend this decision, nor should I. A lot of developers payed dearly for trying to implement this system, and Gran Turismo Sport risks a lot. It’s only a matter of time when something goes wrong. Why, it happens even now: there was a time when I simply couldn’t play because the servers were down. The servers do seem pretty stable, but something always goes wrong. Even harmless maintenance can leave us with an unplayable game. Who thought of this?

Gran Turismo Sport
A terrible message that indicates that the game is basically unplayable.

It all looks like the developers really wanted to use the net. They learned about its existence pretty late in 2008 with GT5: Prologue, and Gran Turismo Sport desperately wants to be, err, modern in that aspect. Have you heard about e-sports? You have? Well, so did Polyphony, and they want in on the action. And they are serious: after the agreement with Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) this is the game for serious car buffs. This is an organization which overlooks Formula 1 races and if they say that Gran Turismo Sport is serious enough for their standards, then it means something.

Gran Turismo Sport has done everything to please strict guys at FIA. If you wanted to create utter chaos in online modes, don’t even try. What is this, a game? Don’t be selfish, don’t bump into other cars, don’t try to mess with other players. Your conduct is important if you want to get a virtual driver’s license. You’ll never earn good enough rating if you play dirty.

Gran Turismo Sport
Gran Turismo Sport does not repeat the old mistakes and includes every car’s interior

This is not a game where you rush into online action. Take your time to learn rules, attend the school. Otherwise you’ll never know what you did wrong in the sport mode.

Authenticity

Racers have always been a genre for the most graphically impressive games. Gran Turismo Sport is not exception – this series is known for pushing hardware to the limits. And while GTS is late to this generation of consoles, it utilizes every tool there is. Proud owners of PlayStation 4 Pro can play in 4K with HDR. VR is also supported – but only to a point. And the game looks fantastic. There aren’t many cars, but every single one of them looks great. Every tiny detail is taken care of. Maybe it’s too early to speak of true photorealism, but someday soon we won’t be able to differentiate between virtual and real life cars. Some screenshots do look like a real photo, and the same can be said about video replays. More often than not the cars look more like illustrations, but it doesn’t harm the overall impression.

Gran Turismo Sport
Sometimes a screenshot looks just like a real photo

But this hardly seems like a surprise. Now, the real improvement is about sound. Sound is an area often overlooked by gamers, but not in racing games, where the sound of motor is as important as the looks. And while in previous games the cars often sounded generic, it all changed in Gran Turismo Sport. Here every single car is unique. Once again, maybe that’s why there aren’t that many of them. Finally you’ll be able to tell which cars it is even without looking at it.

Gran Turismo Sport
The driving school is great for newbies

Now, the handling is better than ever. Some might say that Gran Turismo Sport is not the truest of simulators, but it’s damn near close to perfection, if you ask me. It’s just that Gran Turismo Sport doesn’t want to be dull – it’s wants to be both fun and authentic.

DIY

Customization is at the heart of Gran Turismo Sport. The game allows you to edit every little thing about the car. Create dozens of different designs using everything from colors to decals. Just like the photo editor, the livery editor is deep and satisfying.

Choose any color from the RGB spectre or a decal and create a truly unique car. There are a lot of decals, with real sponsors and made up ones. More can be opened after you earn some credits. Any decal can be further edited. Even more – you can upload your own pictures in SVG format.

Gran Turismo Sport
The level of customization is very high.

I was very happy to test this feature, but I couldn’t, because the feature isn’t yet available. It is a bummer.

Dude, where’s my car?

There are a lot of sceptics who can’t understand the low number of cars in the game. The previous games usually tried to mask this fact by adding variations of the same model, but Gran Turismo Sport doesn’t try to trick you. What you see is what you get. Yes, there aren’t that many cars. Gone are oldies, which all love, although some might come back with DLC.

There aren’t many tracks either – only 17 locations and 40 tracks. Compare it to 86 tracks in GT6! This is where Project CARS 2 and Forza are superior. Gone are the old favorites like Laguna Seca, as well as made up tracks.

Gran Turismo Sport
Earn cars by learning.

In order to buy different content (incl. the cars) you must use credits, which are earned in-game. Credits can be earned by racing or taking part in events. Practically anything will grant you credits, even offline modes. Also earned are miles which can be exchanged for decals and other bonuses. You can’t buy cars with them though.

While I dislike the online-only aspect, I have to thank the developers for not including loot boxes. There are no microtransactions here, nobody expects you to pay more than $60.

Most of the stuff can be earned by playing the offline modes, which, paradoxically, aren’t available without connection to the Internet. But there’s nothing really to do here. Remember the good old times with all those modes? All gone. There are only three modes: driving school, challenges and Circuit Experience.

Gran Turismo Sport
Buy new car and learn everything about it in process.

While in school you can learn basics about driving. Nothing really to do for veterans, but newbies might like this mode. Lessons are short and simple, with videos explaining what to do. Each lesson grants you bronze, silver or gold “medals” – the better you do, the more credits you earn. After every 8 lessons Gran Turismo Sport grants you a free car, which is a neat way of forcing you to play more.

Gran Turismo Sport

Challenges are just that. There are 65 overall. Some are hard, some aren’t. Circuit Experience allows you to learn all there is to know about different tracks.

Presentation

Let’s talk about the UI a bit. Gran Turismo have always looked sleep and classy, and Gran Turismo Sport is no exception, although I still dislike the weird interface with the cursor. While the game does look sleek, I wouldn’t call the UI intuitive or easy to understand. One might take time to get used to it.

Gran Turismo Sport
The main hub. It’s hard to understand at first, but after a while you get used to it.

Overall the presentation is solid. It’s very informative, especially when buying cars. I was impressed with car “museums” – detailed encyclopedias of car companies. Learn all there is to learn about Mercedes or Ferrari. Too bad museums are only for some manufacturers.

Gran Turismo Sport
In-game museum. A real treat for car enthusiasts.

The music won’t amaze you – Gran Turismo Sport uses the same old weird mix of smooth jazz and punk rock.

Some players, especially tropyhunters, will be surprised to learn that all trophy icons look the same. An insignificant detail for most, but I was still surprised – I have never seen such laziness even from the smallest of developers.

The verdict

Gran Turismo Sport is the most controversial game in the series. It does a lot of things right and still has its traditional sleekness, but too much has been lost because of the decision to make it an online-only game. Before buying it make sure you understand that this is not the same old GT, but with better visuals. If you don’t care about competing against real drivers or making photos, then this game might not be for you. The previous games were also not for everyone, but Gran Turismo Sport is even less approachable now. Whether it’s good or bad is up to you.

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In its heart Gran Turismo Sport is a great racing simulator with good handling and visuals. But it won’t satisfy everyone.