► The full, updated Gran Turismo Sport review
► July 30th update brings 2017 F1 car
► And microtransactions
The July 1.23 update to Gran Turismo Sport is here, and as suspected it delivers some key cars to the PS4’s flagship sim racer. Front and centre is Lewis Hamilton’s 2017 W08 Mercedes F1 car – as well as the stunning Mazda 787B – but there’s some other classics in there too like Ferrari’s 250 GTO.
Alongside a new circuit called the Circuit de Sainte-Croix and some other driver customisation details, GT Sport’s latest update also introduces microtransactions, so you’ll now be able to use actual cash to buy cars. From what we’ve seen, an 184,000 Cr Mercedes AMG GT S will cost you $0.99, as a rough example.
If you’ve got Gran Turismo Sport, you should find the free update on your game now, and we’ll be testing the new cars and tracks later today. In the meantime, you can read our constantly updated review of the game below.
Read our best racing games in 2018 round-up here
GT Sport on PS4 review
There are lots of new things in GT Sport, but the new game's gorgeous graphics are what you'll notice first. For starters, Gran Turismo Sport can be rendered in full 4K if you're playing on a suitable TV and PS4 Pro, which is by far the best way to play the game.
But even if you've not got a 4K TV, you can take full advantage of the game running at 60fps (frames per second) with HDR capability – again with a suitable TV. Simply put, running on the PS4 Pro this is the best-looking racing game on any console right now – and not just because of sheer processing power – but the way the game treats light. Alongside the stunning visuals, Polyphony has completely redesigned the vehicle physics system and even looked to Sony's vast vault of knowledge in audio tech to improve how the cars sound.
There's a new shift in focus when it comes to game modes, too. When Gran Turismo Sport launched, it came with a career mode with three modes (a driving school, a driving challenge section and a motorsport section) plus two-player split-screen gaming and support for the PlayStation VR kit.
There is one new change we're not such a fan of, though. Like many new competitive multiplayer games, GT Sport now requires an always-online connection, and while you are able to race offline, it's impossible to save your progress or make any headway in the game if you're not connected.
Read our best racing games in 2018 roundup here
It's fair to say this will alienate a decent proportion of the racing game market. Not everyone has regular access to fast (or indeed any) internet at home, so not allowing manual game saves when you're not connected to the GT Sport servers is a bit of a blight. It was even more irritating when we initially reviewed the GT Sport; we were given early access to it before the game's general release but the servers weren't switched on for most of our early access - and when they were, they were extremely intermittent.
Let's get down to the graphics: how does GT Sport look?
Honestly? Amazing. The cars and environments all look pin-sharp, even on a pre-2017 standard PS4 without HDR. GT Sport is certainly up there with Forza Motorsport 7 and Project CARS 2 in terms of graphical prowess, but there's a level of extra sheen and detail that even Forza 7 will find hard to match. That's mainly down to the silky-smooth 60fps running speed, which hugely enhances the look.
It's all about the little things with GT Sport, though; looking to the rear when you're in cockpit view forces you to look you through the rear window, sparks fly off the undersides of GT3 and GT4 cars when they skip over rumble strips, and bright headlights from cars behind beam through your cockpit during night races. Having watched endless hours of N24 footage, the latter really adds to the immersion.
Even things like the indicators are weirdly fascinating to look at. They're obviously in the game for hazard lights during pit manoeuvres, but GT Sport has even loaded in the scrolling indicators on an Audi TT, for example, and programmed the interior icons to light up, too.
Other than that – it's still recognisably a Gran Turismo game. The menu system is a faff to operate, with some slightly clunky button controls and a cursor system (which will please some, irritate others) while the head-up display in-race still looks very much like previous GT games, buzzing with graphs, lights and data. Crashes also feel a little limp-wristed, even with the damage setting fully on; charge full pelt at a wall and the car will just bounce off and show up scuffed bodywork.
You can waste hours on end in the gorgeous and detailed 'Scapes' photography mode and Livery Editor, too. Budding car snappers will love the former, as you have the ability to create some truly gorgeous imagery, even to the point that it borders on real-life photography that CAR uses for road tests...
GT Sport app
When Gran Turismo Sport was first announced, Sony promised a strong community element and companion app, and seven months after release, it’s delivered on both counts. But let’s start with the new app.
The official Gran Turismo Sport companion app hit both Google and Apple’s stores yesterday, allowing you to view your friends' feeds, post new pictures and inspect your own public profile. It’s pretty basic, but the sort of feature that will make GT Sport’s surprisingly good community work even better.
Community is key
We’d never dipped into GT Sport’s community side of things, but that all changed after attending the N24h a week or so ago. While attempting to recreate some of the pictures we took at the famous endurance race, we uncovered an enthusiastic community of livery makers, photo takers and general car lovers whom we didn’t expect on a game this big.
