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.


I’d Rather Play DriveClub than Gran Turismo Sport

A few more days, a few more laps, and a few more sessions of play have pretty much cemented how I feel about Gran Turismo Sport – or at least the beta, if I’m to add that important disclosure to the beginning of the article. Jumping into the closed trial period relatively late in the ballgame compared to most PlayStation 4 owners who signed up for beta codes, I was excited to see Polyphony’s take on iRacing’s established variant of online racing, one which brought structured competition and scheduled event start times to a franchise that has traditionally been all about just sort of firing up the software and fucking around for a few hours within a giant automotive sandbox. There were no lunar rovers, no coffee breaks, nor classic Gran Turismo locales such as Trial Mountain or the High Speed Ring to be found in the closed beta for Gran Turismo Sport, only nine short sprint races per evening spread evenly across three classes.

As I wrote in my original post on Gran Turismo Sport, I liked the premise of what Polyphony were doing from a design standpoint. The franchise desperately needed to evolve in a way that was fresh and exciting, as the series had been eclipsed by everything from Forza Motorsport to select Need for Speed titles in recent years, becoming a shadow of its former self by regurgitating old PlayStation 2-era car models and uninspiring events against dim-witted artificial intelligence. Moving into iRacing’s territory seemed like the right call on paper, as the market has been desperate for a competitor to what the hardcore PC sim offers for a number of years now, but my first night with the game – as Shaun Cole from The SimPit would say – just wasn’t a great shared experience.

While I had fun turning clean laps and acquiring sportsmanship points to progress quickly through the ranks, brushing aside the very GT-like oddities such as the inability to adjust the cockpit camera’s field of view, my competitors struggled to keep their vehicles pointed in the right direction, the software doing little to retain their interest. For every sim racer like me who was stoked to have a rival to iRacing on the market, fully buying into the experience Polyphony had crafted, there were twenty Gran Turismo fans throwing their DualShocks in agony as they blasted into a sand trap. GT Sport is only fun if you’re good at Gran Turismo, and not many people are what you’d call good at Gran Turismo. For them, it is a sandbox, not a worldwide competition, and no longer does the game allow them to play it like one.

But the point of this follow-up article isn’t to merely re-review the closed beta of Gran Turismo Sport, because that would be extremely boring for our readers to have what’s basically the same discussion all over again. Instead, I come to you guys as a warning of sorts. As a simulator, at least in its current state, Gran Turismo Sport is embarrassingly bad, and is actually eclipsed by an arcade racer when it comes to vehicle dynamics. Obviously they still have a fair bit of time to get it right – I believe the April 20th release date rumor is a hoax – but for how big both Gran Turismo and Polyphony are, and how much notoriety the franchise has earned over the past decade and a half, not to mention the near-limitless resources fueling the project which the dev team have access to, Gran Turismo Sport drives like absolute shit. In about three days of casual play I was able to climb the ranks from entry-level racer to competing in top split events, the game’s highest seeded online lobbies for each scheduled race session, and the way you need to drive the cars at the limit is nonsensical.

In fact, Driveclub does it better. Yes, a racing game that was originally intended to be a launch title for the PlayStation 4 before being subjected to numerous delays and eventually released unfinished and supported by an entire second game’s worth of downloadable content, drives much more predictably than The Real Driving Simulator.

Above is a clip taken from my own personal YouTube account of what at the time was a world record run for the Mercedes AMG GT3 at Salar De Surire in Driveclub. Though the force feedback in Driveclub is horrendous, and there’s actually a glitch of sorts in which the game doesn’t properly save your FFB percentage as configured in the options menu – meaning you have to flick the toggle back and forth to the desired level every time you start the application for it to register – what Driveclub gets right is in how it handles a rough approximation of basic race car physics. On corner entry, you can see me flaring the rear end to get the car to rotate a bit better, whereas other corners I merely power through the understeer, and at the twenty second mark, I lean on the sidewall quite hard for the treacherous hairpin that defines the first half of the track, still accelerating in third gear while maintaining a bit of slip angle at corner exit. I’m almost full throttle, but you can tell there’s a bit of hesitation, and see the nose wiggle a few times while I’m counter steering – that’s because for being an arcade game, Driveclub’s tires still feel like they’re made of rubber, and you have to drive in a manner that’s somewhat realistic.

