Review: Gran Turismo (PSP)

Polyphony Digital's Gran Turismo racing series has careened onto the PSP, just in time for the launch of the PSP Go. Its arrival on PSN and retail shelves is likely a big event for most Gran Turismo fans, but for me, the game hasn't had the impact I'd expected. There just isn't much here to validate this version of the long-running series as special or unique.
%Gallery-64985% The game's controls provide two steering options: the analog nub or the d-pad. While both have their merits, for me, the analog is the only way to go, as it gives me the sensitivity and fine control I need in a technical racer. But with a manual transmission (another necessity for a serious, non-arcade racing game), the only way to shift is to use up and down on the d-pad. This is a big pain when using the analog nub to steer, especially when shifting mid-turn. I could've just stuck with the d-pad, but then I would've lost that fine control. And, sure, the controls are customizable, but no one set seems to work well enough. It's a catch-22.

While the core driving feels very much like its predecessors, the remainder of the package doesn't. There are no longer license challenges -- the PSP game replaces them with tutorial-like driving tests that range from the utterly basic to the familiarly punishing scenarios fans would expect. As driving challenges and races are completed, credits are earned, which are used to build a bulkier and braggier virtual car collection.

There are an impressive number of cars to collect in the game, but they lack a lot of the upgrade options found in previous iterations -- instead you're relegated to only dictating the lesser characteristics of each ride, like traction control. Forget about adding turbo kits and reducing body weight because those options aren't here. Thankfully, each member of the the boastable 800-car roster feels like it should, with FWD cars and RWD cars handling uniquely and offering their own set of merits, given the scenario.

Gran Turismo PSP
is one step forward and two steps back. It progresses the series by being a viable pick-up-and-go diehard sim racing title for the PSP -- something nobody has seen before -- and brings the graphical and gameplay polish of home consoles to the portable space, but it goes far backwards on the very fundamentals that made it such a beloved series in the first place. There's no career mode, and a lot of the content here doesn't sustain itself easily -- almost everything is unlocked from the get-go and there's no real incentive to play other than feeding that inner hoarder. It's a good effort, but Gran Turismo fans looking for an experience comparable to its console brethren won't find it here.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.