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Jeremy Jastrzab
18 Oct, 2009

Gran Turismo Review

PSP Review | It's out. Seriously.
Vapourware can materialise! While Duke Nukem Forever is still unlikely to ever see the light of day, Polyphony Digital's simulation racer Gran Turismo finally has. Originally, announced at Sony’s E3 press conference in May 2004, Gran Turismo 4 Mobile was meant to be one of the flagship titles for the upcoming PlayStation Portable. Already infamous for their penchant for delays, few thought it possible for Polyphony Digital to actually deliver this time around. However, almost a whopping five and half years after the initial announcement, Gran Turismo has finally been released in time for Sony’s experimental PSPGo.

It only seems like a matter of time before all portable games and software will be exclusively acquired through Internet downloads and the PSN Store. For now though, Gran Turismo is still available in both UMD and digital format. UMD players will have the option of installing the game onto the memory stick, though the disc will still be required to play. We had initially previewed Polyphony’s digital racing simulator at a Sony event at the end of August and were extremely concerned with the presentation and load times. However, playing the final version has thankfully put to rest any concerns we had over this.

Upon loading the game, you’re presented with the typically slick interface that you’d expect from the perfectionists at Polyphony Digital. Thankfully, a lot of the lag and loading times found in numerous earlier PSP titles is at a minimum, until you actually view the cars. And given the amount of time that you spend organising yourself in GT games, this is certainly welcome. Of course, there are still load times, but they’re not ridiculously long. Despite being perfectly functional, the interface will be vexing for new players, as there are a lot of options with very little intuitive explanation. The game includes a manual that can be accessed within game though, so it’s not as if you’re completely without help.

Wait, where are the drivers?!?!?.

Wait, where are the drivers?!?!?.
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The interface and the presentation are quite slick and very visually alluring. However, when you’re actually on the race track, you’ll be treated to some great visuals as well. In fact, they’re among the finest visuals you’ll find on the PSP. There are a lot of racers on the PSP, but none look better than Gran Turismo. Apart from the level of visual detail and draw distance, the other impressive factor was the remarkably consistent frame rate. Still, given the development time and series reputation, this really shouldn’t be a surprise. While the audio is unlikely to blow your mind, there is nice mix of soothing tunes to keep you company, even if they're nothing remarkable or outstanding.

So Gran Turismo on the PSP looks good. However, even though all the real life car model are beautifully detailed and accurate, GT still lacks anything close to a damage model, just lik Gran Turismo 4. We can poo-poo car manufactures for being so sensitive, but the invisible bubbles surrounding collisions really takes away from the otherwise fantastic immersion and really makes it seem out-of-date. Sure, there are the occasional wall sparks, but they don’t really go far enough. The only other quirk we have is that the typical PSP aliasing and ‘jaggy’ issues have reared their unsightly heads.

As one of the few console simulation racers to have survived the test of time, there are a number of distinctly GT features on the PSP version. While the series is known for it’s ridiculous number of cars, GT on the PSP has 800 cars to choose and unlock, which is even more than the 700 available in Gran Turismo 4. On top of that, you’ve got 35 tracks, all unlocked from the start. Most will be playable in reverse (where optimists will claim that you have 60 odd tracks to race), though there is a decent variety of surroundings that these tracks will provide anyway.

Mum... I want that one!

Mum... I want that one!
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Within the single player, you have time trails, single races and drift trails, as well as a set of challenges. The challenges aim to teach you how you’re supposed to tackle driving skills that start with braking and go through more complex acts such as driving through S-bends and taking on corners and will take some time to complete. Be warned though, they don’t autosave after you complete one. Completing races and challenges will unlock credits, which are used to purchase your 800 in-game cars . In a neat little twist, you can only access four dealers at a time from the main menu. This means you’ve got a bit of a lottery every time you go to buy a new car. The annoying aspect though is that you have to jump through a few hoops to find out whether you already have a particular car.

Prior to a race or trial, you pick your mode (from those mention above), your car and a track. You’ve got a number of car customising options, mainly in regards to how ‘simulated’ you want your experience. However, there is no option to buy a car and continually upgrade it. You can even pick up to 120 laps as part of your race option. Why you would want to pick that many laps for a portable racer is beyond us, but good luck with your battery if you do go ahead with that. The multiplayer options are confined to ad-hoc mode, and regardless of whether you’re playing solo or with friends, there is a maximum of four cars in any given race. However, you’re also able to trade and swap cars with other people over ad-hoc as well as eventually transfer your cars to Gran Turismo 5.

The racing itself is very good, but heavily based on what you would have played in Gran Turismo 4. Not a bad thing but we all played it five years ago and some may find the lower classes to be somewhat slow. As far as PSP simulated racers go, Polyphony have done an excellent job of translating the complicated physics engine and analog into digital controls. At the same time, the controls aren’t so overly complex or sensitive that players who usually prefer arcade racers won’t be able to pick up. It ought to be noted though, that you will definitely need to use the brake and that dirt and snow tracks are only accessible to certain cars. While the AI is pretty good and doesn’t overly abuse the rubberband, they will very strictly follow the designated line. This makes them quite predictable.

After the frustration, racing non-rally cars in the dirt can be funny.