Another clip from my account, this time at the Port of Vancouver circuit that was added as downloadable content, displays that while Driveclub clearly has some sort of semi-canned drift effect built into the software that allows you to execute long slides for skill points, keeping the car below that canned drift effect still generates pretty reasonable behavior. In the tracks’ final hairpin which begins at thirty two seconds into the clip, you can see the car wiggle a whole bunch on corner exit – again exhibiting a bit of slip while I counter steer and put the power down. It’s a handful to deal with and a bit tricky to figure out at first without the car launching into a full-on slide, but as a driver you can feel Evolution Studios built some kind of half-competent tire model into Driveclub that lets you free the car up in a corner and get up on the sidewalls, or at least hold a slip angle on corner exit.

The point I’m trying to make, is that Driveclub, while an arcade game from start to finish, has some semblance of a simulator. You can actually rotate the rear end as you would in a simulator for better turn-in, and power through with the ass end of the car wiggling about. Not only is it great fun to have real world driving skills apply in what’s supposed to be a lighthearted romp in exotic locations, this is how you set world records and other miscellaneous top times in Driveclub. Who would have thought that driving in a realistic fashion, in an arcade game, would be the fastest way around the track? Sure, you can hammer the downshift paddle and camp out on the sidewalls for massive bends, but when you’re doing it, the inputs required, and how the car reacts to corrections, makes sense.

On the flip side, Gran Turismo Sport does not exhibit any of this behavior. The Group N300 street cars offered in the game, which as of this writing are mostly AWD or FWD sedans judging by the lineups I’ve competed against, all exhibit varying levels of understeer because that’s what all AWD or FWD cars do by nature in real life, so the problems of the tire model Gran Turismo Sport relies upon don’t really come to light. However, as you progress up the ladder, the cars everyone will be striving to purchase and compete in once the game hits store shelves, are basically nonsensical.

I’ve been driving the GT4 Hyundai Genesis for all of my time in GT Sport’s Group 4 class, and posted a top ten qualifying time at the Nordschleife – though I was admittedly dusted by guys using the all-wheel drive Nissan’s (Earth to Polyphony, you have balance issues). I found it impossible to free the car up; you were either neutral or suffered from varying levels of understeer, and the car felt as if it had the weight of a fullsize truck. GT4 cars in real life are somewhat nimble, but for the life of me I just couldn’t get the car to rotate properly around corners. There was no sidewall, no rubber flex, or anything that felt like weight was shifting to the outside portion of the car as I’d go around a corner. You drove in a way that was very much like a hovercraft; you’d slow to a rate of speed that would not generate any type of understeer, and retained that speed until the corner opened up. It made hitting lines very easy, but also caused the driving experience to feel stiff and lifeless. I didn’t know how to beat people off corners or ask for that extra 10% from the car.

When I did try to stretch the rear tires to their limit of adhesion, the car would literally snap in a debilitating death slide that would instantly cause me to lose all of my forward progress, therefore rendering that driving style useless. Whereas I could get up on the sidewall in Driveclub and power off of a corner in pursuit of a tenth or another car, Gran Turismo Sport flicked a switch and sent the car dead sideways. It is impossible to hold a slip angle, impossible to power out of a corner, impossible to lean on the sidewalls, and in general asking far too much from the tire model to drive Gran Turismo Sport as you would any other simulator, or a real car.

Transitioning to the GT3 class at Willow Springs magnified this problem exponentially, with the race above highlighting just how prominent the tire model woes are among the best drivers the game has to offer. The second sector at Willow Springs sees you race to the top of the hill before embarking on a journey to the lowest point of the property, and in other simulators this track is genuinely a lot of fun because it’s basically a roller coaster where you gain tons of speed from the elevation changes. Yet in GT Sport, merely breathing on the throttle at 100 km/h in third gear would send your car into a death slide, and as you explore the three heat videos I’ve uploaded from Willow Springs, my front windshield is full of guys jumping sideways either at the center of the corner, or at corner exit. This is not what GT3 cars do by any stretch of the imagination.

