A lot of people may have fond memories of Gran Turismo 2, I remember receiving it as one of the first games I had for the PS1, and it bored 6 year old me to shit. It was only slightly above CyberTiger in my list of preferred games to play. While my taste in video games was only slightly more refined at that age than it is now, you have to put it in perspective; Crash Team Racing was released only 2 months earlier, and if you can find someone that didn’t have the time of their prepubescent life thrashing that game, they’re probably a skinwalker. Gran Tourismo Sport still bored me to shit, but it has definitely become a lot better.
The first few times I played, the game gave me the classic Gran Turismo experience by not saving my game, not due to the lack of a memory card this time, but because I wasn’t connected to the internet. Sometimes I feel a bit Amish playing my video games on a console without constantly being online, but GT Sport wasn’t having a bar of that. Still, the game let me play a handful of tracks while it spent the next 6-8 hours downloading the update file that would allow me to eventually connect to the servers and save my game, while I tried not to think too much about how the disc the game is printed on wouldn’t be worth the weight in plastic in 3-10 years time when the servers inevitably shut down. The last step of the installation involved wiping the progress and credits I had earned up to that point, so we were off to a good start.
Once I made it through the bureaucracy, I jumped straight into arcade mode to play some races, only to quickly learn that I’m as good at driving in GT Sport than I am in real life, only there would’ve been a lot more whiplash if I’d driven a real car like that. Maybe it’s because I turned off all of the driver assitance settings after feeling patronised, maybe it’s because the game is quite realistic and I’m just a shitty driver, but either way I still wasn’t having fun yet.
Then that all changed when I unlocked the 2015 Honda Civic. This handy vehicle not only handled well on the conventional tracks, but it managed to hold its own on the off-road dirt tracks as well. I was delighted to feel how powerful it was when it accelerated, how responsive it was to control, and how its sleek design gave visual aesthetic appeal as well, and it really gave me the edge I needed to smash out the beginner level tracks with ease. Then as I walked into the Honda dealership in real life for the third time this month to finance another high quality 2015 Honda Civic as a christmas present for my mum, it hit me. Was that… a product placement? Was Gran Turismo trying to honeydick me with strategic advertising? Gary at the Honda dealership didn’t seem to think so, as he signed me up for another direct debit payment plan over a 48 month period, so I stopped worrying about it.
The part where I did start enjoying the game was when I started playing campaign mode. Now, the game uses the term campaign mode loosely – where most games have some kind of campaign that follows a storyline or path to the championship, Gran Turismo Sport instead has a series of self contained challenges to complete, including anything from drifting challenges, to sprints, and even just knocking down some road cones. The diverse array of challenges piqued my interest, and I soon found myself restarting the same sprint challenge over and over again, trying to shave a couple more seconds off my lap time to grab that sweet, sweet gold trophy.
The challenges really highlight the subtle differences between not only the vehicles themselves, but also the driving styles and strategies that the player uses. Learning a feel for how hard to turn and when to hit the brakes takes a bit of time, but once you get there and claim that gold medal with near flawless driving, it’s a great payoff and sufficiently rewarding. Unlocking new cars by winning credits in these races and challenges can be a bit of a grind, but the game is generous enough at rewarding progress with new cars here and there that it’s not too much of an issue unless you get super erect over Ferraris.
While there are some pain points more to do with game design than gameplay itself, all in all I found myself pleasantly surprised to be enjoying Gran Turismo Sport. Considering the fact that driving games that don’t involve weapon pickups and wacky cartoony tracks are about as appealing to me as salted oatmeal, this is significant. If you’re lucky enough to play the game in VR, I imagine it’s even better, either that or you’ll find out how well the PSVR serves as a vomit bucket once the motion sickness kicks in.
Also published on Medium.