In a world with Forza and games like Rally and WRC, how does one fit into the simulator racer genre without becoming too much of the same thing? I absolutely loved Forza Horizon 3 as it is one of the only racing games I still play today, and I am hyped for the new Project CARS 2 that is due for release in the next coming months. When I got a chance to play the GT Sport beta, it slotted itself into this list of games I cannot wait to play. Somehow its fresh new look and feel made it a worthwhile adventure, while its new features will keep players feeling professional while playing it, while at the same time enjoying everything we love about the series. The beta felt familiar at times, and new at others, and I cannot wait to see how it all ties together in the end.
Starting off with game's menu design and UI, which all pays homage to the classics. Piano music playing in the background, and a sleek and should I say defined look and feel across the board. The beta only had one mode called “Sport” to play which saw players registering for a race by completing a qualifier round first, and then heading back to the game for the race against other players online. The nice thing about this feature is that there are different races taking place at different times for each track. So if you cannot make say the 8 PM race, then you can push for the next one. You can always head into the qualifier time trail to test your settings on your car, and beat your best lap time. The aim here is to give you the feeling that you are building yourself up like the pros do.
I got three cars to use across different classes, and while I was happy with them mostly, I did hope for something that was not a VW. I was given the Genesis Coupe 3.8, a Scirocco GR.4, and a gorgeous VW GTI VGT. We all know this car from the concept line or also known as the “Vision” lineup. That chances of even driving in one of these are pretty slim, so I loved the fact that I had one in my garage and it looked as sexy as ever.
Off to the races
I wish I could say that GT Sport is the best looking game on PS4, but that is not the case. There are some gorgeous moments like the car vista mode that plays in the home menu. This showcases the best looking cars in different locations using real photographs and 3D cars to blend them in. It was gorgeous to look at really, and I would totally leave it on all day as a wallpaper montage on my TV. When it comes to the cars, Polyphony has ever single piece of detail on point, and I cannot fault them on anything. The only eyesore I have is in the actual races and the tracks especially. Unfortunately, the polish is just not there yet, and keep in mind that this was a beta, but tracks looked bland and just not up to today's standards. Trees are some low res textures on planes of flat boards, and you can clearly see the environments have been, dare I say, cheaply imitated using flat planes and textures. While the cars and the global lighting look fantastic, and I understand that is the focus of the game, I just hope we get a boost in visuals somewhere along the line.
Racing, on the other hand, is perfect. Cars handle well, and you can feel it all in your hands. It is a rare occurrence to bring a car to life with a controller, and somehow the game's great sound and feel comes through at every opportunity. The three tracks in the beta all complimented each other, and even when the online races were done I found myself in the Qualifier Time Trial just for fun to mess around with the corners and perfect my settings. Each car had a sense of weight and control on the road and I felt it in my hands. It was exciting to master each one, and I cannot wait to get more cars to do the same with.
Online worked without any issue and everything you practice in the qualifier needs to be put into play in the main race. That is to say that the other players need to do the same. This is not Forza where you can bash each other silly. It is a racing game on a professional level, so you immediately get the feeling that you should not be messing around. If you do bash into things the penalties come in the form of a decrease in your SR (Sportsmanship Ranking). This determines your overall, well sportsmanship, so if you are reckless, then you will have a lower ranking and race with the same level of people who also enjoy playing like trolls. There is also a strange thing I noticed where there is no cosmetic damage done to your car. Maybe this is yet to be implemented, but bashing into walls and other cars just did not do as much visual damage as it should, and let us not mention the sound effects of the bashing that sound like toy cars being hit together by a small child. This is sure to be fixed soon….right?
Overall GT Sport manages to bring back the series and what we loved about it since the original while improving on every slow aspect in the menu from past games and making the racing experience even better. Sure the sharp edges need to be filed down a bit, but this is a beta, so we will give it time. Take a look at some gameplay below of a time trial. GT Sport is scheduled for release sometime this year.