Gran Turismo PSP crosses the finish line, but stalls along the way.
Gran Turismo has always been popular, thanks to Polyphony Digital's striking attention to detail. For the longest time, however, the PSP iteration was MIA. It was first announced in 2004 and then vanished without a trace. Well, after a long wait, it finally arrived in both retail and downloadable formats. Was it worth it? Well, in some ways, yes, but there are some limitations you'll have to deal with.
When you first start up Gran Turismo, you'll notice one glaring omission that could be a deal breaker. There's no Career Mode. Usually, Gran Turismo is made up of a series of events where you accumulate cash and establish your driving persona. Here, you're stuck with a series of driver challenges, most of which consist of precision braking and handling. They're good enough to keep you busy for a few hours, but the lack of an overall career mode hurts the game's appeal.
The multiplayer options also come up short. There are plenty of games to choose from, including party and shuffle racing modes where you sprint for the finish line. You can race against three other players in AdHoc play, and trade cars if you feel like you can't live without a black Audi. Unfortunately, the options are limited to local only, since the game lacks online play. That means you can't hook up online with other racers or download new ghost or lap times.
Car aficionados will like Gran Turismo's variety. There are over 800 cars available in the game, even though some of the models are exactly the same, save for different paint jobs. Unlocking them all and fine-tuning them is fun, but there are some limitations. First off, you can only save up to 30 of your tuning jobs at once, so if you want to modify another car in your garage, you'll have to erase another vehicle's settings.
That isn't nearly as bad as the dealership interface. Here, you're limited to a selection of 40 cars per day through four different dealers. It's a decent set up, but not being able to find the car we want right away frustrates us. SCEA should've opened up the whole auto factory, rather than just the showroom.
Even though it's on PSP, Gran Turismo handles just as well as its predecessors. Sure, you'll have to moderately adjust to the system's analog nub and d-pad, but once you do, you'll have a good time. It continues to follow the simulation route, so you'll need to drive with caution or else you'll end up spun out on the side of the road. The ability to drift is a nice addition, as you can corner around turns with the right amount of speed and put some skid on your tires. The rally cars pack a punch, too. You'll enjoy flying off of jumps and landing with a thud as dirt kicks up from your wheels.
GT also looks fantastic. There are moments when some of the backgrounds seem plastered on, but overall, the 30 plus tracks offer much needed variety. You'll motor through the city streets of New York, ride around the Grand Canyon and go for high speeds on the infamous Nurburgring; all of them look great and run at a blazing 60 frames per second. In addition, arrow indicators help you stay on the track.
The cars look equally impressive, although some of the models appear unrealistic. The Mazda concept car, for example, looks like a comedic take of Tim Burton's Batmobile. The only downside to these car models is that they still don't show any damage after you hit something. You could plow into a corner at a whopping 80 miles per hour and come away without a scratch.
As for audio, Gran Turismo provides some of the best engine noises out there. Each car sounds distinctively different, showing Polyphony Digital's exquisite attention to detail. There could've been more crowd noises, but our engine probably would drown them out anyway. The music tracks are good, nothing spectacular, but nothing irritating, either. Last but not least, Jay Leno (yes, the former Tonight Show host) provides helpful narration through some of the challenge stages and races. He's a curious choice, but he knows what he's talking about when it comes to car performance.
In the end, there's so much that we want to like about Gran Turismo, but the problems are hard to overlook. The presentation is the best we've seen yet for a PSP racing game, and the controls are surprisingly manageable. Still, the missing online compatibility and extremely limited car store leave this entry feeling above average when it should've been superb.
What's Hot: Looks and sounds fantastic for a handheld racer, most cars handle well, AdHoc multiplayer options are a lot of fun, plenty of driver challenges to keep you busy.
What's Not: Has no online functionality whatsoever, you can't damage your vehicles, limited car selection menus, fans of Gran Turismo may not get used to the PSP controls, Career Mode is a no-show.