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Gran Turismo finally stumbles off the production line and onto the PSP; has it been worth the wait...
- Oodles of content
- 60 FPS action
- Classic GT gameplay
- Too late in the day
- Fractured single player mode
- No infrastructure multiplayer
After five long years of waiting (when the game was originally conceived as GT4: Mobile Edition) Polyphony Digital has finally decided it's time to grace PSP owners with their own entry in the long-standing Gran Turismo series. Has it been worth the wait, or is Gran Turismo merely a stop gap before the next true entry in the series arrives on the PlayStation3 later in the year?
From the off, it would be easy to consider Gran Turismo on the PSP as little more than an unwanted distraction for Kazunori-san and his team. A title they felt compelled to finish having originally announced the title way back in 2004, which became something of a thorn in their side as the PS3 emerged and the focus switched to new hardware and Gran Turismo 5. This would be selling the handheld outing considerably short. Although it's undeniably a step back in time and closer inline to the likes of Gran Turismo 4, the game offers the classic GT experience; the addictive experience of mastering each individual track, the correct racing lines, and tuning to the nth degree. It's "car porn" all over again, but on a handheld scale.
How Polyphony Digital decided to present GT's traditionally exhaustive experience on a handheld is likely to cause some initial consternation. Unlike its previous outings on the consoles, GT on the PSP replaces the traditional career mode and presents everything it has to offer right from the start. The single player mode is divvied up between Time Trial, Single Race, and Drift Trial events. Each in turn allows you to select which track you want to race on and which vehicle you want to race in. The premise being that each race circuit begins on Rank D, and by finishing first you'll advance through the ranks and face tougher AI through to the final Rank S.
It's a clinical setup that doesn't exactly create a cohesive, compelling experience, but it does lend itself to bite-sized, pick-up-and-play action that suits its handheld aspirations. Each individual race pits you against carefully balanced opposition to the car you're driving, and whilst the initial ranks are a little pedestrian the challenge certainly intensifies when you've reached Rank A and S.
Provided this isn't too much of an issue you'll find that GT on the PSP offers the wealth of content you'd expect from the series. The game features 830 vehicles to collect from 87 car manufacturers, including the likes of the Ferrari F1, GT5 Prologue's signature GTbyCitroen, and the debut of Lamborghini and Bugatti to the fold. Obviously there's the customary wide 'Golf' (see what we did there?) of classes between this, so you can endure the painfully non-existent acceleration of a Citroen 2CV or conquer all before you in the unstoppable Polyphony Digital Formula Gran Turismo - "the most powerful Formula machine conceivable". New cars are unlocked in a pretty particular way. Competing in an event takes up a day and on different days certain cars become available to purchase from the various dealerships. Obviously it's going to be a little tricky (and frustrating) to get hold of specific cars because of this setup, but the premise seems to be that players can trade vehicles by the Ad-Hoc connectivity. Whether or not GT enthusiasts will be trading vehicles around the office like kids swapping Pikachus in the playground, however, remains in considerable doubt.
Beyond the single-player modes, Gran Turismo also features multiplayer although disappointingly this is only in the form of Ad-hoc. Arguably the most enjoyment comes from the Driving Challenges, which like the Driving School modes that preceded it provide various challenges that are designed to introduce you to the various techniques of becoming a better driver. These are split into groups from A through to Q, each of which offers six different challenges. These cover the customary basics of stopping distances and how to correctly take a corner, through to tougher tasks such as cone slaloms and finally the ultimate challenge of conquering the unconquerable Nurburgring. Each challenge is rewarded with a Bronze, Silver or Gold medal, with typically devilish-like skill being the fine line between them.
Not only do these provide insanely addictive that will leave you tuning camber angles and ride heights to shave split seconds for those crucial gold medals, but also reward you with plenty of credits to purchase shiny, new vehicles. As a result, credits to purchase new vehicles come thick and fast which gives Gran Turismo on the PSP a much more immediate and faster flow than previous games in the series.
Yes the AI is still lacking (particularly compared to GT5 Prologue) and the actual collisions between cars makes them feel as though they're made of Styrofoam (no damage with this one); but that enforces the view that this is very much a driving simulator, as opposed to a racing game. You're constantly focussing on your techniques and not necessarily concerned by what the opponents are up to. This combined with the customarily convincing sense of weight transfer and individuality of each motor creates that strangely hypnotic experience that every GT title has offered since the first one rolled onto the scene back in 1998.
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