Review by vulpesr
"Gotta drive 'em all."
After years and years of waiting, Gran Turismo has finally crossed the finish line onto PSP. The big launch of the new PSP GO needed a big name and for driving enthusiasts, none is bigger than Kazunori Yamauchi's/Polyphony Digital's GT series.
The question on the minds of every racing and GT fan is, does it translate well into the handheld PSP? With 800+ cars, 35+ tracks (then add on reverse modes on most tracks) then it must be good...right?
Gameplay: Let me get this out of the way first, there is no career mode in Gran Turismo for PSP. None. Zip. Zero. The core element of Gran Turismo has been stripped away in what I like to dub Gran Turismo Light. Instead, the single player mode offers up a myriad of single player events made to your liking.
Single player offers up Time Trial, Single Race, Drift Mode and Challenge Mode. Time Trial is self-explanatory, while single race pits you against 3 other opponents (way down from even the PSX Gran Turismo) on your choice of track with your choice of laps. The more you race the track, the higher your level (D, C, B, A and Super). You can also choose between racing the exact same make of the car you are driving or a random selection of opponent cars.
Racing the same make over and over again, especially with 4 cars on track is repetitive at best; the random selection is just outright infuriating. Grab yourself an Evo VII and the CPU will pit you against 3 Nissan R390 supercars. This of course makes little sense as one would think the programmers would try and pit you against the same class of car you are driving. It's a throwback to event generator mode in Gran Turismo 2 and to this guy feels like a cheap way to provide challenge.
Drifting, introduced in GT5 Prologue is the third single player option and it's not like games such as Juiced or the Need for Speed franchise, Polyphony Digital tried to make it more realistic and thus made it less fun. You can spend time tweaking your ride for optimal drifting performance but you're still going to find yourself sliding out across the track out of control. Plus, with many other games out there that have more or less perfected the drift genre in racing games, it comes off as an afterthought.
Speaking of tuning your rides, this has also been stripped down to the bare essentials. Instead of buying different upgrades there is only a few options you can play with (ride height, toe, camber. etc.) and to top it off, only 30 cars listed as favorites can get this sort of treatment. While you can switch out your favorites, once again you lose one of the landmarks that Gran Turismo brought to the table. Tuning is also different depending if you're taking your car drifting or just flat out racing.
The final single player mode, Challenge is much like the license tests of Gran Turismo of ye olde days. Do braking tests, overtaking, tricky corners, earn bronze, silver or gold. You don't win cars like the license tests, but like all the other modes you earn credits that go toward buying more cars. The tests are straight forward and even novice drivers should have no trouble advancing through them quickly; that being your best bet to earn cash quickly in the early stages of the game.
Multiplayer is arguably the best part about the PSP version of Gran Turismo. Connect with up to 4 people on ad-hoc, set your laps and track and have at it. Remember in single player when you were earning ranks on the tracks you were playing? Well depending on how many times you have raced that certain track reflects how your optional AI driver performs on the track. Only have one friend to play with? No problem, you can also throw in CPU cars into the mix (though the same overpowered cars from single player will be on the grid). These CPU drivers will also provide more challenge depending on your established rank.
It also features a shuffle mode, starting players in a car picked out from random in a pool of cars. Win the race and you'll be faced with a challenge as you will be given a slower car to compete with; which of course means less skillful players will have fun challenging experienced vets.
Also in the multiplayer mode is a car trading/sharing feature for those of you want to collect a massive garage. This is especially handy since there are different versions of the game out there (different starting cars, dealerships). Sharing allows you to pass forth cars without losing them, trading however is a little more unforgiving. You lose that car in your garage over the trade but it must be matched with something of somewhat equal value.
Speaking of cars, instead of all the dealers being presented at the star of the game; you are only given an option of four dealers with up to 10 cars per dealer that change out every 2 days of in-game time. While it does appear random, the dealers do cycle after roughly 75 days so you won't miss out on your favorite cars (including new to the series Lamborghini, Ferrari, Bugatti) and since different versions present dealers at different times; sharing your garage with other players is a simple way to build up your dream garage quickly.
Graphics: The main question on the minds of racers would of course be, "With 800+ cars crammed onto a UMD disk, how does it look?" Words I would use to describe are "Amazing", "Beautiful", and maybe even "Delicious". GTPSP sports some of the best car models ever seen on the system full of detail shading/reflection effects. As for effects, cars backfire, plumes of dust come forth if you hit the dirt and there's even a slight blurring effect added to replays when cars start whipping around each other. Very nice.
Tracks are equally detailed, while not as nice as GT4 they're certainly better than any of the PSX versions and unless you're cruising at a blue-haired, 80 year-old speed of 10mph then you're really not going to notice any flaws in the tracks.
Also the car views are something quite good to look at, featuring an in-car mode that really gives you a sense of being in the driver seat on your small screen.
Sound: Engine effects and all the car sounds are there, presented in crisp and clear tones but it seems recycled from every other iteration of Gran Turismo. To the untrained ear, engine sounds seem to be just a slight pitch above or below depending on the car; which brings up the question why we don't have the rumble of big block muscle cars or the bleating of tuner exhaust in the GT series yet? When one drives a Hemi 'Cuda one expects to be deafened by the rumble of a bass filled Hemi engine, not a low pitched whine produced by a blender mated with a weed-whacker.
Music is forgettable, with standardized Euro-beat style seen in games like Ridge Racer crossed with Need for Speed hip hop. To remedy this issue, GTPSP gives you the option of loading your memory stick with MP3s to listen to, even going as far as setting up folders for either menu or race music. A nice touch but you have to unlock it through Challenge Mode, albeit early on. This is one of the few rewards GTPSP is actually going to give you while playing the game other than an ending cinematic.
Replayability: With such a massive array of vehicles to collect, you're going to spend a lot of time trying to master your Pokemon catchin...err, driving skills to get 'em all. Unless you have some friends with the game, and with little reward other than hundreds of cars that have less tuning options than changing a flat tire on your grandma's station wagon; it really asks the question "Do you want to?" Hours upon hours can be lost just racing, but in the end you might just slip back to Gran Turismo 4 and wait for GT5 on PS3.
Final Word: No career mode? Limited tuning? This isn't Gran Turismo, this is every other racing game before Gran Turismo made such an impact. Still, if your first wall poster was Ferrari Testarossa, if you are eagerly anticipating another Fast n' Furious movie, or if you just love Gran Turismo and have to have every game in the series; this game will be for you. That's just it, for novice players it's just another passable racing experience and Polyphony Digital has catered exclusively to the GT hardcore enthusiast, basically just spinning their tires and throwing rocks at the casual gamer.
At the checkered flag it gets a 7 out of 10, it's Gran Turismo; just the Plymouth Reliant of the series.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 10/07/09
Game Release: Gran Turismo (US, 10/01/09)
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