There is no sidewall flex, no lateral grip, and no slip angles to be held whatsoever; you’re basically driving on plastic Hot Wheels tires. Hell, this one guy in front of me is fucking sideways at 180 km/h over a gentle crest, and if you look closely at my steering inputs (the white dot is the center point, the red dot is steering), I’m sideways too. These cars generate almost three thousand pounds of downforce and are designed with rich amateur drivers in mind, yet Gran Turismo believes that they will try to kill you at 180 km/h in a wide open corner.

The biggest problem for Polyphony to sort out prior to the launch of Gran Turismo Sport, is implementing a tire model that actually makes sense to drive. Yes, while many Gran Turismo fans will be put off by the sudden change in priorities that force them to become amateur eSports competitors whether they like it or not, people will stick around if the driving experience is fun, intuitive, and something they can master with practice. Currently, it is not – the most prolific name in the history of sim racing have a physics team who currently believe sticky rubber slicks generate the same handling characteristics as a children’s die-cast car.

As a result, Gran Turismo Sport is absolutely brutal to drive, and has been out-done by an arcade game that almost didn’t come out at all. Polyphony need to get their shit together if they want Gran Turismo Sport to succeed, or even partially live up to the tagline of the franchise as the real driving simulator. Last time I checked, Vadim Kogay embarrassed himself at Monza because he had poor racecraft, not because his Ferrari 458 Italia jumped sideways when he did so much as breathe on the throttle pedal at 180 clicks.

An Evening with the Beta of Gran Turismo Sport

It gets some elements right, but not quite enough to convince longtime fans that eSports are the future. A total flub on my part, I discovered the Gran Turismo Sport beta code sitting in my PlayStation 4 account inbox – two weeks after it had been delivered. Missing out on the first wave of online shenanigans, I immediately downloaded the 17 gigabyte install – listed as Version 1.04 – to get myself up to speed as quickly as possible. While several longtime Gran Turismo fans have blasted the series’ drastic change from automotive Japanese RPG to online racing platform, I was quite optimistic about what was in store for this brief portion of the upcoming racing simulator; it’s essentially iRacing for the PlayStation 4, capitalizing on the worldwide recognition of the Gran Turismo brand to reel in an exponentially larger userbase under what’s largely the same premise – clean, organized online racing.

Yet four to six hours later, after exhausting all of the current in-game options, I can’t say I’m all that excited to see what the complete package has in store. The parts of it that I personally enjoyed, I’m not under the impression will captivate the mass-market audience typically reached by the Gran Turismo franchise. It’s too hardcore-oriented for a series that has done an alright job of giving everybody something to do, including the gamers who just want to dick around in an automotive sandbox. And on the negative end of the spectrum, what Gran Turismo Sport doesn’t do well, serve to be reasons why the experiment just won’t work in the way Polyphony Digital are planning. It’s shaping up to be a game that IGN or Gamespot will give a 6 or 7 out of 10 because they just didn’t have fun with it at the end of the day, and fans of Gran Turismo will question what Polyphony were thinking.Let’s talk about how it drives, because being a hardcore-oriented sim blog, this is what a lot of you want to know first and foremost about the PlayStation 4’s flagship racing franchise. Based on the car you select, it can range from impressive to awful – directly in line with past Gran Turismo titles.

The beta includes three classes of cars, the slowest being Group N300 entries, the middle identifying as Group 4 – what we all recognize in the real world as the clubman GT4 class – whereas the quickest vehicles in the beta fall under the GT3 category, otherwise known as Group 3. Upon loading the game for the first time, Gran Turismo Sport hands you a random car in each of the classes as a “starter car”, with the game rewarding you with a fourth for putting in X amount of practice laps. I was handed the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X street car, a Hyundai GT4 entry, and a GT3-variant Jaguar, winning a Renault for the Group 3 class within about twenty minutes.

