[E3 2009] Gran Turismo Hands-On

Oh god, we finally got to play it, and it's glorious. Impressions await you inside.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: June 5, 2009
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You could forgive, well, everyone for assuming that Polyphony Digital had just up and forgotten that they even announced a Gran Turismo game when the PSP was first unveiled at E3 five years ago. Then dubbed GT4 Mobile, the title only makes it more obvious that things have progressed quite a bit since the last PS2 Gran Turismo. Both GT HD and Gran Turismo 5 Prologue have rolled onto the PS3, and it seemed the portable version of things had fallen by the wayside in favor of a proper 1080p continuation of the series (which is also coming, by the way).

Oh, but the absence of evidence does not mean nothing's there. Polyphony Digital has clearly been toiling away on the portable take on Sony's biggest-selling franchise (over 50 million copies sold now), and they finally revealed what had been rumored (and even exposed in the leaked Qore issue) for a few weeks: Gran Turismo (now as simply titled as possible) was not only real, it was coming in just a few months.

Come October 1st, right in line with the launch of the PSP go, GT PSP will arrive, bringing with it, time trials, drift competitions behind the wheel of some 800+ cars driving around 35 tracks (some of which have variations, bringing the inflated total to a whopping 60 courses). For those keeping track, that's like a hundred more cars than GT4. Think about that for a second. Polyphony is keeping their grand tradition of packing as much content as possible into an even smaller space than their last few games. Impressed? We sure were.

And then we got to actually play it.

So here's the first big bummer we discovered: there's no customization of all those cars. Apparently having 20 Skylines or something meant actually being able to upgrade them was out. You'll be able to tweak things, similarly to the recent PS3 efforts, but no swapping out of core parts. For fans like us, it was a bit crushing. The past two PS3 GTs, good as they were, didn't supply the all-important act of grinding to get that new intercooler to squeeze just a few more horsepower out of our little Miata to finally come in first and net more cash on that difficult course. The progression is the soul of GT, and though we love that there are so many vehicles, it stung. But only a little.

Luckily, the actual racing is alive and well, and feels exactly like we remember it. The move to a smaller screen and disc space isn't hurting things in the least (though the game will obviously be offered as a digital download for the PSP go too, which is what we played the game on). The same attention to detail in the physics and the handling of cars was readily apparent as we followed the exact same learning curve we always slip into when coming back to Kazunori Yamauchi's unforgiving sim: we came in way too hot, braked late, tore around the corner and skidded out into the grass of the familiar Trial Mountain course that was the home of so many license tries (and re-tries. And re-re-tries. And re-re-re-tries).
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