Images courtesy of SCEA
About a year ago, I was at the "GT Explore" studio in Santa Monica sitting directly across from Gran Turismo creator Kazunori "Kaz" Yamauchi, talking to him about the finer points of the then freshly announced Gran Turismo Sport (GT Sport). At the time, the "PS4 Pro" was just a rumor, according Kaz, and GT Sport was slated to release at the end of 2016.
It's crazy how much can change in a year, isn't it? We now know the PS4 Pro wasn't a rumor, and shortly after that interview Kaz delayed GT Sport to "2017." Kaz attributed the delay to having "more time to perfect" the game.
A year later and GT Sport is back at E3, now armed with 4k resolution, a 60fps frame rate, and an HDR "wide color" gamut. It also has a release window; GT Sport is now slated to debut in "Fall 2017." Yes, I know it's not an exact date, but at least it's not a 6-month window. This is probably the smartest play for Sony, as releasing GT Sport in the fall will help them sell lots of PS4s and especially PS4 Pros this holiday season.
Kaz also announced that over 177 cars would be available at launch and all of them are in what was referred to as "Super Premium" quality. Essentially that means the car models were remodeled from the ground up (including those returning from GT6) to add enhanced detail. Car sounds were also revamped to make sure engine sounds were unique to their model.
I was invited by Sony to try out their new GT Sport build at E3 in a two-race heat pitted against other journalists from various outlets. However, I was the only one repping an automotive publication, so the pressure was on to do well.
The first race was at Brands Hatch; I went with the Bugatti Veyron and finished in third. The second race was rally, which I suck at, and I finished in a disappointing seventh place. Oh rally racing, you unforgiving bastard...
Despite the fact that I was racing for "the respect" as Brian O' Connor famously put, I made a point to pay attention to the game's visuals since those were the new marquee features (and likely the cause of the delay in the racing sim's release). I can honestly say that Gran Turismo Sport is very close to looking photo real.
The way the light reflects off the surfaces of the cars and the environments was stunning. The in-cockpit view revealed a high level of detail that only people who really love cars would notice.
When it comes to driving mechanics and physics, all I can say is: "It's Gran Turismo." The GT series is known for having some of the most realistic physics when it comes to console racers, and GT Sport is no exception. Despite accessibility for beginners, seasoned pros will find that there is nothing lost.
What about the VR? Well, unfortunately that experience wasn't quite as positive for me. I played GT Sport using Sony's own "PlayStation VR" headset and it just did not seem to deliver the experience I was hoping for. The PlayStation VR was generally more comfortable and lightweight than other VR headsets I've tried, but it was difficult to position it in a way that didn't blur my view.
Though there are so many variables involved, it's hard for me to say what the real cause of it was. It could be easy to say that GT Sport just wasn't well optimized for PlayStation VR, but could have just as well been the headset itself. Or maybe the PlayStation VR headset is generally pretty good but the particular one I was using was just very fogged up after two days of use by hundreds of sweaty humans? Who knows?
Despite the less-than-optimal VR experience, I think Gran Turismo Sport is still on track to do very well once it finally releases later this year. Call me cautiously optimistic — and I for one don't mind the setbacks in the name of getting the game just right for fans of the highly regarded series.