By the time you’re reading this, Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo Sport is available to download on PSN, but due to the game’s always-online nature I haven’t been able to test everything it has to offer. Servers were taken down for maintenance over the weekend, leaving me with only the arcade mode to play. And though I do enjoy GT Sport’s driving model, it’s difficult to feel motivated by one-off arcade races when all currency and experience earned is voided once I shut off my PlayStation 4. Things aren’t off to a great start.
GT Sport is in many ways a departure for Gran Turismo, aimed squarely at people interested in rising through the ranks of a professionally governed online racing league. As a result, developer Polyphony Digital and the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile have taken strict control over player progress, car purchases, and even the in-game photo mode for some mysterious reason. You aren’t given a choice to either opt in or out of this system, and must contend with its limitations even if you have zero interest in the FIA.
This attitude is indicative of a larger problem: catering almost exclusively to the tastes of racing’s elite upper-crust. GT Sport lives in the world of exotic supercars and tightly tuned variants of racing-grade consumer rides. Gone are the days of experimenting with cars from decades past that offer more charm than horsepower. If that’s what you’re after, you should probably keep playing Gran Turismo 6, or look to a modern alternative like Forza Motorsport 7 to get your fix. GT Sport’s official car count hovers right around 160, but the more realistic number, when you take difficult-to-discern variants out of the picture, is closer to 90 distinct designs. Most manufacturer’s feel woefully underrepresented, with only two or three unique models to choose from.
Gran Turismo games are always little offbeat, but bewildering trysts with non-racing subjects in GT Sport feel like misguided attempts to create the country club of racing games. It’s amusing at first when the game’s menu backdrop fades from an interesting event in racing history to, say, the date that Celine Dion won her first grammy, or the discovery of the neutrino, but over time these flourishes start to leave a bad taste in your mouth as you discover how little racing content there is to explore–even when servers are up and running. Don’t get me started on the inclusion of fashion label (and GT Sport sponsor) Tag Heuer next to car manufacturers in “Brand Central,” the place you go to buy cars and explore the history behind them. Seeing a watchmaker get the same treatment as a car designer in a racing game isn’t harmful, but it makes you question where its priorities lie.
I can say that when I’m not shaking my head at strange limitations and designs, I genuinely enjoy driving in GT Sport–that’s one thing Polyphony Digital hasn’t lost sight of. Whether or not the amount of missions and cars is enough to keep me engaged in the long-run is the real question. Check back in the coming days for my full review, but it’s safe to say that you should approach GT Sport with trepidation if you had hopes for a relatable or typical Gran Turismo experience.