It turns out that the near-unanimous meltdown over Forza Motorsport 7 was just the pre-game show for Gran Turismo Sport. Once held as the bastion of virtual auto racing over multiple console generations, Polyphony Digital are sure to have a complete mess on their hands once fans of the series pay the $60 asking price and are confronted with a very harsh reality. If the demo is any indication of what’s to come later this month, Gran Turismo Sport was an idea that should have been left on the drawing board. A lot of people are going to be very mad, and some already are.
Part pretentious art project, and part awkward foray into the world of eSports, Gran Turismo Sport is nothing short of a colossal failure. Under the guidance of supreme leader Kazunori Yamauchi, the team at Polyphony Digital have crafted an experience that under any other team would be laughed out of the room. The racing is woefully unbalanced while allowing atrocious circuit boundary violations in what is supposed to be a worldwide eSports competition, the game has been stuffed full of avant garde bullshit that quite simply doesn’t belong in a racing game and has clearly diverted the attention of the developers away from more pressing issues, and so far the ability for the servers to handle any sort of load from the userbase is questionable at best. This is an actual disaster, and that’s before we even get to the on-track experience – for a team with near-infinite resources and worldwide prestige, there are amateur rFactor mods with better force feedback and tire behavior. Seriously, what are these guys doing?
Gran Turismo Sport wanted me to race against people from around the world in a competitive setting, but rarely would the servers be strong enough to actually place me in a room when it was time to get going. Sport would then ask me to waste a bunch of time taking still pictures of my race car in a ridiculously expansive photography section for what is supposed to be a hardcore racing simulator, or read up about Bjork’s solo career while simultaneously giving me almost no useful controller options whatsoever. Don’t like the default force feedback settings or want to adjust your throttle sensitivity? Ignore that, come take fake action shots of your car at the Nurburgring or learn about how our first game came out at around the same time as Harry Potter.
Oh, what’s that? The online servers are undergoing maintenance just hours after launch? No, there’s not a simple solution to this problem. Polyphony won’t let you continue to make progress through the single player Driving School, they won’t let you partake in hot lap challenges, nor will they let you blast through the racing missions. You also won’t be able to casually paint liveries to pass the time while waiting for the maintenance to be completed, purchase cars, acquire new driving suits, or play the game at all.
Gran Turismo Sport both requires an online connection, and requires the GT Sport servers to be functional to do anything aside from sit at the main menu with all of the options greyed out. Most of my playtime in Gran Turismo Sport was spent in the wee hours of Monday morning, as the moment the normies began invading the servers, GT Sport more or less fell apart. I couldn’t play the game at all for a large part of Monday afternoon, and when service was restored, online matchmaking failed to place me in any room whatsoever. It would just sit there.
Despite exponentially larger infrastructure and budget constraints, Gran Turismo Sport suffers show-stopping outages on par with iRacing, the entire in-game ecosystem grinding to a halt at once to the point you’re forced to just play something else in the meantime. This is, of course, exactly what hundreds of thousands of casual car guys will have no problem putting up with when the game launches a week from now.
The sad state of affairs continues out on the race track; if you think Gran Turismo Sport handles anything like a real race car at competition speeds, you are mistaken. I think this would be forgivable for a smaller team, but given the magnitude of who we’re dealing with here, it’s just outright sad. For starters, the game’s force feedback is far too heavy and invasive even at the lowest of settings – the wheel constantly wandering around based on slight undulations in the track geometry. If my steering wheel at any point felt like this in a real car, I’d instantly pull into the pits believing my power steering rack had seized completely – as usually this same sensation is usually accompanied by a massive puff of smoke under the hood. Polyphony Digital genuinely believe this is what all cars feel like out of the box, from a 2017 Mazda MX-5, to a six-figure Nissan GT4 entry. How the almighty Gran Turismo can be this far off the mark is utterly mind-blowing.
So then we get into how the physical cars handle. The Mazda MX-5, at least in the laps I’ve been able to turn in it, has the precision and grace of a late 60’s Muscle Car. In reality these are nimble little trackday warriors, yet Gran Turismo believes they’re a modern re-incarnation of an AMC Javelin. Moving up the ladder, stuff like the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X – which I actually found enjoyable in the game’s beta phase – now suffers from enormous weight transfer and body roll issues. Both of these cars should be solid entry-level training vehicles that generally go where you tell them to, and yet they will instead probably frustrate a large portion of the userbase. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
Anything listed as a race car is downright comical, and only seven days from launch I can’t imagine a situation in which this is all magically rectified for release. I have to go all the way to the freeware game GeneRally to find something to compare the race cars in GT Sport to. Straight up, they remind me of the 2006 Formula One cars in Jerac’s Grand Prix history pack; mega downforce, mega grip, and mega braking capabilities – they are point and shoot in every sense of the word. Grid Autosport at least lets you hang the ass end out and get up on the sidewalls in most cars.
Purpose-built racing vehicles in GT Sport by comparison are utterly glued to the racing surface. It’s downright silly to witness; they are hovercrafts magnetized to the road, and I’ll attach a video of a lap of mine that was fourth in the world to show how simple they are at maximum attack. The cars don’t dance, wiggle, or have any sort of unique personality to them. They’re either exaggerated dump trucks, or lifeless hovercrafts.
