Game impressions: Gran Turismo Sport made me love racing again

Gran Turismo Sport is one of my favorite games of the year in my so-far short time with the game.

I feel like I keep gushing about how great games look in my reviews, but man — GT Sport looks darned good. The cars look amazing whether you’re in full movement or taking a picture in the (surprisingly fun) Scapes photo mode. I’ve spent a lot of time setting up photo ops with my kids, and now cycle through the photos for my console background. I’ll note that I’m playing the game on a PS4 Pro, with a 1080p television and no HDR.

The cars handle like a dream on the Dualshock 4. Even though I’ve not reached the higher-end cars yet, I can tell a real difference between driving the 2015 Mustang, the 1987 Audi and the go-karts featured in the game. Each car handles differently, and it’s a lot of fun to figure out the differences. Sadly, I am terrible at driving with my favorite car so far — that Audi. Then again, I’m pretty terrible at the game regardless.

Single Player?

Contrary to the prevalent story out in the open, there is plenty to do in the game while racing just the computer and not other people. The “campaign” mode isn’t a proper season, and instead features challenges that teach you how to properly race. The smaller challenges are capped off in a circuit mode that breaks down each track for you. This is extremely helpful to a GT-newb like myself, as I work to learn how to drive without sliding off the track.

Outside of this robust mode, each of the game’s tracks are available in Arcade mode. You get awards for winning a race at each track in each of the three difficulties. Between the Campaign and Arcade mode, there are many hours worth of racing without dipping into the online modes, taking photos or customizing your Livery.

Granted, I would love a single-player season mode of some sort, akin to what is available in F1 or a NASCAR game, or the expansive Project Cars 2 career mode. What I like far less is the kind of “campaign” mode available in Driveclub. I’m more interested in competing over the course of of a season than I am in strictly going for Win/Show/Place in a four-race circuit.

Sport Mode

So far, the online Sport Mode has been relegated to a three-track rotation throughout a certain time period — I’m honestly not sure how often the tracks change. There is a race that runs at least every 20 minutes, and sometimes a bit quicker. It’s super simple to hop into the mode, run a qualifying lap and get connected.

Prior to racing online, you have to watch two short videos that stress sportsmanship — mainly, not hitting other cars. During a race you are rated on your sportsmanship, receiving points for having clean runs and getting docked for bumping into other cars, whether it’s you or your opponent doing the bumping. As an inexperienced driver, my rating has taken some hits, though I’m doing my best to steer clear of my opponents. Granted, this becomes easier when you’re always in last place.

This is truly where the game kicks my tail at this time. My best finish thus far has been 6th place out of 12, and 15th out of 24. I’m hoping that, as the game ages, the playing tiers will even out more and I will be matched more with people at my skill level. Obviously, I also hope to improve at the game.

Loot!

The key to why I’m enjoying GT Sport lies in its rewards system. It reminds me of the reasons why I’ve fallen in love with Destiny despite really not caring for first-person shooters, or Diablo 3 despite having never played a game quite like it before.

Everything you do in GT Sport builds currency and experience. Every day, you have a goal to drive 26 miles, for which you earn a random car. While you are racing, you are also earning credits that can be used to buy new cars. These credits accrue in any mode, and can really stack up through the Campaign mode.

Driving also builds up Mileage Points, which leads to even more cars, helmets, suits and wheels. You’re also gaining experience points for everything you do, which ups your level. Presently, I am nearing level 13 and unlocking new tracks for each level. This sense of progression keeps me checking into the game on a daily basis.

The Complete Package

Look: I’d be lying if I said I’m the biggest racing game fan in the world. Clearly, I’m not. I have very fond memories of racing games dating back to Mario Andretti Racing on the Sega Genesis, and the last one I really fell in love with was Burnout Paradise.

I jumped in on Driveclub shortly after its release, and I almost immediately regretted it. It’s a gorgeous game, and also had a decent sense of progression. But the single-player in that mode was also lacking, in my mind, and the cars plainly didn’t feel quite right.

Gran Turismo Sport has so far blown away my expectations based purely on how driving the cars feels, combined with the sense of progression.

But how does the game compare to its contemporaries? Clearly, if you have both a PS4 and an Xbox One (or PC), Microsoft’s Forza series is tremendous from all accounts. That game has more cars and tracks, and a more robust single player campaign experience. In watching gameplay videos, the sense of speed in Forza is far faster, though the actual speed is the same — a Digital Foundry video breaks this down.

Looking at Project Cars 2 and F1 2017, I am drawn to their career modes and may decide to dabble in them as well.

I am not going to slap a review score onto GT Sport. It’s absolutely one of my favorite games of the year, and has made me fall back in love with the racing genre. It’s not a perfect game, and I could see rating it anywhere from a 70 to a 90 depending on your perspective. So I’m just shrugging my shoulders, admitting I enjoy the heck out of it, and moving on.

It’s also a game that will evolve in the coming months, and a game that I just need to spend more time with. If you have a PS4 and love racing games, I can’t recommend GT Sport enough.

 

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