Gran Turismo Sport Preview - E3 2017
The simulation racer is looking much better during our second tour
Gran Turismo Sport has been in development for some time. And although the fans of the long running racing franchise will say that is to be expected, many were hoping for a solid simulation racer on PS4 to be released by now. With Driveclub long disappeared in the rearview mirror, fans rejoiced when GT Sport got a release date of November 2016. As you're likely aware reading this preview, that release didn't quite happen. And although a new date hasn't been set, the developers at Polyphony Digital do insist on a 2017 calendar launch date. Whether that will happen or not remains to be seen, but we had a chance to play through a number of races at E3 2017, and the game is certainly looking better than ever.
I had a first look at the racer about a year ago, at E3 2016, when I called into question that very quickly approaching November release. We still didn't know much about the game and its content, and from the hands-on time with the demo there was much left to be desired. At this year's E3, I jumped back in behind the wheel to see what was (and wasn't) waiting for me at the starting grid. Thankfully, it was all good news. Right off the bat, the game looked much improved and complete visually, with a wealth of cars and tracks to choose from. The cars were highly detailed inside and out, and the tracks provided the sorts of thrills that simulation fans yearn for. The handling felt natural, and the contact with the asphalt left no doubts about the game's simulation mechanics behind the scenes. The demo offered three difficulty settings; going with Medium, there were far too many assists turned on by default (automatic breaking, full driveline, etc), but hopefully this will be tweaked or be adjustable by the user.
The control options included steering with the analog stick, and D-Pad, or if you're a madman, the motion sensor. We took a few different cars out for a spin. The lively Chevrolet Camaro SS '16 on Brands Hatch Indy was a beast to contend with, but its relatively lower top speed helped take the tighter corners with ease. The final release promises more than 170 cars, including Vision Gran Turismo concept vehicles and prototypes. The engine roared with a distinct growl at every straightway, and it did feel that work has been done to improve the notoriously weak sound design aspect of the franchise; but then the contact between cars or track obstacles still sounded hollow and dull. Some techno upbeat music was blaring through the race and in menus, offering a lively atmosphere to the proceedings. After each race, I was awarded an increase in experience towards my Driver Level, as well as credits. The demo also tracked distance driven, as a part of the Daily Workout. Similarly to the current closed beta, I was told that completing the workout would award racers a new car.
Some of the tracks that were available in our demo included Northern Isle Speedway, Blue Moon Bay Speedway, Tokyo Expressway (looking better than last year), Willing Springs International, and of course Nürburgring. The final game promises 27 different tracks across 19 locations from around the world. The tracks also offered a set of driving conditions - dawn, morning, daytime, afternoon, evening, and sunset. Each time of the day had different lighting and cloud formations. However, you can't help but feel that the series is falling behind in this regard - GT Sport will not offer dynamic time or weather, while other major racing simulators launching this year will. So, try as it might, Gran Turismo still can't help shake the feeling of old-school design, complete with the cursor during menu navigation.
It's difficult to predict if Gran Turismo Sport will make it to a 2017 release, but in the meantime the game is quite clearly making progress. Over the course of the year since I saw it last, there are improvements across the board, and undoubtedly the closed beta is helping Polyphony Digital iron out issues while still working on finishing up the content. With no last-generation car models to rely on, GT Sport is a game being created from scratch for the PS4 (with PS4 Pro enhancements). The developers tell me this takes time, as their meticulous attention to detail is what drives the project forward. They will also continue to work and release new cars after the full game releases. Other features in the full game that we've yet to try for ourselves include a fully featured livery editor, and the new Photo Mode.
Publisher Sony Interactive Entertainment clearly has the foresight and the dedication to see this project through to completion, and we have no choice but to be patient as well, and hope that the final product ends up as great as it promises to be. We usually close off our E3 previews with the expected launch window for the game, but with GT Sport, I don't want to jinx it.