Gran Turismo PSP Review
PC gamers have made defunct developer 3D Realms the butt of many jokes over the last decade. After working on Duke Nukem Forever for over thirteen years, the studio closed down this year with nothing to show for all that time spent. And Polyphony Digital, creators of Gran Turismo, sometimes seem to be caught in a similar time warp where a day in their lives is like a week in ours. In the time between the release dates of Gran Turismo 4 and the forthcoming fifth game, competitor Turn 10 Studios has released all three of their Forza Motorsport games. Consider that Gran Turismo on PSP was intended to launch shortly after the PSP was released over four years ago, and you can imagine how some thought this game would never see the light of day.
That being said, when Polyphony does something, they generally do it right. That's no exception for Gran Turismo on the PSP, which gets most of the difficult things about delivering a realistic racing game on a portable platform just about exactly right. Unfortunately, they kind of screwed up the easy stuff, which does wind up costing the game a lot in terms of generating the long-lasting interest the franchise is usually known for.
While GT on Sony's little portable delivers very solid racing and slick controls, it's important to note that thePSP is still a very limited machine. What you'll get is racing with up to three other cars on a large variety of tarmac, dirt, and icy tracks from around the world - and yeah, the Nurburgring is included. There are a few dozen tracks in all, and most can be raced in either direction. The game's got hundreds of cars, and while you'll enjoy the variety, there's not much to do but finish the driving challenges, race in single races, do drift trials, and buy new cars with the money won from these events. You can tune a few things on your cars, but you can't buy any new parts at all. On top of that, there's no career mode, no multi-race events, and no tiered licenses. Hell, only a few car manufacturers are even selling cars at a time, forcing you to keep checking back and hoping that your favorite car maker is not only on the list for the day but also selling something you can afford. You won't get a lot of info on any given car either: you'll get a rather suspect horsepower rating (one manufacturer was selling a $500,000 F1-looking concept car, but listed it as having fewer horsepower than a $35,000 production car right next to it) and a little bit of info on torque and the car's weight. You can't test drive a car before buying it, either, so you may wind up regretting some of your purchases.
What baffles me about all the things missing is that they would have really furthered the experience you get when you're actually racing, as GT delivers a fantastic technical achievement on the PSP with a great sense of speed, solid visuals for cars and tracks, multiple camera angles including a cockpit view, and a blistering frame rate nearing 60fps. The driving and physics are by far the most realistic you'll get on thePSP , even with zero damage modeling. Sure, there are only four cars going at once and the opponent AI isn't particularly great, but then again, GranTurismo is arguably best when it's just you and the road anyway.
Multiplayer features are pretty lacking here, with just ad-hoc multiplayer and car-trading making it into the released version. Online features were teased in the past, but none of it made the cut. At the very least, UMD owners can install the game to a memory stick to drastically reduce load times, and the game was posted for download so PSP Go owners aren't left out in the cold.
I really don't understand why so much effort went into making Gran Turismo such a fantastic racer while you're behind the wheel, but so little went into extending that experience when you're not. The lack of gameplay modes is a huge downside, and it really does a disservice to what I think is one of the best technical achievements on thePSP so far. If all you're looking for is a solid portable driving simulator and just want cars, tracks, and solid controls, then this is your game - nothing else comes even close if that's all you want. But if you want a full-featured GranTurismo game with all the bells and whistles regardless of platform, then you're better off saving your money and just picking up GranTurismo 5 on PS3 whenever Polyphony Digital gets around to releasing it. It's a shame that a racing game five-plus years in the making is missing so much.