When Gran Turismo Sport launched in October 2017, it was easy to regard it with suspicion. Despite being the first — and at this rate, perhaps only — Gran Turismo game on the PlayStation 4, it lacked the numeral that would’ve clearly signalled it as the next step in one of the longest-running platform-exclusive series in video games. Why Sport and not 7?
Add to that Sport’s nearly exclusive focus on online play, and the fact that it has significantly fewer cars and tracks than competing driving simulators such as Forza Motorsport 7 or even previous Gran Turismo games, and Sport felt like a step back at launch, even as it maintained developer Polyphony Digital’s signature level of realism and quality.
Despite that negative first impression, in the two years since it came out, Gran Turismo Sport has received a staggeringly consistent number of free updates, each adding a handful of cars or a brand-new track — such as this week’s update 1.39, which adds England’s Goodwood Motor Circuit.
Since December 2017, this has more or less been the norm for Gran Turismo Sport. Each month, a free update will either add cars, a track, or both, in addition to new challenges and regular patches adding support for new steering wheels and tweaking performance.
There’s also GT Sport’s focus on structured competitions, with regular GT Live events and tours certified by the very serious Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, or FIA — basically the motorsport version of FIFA.
These aren’t updates that have significantly changed the game. Lapsed Gran Turismo fans hoping for a more robust solo offering won’t find anything to win them back here, and you still have to be online to play most of the game outside of its arcade offerings or solo road tests.
What’s more, every change hasn’t always been well-received. Consider last winter’s July update, which added microtransactions to the game a year after series producer Kazunori Yamauchi said, quite definitively, that it would not.
Mostly, Gran Turismo Sport’s post-launch support has just made it more of what it is: A prestige racing game with a strong online competitive focus, and served to make up for an initially slim roster of cars and tracks.
After launching with 162 cars, Gran Turismo Sport’s garage now holds 288 cars and counting as of the April update. Similarly, the game’s launch set of 17 locations and 40 courses has ballooned to 28 locations and 55 courses.
To an outside observer, cars and tracks might not seem like much — but when you play GT Sport, it feels much more substantial. Its austerity does a lot to focus your attention on how each new car and track feels, and getting to know how each vehicle performs on each course is rewarding in and of itself.
As you master each car and course, you become a better driver — which is ultimately what GT Sport wants you to become.
When it comes to volume and variety, GT Sport still lags behind other driving simulators. GT Sport still hasn’t come close to what Forza Motorsport 7 offered at launch — 700 cars and 32 locations with multiple layouts — and Forza offers a more robust single-player experience, with a full-fledged campaign and a friendlier approach.
But Gran Turismo, at least in this iteration, is about focus and austerity, single-mindedly pursuing its vision of a video game counterpart to the world’s most premiere automotive competitions. For those on board with that vision, Gran Turismo Sport has been surprisingly generous.