Review: Gran Turismo (PSP)October 12th, 2009 | Written by Chris Selogy | Topic: Reviews, Sony PSP
Being one of the first games that were revealed for the PSP about five years, it was certainly a surprise to see Gran Turismo make a grand reappearance at E3 a few months ago when it was assumed to have been cancelled a long time ago. This edition of Gran Turismo on the PSP provides a ton of cars and tracks for what you’d expect to fit on a UMD, but the weird approach to how they structure the racing itself will certainly be the deciding factor for most Gran Turismo fans. There is an interesting feature that may make this a necessity for those that are anticipating Gran Turismo 5’s release next year.
Just to get it out of the way right away, there is no career mode in Gran Turismo. There isn’t any kind of structured mode to design how you go through races to gain credits to buy better cars to get to the end. What is there is a simple Driver Challenge mode that is basically a renamed version of the License Tests that evolves into more challenging scenarios that aren’t boring ways to test your braking abilities, but are a great way to teach you how to drive and how to approach different situations. The other main method of racing is more of an a la carte option to set-up the race types, tracks, and cars you use in whatever way you desire for multiplayer or single-player races. The entire point of these modes is to gain credits and visit the dealership to buy new cars in sort of a weird way to rework the way Gran Turismo usually works to more of a portable-friendly system of trading and grinding for credits.
Polyphony did put a rank system into Gran Turismo to at least give you more of a reason to play those single-player races more than you would if there were something more attractive to occupy your time. The rank system is basically a letter grade for each of the 70 tracks and track variants that starts with an easy D race and goes up to the very challenging A races after beating the lower-ranked races that will require you to have a great car and some skill to beat the tougher AI. Doing some simple math, that’s about 280 races of increasing difficulty spread over race, city, original, and dirt/snow tracks that will definitely require a decent-sized garage of cars to beat them all. There are two other types of races outside of the standard style of racing, which is a time trial event and the drift trial event that returns from its original appearance in Gran Turismo HD. It may not sound like the most exciting mode in the world, but it at least offers a simple way to get into races that works well for a portable game.
The other divisive feature in Gran Turismo is how the dealership is handled to create an artificial sense of rarity for some of the 830 cars that are in the game. Instead of being able to browse the offerings of all manufacturers at any time, there are just four manufacturers that are available in the dealership with a random selection of their cars on any day. These aren’t real world days, but the in-game days that advance to the next after a race or a session in the Driver challenge mode, so you don’t need to spend too much time to see new cars. This artificial choking of the cars you can purchase is a bit disappointing for those OCD players that definitely want to get all 830 cars, though the trading and sharing options can help those that just want a full garage quickly without earning it. The reason you’d want to even go through all of the work is that you will be able to import most, if not all, of your cars into Gran Turismo 5 whenever it comes out next year.
The pure racing experience in Gran Turismo really doesn’t change much of anything here and maybe even takes a step or two backwards for those that expect more from Gran Turismo these days. The racing itself feels quite good, but at about the level it was in GT4 with some limitations that might or might not be a big deal to you. There are no penalties for racing aggressively or cheating by cutting across the track, which means that you can take advantage of the arbitrary limitations that the AI abides by in races without repercussions. The cockpit view does make an appearance here, but with quite a few sacrifices just to get it to be functionally good without any of the visual bonuses you’d expect, like the driver, steering wheel, and gauges, and graphical glitches that suggest that Polyphony cut a lot of corners to get it in working condition. The controls are full customizable, though the lack of pressure sensitive buttons on the PSP might be an issue for anybody that relied on that.
Gran Turismo is definitely a very good-looking game on the PSP, at least when not in cockpit view. The cars do look great and it’s easy to see that Polyphony spent more time on them than anything else, so don’t expect the tracks to look as good as they did in GT4. The framerate is very solid the vast majority of the time, though you’ll mostly see issues in busy backgrounds when the engine cuts corners to try to get it as close to 60 FPS as it can. There are nice details on the Nurburgring course while the dirt and snow tracks tend to look the worst of any of the tracks here due to blurry textures. The presentation is very good most of the time, but the cockpit view looks so poor with a blacked-out interior, unusable rearview mirror, and graphical glitches that it almost makes us not want to use what is a very usable view otherwise.
The soundtrack in Gran Turismo is full of the standard lounge and Euro-techno music that is a trademark of the series, but once you complete one of the early series in the Driver Challenge mode, you unlock the series’ first custom soundtrack option. Though it requires you to put your music in the general music folder or a specific GTPSP folder, the ability to play your own music during races with relative ease is a great feature that should please those that plan to put a lot of time into the game. The sound effects for the cars during the race do sound pretty good, though you should wear headphones if you want the full effect of the music and race sounds.
Another great feature is the install feature, which installs nearly all of the necessary files onto your memory stick (about 930 MB) for an amazing 70% decrease in load times, from the average 35 seconds to load a race down to 10 seconds and the usual ten seconds of loading for dealership and other random parts of the game down to virtually nothing. This is almost an obvious advertisement of the digital version on PSN or a much larger memory stick for music and the install file, so you have options to get the most efficient experience to fit your preferences.
Gran Turismo’s feature set doesn’t really seem to be worth the $40 that Sony’s asking for the game, so the premium price means this game is just for those with a hankering for a GT game that need something to do until you’re able to transfer the cars you collect into Gran Turismo 5 next year. Everyone else can probably make use of a rental or wait for a sale or price drop before picking it up, if you’re not limited by a recent purchase of a PSP Go. While it may be a bit later than PSP owners in 2005 expected, what we did end up with is a pretty good portable version of Gran Turismo that doesn’t have everything we’d expect out of a portable iteration of this series.