Gran Turismo PSP Review: Steady As A Pace Car

The long promised PlayStation Portable entry in Polyphony Digital's Gran Turismo series has finally arrived, putting the essence of the "Real Driving Simulator" in your pocket.

With some 800 licensed cars and over 35 tracks on which to race them, Gran Turismo for the PSP offers a broad driving simulation experience that seems to focus more on car collecting and driving technique than high speed thrills. It also offers local multiplayer, car trading and a slick package.

The PSP game's spec sheet mostly matches the raw numbers of its PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 counterparts, minus a few concessions, but does it offer the same deep feature set of the games that have come before it?

Loved Easy In, Easy Out: Gran Turismo for PSP feels more forgiving, more inviting than ever for new players. As someone who dabbled in the first three games and Gran Turismo HD, I typically consider myself a GT noob every time I dive in. The PSP version is generous with credits, initially friendly with its competitive AI drivers, ensuring that getting back into the swing of things is a breeze. It's ideal for pick and play session, more so than I'd expected.

Driving Challenges: Also kinder to the casual Gran Turismo fan (who might've had horrifying flashbacks to cruel licence tests in previous games) are the PSP game's Driving Challenges. Most can be cleared at bronze level on the first go for easy in-game income, but others offer a serious and addictive challenge for the driving sim disinclined. The demonstration videos of each challenge, narrated by Jay Leno, are generally pretty helpful.

It Gets The Numbers Right: Gran Turismo PSP nails the numbers, with a rock solid frame rate and hundreds of cars to collect, giving the game a Pokemon-like that will have completionists returning for more. There may not be much variety in the gameplay modes, but you can't fault the game for a lack of incredibly diverse cars and trucks to drive.

Technically, It's Gran Turismo: It may not look as sharp as its forebears and some of the early screen shots released for Gran Turismo PSP, but the game's physics model, tracks, car models and general technical prowess impress. The number of cars that can compete in a race have been whittled down to just four, but the game still runs well enough to merit mention.

Hated Directionless Grinding: After completing the game's Driving Challenge mode and tackling a handful of random time trials, single-player races, drift trials, you may start to wonder where the rest of the game is. There's no campaign mode, no career mode, no structure to the game that would give one much of a sense of accomplishment. This lack of things to do beyond finding things to do with your time gives Gran Turismo a barebones feeling, in spite of the wealth of vehicles to drive.

Limited Time Offers: Gran Turismo PSP curiously randomises what cars will be available to the player when they're in the mood to do a little shopping. Only four car manufacturers are available at any given time—per day in the Gran Turismo calendar, which admittedly passes quicker than real-time—and up to ten cars per manufacturer are up for purchase. That makes car shopping somewhat of a crap shoot, sometimes limiting the appeal when ultra-expensive Audis or the meek Land Rover offerings pop up.

Personally (and curiously), I found the Driving Challenge aspects of the game—the deep list of driving technique tutorials—to offer the most appeal, helping to make me a better virtual driver. Perfecting some of those techniques was made a little more challenging by my distaste for the PSP's awkward analogue nub, a control hang up that might be a turn off to GT fans downgrading to the portable version.

After all this waiting, it's somewhat surprising to see the limitations that Gran Turismo for the PSP comes with. The core essence of the driving sim is intact, offering an enjoyable simulation on the go. And that may be all you require of the PlayStation Portable entry, a largely capable if not impressively feature rich driving sim, a portable copy of the Nürburgring on which to study its turns, chicanes and corners.

Gran Turismo was developed by Polyphony Digital and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for the PSP on September 29. Retails for $US39.99. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played 50 single player races, completed Driving Challenge mode and tested Ad Hoc multiplayer.

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    The 'collection' mechanic and randomised selection of cars to buy at any given time has a distinctly Japanese flavour - a little hard to digest elsewhere though. Gotta collect 'em all!

      The randomisation was also present in Gran Turismo 4 to a degree - some of the used cars only turned on certain days (eg every 7th day).

    I agree with this review..... i give it 8.5/10 on my site, it feels like GT and smells (?) like GT but there is only really the collecting side of it to bring you back after completing the races and driving challenges, however......that never stopped Pokemon now did it?

      Indeed, however I think they should have called it something different. Don't get me wrong, I like the game and I enjoy collecting the cars, but it's not really Gran Turismo. It should be called 'Gran Turismo 5: Car Collector' or something similar that doesn't sound as bad lol. The idea is that when Gran Turismo 5 is released, you will be able to use the cars you have collected from Gran Turismo PSP and hopefully the credit, making the initial grind a little easier.

    Some things that didn't seem to be elaborated int he review...

    There is NO career mode. Which was the highlight of previous GT games imo.

    LOAD SCREENS. Perhaps because I'm playing on a PSP-1000, but you'll see more loading screens than actual driving. God forbid you make a wrong decision or have to go back to the previous menu because that's +2 screens to get back to where you were.

    Throw in the random car selection, meaning you have to check in the garage (just after the main menu) every now and then for an automaker you want, and it's a nightmare. I love the actual gameplay and it looks great, but the load screens were just the biggest downside for me.

    Since this doesn't have any sort of "point" (eg a career mode), I'm not interested. But you know what could've filled that gap? PSN Trophies. Why in the worlds do PSP games still not have them? Why didn't they introduce it with the PSPgo!?!? It's the one thing that feels like it's missing when I play my PSP...

      The official answer is that it is too easy to install a hacked firmware on a PSP, which might let someone write one that would automatically award all trophies from a game to the user, making trophy leaderboards meaningless.

    Yeah no career mode and no real structure to the 'arcade' mode that exists is really disappointing, so in the end you are left with a target of all golds on driving challenges and completing all arcade races on top difficulty.

    But once you've accepted the game modes I think the two most annoying things are the lack of rewards (complete a series of driving challenges and you get squat) and most importantly the way you are forced to return to the main menu (via many sub menus - and an autosave sequence) before you can see what dealerships are on offer today.

    I can understand limiting the dealerships, it does have me playing just one more race over and over again until the dealership i want is available. But to do this it requires me to do the following:
    1) check dealerships on main menu
    2) chose event type (eg. arcade or driving challenge)
    3) chose specific event (and car & track etc)
    4) event loads
    5) race
    6) exit event up to main menu (cycle through about 4 screens)
    7) auto save
    8) check dealerships

    if there was a way to check what dealerships were currently available without going all the way back up to the main menu every single time, then i'd love this game a whole lot more.

    i like how the names on that screenshot are different wines

    Excellent review. I bought the game after reading other reviews elsewhere and your review is the one that I think has hit the nail on the head more than any other.

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