How Gran Turismo Sport Fails as a Competitive Platform

As a hardcore sim racer, I’ve found it pretty entertaining to skim through the more casual-oriented communities to monitor the reception of Gran Turismo Sport. Response to the game’s timed demo, which has been available starting this week and will end at some point tomorrow, falls into one of two very distinct categories: some have cancelled their pre-orders and pledged allegiance to a rival franchise, while others proclaim to love the new direction the franchise has taken; eschewing car collecting for ranked online racing.

I’ve found responses of the latter to be most intriguing; in my time with Gran Turismo Sport, I’ve been left with far more negative impressions than positive, and I’m a bit confused as to how people could unironically enjoy this title. There are two distinct photo modes – one of which isn’t necessary in the slightest, clunky menu systems, multiple power point presentations, and a livery editor that pales in comparison to Forza’s, while the actual driving experience is shockingly dated, lifeless, and inaccurate – Mazda’s coupes are not boats, and GT3 cars are not hovercrafts. It’s a very weird game; Gran Turismo Sport can’t decide whether to be an art project, a classic Gran Turismo game, or iRacing for consoles, so it takes the worst parts of all three and blends them together in an unholy trinity. Or just, to kill the hyperbolic statements, a mix of very bad design choices.

Which is why it’s very awkward for me to catch wind of positive reception in regards to the online portion of Gran Turismo Sport. Truthfully I’ve seen comments such as “that event sold me on the game” and “today’s event is 10/10,” yet the ranked online racing is objectively the worst aspect of Gran Turismo Sport – in fact the game utterly fails as a competitive platform, which is pretty insane when you consider for what purpose this game was built in the first place.

Yet instead of using these people as examples of how retarded the average racing game enthusiast happens to be, let me explain why Polyphony are utterly clueless when it comes to creating an online racing ecosystem.

Poor Track Design

Though there will be a handful of real-world circuits available in the retail copy of Gran Turismo Sport, an overwhelmingly large portion of the track roster is confirmed to be populated by scratch-built facilities crafted by the team at Polyphony Digital. While the surrounding landscapes indeed give a nice sense of variety, and obviously help to demonstrate the graphical prowess of Sony’s new-ish PlayStation 4 Pro, there is a downside to treating asphalt playing fields as art pieces first, and a competitive environment second. Unlike real-world auto racing facilities, which have been constructed by professional engineers and refined over decades to ensure the on-track product is captivating enough to put spectators in the grandstands, Gran Turismo Sport’s first major problem is that many of its’ tracks do the opposite; they look nice, but aren’t fun to drive or race on.

The worst offender of the bunch happens to be the Tokyo Expressway environment, which has been a mainstay of the franchise dating back to the original iteration in 1998, and has obviously been tossed into the lineup as a nod to longtime Gran Turismo enthusiasts. Regardless of the layout you’re racing on, the Tokyo Expressway circuits commonly force you into claustrophobic ribbons of tarmac just two lanes wide, with massive concrete walls on either side.

Unlike the Monaco Grand Prix, which features several heavy braking zones allowing drivers to build and close natural gaps to help string the pack out, the gentle corners and high speeds of Tokyo ensure the pack of cars for the most part remains incredibly bunched up. While talented drivers won’t really have a problem with giving each other a bit of room, overtaking is where the problems really start. You cannot launch an overtaking maneuver on a human opponent in good faith, because there is so little room to work with you’ll probably run them into the wall on corner exit whether you’re intending to or not. And when contact between two vehicles breeds something more disastrous, unlike the Long Beach Grand Prix, drivers approaching the chaos have zero extra tarmac to work with – they will plow right into the wreck.

Provided the pack does get strung out into a single file conga line, the ideal racing trajectory for Tokyo circuits requires drivers to remain in dangerously close proximity to the wall for an extended period of time. Failing to run the absolute precise racing line and accidentally scraping the wall scrubs off so much speed, any trailing vehicle is prone to slamming into the back of you. Factor in the insane drafting effects Gran Turismo as a series has been notorious for and has still failed to rectify in Sport, and you’ve essentially got a chain of circuits that have almost been genetically engineered to breed chaos. In a normal Gran Turismo game, these tracks would merely fall out of rotation among the playerbase, and primarily be used for fancy screenshot competitions on sites GT Planet. Sport not only forces you to race on them as part of the game’s primary mode of play, it also punishes you quite severely for incidents that are largely the fault of poor track design.

What’s frustrating is that any idiot and his friends can run a quick pickup race here in private, and come away with the conclusion to never race in Tokyo again. How Polyphony did not play test these circuits internally and determine “our target audience will become frustrated with this very quickly” is beyond me.

This lack of foresight on the part of Polyphony extends to the game’s oval tracks, which I will refer to by their real world counterparts as I have not been dedicated enough to memorize all of their in-game pseudonyms. Bristol, Pocono, and Trenton – yes, that crazy Trenton from the 1960’s – visually all look great, but that’s where the positive remarks cease. Even as a stock car guy, these ovals are a chore to run and arguably the worst tracks in the game because Polyphony have failed to do their homework and understand why American oval racing works as a form of auto racing. Yes, there is some method to the madness.

Here is the crash course in NASCAR history; NASCAR tracks rarely if ever feature a racing surface that’s smooth as glass; most eat tires and require a bit of throttle management over the course of a lap because concrete is a dynamic entity unable to hold a consistent shape. Irregularities in the paving or mending process – bumps, dips, and imperfect transitions – all further assist in giving each location their individual character.  The Gran Turismo team have ignored this vital element of oval racing and instead modeled all three of their oval circuits as pristine facilities featuring progressive banking, which essentially takes throttle management and strategic line choice completely out of the equation. There is no threat of losing traction or being punished for your line choice over the duration of a lap, creating a situation where the only way you can legitimately pass people is by hoping they blatantly choke or get taken out by a lapped car. This isn’t racing.

