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Game Profile
Polyphony Digital
GENRE: Racing
October 01, 2009

Gran Turismo 5

Gran Turismo 5 Prologue

Gran Turismo HD Concept

Tourist Trophy

Gran Turismo 4

More in this Series
 Written by Adam Woolcott  on October 12, 2009

Review: Starcraft: Ghost can't be far behind

All the way back at E3 2004 when Sony took the wraps off the PlayStation Portable, one of the highlighted games for the machine was Gran Turismo. At the time, the plan was to effectively port Gran Turismo 4, which was still in development for PlayStation 2. However, after this announcement, the game vanished, and little to nothing was said about the future prognosis of what would have easily been Sony's biggest PSP title. Finally, after five years of nothing, this year's E3 became the forum to finally resurrect one of gaming's favorite pieces of vaporware. No longer a straight port of GT4, the simply-titled Gran Turismo can best be described as something as a light, portable-minded game. Is that a good thing? Well, for die-hard fans who were hoping this would be a great appetizer before Gran Turismo 5 comes out next year, it might not. With a large selection of vehicles ? mostly recycled from GT4, admittedly ? and 35 courses, it's still a huge game with a lot going on.

First things first; yes, Gran Turismo PSP has no career mode. It's a disappointing reality, as there's no reason why the game couldn't work with it, but it's not there and all the discussion in the world won't change that. Instead, the game features two basic single-player modes. Regular races pit you on a track with the car of your choice, and the AI is tailored to the vehicle you use and the difficulty you select. At the start, the only difficulty available per track is D, and as you win, you can get all the way to S. It's a bit repetitive, yeah. The other single-player mode are Driving Challenges. Hosted by car aficionado (and former Tonight Show host) Jay Leno, these are pretty much standard license tests, though since there's no licenses to earn, they just dole out funds to purchase new cars. Most of these challenges are fairly simple, though a few can be downright brutal, especially the overtake challenges which oftentimes require zero mistakes to complete.

Gran Turismo contains roughly 800 cars ? as mentioned, most are from GT4. You'll notice this instantly, since there's few models that are newer than 2005. Alas, these 800 cars are not instantly available. To...simplify, I guess, you can only pick cars from dealers that are open that day. Every two days, the car selection changes with four new dealers, and it takes about 70 days to cycle through the entire list. The randomness of car availability can be frustrating; if a car you want is there and you don't have the cash, you might have to wait until it cycles around, or use the wi-fi of the PSP to trade with another player. On the other hand, the limited selection might convince someone to buy a car they otherwise might not, just to see if it's any good. The game also lacks any kind of upgrading, and few tuning options, very much like 2008's GT5 Prologue, just even less since you can't even fiddle with horsepower and weight. For future purchasers of Gran Turismo 5 on PS3, your GT PSP car collection will import into that game, which does give the impression that this game is some kind of farming mini-game for its big brother.

Still, despite being so slim on features and having some insane design choices, the actual racing is classic Gran Turismo. Using a modified version of the physics engine of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, the game is as fun as ever if you're a fan of the genre, despite the same old GT mechanics that thankfully will be gone with GT5. The tracks are still top-notch, even without any new ones; it's disappointing that they didn't at least stick one or two of the new courses into the game. Another corner cut is the amount of cars; there's a maximum of four at one time, which makes some races feel lonely without much competition. The decision to not have tuning and thus having evenly-matched cars does have a benefit, that being no easy way to decimate the competition like the console versions. However the AI is still the same kind of robotic pattern driving, and without any kind of damage modeling or the punishment of a time penalty from GT4, it's easy to bounce around the corners and other cars. If you don't mind this, it's all good, but if you do...Gran Turismo 5 is coming.

As you'd expect, Gran Turismo looks great, but it's not quite as impressive with all the cut corners. With only four cars, and a massive HUD on the bottom of the screen, it's not as hard to keep up the 60fps. It still looks good however, almost as good as GT4 did back in 2005. The strange thing about GT PSP is that all the night courses have been removed; no Hong Kong, Special Circuits, etc. Just the daytime courses. Just a little strange, apparently they didn't want to render night-time effects like headlights and the like. Like past GT games, the PSP version features a licensed soundtrack, but it's mostly uninspired fare. Thankfully, playing through the Driving Challenges unlocks the ability to use a custom soundtrack with your own musical selections. Car sounds are mostly the same ones from past GT games, so those are realistic and mostly unique to each car. The star-power of Jay Leno is nice, but he seems bored and all his dialogue comes off as nothing more than script reading.

Bottom Line
For all the years of development and jokes about Gran Turismo PSP being vaporware, the finished product is just fine in the gameplay department, but lacking almost everywhere else. It's almost as if the game was shelved years ago, but Sony came to Polyphony Digital and asked them for some kind of GT game for the PSP Go release, and this is all they could assemble in such a short period of time. It's still a good game; the racing action is great, the track selection is top-notch, and it looks very nice, but it feels like a game out of the pre-Gran Turismo days when a career mode wasn't necessary for a game like this. As a companion to Gran Turismo 5, it has its uses in importing cars to that game, but aside from the die-hard fans who will play with every possible car and get to S rank in every single track, this one isn't going to have the longevity of the past games. Here's to hoping a real Gran Turismo game will hit PSP in the future that combines the great play with the depth necessary in 2009.

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