As a follow up to the article James has published earlier this week regarding his thoughts on Polyphony’s new Gran Turismo Sport, I thought it would be a good idea to outline exactly what will come and change with the drastic new change of direction taken by Kaz and the team. I’d also like to offer some of my opinions on how this title will impact the world of sim racing, as let’s face it, the audience Gran Turismo can capture is exponentially bigger than the likes of iRacing, Project CARS, and Assetto Corsa both combined and multiplied.
A week ago, Polyphony Digital held a pretty sizeable press event to show off their latest iteration of the Gran Turismo franchise – Gran Turismo Sport. Sadly, most of the relevant footage has been taken offline now due to the standard DMCA complaints, so we’re instead left with a three hour raw feed video of what broadcasted online races – a big step for Gran Turismo – may possibly look like later this year.
Two weeks later, an increasing amount of information regarding Gran Turismo Sport has been released, translated from press releases written in the native Japanese language. Gran Turismo sport will arrive on Sony’s PlayStation during the middle of November 2016.
The limited edition of the game will most likely retail for an additional ten dollars, and feature several pieces of bonus content compared to the standard version. The limited edition will ship with eight more cars unlocked from the start, said to include both a rally and “group 4” car, though the car classes haven’t entirely been outlined as of yet. You’ll also receive one million credits as a “head start” on the game’s career mode, but again, I’m unsure how much of an advantage this will provide to players. The limited edition package is rounded off via the inclusion of a premium GT Sport PlayStation 4 user interface theme, as well as 30 additional avatars for your PSN Network Profile.
Pre-Order bonus content comes in the way of the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, a modern Ford Mustang Rally Car, and the Toyota FT-1 GT3 already unlocked in the game. On top of these cars, 500,000 credits will also be sent to your account, allowing you to stack both the limited edition and pre-order bonuses if you choose to do so. However, portions of this bonus content, including the cars listed above, can be obtained via standard progression through normal gameplay, so this appears to be a light ruse on the part of Polyphony Digital rather than truly exclusive content. Usually I am against pre-order bonuses that lock content away from those who can pay extra, but Polyphony have appeared to take the safe approach here, and I respect that.
Unfortunately, there will be no closed or open beta testing to take part in. Contrary to what was promised in late 2015, plans for small, isolated testing sessions have been scrapped, as Polyphony Digital claim it would add weeks – if not months – to the development of the final product. This sounds understandable, but considering Polyphony have already held press events with some sort of pre-release version, I don’t see why they can’t just release that trial version of the game as some kind of demo on the PSN network, and use places like GTPlanet to gauge feedback from their hardcore fans.
Something I personally find ridiculous, is that you can earn a real racing license through GT Sport. According to Polyphony, if you complete several milestones and tutorials within the game, you become eligible to order a real FIA racing license if you live in any of the 22 countries that have so far agreed with this gimmick.
This can – and probably will – put other people’s lives in danger, as we all know what happened when accomplished sim racers like Ray Alfalla or Greger Huttu stepped into a race car for the first time; they screwed up big time, and basically needed someone to jump in with them to help undo all of the nasty habits that sim racing had taught them. I really don’t want to know what happens when 3l1te_h4xx0r_88 decides he wants to go racing in real life, instead of sticking to his PlayStation. This concept might have worked with GT Academy, where all of Nissan’s resources were pumped into precisely one individual, but I can’t see it being a safe idea on a wider scale. In my own experience driving for various Amateur teams in Europe, some teams have shared horror stories with me regarding sim racers approaching them for a ride with a bit of financial backing to make it a reality, and every single time it ended in disaster.
The game will be constructed in a way that resembles iRacing for the PlayStation 4. Kaz may say that this whole project is innovative and fresh for Gran Turismo, but many of the multiplayer features recently unveiled appear to have been taken straight from iRacing – and I’m not just talking about the safety rating portion. Your avatar, custom profile, racing suit, and the brand new livery editor will be much more than just diversions in the garage menu – they’ll serve a purpose and act as the hub for your online career.
In terms of multiplayer racing, GT Sport will have regularly scheduled events during the week, similar to how iRacing’s multiplayer format works. You can improve your safety rating – or excuse me here – “Racing Etiquette”, and earn points. If you’ve done well enough in a few races during the week, you’ll be invited to an invitational race on the weekend. This is something I look forward to immensely. If I wouldn’t have been banned for being friends with James, I’d definitely be playing iRacing for a few months by now, and Gran Turismo Sport will instead fill that void. The easy to use website, well organized multiplayer aspect, and the improved physics are certainly appealing to me, even as a restricted customer. If I can get the same things that iRacing offers without the political bullshit for being friends with someone they don’t like, sign my ass up immediately. And just like iRacing, cars will be split into different classes – Prototypes, GT3 cars, GT4 sportsman racers, Rally Cars, and street legal cars.
All of this is said to culminate in the official FIA sanctioned manufacturer and nations cups, with the best drivers competing against each other to find the best virtual racers in the world. As mentioned in the press event held in Japan, they will also hold an invitational 24 hour race with drivers who demonstrate exceptional talent and on-track discipline. This obviously looks like a step away from Polyphony’s cooperation with Nissan and the GT Academy program, but considering the winners will be officially recognized at the actual FIA awards ceremony at the end of the season, I can see future deals like test sessions with race teams or manufacturers happen – so long as these drivers are also amateur racers on the side using GT Sport to brush up their skills.
The car count has dropped significantly, as have the tracks. This may come as a massive disappointment to many Gran Turismo fans, as the game usually included hundreds upon hundreds of automotive machinery, but I personally am glad that ever car in the game now serves a purpose. I never cared for the ten special versions of the Nissan Skyline R34 awkwardly shoe-horned into the game as a love letter to Japan, and neither should anyone else. A select few highly-detailed and mostly accurate racing cars are much better than 800 vehicles with PS2-quality visuals.
All in all, you could say that Gran Turismo Sport will be a departure from traditional GT entries, but I think that is a step in the right direction. Content-wise, it will include everything sim racers can ask for, and if Polyphony can get the physics right, such as fuel and tire management for endurance races, then GT Sport will be the number one competitor to iRacing, and it might actually win in the long run. Games like Assetto Corsa or Project CARS will be left in the dust if GT Sport can release as a polished product, and we’ll have an amazing simulator in our hands. The only thing I can see ruining this, is if there will be no support for older wheels like the DFGT or Logitech G27, as this is what a majority of Gran Turismo players currently own. Forcing them to upgrade to a PS4, purchase Gran Turismo, and then shell out the same amount for an entirely new wheel doesn’t seem like the smart thing to do, but we’ll see if the PS4 architecture allows it.