Sony quite clearly wanted to make a big splash with its London preview event for Gran Turismo Sport.
The PS4 platform holder took over the Copper Box Arena close to the Olympic Stadium near Stratford, decking the place out in blue neon, snow-white couches and a selection of positively drool-worthy supercars. If you happened to be a petrol-head, you were in seventh heaven that night.
Aside from the dream machines dotted around the venue, Sony had also organised something it called the ‘Hot Ride’ experience. Attendees at the event could strap themselves into the passenger seat of a supercar and be driven around a short track by a professional wheelman. I took my Hot Ride in a Mercedes-Benz AMG and between the breakneck straights and hairpin drifts I can report it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.
The Hot Ride experience may come back to bite Gran Turismo Sport in the ass, though; after having my adrenal glands sufficiently boosted, playing Sony’s new racing sim was something of an anti-climax. While Polyphony Digital’s series has always aimed at providing players with the most authentic racing experience possible on a console, it doesn’t match up to the nail-shredding real-world counterpart.
This is not to say I expected that sort of experience. Furthermore, I’m not saying that Gran Turismo Sport is a bad game; it looks positively gorgeous (even if the framerate slows if there are too many cars on the screen), the in-game physics are rock solid and, like previous entries in this series, it’s a racer that requires more than spamming the accelerator and shunting opponents out of the way. As was the case with Gran Turismo 6, GT Sport is a game you have to give yourself to entirely if you hope to master it.
That having been said, some of GT6’s drawbacks don’t seem to have been addressed in GT Sport. The sound, for one thing, doesn’t really do much to imbue the player with the sense they’re in control of a high-octane thrill ride. It could have been the case that the headphones on the demo machines I sat at the wheels of weren’t up to the job, but most of the cars I drove around GT Sports tracks sounded like a bunch of angry wasps trapped in a biscuit tin.
On-track niggles aside, Gran Turismo Sport is slated to arrive with a pretty impressive list of features, a lot of which seem geared towards expanding the series’ online audience. The Career Mode contains the requisite stack tasks and challenges to prime players towards heading into online races. Once they’re ready, the game offers them a calendar of events they can partake in outside regular races, including two international competitions.
The brand new features include a Livery Editor and ‘Scapes’, a stills creation suite that players can use to slot their favourite cars onto numerous backdrops and then tinker with a raft of filters and lighting effects to capture the best possible shot. They can then share their creations in 4K with GT Sport’s internal network or on social media.
There’s also a Museum Mode in which players can flip through pictures detailing the evolution of the automobile, which come accompanied with samples of poetry, art, music and other cultural touchstones from the time. Perhaps the most bonkers addition to GT Sport is the fact that you can earn an F1A-approved driving license by mastering the game – and this license, incidentally, is officially recognised by 22 global motoring organisations.
There’s no word on PS4 VR support… yet… and the developers were slightly cagey when asked about the rumoured new PS4 4K and whether or not GT Sport would support such a device. It’s also worth noting that, based on the London demo, Gran Turismo has its work cut out for it in a world where the likes of Project Cars, Forza Motorsport and Assetto Corsa exist.
Initial impressions of GT Sport are promising. Here’s hoping some more polish can help turn it into a ‘Hot Ride’ before launch.