80It’s been a long time coming, but finally Sony’s driving opus, Gran Turismo, fits in your hands. While it’s certainly appropriate to level complaints at the PS3 version for not pushing the series forward to compete with newer semi-simulations like Grid and Need for Speed Shift, fans of GT will discover a comfortably familiar racing groove on the PSP with impressive specs and beautiful graphics. Launching with the PSPGo (though fully compatible with the regular PSP), this downloadable racer shows off the power of the under-rated system remarkably well–though not without some caveats.

Racing Sim
Publisher: Sony
Developer: Polyphony Digital
Oct. 1, 2009

Fans of the console versions of Gran Turismo will love how you can just jump right into the action here. First and foremost, the controls, the physics, and the feel of the handling are done amazingly right. Even on the PSP, Gran Turismo still feels like a racing simulator. The sensation of speed mixed with great graphics further assures a true GT experience.

Beyond that, there are the cars and tracks. 35 tracks full of variety and challenge around the world make sure that you’ll have plenty of road to conquer. And you’ll need to learn them well to make enough money to buy even a fraction of the 800+ cars in the game. Like all Gran Turismo titles, every car is a real, licensed vehicle, ranging from familiar Toyotas and Mazdas, amazing and challenging supercars, and a huge variety of gorgeous exotic dream machines. The dealerships in the game offer a limited amount at a time, rotating models and styles at random, so there’s almost always something new to offer.

All the cars and tracks are modeled with remarkable accuracy as well, and GT is certainly one of the best looking racers (if not the best) on the PSP. Still, there’s regular, if slight texture tearing on the tracks, but the framerate is rock solid and there’s little else to complain about. The audio is pretty good as well. Certainly not as powerful as the console versions, the car engines and race sounds are still modeled with an ear for detail and realism.

If there’s a real problem with the portable GT, it’s in the lack of a true career mode. You can instead jump right into a single race with whatever cars and tracks you have access to at any time. Choose the number of laps, the car, the track and go. The only options are to race against a measly three other cars, or race yourself in a time trial or drift event. The latter is an interesting feature for diehard racers, as drifting in GT requires a good deal more skill than in more arcade-styled racers.

The closest thing the game has to a career mode is the challenge mode, which starts as a training ground for drivers. In this mode, you complete an wide array of driving tasks to build your track skills. There’s little actual bonus rewards for the challenges though, and while these events add some needed variety to the racing, a full-on career mode is still sorely lacking.

The other big problem with the game, especially as a Triple-A launch title for the PSPGo is the lack of online multiplayer. For a game meant to show off an entirely internet-centric gaming system, only having local wireless play is awfully anticlimactic. The multiplayer action is certainly rock solid, but this would have been a golden opportunity to evolve GT into an online community with leaderboards and tournaments much like the competition on the big consoles. On the upside however, you’ll actually be able to boost your garage in the upcoming PS3 version with the cars you unlock now.

Blast Factor: Gran Turismo has made an overall successful leap to the portable realm. The driving and variety of cars is still amazing, the graphics are excellent, and for lovers of serious racing, GT is still king. It’s a great racing game in need of evolution, but those are mostly complaints that are easier to level on the PS3 version. As far as portable racers go, GT is still the king.

Gran Turismo is available exclusively on the PSP and PSP Go, and retails for $39.99

About The Author

Jason D’Aprile has been writing about technology, games, movies, and gadgets for the last three decades. His musings on all of the above can be found at addgamer.com. Jason only condones virtual violence and wishes we could all just get along.

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