After years of uncertainty surrounding the next major Gran Turismo title, including the lengthy delays that have become standard for the franchise, and substantial changes in the overall design philosophy that will see a shift from the grind-heavy single player experience in favor of something like iRacing, but for the PlayStation 4, Gran Turismo Sport – Polyphony’s first foray into the eSport kingdom – is set to embark on a closed beta period in exactly one week. The move essentially confirms that the game is no longer stuck in development hell, desperately searching for a unique identity while trying to convince fans of the series this project is indeed in the pipeline, but instead that Polyphony Digital have finally put together a cohesive product they’re wanting to show off to the world.
Unfortunately, there is a catch. A couple of them, actually.
There are murmurs that some sort of non-disclosure agreement will come with acceptance into the beta program, which American and European users can apply for here, limiting the amount of public knowledge that will circulate about the title after the beta process has been completed. Other websites are also stating that the servers won’t always be open, meaning that sim racers won’t receive complimentary access to the title well in advance of the official retail release – they will be instructed to sign on at certain periods so the developers can monitor the online events in real time. Sure, it’s a good move by Polyphony to stay on top of any problems that may arise, but this certainly won’t be a play-at-your-own-leisure experience when compared to titles such as Project CARS, Call of Duty, or Formula One 2017 – and that will certainly throw PS4 owners a curve-ball. Not everyone is going to take a few days off work to play Gran Turismo sport directly when Polyphony ask them to, as there’s these things called work, friends, and family that occasionally get in the way of gaming sessions.
There’s also the question of whether long-time Gran Turismo fans will actually understand the vision for Gran Turismo Sport, as the drastic departure from traditional Japanese gaming elements in favor of a modern eSports approach won’t sit well with people who have followed the series since its humble beginnings on Sony’s original PlayStation. Some portions of the Gran Turismo community legitimately sit down and teach users how to progress through the game without playing it (as displayed in the video below), so I’m expecting a very tangible backlash from users who are suddenly forced to participate in competitive online races to progress through the experience, rather than mess around in some sort of all-encompassing automotive sandbox like the previous games.
Regardless, if you happen to own a PlayStation 4 for any number of reasons, it’s probably worth signing up for the closed beta in the off chance you get accepted, as a whole bunch of people are curious as to how this game will turn out; Polyphony’s never done something like this before, and it’ll be interesting to see a company this fucking enormous try their hand at sim racing as an eSport.