The average Gran Turismo player in my experience seems to be pretty shitty at the game, so the initial days of GT Sport will see some okay-ish races take place at the three primary oval tracks. As the talent level increases and a tangible field of competent drivers establish themselves within the community, these races will quickly turn into frustrating affairs based more on luck than on skill. So not only are the Tokyo circuits extremely poor for competitive online racing, you now have three ovals where even in a field of good drivers, there isn’t much racing to be had; just an automotive procession in which the first person to mess up kills everybody behind him, and genuine overtaking maneuvers are difficult to manifest.

Again, this is all something Polyphony could have discovered internally during light play tests around the office, but seemingly didn’t.

As for the remaining array of fictional tarmac circuits, they too adopt at lot of the same problems as the ovals. They are too pristine, too perfect, and too well-maintained to be enjoyable in a competitive environment. Rumble strips are gigantic, run-off areas can be conveniently exploited by leaderboard drivers such as myself, the surface itself is usually immaculate (which as you learned, means no throttle control), and the width of these tracks are roughly 30% larger than what you’d expect from a real world racing circuit. These work in tandem to generate artificially high speeds and insanely wide, sweeping racing lines that abuse the simplistic engine powering Gran Turismo Sport.

And the more you’re full-throttle with a mostly-straight steering wheel, the more it’s less about the driver and more about the car, which leads to…

Unbalanced Cars

I’m not going to give everyone a complete breakdown as to what vehicle classes are available in Gran Turismo Sport, but it loosely follows the classification of real-world sports car racing. You do have various classes of street cars, as seen in games like Project Gotham Racing, but then the purpose-built race cars come in four different flavors; Rally, GT4, GT3, and P1. Personally I think Polyphony did a fine job of implementing the right number of classes in Gran Turismo Sport, as there’s usually a very robust list of cars to select from within that class, but the problem is that none of them are equal.

The overwhelming leaderboard consensus is that the Bugatti VGT prototype is by far the quickest vehicle in the P1 category, with the actual prototypes racing alongside it almost six seconds per lap slower. I was awarded a Toyota TS050 for completing my “daily workout” of driving a handful of practice laps, but unless I want to have my anal cavity penetrated by upwards of twenty other people online, I’m best off saving up for the leaderboard car. Now in other games, like the aforementioned Project Gotham Racing, you could select, say, a McLaren F1 LM and still hang with the Ferrari F50GT’s online provided you kept your stick skills up. This sadly is not possible in Gran Turismo Sport; the leaderboard cars are in their own zip code.

Currently, the P1 class has been dealt the most damage out of all categories when it comes to Polyphony’s unwillingness to balance out the vehicles. Highly unrealistic Vision Gran Turismo concept cars are allowed to compete alongside Le Mans prototypes without any regard to the obvious differences between experimental concepts, and WEC competition entries built to rigid specifications, so as a result the WEC cars get absolutely murdered out on the racing surface.

However, lopsided performance figures exist in slower classes as well. The all-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X is heads and tails above its’ street-legal contemporaries thanks to the drivetrain alone, as the other vehicles the car is allowed to compete against are all front-wheel-drive shitboxes that can’t turn and continuously spin the tires under power. And as mentioned in several articles already, the GT4-spec Nissan GTR is virtually unstoppable in the hands of a competent driver; two seconds per lap quicker than cars that have found success in real-world GT4 racing. Buddies of mine have speculated that this may be due to Nissan’s working relationship with Polyphony Digital as the major driving force behind GT Academy, and they want a Nissan GTR to be at the front of the pack to keep the financial stream flowing, but based on our races together, it just seems like Polyphony – like Turn 10 many years ago with Forza Motorsport 4 – cannot figure out how to prevent AWD domination from occurring.

Regardless of which specific class we’re talking about when it comes to the topic of vehicle balance, this poses a serious problem for the longevity of Gran Turismo Sport. In a game with somewhere around 150 cars that users are encouraged to purchase, tune, and personalize using in-game credits, you’ve created an ecosystem in which only five of these cars are worth obtaining if you want to actually enjoy the competitive elements of the game – which is the entire focus of this Gran Turismo iteration. The car-collecting meta-game and challenge of setup-building both cease to exist if the primary task is to purchase a Nissan GTR or Bugatti VGT, not carry the flag of your favorite automaker into battle as was intended.

Yes, in real-world auto racing, there are dominant cars. Toyota has destroyed NASCAR this season, Mercedes and Red Bull made Formula One almost unwatchable for a better part of the decade, and Audi practically owned Le Mans save for one Peugeot victory to split up their dynasty. The whole point of an eSports competition however is to rule out the real-world variables and put things in the hands of the drivers. One car lapping two to six seconds faster than any of the others in its’ class doesn’t accomplish that; it instead pisses people off who in the spirit of the game acquired a car they wanted to drive, and promptly got their shit pushed in because they chose poorly.

The worst part of all this is that upon booting up a race in the demo, Polyphony have not allowed users to tweak their own car setups save for the ability to adjust traction control and brake bias, instead informing users the game has applied some sort of Balance of Power formula to all of the vehicles in the field. Obviously, it’s not working, and that’s not good to see less than a week from launch. This is something that should have been fully sorted out in the closed beta over the summer, and for whatever reason, it wasn’t.

Questionable Event Organization

We didn’t even know there was a 125cc shifter kart in the game, but yesterday Polyphony believed they would be a perfect candidate for a ranked race at the simplest Kyoto Driving Park layout. Both races myself and Ian participated in were nothing short of disastrous despite being in the highest ranking North America room and surrounded by opponents the game deemed to be “safe.”

