The Real Driving Simulator…
Gran Turismo for the PSP has been a long time coming. It was first announced way back in 2004 alongside the announcement of the PSP hardware. Five years later, the game is finally being released after long delays and rumored cancellations. While the game was definitely anticipated, Gran Turismo fans couldn’t help but wonder if a portable game could manage to include all the features for which the Gran Turismo series has been so renowned. Fortunately, Gran Turismo on the PSP nails pretty much every aspect of its console predecessors. Whether you like the series for its hardcore mechanics, massive garages, or spectacular visuals, Gran Turismo on the PSP delivers. And if you are a fan of the series, you will not be disappointed.
Like previous entries in the series, Gran Turismo is very focused on the single-player experience. However, instead of having a limited amount of tracks and cars available depending on your license class, Gran Turismo gives you access to all of the game’s tracks right from the start. The game’s structure is very free-form and conducive to the handheld platform. All of the tracks are available immediately at a D-class level, and you’ll have to earn better rankings for each track to progress though the mode. Of course, the difficulty varies from track to track, as obtaining an A license is fairly easy on the Twin Ring Super Speedway, but it can be maddeningly difficult on the curvaceous Motorland Driving Park. The track-based license system gives Gran Turismo plenty of replay value, and it also helps determine what kind of cars you want to add to your collection. You can choose to focus on cars that have heavy drift capability if you want to earn better license rankings on drift-intensive courses, or you can focus on speed-performance cars if you are working on your speed runs.
The way that Gran Turismo on the PSP handles the garage system is quite different from what we’ve seen in the past. Instead of having a full list of dealerships available from the start (with cars unlocked according to class), Gran Turismo only offers four dealerships to choose from per racing day. These dealerships seem to be random, but once you enter one, all of the cars are unlocked, and you can purchase whatever you want, no matter what your license status might be on any individual track. This system seems like a pain at first (it took me forever to get to the VW dealership), but it does keep you racing, and I found myself playing “just one more race” so I could see what new dealerships would open up after the next racing day.
Even though you might check the dealerships frequently, you may not be able to build the garage of your dreams as fast as you might like. Fortunately, the game has a robust swap system that allows you to switch cars with other players over an ad-hoc connection. This is especially useful, as some cars are only available by trade. If you are looking to complete your garage to 100%, then trading is a must. In addition to the trading ability, you can also challenge nearby friends to ad-hoc races. While the multiplayer aspect of Gran Turismo pales in comparison to what we are expecting from Gran Turismo 5, the single-player aspect is so strong that I can’t really say the game feels incomplete without it.
One thing that has been slightly altered for Gran Turismo on the PSP is the control. Now before you start getting worried, this change is only slight, and it actually suits the handheld platform better. Although the game retains the Gran Turismo’s signature simulation-style controls, you will notice that the controls are a little bit more forgiving this time. Braking and speeding times have increased, and drifts are much easier to trigger. You’ll also notice that the steering is a little more forgiving, which makes those hairpin turns a little less daunting. However, even though there is a lot more wiggle room, don’t think you can take any turns at 70 MPH. The game stays very true to its simulation roots, and if you try anything crazy, you will lose control or spin out. The subtle adjustments really just streamline the experience for the handheld platform, and they make up for the fact that the PSP’s analog nub is not as accurate as a regular PS3/PS2 analog stick.
While the streamlined controls work great for experienced drivers, they also make Gran Turismo a wonderful starting point for those who aren’t big fans. While console iterations have featured plenty of amazing cars and tracks, none of them have felt quite as user-friendly as the PSP version. This is augmented by the presence of the Driving Challenge mode, which is a 9-stage tutorial mode. These stages give players basic instructions for beginner concepts like controlling speed, determining braking rate, and steering to start things off, and then evolve into an advanced technique tutorial that emphasizes concepts like driving through different types of curves and on different terrains. The driving challenge mode is great for beginners, but it is also a welcome refresher for players who haven’t fired up a Gran Turismo title in awhile.
Whether you are a newcomer to the franchise or a diehard fan, one thing everyone can appreciate is the visuals. Gran Turismo simply looks amazing on the PSP. Special attention has always been paid to the vehicle design in previous entries of Gran Turismo, and this entry is no different. Cars have an exquisite amount of detail, and everything from the stark lines of the Polyphony Digital Formula Gran Turismo to the sleek curves of the Mitsubishi GTO has been presented with amazing care. The tracks also look great, and while nothing on a handheld could match the track design in Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, this one comes fairly close. Each track has its own unique environment, complete with special details like snowy peaks on the Cathedral Rocks tracks to a bustling skyline on the Seattle Circuit. The only issue I noticed with the visuals occurs if you have a vehicle that goes more than 170 MPH. Although there are only a handful of vehicles that do this, once you do, the screen starts flickering and some elements of the track don’t render all the way. However, I was only able to see this small issue during my time on one of the game’s speed rings, as there is no way you can go that fast on any of the other tracks.
As far as the car collection is concerned, Gran Turismo has everything a gearhead could want. From middle range racers from Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Toyota to performance-intensive brands like Ferrari and Aston Martin, you are sure to find plenty of vehicles to suit your tastes. The number of cars found in each collection varies, but notable vehicles like the Mitsubishi GTO and the Nissan GT-R are there. One interesting feature included in Gran Turismo is the Favorites Garage, which allows you to quick-tune your favorite cars at the touch of a button. While the quick-tune doesn’t allow you to tinker with the inner-workings of the vehicle, you can adjust things like damper and spring rate, which can give you the edge if you need that extra jolt at the beginning of a race or added stability on rough courses.
Gran Turismo for the PSP has been a long time coming. Like many others, I had just assumed that the project had died a long time ago. However, Polyphony Digital has not only delivered on their promise to make a great portable Gran Turismo, they have created the best portable racer this generation. While portable versions of other driving franchises are content to be squashed versions of their console brethren, Gran Turismo has created a brand new experience that is tailored for the handheld platform -not sacrificing any aspect of the blockbuster franchise in the transition. From the monster garage to the tight control and splendid visuals, Gran Turismo stands head and shoulders above any other racing title for a portable platform. Whether you are a diehard Gran Turismo fan or someone who has yet to experience the franchise, this is definitely one title that is worth your time. Whether you download it or buy it on a UMD, Gran Turismo must be experienced if you have any interest at all in driving simulators. You may never pick up another potable racer again!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.9 Graphics
Nearly flawless. From the painstakingly beautiful car detail to the lush tracks and environments, this game looks amazing. The only hiccups occur during speed runs where some seaming and flickering occurs if you push your vehicle past 170 MPH. 4.7 Control
Sim-style controls are tight and intuitive. Though the game’s control is a little more forgiving (especially in the cornering department) Gran Turismo enthusiasts won’t be disappointed, and newcomers won’t be overwhelmed. 4.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music varies from jazzy sounding tunes to energetic pop-style music. Automotive sounds are realistic. 4.9 Play Value
With 800 cars to unlock, plenty of tracks to burn up, and three different single-player modes, you won’t be able to put Gran Turismo down! 4.8 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.