Are we allowed to write about this? Gran Turismo Sport's closed beta agreement terms specifically stipulate that the server stress test can't be talked about, but video platforms are filled with footage and public forums are chatting pretty openly about the racer. Hmm, for the purposes of this hands on preview, let's just pretend that we're basing our impressions on a session at Insomnia60, where the title was playable this weekend. Wink, wink.
It's pretty good, by the way. Sony must be frustrated it's taking Polyphony Digital so long to get its flagship brand on the PlayStation 4 – especially considering the console's success in the series' primary market Europe – but the game's coming together really nicely. Sublime presentation paired with the kind of attention to detail seldom seen elsewhere means Kaz Yamauchi and crew are on track for a pretty big hit here.
The physics, as always, have that intangible Gran Turismo slickness to them. It's still not the kind of beat-for-beat realism that you can find in some of the PC-based simulations, but there's a je ne sais quoi that this series has always possessed that makes driving feel good, and it's present yet again here. It feels particularly well-tuned to the DualShock 4, too, which is obviously not where hardcore players will stay, but should be reassuring for more casual fans.
The big twist here, of course, is the structure. From what we've seen so far, Polyphony Digital aims to be ditching the 'CarPG' flavour of mainline entries in favour of a more contemporary 'live game' feel. This means that the loop in the primary Sport mode will see you qualifying for events, and then registering to race them. It's not massively dissimilar to the way that DriveClub worked – albeit much more in-depth – with racing tickets rotating throughout the day.
And while it's likely to disappoint those looking for a more single player focus, it's probably the best move for Gran Turismo in this day and age. There are various ratings to the online component, including your Sportsmanship rank which determines how reckless you are on the road. Presumably this will ultimately ensure that those wanting to play bumper cars are matched separately to those who regularly observe racing etiquette, improving the multiplayer for everyone.
There are daily challenges that you can complete to unlock cars – well, in the beta that this preview absolutely isn't based on, at least – and you can see how Polyphony Digital's going to try and cultivate a community of regular players by adding events and additional content to the title post-release, rather than plumping up for a more traditional sequel. This strikes us a game you're going to want installed on your hard drive, rather than on a Blu-ray disc.
The presentation's generally stellar but sometimes inconsistent, though who knows how old the build is? Fantasy tracks like Dragon Trail have some neat scenery – in this instance the backdrop is a sea port – but pop-in and aliasing issues are prevalent. That said, the title's running at a rock-solid 60 frames-per-second – we're yet to experience a single drop in gameplay – and the lighting model is frankly in a league of its own. Assuming the developer can clean up the rough edges, this will be one of the PS4's best looking games.
The sound's better, too. Engines no longer resemble supercharged vacuum cleaners, while gear transitions pop and tires don't squeal in quite the same way as they used to on the PlayStation 3. The cheesy rock and jazz music seems almost obligatory at this point, but the latter is complemented by some real classy user interface design, which feels more Web 2.0 than ever and is a surprising joy to navigate. The load times are also great.
Positive stuff, then? Yes, though it remains to be seen how much mileage old-school players will get out of the new online-centric structure as opposed to the classic collectathon format. We reckon that it's the right move for the series, though, and the racing itself is strong. Polyphony Digital now needs to polish up the game – it was due out last Christmas, remember – and get it out, because the wait has been too long yet again.
Are you looking forward to assuming the wheel in Gran Turismo Sport? Do you think this game is ever actually going to come out? Put your foot down in the comments section below.