The karts were highly unstable, meaning drivers would side-swipe you at a moments’ notice because only a portion of the room could figure out how to turn consistent laps without wrecking. Those who did maintain control ran in giant Daytona-like packs, as the game’s draft model was so absurdly over-done, the pole lap of a 43.206 set by Ian was obliterated both in practice and race sessions just by hanging out behind someone for a bit and only marginally adhering to the preferred line. The track layout lent itself to full throttle affair save for a gentle lift in one corner, adding to the chaotic environment.

Like the oval races mentioned earlier, no talent was required to partake in these events, which goes against the entire point of an eSports competition. There were, however, a lot of massive wrecks, and a lot of people pissed off that they’d lost precious safety rating for some idiot sitting in the draft, running into the back of them, and then receiving a penalty for contact that they weren’t even aware was coming. This was NASCAR at Daytona, with extremely twitchy go-karts, which of course is great when the vast majority of your customers are playing with a DualShock 4.

A day earlier, Polyphony had sent the game’s rally cars to Suzuka East, which is a fantastic abbreviated layout of an iconic Japanese racing facility. However, Polyphony locked car setups to the default configurations in the name of “fairness”, meaning a field of rally cars competing for safety and skill points were forced to use off-road tires on a tarmac circuit. Posters on Reddit began warning others not to participate in this event, which is of course exactly what you want as a company – users telling other users to adhere from playing a time-limited demo. Check the guy’s rear-view mirror in the above YouTube video; they don’t even make it through turn one.

As an online racing organizer you have a duty not just to provide server infrastructure, but to ensure your competitors will actually have fun behind the wheel. Wrecking the shit out of each other in turn one because the cars aren’t adequately prepared for the track isn’t fun. It’s shitty.

And then there are the oval races. Oval racing works in real life and provides a captivating on-track product for both fans and drivers to appreciate because most purpose-built oval track cars are on the edge of control; high horsepower with minimal downforce and rudimentary mechanical grip that can’t fully be realized, even when nailing the setup. This is more or less how stock car racing works, and it’s how IndyCar works as well – albeit to a lesser extent. A lack of aero grip, a difference in car setups, and a track with unique surface characteristics all contribute to a racing discipline where plenty of passing opportunities arise each lap and generally make things really exciting in comparison to road racing

High downforce GT cars on ultra-smooth fantasy ovals do not allow any of these unique elements of oval racing to occur, meaning that anytime Polyphony send their fleet of GT3 cars to one of the game’s three oval tracks, it’s a complete chore for all involved. Provided the field of drivers are at least somewhat talented, you basically sit in a conga line for the duration of the event as pictured above. No driving skill is required, as the car is literally sucked to the track thanks to thousands of pounds of downforce providing all the grip you’ll ever need, and this means the act of passing someone because you’re a better driver than them just doesn’t happen. The enjoyable parts of oval racing, running down drivers using alternate lines or pushing the car beyond its means for a few laps just don’t happen. Foot to the floor, turn left, and hope you don’t die while passing the people who do. That’s not racing, and certainly not a good basis for a competitive eSports platform.

For whatever reason, Polyphony continue to schedule these events in abundance.

Poor track design. Unbalanced cars. Questionable event organization. These are just some of Polyphony’s problems with Gran Turismo Sport, and it more or less confirms what a lot of us feared but were dismissed as pessimists or shills upon vocalizing. Polyphony dove head first into the deep end of the eSports pool by turning Gran Turismo into this massive online racing platform, only to have precisely no idea what the fuck they were doing. Though the game does feature highly questionable vehicle physics, Gran Turismo Sport would be a lot of fun if the races were still something to look forward to at the end of the day. Instead, for a variety of very amateurish reasons, they aren’t.

I understand there’s a reason to have a fictional circuit like the Tokyo Expressway in place of Spa or Le Mans – you’ve got to show off the processing capabilities of Sony’s new PlayStation 4 model. But at the end of the day, people are eventually not going to care about the cluster trees in the distance, and they’ll want to race. Ultimately, Spa puts on a better show than Tokyo.

And I acknowledge that the Vision GT cars give vehicle designers a way to express their artistic side without the traditional restrictions a major manufacturer will undoubtedly impose on them for production models. But when the Bugatti or McLaren VGT concepts are six seconds quicker than Porsche’s Le Mans entry, and they’re in the same class competing directly against each other while the game still uses the tagline of “The Real Driving Simulator,” maybe it’s time for a second look at how the vehicles are balanced.

Lastly, flat-out shifter karts or GT cars on an oval may sound interesting on paper, but forcing people to partake in events that breed chaos while also telling them to be mindful of contact and to race cleanly is borderline retarded. Yes, nobody can die in a virtual world, so we can be free to try some stupid shit if the opportunity arises. But there are also combinations that just outright don’t work because different types of race cars work better on some tracks than others, and Polyphony of all people should know this given their involvement in real-world racing. Some of us sat out today because the list of races were so horrible, and that’s something as a developer you don’t want to do; give people an incentive to not play your game. Because you never know if during that period of time, they’ll just go and find something else.

Gran Turismo Sport was an interesting concept on paper, but Polyphony’s incompetence at understanding how virtual auto racing works will prevent it from turning the genre upside-down and being anything more than an awkward off-shoot of a beloved franchise.


Bjork Makes Her Solo Debut: The Gran Turismo Sport Demo

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.

