It’s been a long time since a new Gran Turismo game has been released, and I’m not counting the glorified demo that is Gran Turismo 5: Prologue either. Not since GT4 hit the PS2 in 2005 have we seen a full game in the franchise on a current system. Gran Turismo PSP breaks the long wait and gives us a very welcome addition to the racing genre that will likely satiate fans of Polyphony Digital’s master franchise until the full-blown PS3 incarnation graces us with its presence. Is it worthy of the title, and does it work well in a portable format? Read on to find out.
The first thing that pulled me into GT for the PSP was the fact that it has a nostalgia factor that hit me right in the face as soon as I started participating in races. Many of the tracks – dare I say most? – are from previous GT titles and racing through the streets of Côte d’Azur or Tokyo brought back memories of doing the same years ago.
You can’t compare this title to other recent racers on the big consoles and, if you try, GT PSP looks like a lackluster attempt that doesn’t come remotely close to current generation standards. However, this is a PSP title and, with that in mind, it is easily one of the most graphically impressive titles available for the system and definitely the best in the racing genre.
Initially you’re given 100,000 credits and four dealerships from which to purchase a car. This is no doubt a generous amount and allows you to purchase at least one of a good variety of vehicles. To recoup the losses, you can take part in driving challenges which will be of greatest help to new players. However, they do provide a nice alternative source of income, especially early in the game.
As mentioned, the driving, the courses, even the cars will seem very familiar to veterans of the franchise, perhaps to the point of knowing exactly what is coming up when while speeding through the venues. All the courses combined comes to around 45, and most of these are also reversible. Couple that with roughly 800 cars that are all beautifully modeled and you have a lot of content packed in this tiny package.
You don’t have as much customization control over your cars as you may have in previous GT titles, but it’s enough, and adequate for a portable title. You can adjust many things about your car to tweak its performance – ride height, spring rate, chamber angle and other modifications. Just don’t expect complete car performance customization and you’ll be good. There’s definitely enough here to keep you coming back for more. I found it hard to put the game down, even when I knew I needed to. I’d play course after course after course, with memories of the past flooding back the entire time.
Car control is pretty solid, regardless of camera view; however, I found the analog nub rather difficult to use. In my time with the game, I tended to over-steer constantly with that control mechanism, so I fell back on the D-pad, which worked much better for precise car movement. Add to all this the fact that you can select “Standard” or “Simulation” control for your vehicle. “Simulation” gives you a much more true-to-life feel, but makes your car increasingly difficult to control. Try combining this with the analog nub and you might have to go to your happy place for a while after each race.
To be honest, I encountered more issues than I expected playing GT PSP. Even though most of them are fairly minor, they do add up and dampen my enjoyment a bit. The racing line – which you can choose to turn on or off before each race – is supposed to tell you when to brake by turning red. Too many times I don’t think the game reads your speed in regards to your surroundings enough to adjust the color of the line in time for you to pull off a correct U-turn or hairpin. And before you run off and call me all sorts of names for using the driving line, when I raced with it off, it was difficult to see where I had to turn on the small screen. Although the courses are graphically detailed, the size of the screen and the speed at which your virtual car is moving have a huge impact on reaction time. The racing line helped alleviate those issues, but created it’s own new ones.
To top things off, the single player game, although fun and surprisingly open at the beginning of game play, seems awfully unstructured. You do have difficulties on the various tracks, and your opponent’s vehicles will be matched in proficiency to your own, but its like a sandbox title where you’re just thrown into the fray and have to figure out where to go on your own. In a racing title I do expect to see a little more framework. Not necessarily hand-holding, but still, a slight nudge in a direction – any direction – would be preferred. I also didn’t like the fact that the choice given to you for cars to purchase changes after each race, so you may not be able to buy what you want when you want to buy it.
While I typically don’t play my racing games online, I do prefer 2-player split screen. Obviously, the hardware here doesn’t support that, so a fall-back to online play is required. Unfortunately, GT PSP has none. All it has is local 4-player play, which, of course, requires you to have three other friends with PSPs and with Gran Turismo loaded up. I would have assumed there would be full online play, since other PSP racers that are far worse than Gran Turismo carry that feature.
All the failings aside though, this is by far the best racer on the system, and is very “Gran Turismo”, so fans of the franchise should be happy. It’s basically Gran Turismo 4 in portable format, with a few tweaks (good or bad) and no online play. Some of those things might be deal breakers, depending on your needs for a PSP racer, but hey, the single player experience is rather amazing, given the amount of content and replayability the title has. It may be just enough to hold die-hard fans over until the next big Gran Turismo title hits our PS3s next year.
- Title: Gran Turismo PSP
- Developer: Polyphony Digital
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- MSRP: $39.99
- Release Date: October 1, 2009
- Review Copy Info: Review Copy Info: This review copy was provided digitally to DualShockers, Inc. by/on behalf of the developer/publisher for reviewing purposes.