After just a few quick searches on the game's community area, we found almost perfect, user-generated liveries for the Falken Porsche 911 GT3 R and Mann Filter Mercedes AMG GT race car – as well as the BWT Audi R8 LMS. And we also found some pretty incredible pictures of the livery in action.
It’s a pleasant surprise to see this sort of thing working nowadays, and when combined with the app, it looks as though we’ll be putting more time into GT Sport on and off the track. Pretty impressive for a game this old.
Talk me through the sound upgrades
Remember the last few GT games, and how most of the cars lower down the performance scale just sounded like tumble dryers or lawn mowers? Not the case here.
Read our best racing games in 2018 roundup here
Sony's audio tech bods have worked their magic on all of the cars in the game, so you can happily prep your eardrums for pops and bangs from sports exhausts, whines from racing gearboxes and clunks from sequential gearboxes. Even fairly dry four-cylinder cars have differences; the flat four in the Toyota GT86 sounds appreciably different to the growly inline motor in a Golf GTI – as it should be.
There are definitive audio changes between external views and racing from the cockpit, and you can hear roaring engines and screeching tyres echo off Armco walls or off the scenery in the distance. Spine-tingling stuff, at times.
The handling: Like the real thing or lacking zing?
GT went back to the drawing board with Sport's handling systems, and we can confidently say that it shows. We used a controller, rather than a wheel, but it was easy to get to grips with, even when driving some quite serious race cars. If you slack off the traction control, you'll experience powerslides if you poke hard enough, or even lift-off oversteer due to the shift in weight on the car. It's a challenge to smoothly correct your exuberant manoeuvres, but when you do – it's quite rewarding. The drift trials are both hilarious fun and challenging.
Pro gamers will laud the flexibility of setting up your car just so – everything from tyre compound types and how aggressive the traction control system is to tweaking weight distribution levels and damper stiffness before your race.
Some of Gran Turismo's recognisable handling traits are still there, though; body roll in road cars seems a little exaggerated at times, for example.
The multiplayer: What's the online racing like?
Pretty slick, actually. Even if you have potato-spec internet like I do it held up well. There are various forms of racing to take part in, all under the beady eye of FIA's algorithm for racing sportsmanship.
Online racing lobbies can be a little difficult to find, forcing you to type in a 'room code' that has more characters in it than a Morecambe and Wise sketch show.
Still, when you actually get into one, you can go out onto the track to practice while others join instead of waiting endlessly for the race to start on the lobby screen. We had a couple of issues of non-starting cars on the grid and players getting immediately kicked out when the lights went green but that was mainly down to less-than-stable internet connections more than anything else.
The whole 'not being able to save when offline' thing will irritate, but we've already gone on enough about that.
We appreciate that GT Sport has obviously gone for quality over quantity for its car and track list, but even after the most recent updates, the amount of content here is still dwarfed by other current racing games - namely Forza 7 and Project CARS 2.
Having a smidge over 150 cars from launch pales in comparison to F7's more than 700-strong car offering, for example, especially when some cars are merely GT4 and GT3 versions of road cars that Polyphony has designed out of thin air. Thankfully, as time has gone on, the developers have been adding more cars for free but they'll have a lot of work to do if they want to top Forza or Project CARS.
There's no dynamic weather, either, so you'll have to look elsewhere for more challenging races under the whim of the elements.
When GT Sport was first released, it felt like a bold new direction for the franchise. It was impressive to look at and to play, but a lack of single player content and a focus on multiplayer meant it felt slightly stripped down – and not a true sequel to the spraling Gran Turismos of old. However, an aggressive strategy of updates has brought GT Sport back to its former glories. You can now drive in classics like the Toyota Supra and Nissan Skyline – cars that are 100% Gran Turismo. When combined with a much improved single player offerin, GT Sport is everything it should've been to begin with.
The cars and tracks all look astounding, the sound improvements are a huge leap forward and the play style is both accessible to beginners yet more than intricate enough for hardcore racing fans. The handling system splits the balance between F7's slightly more accessible system and PC2's more simulation-based experience. It has acres of polish, is visually gorgeous and has plenty of modes to sink your teeth into.
There are still a few issues though, even in April 2018. The 'no manual save offline' thing will render the game useless to some, or at least infuriating to others, and block off some of the game's biggest crowd pleasers at the whim of the servers. Plus, if you're playing racing game Top Trumps, GT Sport will still be left battered and bruised in the 'most cars' or 'most tracks' card rounds.
Finally a lack of calbiration for wheel users is also a huge issue. Unlike most other racing games, GT Sport doesn't allow you to calibrate your pedals or steering wheel – and for a game with the lofty eSports ambitions of GT Sport, that's a huge oversight. Hopefully like many other features, that'll come in a future update.
Read our best racing games in 2018 roundup here