Review: Gran Turismo (PSP)

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Title: Gran Turismo
Format: UMD / PlayStation Network Download (937 MB)
Release Date: October 2, 2009
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Polyphony Digital
Original MSRP: $39.99
ESRB Rating: E
Gran Turismo (this version) is exclusive to PlayStation Portable.

Just to preface this review, I’m a longtime fan of the Gran Turismo series, and I own all of the previous titles, but I am in no way “hardcore” in these games. I love playing them all, and I do put a lot of time into them, but my attention has never really been spent on the finer points like tuning the cars or what vehicle does what on that certain track etc. Personally, I’m not a die-hard “car guy,” but I appreciate different cars and do have a couple of dream cars that I would personally like to own. This review will be more of an overview, and probably won’t cover specifics like if the handling on a Dodge Challenger feels correct on concrete, or that sort of thing.

Replay03

Visuals:
I was grabbed right away by how good this game looks on the PSP’s small screen. They’ve done a great job of giving the player as much screen space as possible while still offering a ton of data to the driver. There are 4 available driving views, including the In-Cockpit mode, which came as quite of a surprise to many people. Personally, I like the “on the hood” view, but I have used the cockpit mode as well. It’s very usable, and has the advantage in some vehicles by having two different mirrors, instead of merely the one normally afforded to the player. There is obviously some aliasing in the game, which becomes much more evident when played on a big screen via the PSP Component Cables, but on the smaller screen, it’s really not annoying at all. Overall, textures are good, but some billboards and signs are a bit lower in resolution or quality.

Where the visuals excel is in the cars themselves. They look fantastic, and just like in the PS2 versions, react correctly to turns and heavy braking. There is some polygon tearing occasionally on the tracks, but it’s more of a minor annoyance than anything else. The colors and lighting are surprisingly good for a handheld, and they even have realtime shadows, which I was pretty shocked to see. You won’t see a lot of cool visual effects like HDR lighting or dynamic lighting, but the visuals are much better than I expected, and all of this runs at a SOLID 60FPS. No matter what I’ve had on the screen so far, I haven’t once seen the framerate drop, and that is incredibly satisfying.

Audio:
I have found that it is definitely a better gaming experience if you play Gran Turismo on the PSP with headphones. The included soundtrack is good, and is very “GT.” I looked around for a Custom Soundtrack option, and was initially let-down when I didn’t see one. Then, unlike most gamers, I read the manual, which is accessible right from the menu. There I found that after completing the first two Challenges, the option would magically unlock. It gives you two options on where to find the music, and I found it MUCH easier to put the tracks that I wanted to hear in a single “GTPSP” folder within the main “MUSIC” folder on my Memory Stick. One HUGE issue they need to address on the PSP in general is the complete lack of Playlist support, which is still absent even from the new PC Media Manager software.

Aside from the music, the car sounds are nice but not incredible. The racing sounds are quite well done, and they even included the “wind effect” sound from GT4, which I absolutely love on tracks like New York. Overall, the audio is great quality, but nothing new if you’ve played previous GT titles.

Presentation:
Everything about the GT series has always been about Presentation, and the portable version sticks to that tradition. The opening cinematic is awesome car-porn as usual, but once you get into the menus, everything is simple but very effective. The options are deep and easy to navigate, even including a separate setting for when you’re using an external display. Screens are laid-out beautifully and getting around in the game is very easy. The replay system, as expected for a GT game, is deep and a blast to use. Unlike the past titles, they don’t seem to “bullshot” the replays, but even still, they’re great to watch. Also, any replay can be saved, with the replay file sizing-up to about 190k. Any of those replays can be accessed in the Theater Mode quite easily. Unfortunately, until you get a good amount of races in, or if you can remember what tracks that you’ve raced on, it doesn’t tell you what tracks have replays in them. It can get a bit frustrating searching around the different tracks for the replay that you’re thinking of. It’s a minor annoyance though.

Gameplay:
Control is great, as expected in a Gran Turismo title. Both analog and digital controls are available in the options, and every button is configurable. I personally use the d-pad, and it works brilliantly. Everything is responsive, and moving the brake to R1 allows easier crossover between it and the accelerator. Honestly, I’m loving the control is this game through and through.

