The Consensus: Gran Turismo PSP Review «

GameSpy’s Take

Gran Turismo for the PSP is at long last liberated from its seeming eternal darkness (the game was formally announced in the first half of this decade), and the overriding criticism thus far focuses on the absence of a career mode. But you know what? Cry me a freaking river, that’s what. If you want a career, go to college. Join the army. A handheld racer that looks this sophisticated and drives so sweetly that I yearn for a steering wheel just to fully drink in all of its remarkable physics doesn’t need a career mode to substantiate itself.

What Gran Turismo for the PSP does, and does with aplomb, is deliver an awesome mobile single-player racing experience. Unlike games intended purely for an at-home audience, GT presumably appeals to folks who take their gaming in bits and bites … on the bus, between classes or business engagements, and the like. And for that, it’s hot stuff.

Racing one of GT’s more than 800-plus cars (each of which offers a surprisingly sophisticated and at least somewhat distinctive ride) is a joy. Likely the most complex vehicles ever on the PSP, they react believably to the track and to elevations, and authentically grasp and lose traction so impressively that you’ll curse Sony’s decision to steer the PSP away from a full analog control scheme. As for venues, you’ll find no less than 35 real and imaginary circuits in all, many of which can be driven backward. But the real story is the variation; some tracks are ovals, but others are snowy mountain trails or lengthy stretches of icy tundra. Heck, you can partake in a drift-inducing, dirt-spewing rally if you want, or test your mettle on the monster that is Germany’s famed Nurburgring (too bad then that only four cars can hit a track at any one time).

But single-player events aren’t the only way to race. Your best chance of piling up the credits and buying even more cars is GT’s Driving Challenge, a solo mode, where you’re asked to beat a target time on a given, and usually small, section of track. It’s not easy winning a gold medal and the credits that come with it, but even silver and bronze medals generate credits, and the concept in general really does teach you how to brake early, follow the accepted racing line, and ultimately be a better driver.

Whether you’ll ever be good enough to trade paint with another human may never be decided. You see, GT forsakes online racing completely, in favor of local four-person ad-hoc. That’s a shame in a racing game these days, yet it isn’t the only omission. Indeed, while I can’t slam the game solely for kissing off career or season modes, I can and will fault it for neglecting so much. No online, no career, no season, no vehicular damage, no vehicular repairs, no exterior mods of any consequence… the list is far too large to ignore.

But what it does, it does well. Very well. The racing environments are really quite amazing for a PSP title. Though GT occasionally transmits an unfinished structure and the odd jagged edge, it’s fluid throughout and absolutely crammed full of scenery and special effects like swirling dust and blowing snow. The off-track interfaces are as pretty as they are clever, and the game — including the soundtrack, which by default favors lounge-y Euro-synth grooves but can be customized after you win a few races — sounds way cool over headphones or a powered speaker set. I got real friendly with the super-intuitive in-game user manual, and was particularly jazzed when I discovered I could install the game data on my memory stick, measurably miniaturizing load and unload times.

Ultimately, even if you live for careers and season modes, even if you get your kicks from online competition, and even if you like your racing a bit less difficult, you shouldn’t completely write off Gran Turismo. The game clearly leans backward rather than forward in some respects, but it bears repeating: What it does in the tiny PSP world, it does well.


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