Say Goodbye to Classic Gran Turismo

Though I’m not much of a PlayStation fanboy by any means, I certainly respect what the Gran Turismo series has done for our favorite hobby. Whereas hardcore PC simulators were always sort of obscure pieces of software, destined for consumption primarily by elitist nerds always pursuing a more difficult and demanding experience at the command of a toy steering wheel, we simply wouldn’t be where we are today without Gran Turismo. Introducing the gaming masses to the idea that driving games could be much more than just firing red shells at guests on the other end of the sofa, Polyphony Digital managed to blend semi-authentic vehicle dynamics with a ridiculously bland yet strangely compelling single player campaign mode in such a way that captivated the normies and generated millions upon millions of sales with each passing rendition of the series, eventually turning more and more console gamers onto the hobby of PC sim racing once they were ready for the next frontier. And sure, while Gran Turismo 5 & 6 were certainly nothing to write home about – genuine improvements and physics refinements offset by bizarre, useless shit like the ability to drive the lunar rover or legacy car models that stuck out like sore thumbs –  Gran Turismo 1 through 4 are the reasons many of us are here today; still patiently awaiting one final hurrah from Polyphony Digital which captures the magic of older titles.

Unfortunately, I’m here to reveal that those days are officially over. The awkward eSports endeavor known as Gran Turismo Sport has been officially confirmed by studio head Kaz himself as the future of the franchise, with a more traditional Gran Turismo 7 experience not even on the drawing board according to a recent article posted over at the series’ unofficial home, GTPlanet. Sport will not be a prologue-like release to preview what’s next for the franchise while acting as it’s own separeate game, nor will it be a spin-off to capitalize on the eSports fad while the fire is burning at maximum intensity within the gaming community – Sport is the new direction of Gran Turismo.

In short, the Gran Turismo a large majority of you grew up with is now a relic of the past. Gone are the days of smooth jazz accompanying your travels through the game’s extensive car roster, objectively slick user interface, and lengthy campaign mode. I’m not going to sit here and claim the series was perfect by any means, but they were extremely quirky, unique driving simulators with enough widespread appeal to suck people in for weeks upon weeks of playtime, and it is certainly sad knowing that Polyphony won’t be sitting down to build another one with modern technology anytime soon. Yes, Microsoft’s Forza Motorsport franchise has more or less picked up where Gran Turismo left off, but even with the enormous budget behind them, Turn 10 will never quite be able to capture the atmosphere seen in the OG Gran Turismo titles – especially with perks and penis liveries dominating the experience. Sure, there were tire model issues and driving elements that could be abused – even in the heyday of the almighty Gran Turismo 4 – but for a period of time, there was absolutely no shame in admitting the best-selling PS2 simulator was your preferred stomping grounds.

And while maybe it’s a good thing that the classic Gran Turismo gameplay will now be a thing of the past – excessive grinding, rudimentary AI, a lopsided selection of vehicles, and uninspiring event types having no place in a modern racing game – Kaz placing all of his eggs in the eSports basket isn’t exactly a reasonable alternative, either. To ensure long-term survival, the evolution of Gran Turismo needed to be a carefully crafted balance between what worked with the old games in order to retain the loyal group of followers the series has generated over the years, and what players are responding to in a positive manner today within today’s gaming climate in an effort to reel in a flock of new individuals who will play the game to death, and subsequently buy all of the DLC.

The eSports approach doesn’t fit that description at all.

I’ve written about the Gran Turismo Sport closed beta several times over the past few months here at PRC, so to save time and get right to the point, I’ll just confront the issue head on: I was left unimpressed, and Gran Turismo Sport is one of the primary reasons I purchased a PlayStation 4 to begin with. I found each build update to be bundled with exponentially more questionable driving physics and force feedback effects than the last, with the cars in each class woefully unbalanced. The racing sessions were lopsided, the force feedback featured too many canned effects that made driving the car on the edge of adhesion significantly more difficult than it should have been – as the wheel was producing false behavior that made the car feel unstable when it really wasn’t – and the cars exhibited universal understeer characteristics unless you physically deviated from the preferred line and intentionally attempted to wreck your car. I did not enjoy hotlapping Gran Turismo Sport, nor did I enjoy partaking in online race sessions.

And this was because, aside from the atrocious physics and unbalanced cars, the majority of players I ran into across a variety of rooms – from bottom split (low skill level) to top split (high skill level) – just weren’t very good. I am certainly an elitist prick when it comes to what I consider a compelling online race, but many sessions I found myself all alone at the front of the pack, or just out of reach of the leaders as they shot away in AWD Nissan GT-R’s while I was stuck with a lowly RWD Hyundai Genesis. In a sixteen car field, on average I’d say only four drivers knew what they were doing – even in the highest skill level split – with the other twelve either completely clueless, or just not fast enough to be competitive. The problem that arises from this scenario, is that unlike traditional Gran Turismo games, where the game world is treated as an automotive sandbox, Sport will see drivers progress only if they finish well and drive a clean race.

If seventy percent of Gran Turismo Sport owners can barely keep the car on the track long enough to generate rewards and progress through the game, a lot of people are going to drop that shit and find something else to play. Gran Turismo as a series worked because even if you weren’t the best virtual race car driver, there were still ways to enjoy yourself within the sandbox. However, in this situation, Sport only works if you’re a good driver. And there are exponentially more bad drivers than good drivers out there, which obviously complicates things. Sport has been built for people like myself, who can jump in and instantly turn competitive laps at the Nordschleife. Those who can’t, are going to be frustrated mighty quickly, which will lead to a mass exodus of Gran Turismo fans left bitter at what the series has become.

And with this mass exodus, leads to another problem: the eSports push. If Gran Turismo fans rush to pick up GT Sport on launch day, only to be unanimously turned off by the title – save for a few sim racers and outliers who were just diving into the competitive scene at the right time – this means there aren’t enough people to support a large eSports community like Polyphony have planned.

