Eight hundred cars, thirty-five tracks, and some of the most breath taking graphics the PSP has ever seen running at a consistent sixty frames per second -- it really did sound like an instant winner. That was the truth until the Polyphony began trickling down more information. You get no career mode, no performance upgrades, no visual upgrades, only three other cars are allowed to race against you, and you’re only allowed to tune a total of thirty vehicles. Total downer, right?
I don’t really understand what came over me. I convinced myself that the game was not worth it if I wasn’t going to get half of what made me fall in love with Gran Turismo 2. I went ahead and bought it despite myself, and I’ve come bearing good news. It’s the best racing game I’ve played on the PSP, or any handheld device, and this isn’t hyperbole.
The cars look incredible, and Polyphony has surprisingly managed to make them feel distinct. Though it isn’t the best simulation (it is better than Shift‘s), you can tell when you’re driving an all-wheel drive vehicle versus a rear-wheel drive or front-wheel drive car.
It’s unfortunate that the only way to play this game is digitally. You can try using the analogue stick, but it’s more trouble than it is useful. My difficulty comes from being used to having precise throttle, braking, and steering control on an XBOX 360 controller, and to a lesser extent on the PS3 controller. The throttle and braking control in Gran Turismo PSP is either off or on. It’s not good when you’re trying to slowly and smoothly brake into a turn, or ease out of a corner for that matter. Your driving becomes aggressive all the time as a result.
The way you buy cars is a bit unusual, but I believe it works incredibly well as motivation to keep you racing and possibly even trading cars. You’re only allowed to choose from four car manufacturers all with a limited number of cars. The cars change between each racing day and each day seems to last around 2 races. I imagine it may suck for some of you, but I thought it gave the game some nice pacing to battle against the lack of any career mode.
On the one hand, I’m glad I can grab any car I want and race in any track I like without having to worry about any power or car type restrictions, but I do miss feeling of progression. Perhaps a hybrid of both career and “do it yourself” would have worked better. They may have tried to do just that with the “Driving Challenge” tests, but they work more like the license tests in Gran Turismo 2. They try to incentivize you with money and unlocking custom soundtracks.
I’d unlock the custom soundtracks feature as quickly as possible. Gran Turismo has always had a history with me of having an outstanding soundtrack. Gran Turismo PSP breaks the trend with an unbearable mix of bad techno. Fortunately you can just mute the game’s music and enjoy the sweet engine sounds if that‘s too much work. They aren’t the best, but you can tell that at least some recording was done -- a rarity for a PSP racing game, and something that‘s very important to me and perhaps most car enthusiasts.
If you’re planning on getting a few buddies together for a few races you’re out of luck if neither of you are in the same room. Apparently Polyphony are afraid of the internet and have made sure that it doesn‘t hurt you by excluding it from another Gran Turismo release. Thanks, guys.
Gran Turismo PSP could have been miles better, but as it stands it is a very competent racer. I went from completely hating it to loving it. I’m not afraid to say that I was relentlessly cruel to it. Ignore all of that old drivel. Gran Turismo was forty dollars well spent.