Gran Turismo has always had its faults, and the PSP version adds a few more. But Gran Turismo is also one of the greatest real-world physics sims around, and the PSP version doesn't change that a bit. Throw in a portable 800-car garage and it's hard to complain for too long.
- Excellent graphics
- Detailed vehicle simulation
- Enormous collection of cars and tracks
- Limited vehicle tuning options
- Not much of a multiplayer game
As you might know, Gran Turismo is a game about driving cars. On the cover, Sony has always billed it as “The Real Driving Simulator,” which is as neat a summation of the series as anyone’s ever come up with. On the PSP, Gran Turismo is missing a few things that we’ve come to expect from these games. It doesn’t let players tune and tweak their cars quite so much as the console editions do, for instance. It’s also missing a few things that fans have always hoped that they could one day expect from the series, like an online multiplayer mode.
The main thing we’ve always expected from GT, though, is a rock-solid vehicle simulation. We definitely get that here, along with a huge, sprawling catalog of cars. Given around 800 rides to collect and drive on more than 30 tracks, it’s easy enough to look past a few conspicuous omissions.
Like Real Life, But Less Expensive
Shrunk down for the PSP, Gran Turismo’s physics simulation still works as well as it ever has. Even on the PSP, there’s more than enough feedback to convey the sensation of speed, the texture of the track, the feeling of lateral G-force in the turns. Different kinds of cars handle like they should, whether it’s a front-wheel-drive Honda nosing its way around the track or a mid-engined supercar on the verge of sliding end for end. Piloting powerful racers like Le Mans prototypes is a genuine challenge – because they derive so much stability from aerodynamic downforce, you have to keep them at a fairly terrifying speed just to stay on an even keel.
Visually, the portable version sits somewhere between Gran Turismo 2 and Gran Turismo 3. The texture and model quality are far better than what we saw on the PlayStation, but they can’t quite compare to the PS2, and the lighting and other effects are likewise a bit behind the last console generation. The PSP engine throws in some nifty-looking special effects like motion blur, though, and some cars show off appropriately realistic animating bits. Bugatti’s new Veyron, for instance, accurately deploys its little pop-up rear wing at high speed, and the mud flaps of rally racers flutter in the wind.
The single-player mode doesn’t have an organized collection of race events. Players can simply set up whatever races they choose, and the game calculates a reward for each race win depending on the challenge level – what course, how many laps, what kind of competition.
On the one hand, there isn’t the same feeling of solid progression as in the traditional “driving life” modes from the earlier games. On the other hand, many players may appreciate the ability to progress at their own pace and race however they want to. If you feel like diving straight into 50 laps of the Nürburgring, go right ahead. For drifting fans, the PSP game also throws in a well-implemented “drift trial” mode, where you’re judged on your ability to slide sideways in the turns. Drifting in GT isn’t nearly as easy as drifting in Need for Speed or Daytona USA, but it’s great fun with the right kind of tail-happy car.
The Garage Is Closed
When it comes to tuning your cars, there’s no catalog of aftermarket parts to buy. Instead, certain race modes simply let you alter certain characteristics of certain machines. Some cars allow adjustments to their power and torque within a given range, and most have adjustable handling characteristics, like ride height, spring rate, downforce, and others.
Altogether, the tuning options aren’t nearly as varied as they are in the console Gran Turismos, and that’s unfortunate. It’s always been fun to give ordinary cars an outlandish high-performance makeover – how would a Toyota Camry handle with 15 pounds of boost pressure and $15,000 worth of racing suspension? Sad to say, we can’t find out here.
What the PSP game lacks in the aftermarket department, though, it makes up for with a simply massive selection of cars. There’s a ride for just about every taste imaginable – muscle cars, supercars, World Rally Championship off-roaders, dinky little three-cylinder Japanese econoboxes, even some souped-up American pickup trucks. It’s an amazing library of automotive history, particularly considering the number of one-off concepts and race machines that, in real life, will never actually be driven again. You could play GT for weeks and never drive the same thing twice.
O Solo Mio
That’s where the game’s appeal still lies, in the chance to experience driving so many different cars. Objectively speaking, it’s too bad that the multiplayer mode is limited to ad-hoc, in-person matches, but the fact of the matter is that GT has never been any great shakes as a competitive game, and the PSP version is no exception. There are still plenty of ways to “cheat” on certain tracks (the lack of a car damage system makes it easy to cut corners on courses like Fuji Speedway), and the mechanisms used to handicap different cars aren’t very precise.
Depending on how you define the word, then, GT isn’t a very good “racing” game, since the essence of the game doesn’t encourage you to take on friends so much. It helps to consider what it says on the cover, though. As a driving simulation, where the competition’s just between you, your car, the track, and the clock, there still isn’t much else to match Gran Turismo.