If Gran Turismo PSP was a race car, it'd have go-faster stripes, a fat exhaust and an engine that roars like it wants to take off. But it'd spring an oil leak off the start line, bellow smoke all over the place and fart its way over the finish line.
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This is Gran Turismo. The big boy. The game that should define PSP. It's been in development for absolutely yonks. Now we've played it extensively we find ourselves wondering what Polyphony has been doing with it since 2004 because this is not at all the game we expected.
Despite Kazunori himself proclaiming this to be a "fully-fledged" GT game, GT PSP comes across like a rushed patch job. Let us say this first - the physics are really good. The cars handle brilliantly, they have a solid feeling of weight and momentum and you can feel this weight move around as you throw cars into bends and put the suspension under strain.
It's easily the most realistic handling we've seen in a PSP driving game, and all this is done at a silky smooth 60 frames per second which, on the little screen, looks lush. That's why screenshots and trailers had us all excited. But great handling and a smooth frame rate aren't the only important factors of a racing game, and GT PSP falls short in almost every other area.
The main mode of the game has no structure. Hit the single-player option and you have three modes; the standard Time Trial (with no online leaderboards, we might add), Drift Trial (again, no leaderboards and no set goals), and Single Race. That's it.
In Single Race, you're thrown a grid of 45 individual races. Nothing except the race course is pre-determined. The cars you race against are scaled on what car you enter with. So if you're in a Corsa you'll race Puntos and Fiestas, for example. Join in a Ferrari Enzo and the game breaks out the Lamborghinis and Pegani Zondas.
You choose the number of laps - not even that is set - and the difficulty, although only the super-easy Grade D setting is available for each race at first. When you win a race you get cash with which to buy cars and unlock the next grade for that course only.
There are no championships, no trophies and to that end, no sense of achievement. You're just grinding races. Being forced to race the easy grades for each and every race is bloody infuriating. That's hours of monotonous play time spent light-years ahead of the pack on an empty course.
Gran Turismo has in the past been criticised for typically allowing you to buy a fast car and race ahead of the computer. But at least in previous games you knew what challenge a particular event set you, and you worked hard to get a car fast enough to beat it.
When you won it felt like the reward of your efforts to buy and then upgrade your car with all the fattest turbos and whatnot. But there's no parts-based modification in here. You can change some gear ratios, tyres and camber settings, but you can't slap on exhaust kits or new air induction kits - like you could in the PSone games that made the GT series so legendary.
In this, you can enter any race with any car (you have to enter mud and snow courses with a four-wheel-drive car, but that's the only restriction we encountered) and quite easily win, so what's the incentive to buy new cars?
Simply put, there isn't one - not outside of satisfying your own fantasies of getting a car you'll never own in real life. That being the case, you'd think affording that dream Ferrari would take quite some time and effort. That'd give you something to aim for. Nope - we rocked out of the game's training mode with almost a million quid and slapped 500k on a bad-ass super car before we'd even done a single race. Hmm...