The street cars are nothing short of amazing and I was genuinely impressed once I dialed in the setup and began hot-lapping the Nordschliefe. Lap after lap of wheeling the Lancer Evo X, I noticed I was rolling onto the throttle with the same foot positioning and rhythm as I had been doing in my shitbox last year; powering through the understeer in a manner that felt extremely natural for a series that is often perceived to be unrealistic by PC sim racing elitists. Coupled with force feedback effects that were quite frankly incredible, I basically didn’t want to stop driving the Lancer at the Nordschleife. With setup values that were realistic for a street car – that’s right, the camber exploit from GT6 appears to have been fixed to the best of my knowledge – I eventually managed to attain seventh in the world on the currently listed Group N combination – which every user of GT Sport is funneled into, so there are a lot of people on that leaderboard.

You had to really work to keep the car balanced; braking early, letting forces transfer through the car, and plant in the center before powering off. With all assists disabled, you were punished if you got it wrong. Slow in, fast out was not a lame mantra repeated in an old performance driving book; it actually worked here. I wouldn’t go out and call GT Sport perfect in this regard, but it was pretty damn close. I was pissed I had been given an all-wheel drive car by the game, because I’d gotten excited to see how the game would handle something that sent all the power to the rear tires. I’ve gotta reiterate before we move on to the next topic, the street cars… Goddamn, they’re incredible.

My only complaint isn’t even related to the driving itself; the cockpit view is useless, with interior details taking up too much of the screen, no field of view or seat position adjustments are available, and I’m forced to make use of GT’s roof cam because so little of the monitor is actually dedicated to showing the road ahead.

Yet handed the keys to a GT4-spec Hyundai Genesis, this is where Gran Turismo Sport dropped the ball in a big way. Whereas the street cars are full of personality and beg to be driven to the limit, the race cars are embarrassingly bad. Devoid of feeling or even basic handling characteristics such as oversteer or understeer, the Hyundai Genesis was a lifeless hovercraft, with the Renault RS01 behaving in largely the same fashion aside from climbing the speed charts much quicker. With the Tokyo Expressway layout serving as a test facility for the Hyundai Genesis, I couldn’t believe how the same piece of software that genuinely impressed me at the Nordschleife only minutes earlier could do a complete 180-degree turn and provide such a horrible driving experience, just by switching the car.

There is no edge to the tire or suspension to lean on whatsoever; it’s a fucking hovercraft with wings that you brake, turn, point, and shoot. The most exciting, elaborate, radical cars in the game that every Gran Turismo Sport owner will aspire to acquire and drive after slugging it out in the lower classes are boring, bland, and uninspiring once you’re actually behind the wheel. It’s not just poor game design, it’s poor work on the part of Polyphony, who have in this instance been outclassed by amateur rFactor modders hastily throwing ripped GT3 car models and placeholder physics into one mega-mod for shits and giggles. The Ultimate GT3 Compilation 2.0 package on XtremeFactor is ten times the driving experience that Gran Turismo Sport is when it comes to GT3 cars. That’s how brutally pathetic GT Sport’s most prolific cars are to drive.

Yes, I mad. I don’t understand how one set of cars in the game are amazing, and the others are complete crap.

So the way the Gran Turismo Sport beta works is pretty simple; you can run qualifying laps at your leisure for any of the three listed races, and in a manner identical to iRacing, you register for one of these races during the registration window, and the session begins at a very specific time – usually about five minutes after registration closes. From a functionality point of view, it’s very easy to understand, especially if you’re familiar with iRacing as it’s literally the exact same process.

But here’s where Gran Turismo Sport fails as a concept. iRacing works, and has worked well for almost a decade, because almost every single person on the service lives, breathes, eats, and sleeps NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula One, GT3, V8 Supercars, or any of the other minor series featured on the service. The userbase on iRacing aren’t just adults with a Jeff Gordon t-shirt buried somewhere in their closet; they’re the kinds of people who can tell you what year certain lines around the track worked based on the quality of the racing surface, or give you a brief rundown on aerodynamic changes from season to season. The Gran Turismo audience, for the most part, does not take their racing as seriously as the iRacing crowd, and when you provide them with their own version of iRacing, the results are pretty disastrous.

In my first event, I had qualified twenty two whole seconds ahead of the Audi TT in second place, and I’m sure the picture above displays how competent the rest of the grid was. I spent eight or nine minutes lapping the Nordschleife by myself, with the nearest opponent anywhere from seven to ten seconds behind, effortlessly reeling in safety points that would undoubtedly go a long way towards leveling up. I really wish the game would have recognized I was a lot faster than an “E-class driver” given my pace, because stomping a field in this fashion wasn’t fun for anybody involved.