Here’s why this is a problem: with a robust eSports scene, comes lucrative advertisement deals and guaranteed DLC sales figures. A non-robust eSports scene, at least what’s looking like a realistic outcome in the case of Gran Turismo Sport, will result in a situation where the game is little more than a footnote on the eSports world stage. That means next to no useful advertisement revenue, smaller than expected sales figures, and considering Polyphony have shifted the whole direction of this franchise compared to previous entries in the series, a whole bunch of pissed off fans who either won’t buy the game, or ignore any post-release consumables you push out for one of several reasons – they either returned the game outright, or just aren’t engaged enough to justify the purchase.

Remember, while Gran Turismo is a monolithic entity in it’s own right, a name multiple generations of gamers have experience with, they are effective starting from scratch here. The perennial power-house in this realm is not themselves, but instead iRacing, and if this piece of software – harboring the greatest sim racers in the world and eight years’ worth of prior simulated championships to build off of – can only reel in a fraction of the crowd that actual, legitimate eSports can, Polyphony will be faced with a tremendous mountain to climb. If the sim racing eSports leader, a game which people purchase knowing full well what they’re getting into, can only reel in four thousand viewers for a world championship event compared to almost one hundred thousand sets of eyes for Rocket League, and hundreds of thousands for either FIFA or League of Legends, what chance does an awkward change in direction for Gran Turismo stand? You’ve already lost a part of your potential audience because you’ve alienated core fans who have stuck around from iteration to iteration, and you’re getting into a sub-genre that amounts basically nothing on the eSports totem pole when you start looking at the publicly accessible data.

I’d love to be proven wrong and see sim racing as an eSport take off with the release of Gran Turismo Sport, as these customers will inevitably become curious and explore the PC side of sim racing – inevitably leading to more cars across all multiplayer grids – but a realistic prediction is that this is actually going to kill the franchise, with Kaz already taking the steps to build the coffin by ruling out a traditional Gran Turismo release; placing the series’ existence on the success of a title that’s built around something that numerical data shows is simply not working.

If you loved Gran Turismo at any point in your life, now is the time to say goodbye, because it’s probably not coming back in a manner you enjoyed.

Final Impressions from the Gran Turismo Sport Beta

With a mid-October release date for the full package now officially confirmed by Polyphony Digital, and the beta period reaching a definitive end after months of trial races, we’re rapidly approaching a time in which we discuss Gran Turismo Sport’s closed testing process solely in the past tense. A game that was intended to thrust sim racing into the eSports spotlight, eschewing longstanding, brutally dull single-player progression mechanics the franchise has been known for in favor of a more modern approach to virtual motorsports, Gran Turismo Sport was constructed not to appeal to longtime fans, but to give the series a proverbial kick in the ass it so desperately needed – especially with titles such as iRacing and Forza Motorsport stealing its status as the ultimate car guy playground over the past several years.

However, after reflecting upon my time spent with the closed beta, I can’t help but feel exponentially underwhelmed by what Polyphony had put together for us to mess around with, and it certainly won’t entice people to grab the premium product on launch day – though I’ll probably do so anyways because that’s how sim racers are when it comes to new automotive titles. Rather than being left excited for the flurry of new car games that await us at the end of our real life racing season – highlighted by Gran Turismo Sport itself – I’m instead perplexed at how a team who rose to popularity many years ago by pushing out a critically acclaimed hardcore “driving simulator”, could come back to the scene with everything they’ve learned and instead crafted something as misguided and uninspired as Gran Turismo Sport.

Granted, the game as I’ve been playing it was a closed beta with minimal features, but I’m not criticizing the game from a feature-complete standpoint. The reality of the Gran Turismo Sport beta was that the two key areas Polyphony had focused on for this game in particular – the driving physics, as well as the online racing experience – were nowhere close to being what’s required for this title to succeed in the manner which they’ve intended. The Gran Turismo Sport beta was boring, bland, counter-intuitive, and above all, a regression compared to other racing simulators on the market.

For Gran Turismo Sport to work, someone like myself needed to be left in awe at what we could play, yet I was instead completely apathetic to what had been presented to me with each passing build. Beyond the gorgeous visuals and pretty main menu screens – depicting my vehicle of choice in a photo-realistic environment – the game feels as if it hasn’t progressed past what many of us can play through a PlayStation 2 emulator. That’s an experience that would have been fine in 2009 or 2010 – right around the release of Gran Turismo 5 – but in July of 2017, the whole thing just feels extremely dated. A couple guys on 4Chan used to joke that series creator Kazunori “Kaz” Yamauchi has spent the past handful of years using the Gran Turismo brand as a stepping stone for his own personal interests – primarily an auto racing career – placing the video game franchise itself on the back burner, but with Gran Turismo Sport, I’m actually inclined to jump on the bandwagon in regards to that particular speculation.

I didn’t have fun with the Gran Turismo Sport beta, and I don’t expect many others to, either. Like many, I have been left wondering what the hell Kaz has been up to, because I certainly don’t see any widespread improvements or innovation in Gran Turismo Sport compared to past iterations of the franchise.

Part of this problem, as I’ve discussed in previous articles breaking down GT Sport throughout this spring, boils down to the lack of talent in online races. The hardcore sim racers that would benefit from a structured, organized title such as Gran Turismo Sport, they’re not playing on the PlayStation 4; they’ve already built a dedicated gaming PC, signed up for iRacing, and are perfectly happy with it. What this means is that the remaining virtual auto racing fans on the PlayStation 4 are not diehard sim nerds who want to dickwave over online rankings, but rather dedicated Gran Turismo fans, and this is a crowd that are typically more interested in the grinding, progression, and free-form elements of the Gran Turismo franchise, versus the door-to-door racing aspect of elite sim racing.

