Mmmmm, nothing like that new track smell. It’s the perfect cure to that nauseating “new car” smell of freshly glued plastic. A new location is a little more refreshing to breathe in, and different to play. I can smell the ocean air and hear the breeze hit the mountain with a calming whoosh. After a somewhat reluctant installation, this is what Gran Turismo Sport needed to draw me in. This wonderful track called Dragon Trail. Where’s that? Nowhere. This is a brand new make-believe racetrack for GT Sport and it brings some much-needed identity to make this feel like a brand new special videogame. As someone who’s played every world circuit track in dozens of racing games before, the new tracks in GT Sport are exciting. Not just because of the new scenery, but it’s a brand new stimulating challenge with new corners and layouts to learn.
After being reeled in by a brand new track, the car handling was the next thing to impress me. The amazing suspension model of Gran Turismo 6 is back and has been even more refined. After playing so much Forza this felt absolutely amazing to come back to. GT Sport feels a lot more realistic, but instead of making the game harder it has quite the opposite effect, giving you a lot more control over the car. On the very first lap of GT Sport I could feel the rear of the car under braking. I could straighten the car in time before losing the entrance to the corner. Even with Traction Control on and ABS on, it feels more alive than any other driving game I’ve played. The same basic principles apply but the difference in feel is big.
I feel like I’m already better at driving in this game after 1 day than several months of Forza, just because I can feel and adjust appropriately. I’m feeling a very quick sense of progression in my driving as my lap times improve every single lap. The PS4 controller is better than I expected as well. The triggers don’t feel as satisfying as the XB1 triggers, but they still do the job and the gyro sensor works well for steering with some quality feedback coming from the rumble. I forgot PS4 even had a gyro sensor until playing this but it works just like the Wii Wheel.
I had such a positive impression of this game and I hadn’t even gone online yet. Dragon Trail is a place full of wonder, but getting here isn’t easy. Without connecting online this game is very barebones, with just 5 tracks to play (actually just 3 tracks with 2 reverse layouts) in Arcade Mode. Underneath them is a big tease of tracks you can unlock by leveling up. More brand new names I hadn’t heard before like Blue Moon Speedway and Alsace got me really hyped. I need to play these. So how do I level up? Well, you pretty much have to go online with a PSN account. I could write a huge narrative about it but decided against it as I’m having a positive experience with the game. To sum it up briefly, having an internet connection will give you the latest patch. Having a PSN account will let you play it. So you quite simply need it unless you enjoy wading through menus of “Are you sure you don’t want a PSN account? Wink Wink”. You just need one to play, simple as that. Luckily however, you do not need PS Plus subscription. That’s just for online racing which is also a huge part of the game, but you aren’t missing out on content.
I still have a long way to go before experiencing the ups and downs of the full package, but I thought the game was so spectacular and fun to play that it was worth writing these initial impressions. It just feels really good. It’s also got quite the reputation for being inaccessible, which is true on the surface but the actual game is very inviting with a wealth of options for all skill levels. All you really need to do is make space for it and connect to it, like any good thing really. For a realistic driving game, it’s very refreshing to have a list of driving challenges in front of me instead of a grind. Some of the challenges are as easy as driving in a straight line, while on the other side of the spectrum you have hundreds of different ways to setup the car. The driving tests that made the first GT games are back, and there’s 64 challenge missions to tackle. It’s crazy that the game launched without any of this, but props to Polyphony Digital for turning this game into something worth playing. It’s time to knock over some cones.