Now sure, I fit right in with the concept of checking out from the pack and making sure to stay on the track after being an iRacing member for several years, knowing that even if I was all alone, there was still some point in maintaining my composure and treating it like a real car, but warmup for the second race really drilled home how not many people are going to enjoy this to the extent I did.

The progression/safety system in Gran Turismo Sport requires you to be a competent sim racer and know what you’re doing behind the wheel to actually have fun with the game. That description does not fit the average Gran Turismo player, who could be seen helplessly skidding into the sand alongside their competitors. Yes, rookie races in iRacing are a shitshow in absolute bottom splits, but usually the top two or three guys are pretty decent and put on a good battle. This just didn’t happen here. I’ve never seen an entire field of cars struggle with the subject matter as badly as I have in GT Sport.

This problem was made worse today by Polyphony’s bizarre track selection. The GT4 cars today were sent to the Tokyo Expressway, a two-land highway with concrete barriers on either side of the road, meaning any mistakes made would send you ping-ponging through the field and force other drivers to plow straight into you, causing a never-ending crash. Polyphony have went through all this trouble of designing a racing game that awards points for not crashing into people, but then hold the races on tracks that are claustrophobic nightmares. I used this video in a previous article, but the same remains true; it’s a disaster. I was lucky to qualify on pole for all the races in Tokyo, but by the time we were on lap two of five, once again I couldn’t see anybody, and it wasn’t hard to guess what had happened. This is poor game design – make the game all about driving clean, and design layouts where track-blocking wrecks can happen after making slight contact with another car. This is just stupid.

But nothing rustled my jimmies more than the game’s fictional rendition of Bristol Motor Speedway, which served as the home for GT3 sports cars this evening. Events here were an absolute wreckfest, magnified by the game’s wonky trolling detection. Basically, if GT Sport assumes you’re going to absolutely plow into a guy, it will temporarily ghost your car so you don’t fuck his race up. It’s not a bad idea in theory, but the amount in which wrecks would happen at the pseudo-Bristol would fuck with the anti-shithead detection and create apocalyptic chaos – opponents would ghost and re-appear with every bit of on-track contact, meaning in some situations you could drive straight through other cars spinning in front of you, whereas in other instances you’d plow into the side of somebody. It was impossible to figure out how the algorithm worked, meaning races here were a total crap shoot. The ghosting would also kick in after minor door-to-door contact, so in some cases you could merely rub someone on a straightaway, ghost inside their car, and turn entire laps while inside their car.

This track straight up needs to be removed from the game. It is simply not fun in the slightest to dodge spinning cars and retarded online drivers who appear and disappear at complete random. You cannot avoid wrecks with any sort of consistency, you cannot drive in a pack with other cars because you’ll never know if the guy beside you is solid or transparent, and on top of it all, the racing isn’t fun. It’s high downforce cars on a short oval where the fastest line is right at the top. Even in a room with sixteen talented sim racers, what are you going to do, move someone up the race track into the wall to pass them? That doesn’t work.

It’s a beta, and everything will be subject to change, but at the moment, I feel Gran Turismo Sport just isn’t working in the way it’s supposed to. The street cars are unreal, and the visual quality needs to be seen in motion to be believed. The version of the Nordschleife in Gran Turismo Sport is insane, with the track surface texture exhibiting the best looking racing line in any video game ever. The force feedback is great, and though the GT fans will be taken for a ride with the massive emphasis towards competitive, clean, fair online racing, I dig it.

But dear God, the race cars suck, and it’s important to get those right when you put them on a pedestal and say “these are your ultimate goal when playing our game.” Uh, no thanks, they drive like ass. And while the overall race format and ranking system appears to work as it should – with all the sessions going off without a hitch and being extremely easy to understand how the process of joining an event works – it doesn’t mean a whole lot if everybody sucks and you’re at the front of the pack by yourself, while your opponents go screaming into sand traps and ping-pong off concrete walls back into traffic.