So you can probably imagine what happens when you herd semi-casual Gran Turismo fans into a hyper-competitive, ultra-restrictive environment that forces them to focus on driving a clean race. It’s a bit of a mess.

Though my own skill set saw me rocket up the charts and quickly earn a place in the top split of most nightly race sessions, one aspect that never changed throughout my time with Gran Turismo Sport was the overall quality of drivers in each lobby. A lot of guys struggled to go more than a few corners without hopelessly careening off the circuit, with only the top three or four cars in a sixteen-man race being within the leader’s zip code. The highest level of online racing in Gran Turismo Sport was comparable to a 2am weeknight race in iRacing, where there are a couple of guys running a reasonable pace and level of consistency; the others establishing themselves as non-drivers only seconds into the event. The tangible increase in the field’s overall skill that you’re used to seeing in iRacing just didn’t exist in the GT Sport beta; I was at the top and people for the most part still sucked. In terms of growing an eSports community surrounding the title, right now it’s just not possible – there aren’t enough good, active drivers online at any given time for the highest split of each event to produce a compelling on-track product.

For many races, I was extremely bored. There was a night not too long ago where we went to Willow Springs in the street cars, and I think I was passed once in three races, with the guy choking the lead away after clipping the dirt. Part of the fun in iRacing is that you can run nose to tail with somebody, lap after lap, for eighth place. In GT Sport, you can tell most people on the grid are casual GT players, forced to partake in these online events due to the new direction of the game. And let me tell you, forcing non-drivers to get their shit stomped in an online match against literal aliens is a quick way to demoralize these players into never touching the game again, especially considering this isn’t what GT fans particularly wanted out of a Gran Turismo game.

This is compounded by the downright brutal track design regarding some of the fictional circuits available in GT Sport. Though the re-creations of Brands Hatch, Willow Springs, and the Nordschleife are fantastic, Polyphony have insisted on including bizarre fantasy circuits into the mix, I guess to give their fictional Gran Turismo world championship its own unique flair. The problem comes in just what kinds of circuits are available; the claustrophobic oval tracks breed disaster among even the most talented of iRacing restrictor plate drivers, meaning any journey to the two super ovals available in the game is an exercise in frustration; cars careening wildly off the concrete walls, and back into traffic for massive pileups that are basically unavoidable. On the road course side, atrocious layouts, such as the Tokyo Expressway, lead to prolonged chain reaction collisions which are virtually impossible to recover from.

How a team that has spent their entire professional existence studying auto racing and created layouts such as Midfield Raceway and the High Speed Ring, were able to go out and produce such horrific abominations that detract from the hyper-competitive eSports environment the game has been centered around, is pretty mind-blowing. The GeneRally World Forums boast significantly more driver-friendly track layouts, and in many cases they’re created by dudes with little more than Microsoft Paint and the standard track editor at their disposal.

Straight up, these tracks need to be removed from the final product. Maps like Killhouse and Shipment are fun in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, not the latest iteration of Gran Turismo.

Yet it’s in the driving physics where Gran Turismo Sport drops the ball in an enormous way. Though I did not personally grow up playing the classic known as Gran Turismo 4, I’ve at least done my homework and turned some laps at speed on an Emulator, as well as spent a decent chunk of time on Gran Turismo 6, making use of a custom save to unlock all the cars and try exactly what I’ve wanted to try. By comparison, Gran Turismo Sport is perplexing in that these prior games on inferior hardware actually handle a bit better than what Sport is trying to convey a race car drives like. I still have to reiterate that the street cars aren’t terrible – passable, even – but it seems anything that sends power to the rear wheels is pretty nonsensical to drive.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact tire model issue, primarily because Polyphony kept changing tire behavior in pretty fundamental ways from build to build. There were some updates where rear wheel drive cars had to be kept well below the limit, as any slip angle would cause a spin, only for the next update to introduce absolutely insane slip angles allowing you to carry downright ridiculous drifts, transforming GT3 machinery into D1GP participants. Polyphony’s inability to retain a consistent, somewhat realistic tire model is a huge cause for concern; the fact that the team was constantly pushing out drastic changes from build to build, all of which required completely different driving styles, is downright bizarre for a veteran team who should supposedly have their shit together given their time spent in the industry. This game has been development for a number of years, and yet it was like every few weeks we were being handed a brand new, amateur rFactor mod with experimental tires. I just don’t understand how all of this money, time, and legacy can result in such questionable tire behavior.

At 80% attack, it was okay. But the moment you started to push, it’s like you could physically feel the tire model calculations generating absurd oddities.

Now given my extensive time spent on iRacing in the past, I’m not opposed to sitting down and learning the nuances of a crazy tire model, but the biggest problem that arose from this situation is how GT Sport calculated force feedback, and then sent those effects through the steering wheel. GT Sport does not let you completely disable force feedback effects, resulting in a situation where even at the lowest settings, you are still subjected to what Polyphony thinks a race car steering wheel does at competition speeds. Long story short, their assumptions are incorrect.

The virtual steering rack has been designed to convey what’s happening at not just the front tires, but the rear tires as well, meaning the team are awkwardly trying to convey wheel spin from a rear wheel drive car, through the steering rack, which is something that does not happen in real life. I was like a fish out of water taking my virtual Corvette C7.R to the Nordschleife, as anytime I tried to power out of a corner and get up on the outside rear tire, the force feedback would try to shimmy the steering wheel out of my hand, showering me with canned effects that were counter-intuitive to the driving situation at hand.