Unfortunately, I don’t have anyone else to try Ad Hoc racing with, so obviously I can’t comment on that aspect of the gameplay. I do wish they had full Infrastructure support, or that Sony would get off their ass and get Ad Hoc Party released here in North America!

What’s Different in the Portable Version:
There are some differences in this version, and for a portable system, I like what they’ve done. There is no “Career Mode” included within. Instead you choose from one of the 35 tracks or any of their variations (different configurations of some, and reverse mode on all,) and work your way up from Class D to Class A on each. You start with 100k credits, which is nice because you can pick-up two or three cars right out of the gate, and any can be placed in one of the 30 slots of your quick-choice menu of available cars (Favorites.) Overall, their are 800+ cars, and for the first time in the Gran Turismo series, players can share and trade the vehicles they have acquired throughout the game with others via PSP’s Ad Hoc mode. Players will want to trade and share in order to more quickly acquire and race all of the meticulously designed vehicle models. Only 10% of cars cannot be shared, they can only be traded. Also, most or all of these cars can be shared into Gran Turismo 5 when it becomes available (details still aren’t set in stone.)

Also, during a race, the most AI opponents that you will face is three. It doesn’t detract from the game at all, and when you progress up through the classes, the AI can get quite aggressive and becomes very tough to defeat. All of the tracks and variations are unlocked right from the start (which I love,) but only 4 dealerships a day are available for buying new cars for your garage. You never know which manufacturer will pop-up the next day, so make sure to keep some credits available just in case.

Conclusion:
Gran Turismo has made an incredible move to the PSP, and is a game that I’ve killed my battery on three times already. Progression through the classes ramps-up nicely, and the gameplay keeps me saying “just one more.” Come October 1st, if you’re a racing fan, or a disciple of the Gran Turismo series, you will not be disappointed. There is a ton of content here, and even as much as I’ve played it so far, I’ve really only scratched the surface. I’d probably get more races in, but I keep watching those sweet, sweet replays.

I honestly do recommend buying the downloadable PSN version, simply because even if you install from the UMD, you still need the UMD in the drive to play the game. Also, if you ever get a PSP Go, you’ll be able to use it right away.

Score:
8.5

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Additional Info From Sony
LEARNING TO DRIVE
• Driving Challenge Mode and Tracks – 102 Challenges await players in Gran Turismo. After clearing the first 48, the game’s closing movie becomes available and 54 additional challenges appear.

SINGLE PLAYER MODES
• Dynamic Single Player Difficulty – There is no difficulty selection in Single Player Mode. Every time the game is played, the level of difficulty increased automatically according to the player’s skill and wins/losses in races. Similarly, the AI drivers level up along with the player through single player races. Player can let their “Leveled Up” AI race for them in ad hoc.
• Time Trial – Time Trial involved continuous laps. When the player exits the trial, the best time in that session is recorded. Gran Turismo records the top 10 lap times for each course.
• Drift Trial – There are two modes in Drift Trial. First, Sector Mode records scores for specific drift sections set on the track (like Gran Turismo®5 Prologue). Secondly, in Full Course Mode, the entire course is judged for drifting for an unlimited number of laps.

PARTY RACES WITH FRIENDS
• Standard Race – Traditional Ad hoc racing, Gran Turismo style.
• Party Race – In this new mode, when a race is continued with the same set of players, a time handicap cumulates. Players who continue to win will accumulate a start delay time.
• Shuffle Race – In this new race mode, the vehicle the player races is selected randomly. Even if the same racers continue a new race, vehicles will change in between races. Winning racers will be given slower vehicles while losing racers are given faster cars. This includes Jackpot Mode. This helps level the playing field and facilitate fun racing regardless of skill.

NEW PARTY GAME SYSTEM
• AI Driver Mode – Enabled in all race modes, the player does not have to race but can have the AI race for him. The AI’s level of performance is based on the player has “trained” the AI in the Single Player Mode. The player can select throughout the race whether to drive or allow the AI to drive.
• Jackpot System – In this system, a roulette wheel is spun at the finish line of the final lap during ad hoc races, doubling or tripling the prize. A lucky racer is selected and if that player wins, he takes all the prize winnings that would have gone to other players. The chance for entering Jackpot Mode fluctuates randomly, and is available in all ad hoc race modes.