It pains me to talk in detail about the rally cars. You cannot steer them with a rearward brake bias as you should be able to, and turning your steering wheel more generates more grip and acceleration in corners. Throw out everything you’ve learned in other rally simulators before playing GT Sport; it’s like these guys have never once watched rally on-boards and thought to themselves “why isn’t our game like that, but the other ones are?”
Car balance is also an issue that comes up, which should have been rectified during the beta phase but for whatever reason, wasn’t. The Nissan GTR, which absolutely murdered people in GT4 races for the month or so that the GT Sport beta was active, is still far above the rest when it comes to sheer performance. I chopped off two whole seconds from my previous personal best of a 2:10 just by switching from the Ferrari 458 to the Nissan GTR. This is of course, fantastic to see given Polyphony’s goal of using GT Sport as a competitive platform.
It’s also “great” to see track limits being considered an afterthought at best by Polyphony. From what I’ve been able to deduce, Gran Turismo Sport only requires you to have one wheel on a piece of the racing surface or adjacent rumble strip to be considered “in bounds.” As you can see above, I’m basically on the grass in some corners or just taking a complete random nonsensical line, and the game really doesn’t seem to give a shit about my actions. You really have to experiment just to trigger a cut track penalty. Again, this is awesome in a global competition in which real prize money is awarded; not only will you have to figure out how to drive hovercrafts with broken power steering, and use your technical wizardry to create setups that abuse these lackluster physics, you’ll be forced to liberally interpret the racing line as well.
This is exactly what the masses have wanted from the king of racing games eschewing their traditional series format, and building an off-shoot product focused around some sort of high-stakes online championship.
If you couldn’t detect the sarcasm, it’s obviously not what they wanted at all. Gran Turismo fans are struggling with this title, as they’re being forced to play their favorite franchise in a way that’s totally foreign to them.
Even with private lobbies that have ideally separated serious drivers from those wanting to mess around with mates, the ranked races in Gran Turismo Sport’s demo are full of atrocious drivers who are in some cases thirty eight seconds off pace, and it’s really hard to blame them. For years, decades even, Gran Turismo has been an automotive sandbox; it didn’t matter how talented of a driver you are, as long as you found a path through the game that worked for you. Polyphony have now turned everything upside down on these same people, and the races clearly demonstrate why this approach is not going to work long-term.
In a field of twenty cars, maybe three drivers can complete a lap without spinning around or venturing through the grass. You can visibly see that these people aren’t giving a shit because they aren’t having fun, and they probably won’t stick around for long.This results in both a drastically small playerbase compared to what was expected, not to mention enormous backlash because surprise, hardcore users are a minority compared to casual users. Gee, who would have thought that?
Gran Turismo Sport assumes you’re a good driver, and therein lies the problem; the game is only an enjoyable experience when congratulating you on a new lap record or an increase in your skill rating. The majority of people who pick up this game just aren’t anywhere near competent enough to make use of the ecosystem Polyphony have built. It’s like giving a professional-grade treadmill with built-in workout routine and dynamic GUI to someone who expressed only a passing interest in jogging three years ago.
Polyphony could have thrown a bone to those wanting a more traditional Gran Turismo experience, but they didn’t. Instead they bundled Gran Turismo with weird, useless shit. The Scapes mode, which allows you to take pictures of your car in front a static background to simulate a picture of a real car, is absurdly detailed and has nothing to do with anything else in the entire game; it is a photography simulator in a hardcore racing game, when a standard photo mode (which is already included) was more than enough.
There are museums for each individual car manufacturer, as well as for Gran Turismo itself (and TAG Heuer), which showcase the history of each brand in the form of a photo album. Why were these needed? They’re just so pretentious and unnecessary, adding precisely nothing to the core game experience. They are pointless diversions that a large majority of customers will never use, and their existence is infuriating especially when other, useful areas of the game could use some much-needed polish.
And of course, these diversions function perfectly in the demo. The options menu, on the other hand, a pretty integral part of any piece of software, is prone to crashing the game. We are a week from launch. Remember how Gran Turismo fans used to obsess over Polyphony’s perfectionism when it came to Gran Turismo 4? Where is this workmanship?
I suggest buying popcorn for the release of Gran Turismo Sport. Not for actually playing the game, no, hardcore sim racers will have a seizure at just how far the once-beloved franchise has fallen. Instead, I’m predicting there will be a firestorm of ex-Gran Turismo fans wondering why Kazunori Yamauchi has seemingly turned into sim racing’s Yoko Ono. Gran Turismo Sport, at least what I’ve played from both the demo and the beta earlier this year, is a pretentious art piece with zero regard for the customers who have helped turn Gran Turismo into what it is today.
The eSports elements have been sloppily implemented, and the software features an abundance of downright retarded design choices – get ready for the atrocious main menu – and useless features that have little if anything to do with virtual racing. The hundreds of thousands around the planet who once called Gran Turismo one of their favorite games are going to be absolutely furious, and it’ll be hilarious to watch.
Download the demo for yourself if you don’t believe me.