Here you have a professional developer with what’s probably the biggest budget in sim racing, believing wheel spin at the ass end of the car generates hand-of-god forces through the steering wheel on corner exit. It’s insane, and it’s the biggest reason as to why I dropped the beta of Gran Turismo Sport. Polyphony are genuinely clueless on this front, with the entire force feedback model being loaded with intrusive canned effects at all ends of the handling spectrum. It’s just… Dumb…

And that’s a sentiment that summarizes the Gran Turismo Sport beta – and possibly the full game itself – in a nutshell. Helping turn the subgenre of racing simulators into a household name which now adorns race car windshield banners across the globe, it’s incredible that a prestigious team like Polyphony Digital, with their endless resources available to create a top-flight modern simulator, have instead come across as profoundly amateurish and unprepared for their jump into the world of eSports.

Unaware of what’s transpiring within the sim racing ecosystem, blissfully ignorant of already established trends and player bases, they have gone out and built a structured online environment for a crowd who largely aren’t interested in such a thing. Gran Turismo Sport is fun for those who finish on the podium, but for those looking for that all-encompassing world of car culture, the beta was an exercise in frustration, constantly belittling casual players for their driving mistakes, and forcing them to play only when they were allowed to. And with races so woefully short, and the competition unable to hold a candle to the elite fields on home computers, waiting around all day for the nine chaotic sprint races per night isn’t something a lot of people want to do. iRacing worked because it took direct aim at the diehards and built something precisely for them. Gran Turismo Sport built something for the iRacing crowd, and then targeted it at an audience expecting the next Gran Turismo.

See a problem? Polyphony didn’t, but everyone else sure as hell does.

They also didn’t do a good job of building their own version of iRacing, if the beta is anything to go by. Track design is woefully inadequate and doesn’t provide exciting races, but rather enormous wreckfests thanks to fictional circuits loaded with an abundance of concrete walls within close proximity to the racing surface. iRacing works because it makes use of solely real world circuits, professional and amateur motorsports facilities that were obviously designed with safety, excitement, and door-to-door racing in mind. Gran Turismo Sport’s trial facilities are clearly designed to be artistic masturbation with a racing circuit thrown somewhere in the foreground. We get it Polyphony, you make pretty games, but there’s a cluster of cars blocking the track, and no Tokyo sky scrapers will offset the mess in front of me that’s no fault but your own.

It’s frustrating, because we’ve been told by marketing propaganda and mainstream websites that Gran Turismo is the pinnacle of modern driving simulators, and one of Sony’s flagship pieces of software to persuade you into buying whatever model of PlayStation is currently being sold on store shelves. Unfortunately, Gran Turismo’s driving model is simply not convincing in the slightest, and the drastic changes between tire iterations in the beta make it hard to believe Polyphony even understand what the fuck they’re doing. If DiRT 4 by Codemasters confused the shit out you with questionable off-road physics, Gran Turismo Sport has somehow managed to bring that same experience to tarmac circuit racing. For an indie team, many would be able to look past this, but we’re talking about Polyphony here. It’s not simcade by any means – the general speeds, feel of mass, and shifting points are correct – but the tires are flat out nonsensical. How they’ve gotten to that point despite all the resources available, I have no fucking idea.

Overall, the Gran Turismo Sport closed beta was a disappointment, and I am not looking forward to the final product this fall. The online competition was lackluster, the driving physics were not satisfying, the track design was poor, races were too short, and vehicles were incredibly unbalanced. For a team the size of Polyphony to shit out something so underwhelming, it’s clear their best days are behind them, and Gran Turismo does not deserve the widespread recognition it currently possesses.


What are Polyphony Doing? GT Sport Beta 1.05

There will undoubtedly be cries from avid Gran Turismo supporters claiming that I’m either paid directly or subtly pushed to rip on the competition in this manner, but truth be told Polyphony have dug this increasingly bizarre grave all on their own and no outside forces are needed to report on the truth – this is simply not “The Real Driving Simulator” that’s been advertised. A rather hefty nine gigabyte update dropped for the closed Gran Turismo Sport beta earlier this morning, promising physics improvements and general accessibility refinements that saw races take place across all hours, meaning those who willingly wanted to subject themselves to a full twenty four hours of online racing in this elaborate testing phase were now free to do so. Unfortunately, all this update has done is solidify the fact that Polyphony Digital are simply not the team they used to be, and no longer capable of building any sort of racing simulator that can hold a candle to Gran Turismo 4’s legacy – a game that while nearly perfect in it’s own right, still had some significant flaws.

Is the trial version of Gran Turismo Sport a beautiful game? Yes, in fact it’s objectively the best looking driving game of this console generation. But no matter how smooth the framerate or how advanced the lighting engine is, graphics alone don’t complete the experience, they merely enhance it. I find it comical that many major outlets are praising the visual qualities of the title, because once you’ve gotten past the element of photorealism, there’s still not much here to convince me that Gran Turismo Sport will part the red sea and unleash sim racing’s potential as a major eSports genre.

When I last covered Gran Turismo Sport, my key observations were pretty simple to comprehend: most GT fans I raced against struggled to remain on the track, the tire model was woefully simplistic (and often unrealistic), sim-style configuration settings such as cockpit seat adjustments and field of view were nowhere to be found, the races were too short, and vehicles were absurdly unbalanced. This created an overall experience that was boring, bland, and repetitive; the Gran Turismo Sport that existed in peoples’ heads, as well as in press material released by Polyphony themselves, is far more interesting than booting up and playing Gran Turismo Sport in the flesh.

Sadly, there are even more problems to report with the newest update, and it’s why I continue to be abrasive towards what Polyphony have built, rather than understanding and patient.

The Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, and the GT4-spec Nissan GTR, are still leaps and bounds ahead of any other car on the grid, to the point where you are guaranteed to lose a race unless you select the leaderboard car just like everybody else. I’m fully aware that real life GT4 and GT3 sports car racing each make use of an extremely intricate performance balancing system regulated by the FIA because each vehicle is constructed in such a vastly different fashion, but given that in the virtual world we’re merely working with 3D models and numbers, you’d think Polyphony would have taken some precautions to ensure a level playing field prior to unleashing this stuff on the general public. This does not appear to be the case, as unless you’ve been lucky enough to unlock one of the leaderboard cars manually through the game’s random reward system, you’re not going to contend for a win.

