Tuesday 6 October 2009

Gran Turismo for PSP

Gran Turismo for the PSP has been promised since the handheld console was launched.

Indeed it's been slated for release on more than one occasion, only to fail to materialise, so it was with a little surprise that I opened my parcel from Play.com and realised I FINALLY held it in my hand.

First off, let me say that I've only very briefly played GT3 on a PS2 before, so I'm not a series fan. I don't have a clue what 'Career Mode' is and I suspect I wouldn't much like it to be honest (if it forces you to plough through level after level to reach the track and car you want to race).

So, what's GT for the PSP actually like?

After upgrading my PSP to version 5.5 firmware (which it insisted on doing and delivers a PS Network link from the main menu), the intro movie is a delight. The graphics are film quality and atmospheric and I wanted to play the game as soon as I'd watched them!

First car I was offered was, wait for it, a Renault Megane... mmmm....

The nice thing is that I was able to pick a wide variety of tracks and I plumped for one of my all time favourites, Laguna Seca in California.

Something GT games are famed for is the realistic handling of their cars and, sure enough, the Megane understeers wide if you fail to brake sufficiently into the corners.

Laguna Seca looks to be very accurately reproduced too (I've not driven the circuit, but I've walked around it and watched many in-car laps).

After easily beating the competition, I purchased a Mazda (I thought it was an RX8 - my daily drive - but it turned out to be a 7) and took on the Grune-Holle of the Nordschleife. The circuit is challenging and so, for me, are the controls. breaking isn't a natural action, switching over to the SQUARE button from the X on the right controller - perhaps being left handed exacerbates this - and the steering with the joystick controller is over sensitive, leading to a snaking action which leads to spins at speed on the Nurburgring's fastest sections. All that said, though, I'm sure hardcore console fans won't have problems with this.

Mentioning speed brings me to another positive of the game, the sensation of speed is great - I felt genuinely tense as the car started to snake and i lost control. I was only doing 140 mph or so, but it felt like 140 or more, unlike the rather sterile experience of some computer games.

There's certainly no slow frame refreshing here and the rendering of the woods surrounding the circuit is detailed enough to aid the sense of speed - I was impressed by this as some reviews had suggested that the background detail was poor to aid performance - So far, I've seen no examples of this.

I have seen the odd black rectangle passing by on the Nordschleife, but generally the detail is complete and high.

After a few plays I 'invested' in a Nissan GTR and the performance is notably higher than the RX7 (I had a high speed tank slappper on the long straight near the end of the circuit and I could feel myself getting tense!).

It was also noticable that the competition is tougher to beat as you edge up the classes (I'm up to class B on the ring and beating the competition by a second or two most races, although not without the odd off track excursion on most laps)

What's not so good?

Well, although there are lots of cars and it's clear what they're supposed to be, I found their graphical detail in game to be a little crude, although it's better on replay. It's certainly no match for GTR2 on a PC, for example.

Getting new cars depends on you 'buying' them from the 'dealers of the day' after winning money from race placing (you get money wherever you finish out of the 4 cars which feature in each race). Even if you have $1m, you can't just buy a Group C racer, until it's available from the dealership, which requires you dropping back to the menu, which starts a new 'day'.

Only having 4 cars on track at once doesn't bother me, nor does the lack of damage at this stage, but I can see how the latter might appeal when I'm more experienced with the game and it would've been nice to have it as a switchable feature.

What GT on the PSP is really good for is picking up and banging in a quick race on your favourite track(s) in your favourite car.

My use of the PSP is intermittent and, often, short, so the game works well in this mode, although hard-core GT gamers seem to have expected GT4 (or even 5!) on the PSP, which doesn't seem to be a practical solution (although attempts to deliver this might well explain the prolonged gestation period of the game).

I got GT PSP for just £18 on release and, for that price, it seems a great addition to PSP gaming.

Fire up the GTR, I'm off to the 'Ring again!

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