OTHER KEY FEATURES
• Developed by Polyphony Digital Inc. for PSP – Gran Turismo’s debut on PSP is developed by the internal team behind the world’s best-selling racing series.
• Over 800 vehicles – Players can race their favorite vehicles from the top manufacturers around the globe, including Ferrari, Nissan, and more. The vehicle model count climbs to over 4,500 when the various paint configurations are included.
• 35 Tracks from Around the World with More than 70 Variations – Famous circuits and some of the favorite environments from the Gran Turismo series have been optimized for racing on PSP.
• Share and Trade Vehicles with Others – For the first time in the Gran Turismo series, players can share and trade the vehicles they have acquired throughout the game with others via PSP’s ad hoc mode. Players will want to trade and share in order to more quickly acquire and race all of the meticulously designed vehicle models.
• Sharing Vehicles – When sharing cars, players can add cars to a friend’s garage without losing the vehicle from their own garage. Only 10% of cars cannot be shared, they can only be traded.
• Trading Vehicles – When trading cars, the vehicle will move from the player’s garage into the garage of the other player.
• Dynamic Vehicle Roster – Based on the amount of time Gran Turismo is played, the in-game calendar will change the dealer vehicle lineup.
• Quick Tune – The player can designate 30 favorite vehicles which can be Quick Tuned.
• Car Descriptions – All vehicles have detailed descriptions, including historical backgrounds
• Available via UMD and PlayStation Network – Offering convenience, choice and options for owners of the original PSP or the newly announced PSP Go.

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  • Damn you PSNation and your ability to raise hype levels. my wallet curses you!

  • sebastiandes0

    nice review! as i saw the first trailer on E3 i couldnt believe the rendered movies in it, but still had hope left that polyphony wouldnt mess it up, because of one thing: the GT series defines the whole studio and it's the most profit thing they bring out. One of the reasons i like the work of them is that they put so much time and effort in their products that shouldnt think it could be a bad game like i did.

    i was a bit controversy about the psp, even if i have one. but the last days i'm sure the psp is going to see his best years still coming.

  • Well as i will be getting this for free (being from the uk) with my PSP Go i am looking forward to it.
    Was worried it was going to be a big file but 953MB is not bad, not bad at all.

  • you should read ign's review if you havent glenn. i do appreciate and like your review a lot better. not because they gave it a crappy review but because it was just that…. a crappy review. my feelings on the gt series are on the same level as you, and it just seemed that over on ign Chris Roper was just waaayyy too critical of it. glad to know i will be enjoying this game.

  • I read it after I wrote this, and I think that he's being way too harsh and kinda childish to be honest. This game is exactly what I expected it to be, a Portable version of like a GT3 or GT4.

    The cons in this game:
    No online play
    No photo mode
    Some polygon tearing in-game
    and for some, no actual career mode

  • Dehshizknight

    CANNOT WAIT FOR THIS ONE!

    Great review, by the way!

  • Vedderist

    Looks awesome. Can't wait

  • madeup6

    NO CAREER MODE! That's too bad. While that is a major down flaw, I still really want it. The visuals look pretty good for a hand held. It may be as good as Crisis Core… But Damn. 40$. I just dont have that kind of money right now. My friend hate GT so I can't expect him to download it either.

  • tracyjump

    Reviews: Sony PSP go will be released on October 1 for ?220-?230. This Sony PSP go review will help you understand the new PSP go in the round.
    http://www.convert-video-dvd.com/news/sony-psp-

  • wow what an awesome review. I gotta check out more reviews from this place. My UMD drive just stopped working so I gotta get a game to put on my memory stick to keep me happy til I save enough for a PSP 3000

  • wow what an awesome review. I gotta check out more reviews from this place. My UMD drive just stopped working so I gotta get a game to put on my memory stick to keep me happy til I save enough for a PSP 3000