As you can see in the above image, over half of the grid showed up to the Nordschleife with a Nissan GTR, and the guys on the front row stomped us, even though for the first sector I could see them constantly putting tires in the grass, blowing their racing lines, and making contact with each other. This was a problem for several weeks in the last build, and the problem has obviously not been fixed, even though Polyphony claim to have been obsessing over online race results. Every N300 event I have participated in, a Lancer Evo X has won, and every GT4 event I’ve raced, a GTR has taken the top spot. The insult to injury is how menus claim some sort of BOP formula has been applied to your car, only for each race to play out in such a lopsided fashion regardless. If Gran Turismo Sport ships with these same balance problems, especially if there are any micro-transactions that allow you to obtain the top cars early, there will be substantial outrage. Showing up with an inferior car isn’t the same as in PC sim racing, where a good driver sporting a competent setup can out-wheel his opponents. Here, people basically walk by you, slide all over the place, and within a minute they’re over the horizon. It’s silly.

I don’t think the garage menu is terrible, in fact I like how there’s been a slight reduction in options to just the main suspension, downforce, and gearing elements, but what really blows my mind is the spring rate slider. Unlike modern PC racing sims, which give you about eight different types of springs to select from, GT Sport provides you with an analog slider down to one decimal place, meaning it’s a genuine pain in the ass just to tweak your springs. Whereas in rFactor, it’s a few clicks to go from 650 to 800, Gran Turismo Sport makes you sit there and manually click from 1231.9, to 1232.0, to 1232.3.

Of course, you can hold the D-Pad to scoot ahead, but it just feels clunky when compared to how the rest of the available options work. Give us like, eight or ten springs per car, in 50 lbf increments, and we’ll be good. I don’t know why this was completely ignored. These guys have had a solid decade of modern simulators to examine, and yet this is probably the most counter-intuitive menu slider I’ve seen.

As I’ve mentioned above, races now rotate entirely throughout the day. The previous beta of GT Sport always held the Group N races at 5PM local time, before moving on to GT4 at 6PM, and finally, the big cars at 7PM. This has been changed so the three-class format is on a constant cycle. I was able to find a decent-sized GT4 race at three in the morning, so there’s certainly no issue when it comes to the number of people playing this – especially considering it’s a closed beta you had to apply for – but I would have liked to see a finite number of users registered for each race. As Gran Turismo Sport experiences a natural drop-off in the number of users post-launch, it would be nice to have a way – like iRacing – that lists the exact amount of people signed up prior to each event so those putting aside an hour or two for online racing didn’t end up wasting their time.

But because this is a hardcore sim blog, what you’re all here for is to learn about the driving physics. Previously, I complained that the race cars felt like vague, understeering, lifeless hovercrafts that lost rear end grip at 180 km/h in fourth gear, requiring you to completely lift off the pedal and gently re-apply power, losing several precious seconds of on-track real estate in the process. It was an absolute joke to drive, and I could not fathom how a team with such exclusive access to real world race teams was able to compose a virtual car so inaccurate, after basically bragging non-stop for the past decade about how Gran Turismo was a worldwide phenomenon and it’s transcended mere racing simulators into a car culture thing or whatever OUTRIGHT FUCKING BULLSHIT they tried to feed people.

As you can see in the above video, things have now swung in the complete opposite direction. They’re still lifeless hovercrafts, but you can now flat-foot these massive lazy slides with reckless abandon. There is no art or talent to driving the top level cars as there should be; you merely steer in the direction you want to go, and if the back end breaks loose, you wiggle the wheel once while keeping the throttle pinned to your floor. I am up-shifting into third gear at full power while in a thirty degree slide, and Gran Turismo’s physics couldn’t care less about a situation that in any other simulator – or real life – would spell total disaster.

Usually I go out of my way to defend games like Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo, deeming their critics to be elitist PC sim pigs who dickwave about playing “superior” games before running in rFactor leagues with 5% damage and no required pit stops, but this shit right here justifies the years they’ve spent ripping on the console crowd. These driving physics, these tire physics, this experience, is totally unacceptable for what’s being advertised by Polyphony. I am drifting a purpose-built, ultra stiff, high downforce race car for multiple laps, and it’s as if there’s a hand of god gluing my car to the racing surface.

I would love to come out and say my console has been hacked, and that international spies have given me a corrupted beta of Gran Turismo Sport to falsely smear another sim developer, but what has been unfolding on my computer monitor is absolutely horrifying. Polyphony are trying to convince Gran Turismo fans that hanging a GT3 car out at full throttle like it’s a D1GP entry constitutes as “updated driving physics,” while running around to major gaming news outlets acting as if this is the rebirth of Gran Turismo, and the game is so accurate you’ll be able to use your pretend race car license obtained in-game as proof that you’re qualified to pilot a real one, not to mention participate in officially sanctioned FIA tournaments.

It’s… perplexing. Gran Turismo Sport has been eagerly anticipated by a lot of people, and the beta – and it’s subsequent updates – only continue to disappoint. I purchased a PlayStation 4 and Logitech G29 primarily for this game, as I knew it would be some sort of major online racing platform that would attract far more racers than any game before it, but instead I’ve only been left questioning what in the hell has happened. I personally don’t believe Gran Turismo 4 was over-rated and the company has been merely riding that success for over a decade, so after playing GT Sport I’m basically left confused as to how such a prolific studio – and franchise – could fall this far.