E3 09: Hands on with Gran Turismo PSP

Seeing Gran Tursimo PSP running for the first time was like having that friend that has owed you money forever just forking it up for you one day out of the blue: you would have liked to get your hands on it, but you kind of gave up hope awhile ago.

Well, we finally did get our hands on the portable racer, and while I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it was worth the wait yet, I’m really happy that this finally came around.  Polyphony Digital finally paid up, and maybe threw in a little bit extra for the wait.

Wow, this game looks great. If there’s one thing I want to convey in this preview, it’s that Gran Turismo PSP is a beautiful game. The shiny PSP screen has a way of making all its racers look pretty good, but Polyphony Digital has done some amazing things with this game’s graphics. First off, GT PSP is running at a full 60 frames per second, giving it that smooth game play experiece you’d expect from a series games. All the car models and tracks compare nicely to their PlayStation 2 counterparts, and in some cases seem to exceed them in visual appeal. I don’t know what they’re doing there in the back room at PDI, but they should probably share some of their secrets with the rest of the PSP dev community.

As far as game play goes, this is Gran Turismo as you’ve known it since its beginnings, and no major changes have to the control scheme in this version. I found myself missing the analog trigger as the gas pedal, and a second analog stick would have been nice for a gas/brake combo, but I had no problem racing with the good ol’ buttons either.

I tried a few tracks in Time Trial and then Arcade Mode. Sony had unlocked several cars, ranging from rally vehicles to F1-style ones, and all of them had the same steering response that we’ve grown acustomed to in series games. I had the pleasure of playing GT PSP on the PSP Go, and I had no issues completining races, though again I found myself wanting to use the fancy new PSP Go triggers as gas pedals.

There’s also a Challenge Mode with tons of events to play through, and a four-player ad hoc mode that we didn’t get a chance to try out. On top of that, you’ll have 800 vehicles and 30 tracks to keep you busy. We hear that PlayStation Network content will be made available later, too.

Even though Gran Turismo PSP is a portable game, it’s not some shrunken down Gran Turismo experience. From what we’ve seen, this is a massive game, made to be played on a small screen. I can only imagine that Polyphony Digital has been packing in content and features all of this time we’ve been waiting. We’ll be looking forward to getting our hands on the full version, closer to the October 1st release, right alongside the PSP Go sytem.

Dale North