Stalled for several years, Gran Turismo is finally rolling out of the garage and it appears to have been worth the wait. No other portable racing promises gameplay as sophisticated as this, the simulation mechanics setting apart from others in the genre.
While we're not excited about low vehicle counts during races and no online multiplayer, Gran Turismo still looks amazing, with detailed visuals and superior physics.
A wealth of cars and a slew of courses aren't what promise to make Gran Turismo the definitive portable racing experience; it's the spot-on handling and physics that have it leading the pack. With the simplest of controls, you're able to feel the nuanced handling of each of the game's 800 vehicles. Flicks of the analogue stick respond realistically, factoring in the car's weight and tuning.
The differences are noticeable, even among the dozen or so cars available in the build we played. A two lap race on Trial Mountain Circuit gave us time behind the wheel of a Nissan GTR SpecV 2009.
Darting through the forested mountainside meant taking advantage of the Nissan's precision control for smooth corner drifting. Competing against a trio of rally cars - Ford Escort 1998, Nissan 240RS 1985, and Subaru Impreza 2001 - was a cinch thanks to the GTR's ability to slide through the bends.
More competitors on the screen would be nice, as the game caps the number of vehicles per race to four.
Getting a sense for each vehicle is best done in one-off races, though you can also learn the basics of driving through completing mission challenges. Much like the License challenges of the console versions, these objective-based stages have you focusing on specific driving techniques in four categories, ranging from introductory mechanics to advanced manoeuvres.
One challenge, for instance, has you whipping through an inclined corner on the Grand Valley East track. Another requires navigating through a large S-turn.
Mission challenges are timed, so completing them quickly is necessary to earn Bronze, Silver, and Gold medals. That can be a tall order, though, since leaving the track and rolling onto the adjacent grass or dirt results in your disqualification. It's best to perform well so as to earn more credits - Gold medals come with higher credit payouts that can then be used to purchase new cars.
Cars will serve as badges of honour in Gran Turismo, and an ad-hoc vehicle trading feature will allow you to show off your collection, and even swap cars with a friend. Four player races will be supported locally - no chance of getting online play, sadly.
We did notice a function that allows you to save replays, though it isn't clear whether those are stuck on your memory stick or can be shared with others. It would be great to connect online and post videos to the game's official website.
Amazingly, Gran Turismo runs at a fast lick on PSP. The long wait for this realistic racers has yielded a superbly polished, high performance game that looks fantastic and handles extraordinarily well. While much of what the game sets out to accomplish has already been done on consoles, this is highly ambitious for a portable game and it will undoubtedly get the checkered flag when it comes out on October 1st.
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