After the frustration, racing non-rally cars in the dirt can be funny.
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OK, so you’ve got heaps of cars to collect and very good driving mechanics to play with. So what’s missing? How about a reason to play, or anything resembling a career mode? Unfortunately, the options we have mentioned above are all that you have. The game is fine for the occasional pick up and play but as a long term prospect for going through and collecting all the cars, it’s not very appealing. Furthermore, simple yet effective features such as online play, leaderboards and downloadable ghosts are nowhere to be seen. There is word of a future release for these features but they probably should have been included in the final game.

As such, it’s more about what Gran Turismo for the PSP doesn’t do, as opposed to what it does. Furthermore, it’s released at a time where there are a multitude of arguably superior racing options for the system. Sure, while they’re based off the PS2 game from five years ago, Gran Turismo has the cars and the physics but lacks a compelling single player reason to ‘get’ everything and other desirable features that you’d almost consider standard. So while it is essentially a case of better late than never, it’s so damn late that it feels like it has been left behind.
The Score
Sure, it's nice to see Gran Turismo eventually materialise and it plays great, but it would have been even nicer for it to have come fully fledged.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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12 Comments
4 years ago
I love the game but am really annoyed at the interface. It's not clear what races you have finished and with what rank (I know it's there but could have been so much clearer/different) and the whole progression through different tracks could have also been better.

Oh and I remember getting canned on this site for saying the graphics weren't great (pic 1) and were NOT the quality of those super smooth shots released in the media. Now that the game is out, I can say I was correct and the haters weren't even close. How anyone could think those PS3 quality shots were in game or even replays is beyond me.

Anyway, I think this is another great game and has kept me playing my PSP, as I have been doing for nearly 2 years now. Such a great handheld.
4 years ago
hahaha that was a very long i told you so. must be a lot sweeter for it.
4 years ago
Dear PALGN Writers,

Thanks for the recent wealth of PSP reviews, it is much appreciated.

Love,

Dutch
4 years ago
Dear Dutch,

Thank you Dutch for being wonderful.

Love,

Adam
4 years ago
Get a room you two...
4 years ago
I was looking forward to this game for the longest time. It was pretty much the only foreseeable game purchase on my PSP's horizon.

Then.. no career mode was mentioned.

No thanks guys..
4 years ago
"We can poo-poo car manufactures for being so sensitive"...

Are you sure it's the manufacturers' who are sensitive or is it that Polyphony just didn't have time? They don't seem to mind their cars being mangled on Forza (1, 2 and 3) or NFS Shift...
4 years ago
PALGN wrote
The game is fine for the occasional pick up and play but as a long term prospect for going through and collecting all the cars, it’s not very appealing.
I get the impression that this is the polarising issue for a lot of people. I can see why the lack of structured career mode is an issue for some people. For me, however, it is a good thing. I don't want to be blocked by some artificial constraint on progress. This way I can pick a car or a track I feel like driving, have some fun and come away with more cash than I started.

I normally stop playing sim racer games long before 100% completion because the career mode puts up challenges that I no longer consider fun. The lack of barriers means I may actually spend longer with GT PSP.
4 years ago
jeremism wrote
"We can poo-poo car manufactures for being so sensitive"...

Are you sure it's the manufacturers' who are sensitive or is it that Polyphony just didn't have time? They don't seem to mind their cars being mangled on Forza (1, 2 and 3) or NFS Shift...
It's definitely the car manufacturers. The difference between GT and N4S/Forza is, Gran Turismo has a whole lot more car makers, and if even one says "We don't want our cars to appear damaged in the game at all" then the whole game must omit car damage for every car, unless you exclude those makers that don't want car damage. Polyphony are basically saying "Hey, we know there is still no car damage, but look! We have over 800 different models!"
4 years ago
sobriquet835 wrote
It's definitely the car manufacturers. The difference between GT and N4S/Forza is, Gran Turismo has a whole lot more car makers
Tuners - maybe, manufactuers - not really. Polyphony Digital have got to the point where if it's truly the tuners holding them back (because the number of manufacturers is virtually the same as Forza) then they need to man up and tell the tuners to agree to damage or GTFO. If PD want to make the ultimate driving simulator, then they need to weigh up what's more important to achieving that goal. Does the ultimate driving simulator have 800 different variations of the Honda NSX and no damage, or do they say "**** the ridiculous number of cars made up from minor variations" and go with what will allow them to have damage. In my opinion, the ultimate driving simulator will have damage. If my chosen simulator only has 10 NSXs in it as a result, then so be it.

Forza has obviously been able to get enough 'major' manufacturers and tuners to agree to damage to facilitate 400+ cars. So what could be holding back PD and GT? It can only be much smaller tuners and makers of obscure cars that very few will appreciate in the game. PD seem to have gone mad trying to get that number of cars up, for some reason thinking that that will be the measure of how good a simulator or how good a game it is in the end. If even arcade games like NFS have damage now then it's a bit of a joke for them to present their 'simulator' that fails to simulate the reality of a car meeting the bumper of another car.
4 years ago
All this PSP is bonus. I thought the PSP was dead last year, and now with new release games at $50 the perfect impulse price.
4 years ago
Spanca wrote
Forza has obviously been able to get enough 'major' manufacturers and tuners to agree to damage to facilitate 400+ cars. So what could be holding back PD and GT? It can only be much smaller tuners and makers of obscure cars ...
... or, it could just be convenient for them to use the 'manufacturers' excuse so as to not have to worry about damage modelling. Which, going by the current work-rate speed and efficiency levels at PD, probably cuts a year or so off the development time.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  1/10/2009 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre:
  Racing
Year Made:
  2009
Players:
  1

Read more...
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