Yes, the higher ranks might provide better racing, but the same can be said about rounding your friends up for a private lobby session in DiRT 3 – any game can be good among the right people. The key thing is that Gran Turismo Sport is trying to introduce their own audience to a drastically different way to play the game, and it’s something I don’t see working out in the end. Everybody who wants something like Gran Turismo Sport, already own an iRacing membership that they enjoy very much, which means Polyphony are left with the mainstream audience, who will quite frankly be intimidated by what Gran Turismo Sport is and not be too keen on returning judging by the time I’ve put into the beta. GT Sport is only fun when you’re a competent driver competing against other competent drivers, and a vast majority of people who will buy GT Sport aren’t competent drivers, but rather guys who just had fun amassing a collection of cars and screwing around with all of the features. They aren’t going to like this.

It’ll be interesting to see what Polyphony does from here. I personally like the change in direction and just want more reasonable tracks thrown into the rotation, with the tires on the race cars completely re-done as well, but this is just really, really different compared to what GT fans are used to, and I don’t expect many to adapt in the way Polyphony have envisioned.

Is Gran Turismo Sport Already a Flop?

So because I use an alternate email account for both WordPress and my PlayStation 4 identity, which allows upwards of 20,000 emails to be diverted away from clogging up my personal account, I may have missed the Gran Turismo Sport closed beta code that arrived in my inbox on… wait for it… March 29th. Supposedly there were issues with Canadian citizens redeeming the code on the PlayStation store, as evidenced by this post on Reddit, but this appears to have been ironed out, and at the moment, Gran Turismo Sport is downloading.

A drastic departure from the series’ forte of mixing Japanese RPG grinding with a hefty yet lopsided roster of cars in some sort of open-ended single player campaign, Gran Turismo Sport looks to take direct aim at the eSports market and compete alongside iRacing when it comes to peer-to-peer competitive online racing, offering users an elaborate ranking system that places sim racers of a similar skill against each other. Though the game will still include a select array of traditional street cars to satisfy longtime fans of the series, the emphasis will be placed on the game’s own semi-fictional interpretation of GT3 & Prototype racing.

However, with a core audience not entirely sold on the eSports element, wishing for Gran Turismo to stay, well, Gran Turismo, Polyphony have already begun to realize this eSports experiment might not work out. The closed beta of Gran Turismo Sport contains two primary modes of play – Sport and Arcade – the former containing the game’s online world, while the latter allows sim racers to turn practice laps against either bots or an empty track. Polyphony have discovered that an overwhelming majority of users participating in the closed beta are not making use of the Sport mode as intended, but instead screwing around in offline practice, defeating the entire purpose of a game that has been built primarily for online eSports competition.

It was made very clear from the title’s initial announcement and subsequent promotional material that Gran Turismo Sport was built for online play, yet so few are willing to play the title online, Polyphony have been forced to entirely shutdown all single-player components of the beta in an effort to herd them like cattle into the game’s online servers.

While it’s very nice to see Polyphony taking their approach to eSports seriously, this may hint at a massive drop in popularity for the franchise when the title inevitably launches, which some are saying may come as early as April 20th. Polyphony Digital have built an entire game around online competition, and yet those who willingly signed up for the beta knowing the kind of focus Gran Turismo Sport would have compared to past games in the series, aren’t racing online. That’s not a good sign.

An overwhelming amount of footage depicting Gran Turismo Sport in action has been uploaded to YouTube thanks to the PlayStation 4’s sharing capabilities, and the results are less than ideal. The driving skill needed for something like Gran Turismo Sport to work well just isn’t there, as massive pile-ups and drivers frequently running into the grass make sifting through these videos a total chore to learn anything useful about the game, as questions hardcore sim racers such as myself may have are simply never answered.

Provided I can actually get into some sort of in-game action once my download completes, you’ll have a preview of Gran Turismo Sport in the next few days. If there’s anything specific you want to know about the title from a sim racer’s perspective, do not hesitate to leave a comment, and I’ll do my best to cover it in the next article on Gran Turismo Sport.

Closed Beta Confirms Gran Turismo Sport Will See the Light of Day

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 SportPolyphony’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.