Sunday, December 20, 2009

Gran Turismo PSP Review + A Note

(All images from
Announced a few years ago and released October 1, 2009, "Gran Turismo 4 Mobile" finally sees a release on the PSP this year simply titled "Gran Turismo." (But for clarity's sake, I'll call it GT PSP.) The first thing to remember about this release is an important one: it's not meant to be an 8-hour epic journey through time and space. Many people have complained about the lack of a Career Mode when the bulk of the game is really all you need. It's more a game to be played from Point A to Point B, something to do when waiting for something or someone. It would be frustrating to spend your time completing race after race to upgrade your car as you do in previous versions, thus the upgrade system has been removed also.
GT PSP feels like it's own entry into the series, design-wise the menus make it feel as though it's a whole game on it's own without ever losing touch of the Gran Turismo spirit. With over 800 cars and 35 tracks, you can see why. Excess is always the name of the game. However that excess comes at a cost....

The gameplay is not what you'd expect out of a GT game: the lack of a career mode means you don't have to focus on failure or upgrading your car to a certain level to compete in a race. There is an easy flow to the game. If a player is in the middle of a race and their friend wants to challenge them, they can back out with no penalty, play their friend and retry the race. The player is rewarded with a rank up upon completion of a single player race (however, the requirements for achieving each rank eludes me. I'm not sure whether it has to do with the type of car, number of laps, or both). With a new rank comes a larger amount of money earned. Likewise the more laps you put into each race, the larger the cash income.
Many people have also complained about the game giving them a choice of four random dealerships every other day. It gives you the option to consider whether or not to buy this car you've just found or save your money for the one you want. This will happen often, meanwhile if you can't find the right car you can always race and let the days pass until the dealership is brought up, thus bringing up your rank and allowing you to buy the car you want. Other than the dealership changes, the amount of days have no bearing on the game whatsoever.
The driving style can be changed when selecting a car, from the most realistic of play styles complete with proper drifting, to a style best suited for beginners where the chance of sliding is null.
The car selection screen could have been implemented better. The default view showing your last 100 purchased cars. You can place a favorite marker on up to 30 that you choose and more advanced options are available for those. Make sure that when you buy a car it's one you want, there is no "Sell Car" feature which can be frustrating when you need the extra cash.

The License courses have been replaced with Challenges. Those who are fairly confident in their racing abilities can breeze through most of them while those new to the genre will find that pushing a few limits will complete the task at hand. The reward for completing the Challenges is cash and a new car.
The driving line, an idea taken from Forza (fanboys... read the note below), is helpful in certain aspects. However if a player has perfected a way around a track it can be useless. At times it seems the line can steer you wrong. As an example, I have found my own way of driving around Laguna Seca,
GT PSP feels I should take their line, braking when I'm not used to it, turning into a corner at an apex I don't normally use. There is no wrong in pushing the car to it's limits when racing, but pushing the boundaries of the track will run you off-course often. There is no penalty or slowdown for crashing into another car, sliding off the road or running into a patch of sand or grass, something the Gran Turismo series has never done, and for that you can get away with a few things and cheat.
The UMD game can be installed to the memory stick provided you have at least 700 MB free, this improves load times and, seeing as how this game can take what seems to be forever to load, is preferable. (It should be noted that the GT PSP UMD needs to be inside the PSP in order to play unless you've purchased the game via digital download.)

GT PSP could have used an overhaul. Those 800+ cars means the racing tracks have been dulled down to mostly flat surfaces. Graphical breaks in the track area, pop-ups in the distance, and that annoying effect when you're in front of a wall you can see it but behind it there's nothing can be minor annoyances. Graphics whores will have a tough time with this one.
The car details, however, are sharper than one would expect. The car selection detail is better than the one you will find on a race course.
As far as the racing tracks are concerned, you won't find any new exclusive locales for the PSP. All the tracks from the previous versions of the game are included, which can ultimately be tiresome if you've played the console games already.
The PSP can produce some pretty smooth effects, and at 60 fps, it's one of the smoothest. However there is no real sense of speed: 120 mph feels more like 60. Each track will take the same amount of time as they normally would, but the game feels going in slow motion at some points. Despite all of this, it is never laggy. There are no bugs when inspecting a wall or coming off of a jump. It all feels as familiar as it did in Gran Turismo 4.
The amount of cameras has been increased to 4 this time around. They include a front bumper view, an awkward but steady over-the-car view, an in-car driver viewer, and a chase camera. It's a little "something for everyone" and all depends on what the player feels comfortable with.

The audio is clear and precise, however each car, no matter how powerful or different, will sound just like all the others. A constant thrum of noise increasing and decreasing in volume as you accelerate and decelerate around corners. Unless you love the sound of cars the only sensible thing would be to turn the engine volume down and listen to the music.
The ability to choose either the
GT PSP soundtrack, your own music from your memory stick, or a mix of both can be chosen under the options menus.
(As is always my fault, I never listened to the audio presented by the game. I seem to always do this given the option of listening to a game's music or my own. All I can ask is for forgiveness in this area. Although I'm sure some of you will agree that you would also rather hear your own music choices.)

Any fan of the sim racing genre will love this game despite it's flaws.
But If you've been a long time fan of the Gran Turismo series and are hesitant to make the purchase, you can do without, stick to the console versions. Those new to the racing genre who want to get their feet wet will find this a good starting point. At the same time those looking for more depth will be disappointed in how shallow it can really be. It's a bit of a struggle between the pros and cons and only your preferences can sway your opinion.

*A Note About My Reviews*
I would like for everyone to notice that I don't do numerical points, and I try not to suggest "Buy It," Rent It," or "F' It." I merely point out the pros and cons, the good and the bad, the major details and the minor annoyances, laid out flat for people to read. I try not to be biased when it comes to reviewing a game. In the past, just like many others, I've let things cloud my judgment. I realized that that is never the way to portray a game. I also try to never compare a game to another. Ideas and features, however, are fair to talk about. In this case the Driving Line from Gran Turismo was an idea taken from Forza, plain as day. This was done to help those who are new to sim racing games, to give them comfort in a world they are unfamiliar with.
Where Gran Turismo lead the way for sim racing, Forza took things in a different direction with customization, car clubs, etc. Meanwhile GT5 looks to push barriers graphically and play-wise by introducing WRC and NASCAR to the lineup.
There is no doubt Gran Turismo is still the king of sim racing, but does that mean Sony fanboys should discredit Forza and Microsoft for making a similar game? No. Where Gran Turismo excels in certain areas Forza surpasses in others. Does that mean Xbox fanboys should discredit Gran Turismo? Again: no. If it weren't for the original Gran Turismo, the sim racing genre would be less than what it is today.
Never think of these two games as competitors, but rather brothers in a sibling rivalry. They are on different consoles but they both have the same purpose which is to entertain us, immerse us in a zone where 100+ mph is the norm, and let us push our barriers by pushing the gas pedal down.

Keep Playing.

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