The prestigious Gran Turismo series known for its excellence in authentic simulation racing finally makes its debut on the Playstation Portable and we are strapping in for a test-drive.
Simply hearing that Polyphony Digital has finally released of Gran Turismo (GT) on the PSP will put a smile on a lot of racing fans faces. Thinking back to the late 90s, anyone who fired up the first two illiterations of the game had no choice but to be impressed. Even with Gran Turismo's long time absence it has come back as a mirror image of its former self... although this time, something is a little off. It could be that we have grown accustomed to a number of other racing series over the years, or it could just be the game, but Gran Turismo doesn't light them up like it used too, even with its engine fully intact.
A Menu for a Menu
From the main menu a number of options present themselves (Single Player, Multiplayer, Dealerships, Driving Challenge, Status Reports, GT Theatre, Options, and the thoughtful addition of the User Manual). The first option you will likely click on is the "Single Player" option. In the next-menu (get used to it, lots of menus) you will have few options before you race. The first selection brings up another menu (see I told you) where you pick the race type out of "Time Trail", "Single Race", or "Drift Trail". The options are self-explanatory and the only one that has another menu (oh boy) is the Single Race where you can select the amount of laps, and limit the race to a single manufacturer.
The second option in Single Player is where you pick your vehicle... and man does GT have a lot of rides! In the beginning you will start with a simple Peugeot 206 S16 ’09 and after you earn more cash by winning races you can start building up your collection of rides. When you have a few cars in your garage, this menu helps you search for them by manufacturer, favourite, last 100 driven (yes 100) and last 100 acquired. After selecting your ride you can head into the track selection. Changing your track brings up a list of all the tracks and the car class they are designed for. You can sort the list by real circuits, city courses, original courses and dirt & snow levels. You then pick your track and you’re finally ready to go! All you have to do is hit the green “GO” button on the side of the single player menu and you're off.... after one more menu.
On the outside Gran Turismo seems like it has it all. You will witness a brilliant opening sequence with strong and polished graphics. Then you will head into the menu system with its streamlined presentation that looks shiny and delightful. Then you are likely to fire up a few rounds of the single player races before you get serious... and then wait... "huston we have a problem" ... Gran Turismo doesn’t have a career mode! <sadface>No career mode mode.... how dismal.</sadface>.
Aside from racing exhibition maps or heading online, you are completely out of luck. You can imagine how much of a damper this puts on the game with nothing really to strive for and no real motivation to continue. Unless you are a die-hard gear head, you are going be done with Gran Turismo real fast. With all the expectations and memories of the past editions of the game, this is a letdown. It is obvious that Gran Turismo has potential, and like always, the core mechanics are nailed, but it entire game feels like an unfinished project. Maybe I should have expect this after Gran Turismo 5 Prologue wasn't actually the new version of Gran Turismo?! Like Prologue, the PSP version misses out on so much because of missing some functions. Seriously, without a career mode what are we supposed to do?
Another disappointing fact about GT on the PSP is that the races only support three opponents. Yes three-- that's it. Three other cars is not enough to keep any amount of interest when you’re not competing for cups and other structured events that GT used to have. Online things don’t improve much as GT only supports ad-hoc in three different racing modes professional race, party race, and a shuffle race. One other option and more interesting is the ability to share and trade cars through ad-hoc as well. If you manage to get a buddy into GT then you want to make use of this feature.
On The Plus Side
A more positive attitude comes when you talk about the games production values. Gran Turismo on the PSP is solid looking polished as ever and I mean really polished! Everything has a perfect glowing shimmer to it. In the cars, or behind them, they look look great and even though it’s all a shrunken down, you still get enough detail out of the environments and car models. Not bad Digital, the PSP of Gran Turismo can certainly stand up to the earlier PSX versions.
The sound in the other hand isn’t as impressive as the graphics. The audio is crisp, but it doesn’t sound like an improvement when your are dealing with all the complexities of all the different engine noises. Behind the roar of the engine the music offers up the same old euro-house beats that you’ve heard before. As you likely know this style of music can fill the void, but ultimately its not too memorable. Thankfully you can create your playlists and listen to your own MP3 collection while you race.
Now That's a Lot of Cars!!
One more positive bullet point towards Gran Turismo on the PSP is that you have access to over 800 vehicle models! That’s a hell of a lot of cars and the span from manufacturers from around the world including Nasan, Bugatti, Lotus, Mazda, Land Rover, Ford and more. Collecting all the cars will take a lot of time, even if you have a friend feeding your garage. One strange point about the Dealership system in GT is that only certain cars are available each day. The system is totally random which makes it hard to save up for the “car you have always wanted”. With this dealership you pretty much have to load up your pockets encase you see something good. I don’t really mind this idea; at least it keeps gamers coming back, although I know some fans don't like its random nature, but really I think there are bigger fish to fry.
Gran Turismo for the Playstation Portable is a rare case. In one hand you have an extremely well made and polished game engine with spectacular graphics, and in the other you have absolutely nothing to do. The lack of career mode is a big downer and only having support for three opponents in races is the next. So there it is, a game without game, how strange?! I can’t outright recommend Gran Turismo for the Playstation Portable, there is simply not enough to do and most racing gamers will be bored to tears. You can’t win them all.
Gameplay:5.0, Graphics:9.0, Sound:7.0, Innovation:4.0, Mojo:5.0 Final: 6.0 / 10
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 10.22.09