Gran Turismo PSP
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by: Polyphony Digital
It's hard to believe that a game that was used to make the idea of a PlayStation Portable an attractive one has taken so long to be released. In fact it's taken so long that the PSP has gone through several changes and now of course we are on the fourth version of the console with the UMD-less PSP Go, which Gran Turismo has also been used to promote. Now that the game has finally arrived it's fair to say, that as expected, the game offers one of the best racing experiences on the PSP. There have been some sacrifices made however and not all of them will sit well with loyal fans of the series who have waited so long for a full GT experience on their PSP.
Gran Turismo offers three different modes. In Single Player you can take part in one-off races, time trials and drift trials. Ad Hoc mode allows you to participate in races with three other friends in a local multiplayer game (AI drivers can make up the numbers if there are less than three). You can also share and trade cars with your friends in Ad Hoc mode. Finally, Driving Challenges is a mode which offers a series of challenges that are designed to get you used to the driving. The mode feels a lot like the licence tests that are in past Gran Turismo games. There are many challenges to complete and you'll certainly want to complete them as they are a great means of earning money and you'll need plenty of it in Gran Turismo.
The number of cars in Gran Turismo is superb. In total there are over 800 cars from a large number of manufacturers. You'll begin the game with access to just one car, a Mini Cooper, but as you earn money from one-off races and also by completing challenges, you'll be able to purchase additional cars. For some reason you won't have access to all of the cars at any one time. At any given time you only have access to four manufacturers and then only ten cars for each manufacturer. Whilst this may initially seem irritating, it does keep you coming back to the game at different times to see if you have access to your favourite manufacturer and car models. It's also worth mentioning that you can import any cars you acquire into Gran Turismo 5 for the PlayStation 3 when it appears in 2010.
Impressively, the cars handle really well and this PSP version of Gran Turismo really does feel like a Gran Turismo game when you're behind the wheel. There are some disappointments however, that will spoil the experience for those who were hoping for a full GT experience. To begin with, there is no career mode. Whilst the single races and challenges are certainly entertaining the game as a whole does feel like a rather hollow GT experience. There are only four cars per race which is disappointing. There is no support for online races which certainly feels like a missed opportunity. Not everyone will have the good fortune to have friends who have a PSP and a copy of the game and for those people the single-player experience will be all they have to enjoy. You can adjust various settings for up to thirty of your favourite cars but you can't purchase new parts for them.
Graphically speaking, Gran Turismo is impressive with both the cars and the various circuits in the game looking great for a handheld title (incidentally there are 35 circuits in the game ranging from professional racing circuits to snow covered roads through the Swiss Alps). There are a variety of camera angles to choose from including a simplistic in-car view. The performance of the game is excellent running at what appears to be a solid 60 frames per second throughout. Of course there are only four cars in a race which is disappointing but if this is a decision that was made to keep the frame rate as impressive as it is then it's certainly an understandable one. I played the game on an original PSP (as I've never switched to any of the newer versions) and had to put up with tedious load times. There is an option to install data to the memory stick in order to speed up the load times but my memory stick was of insufficient capacity for me to test what impact this has on the load times.
Gran Turismo poses no real problems for deaf gamers. An announcer's voice when you first visit the main menu screen isn't subtitled. The demonstration video clips for the driving challenges are also, disappointingly, not subtitled. None of these are major problems however. All of the instructions for the driving challenges are given in text so you're always aware of what needs to be done in order to complete a challenge. All of the other important information in the game is shown visually.
It's been an unbelievably long wait for the PSP version of Gran Turismo but the wait is finally over and it delivers an enjoyable, albeit streamlined Gran Turismo experience. There are some disappointments here however. The lack of a career mode is hugely disappointing and only having four cars per race is also unfortunate. However, the races are enjoyable, the cars handle really well, the game looks great and the frame rate is very impressive. The huge number of cars on offer is also superb. I suspect those who will get the most out of the game will be those who intend to purchase Gran Turismo 5 next year. With the ability to transfer cars from this game to GT5 it's very tempting to see the PSP version of Gran Turismo as a means of building up your car collection in advance. As a game in its own right however, as impressive as some aspects of the game may be, Gran Turismo for the PSP isn't quite the GT experience that everyone would have hoped for even though it's one of the best driving games on the handheld.