More than five years and a couple of title changes after it was announced, Gran Turismo has finally arrived on the PSP. The first handheld iteration of "the real driving simulator" isn't as fully featured as some of its predecessors, and the lack of a structured Career mode is particularly unfortunate. However, with over 800 realistically handling cars of all kinds to put through their paces on 35 impressively varied tracks, an engaging Challenge mode, and some decent multiplayer options, there's certainly no shortage of quality content.6230705NoneTaking the pace car for a test-drive.
In the absence of a Career mode, much of your time with Gran Turismo is spent setting up and competing in your own one-off events. All of the impressively varied tracks are available from the get-go, but you start with only one car in your collection, so job one is to make some money for automobile acquisition. Prize money is awarded for podium positions in any race that you care to create, and given that there only a measly four cars competing, it's rarely difficult to finish in the top three. The easiest way for you build up your bank balance early on, though, is to spend some time in the Challenge mode.
Much like the license tests in older Gran Turismo games, challenges include everything from driving around a single corner to overtaking multiple opponents while navigating a treacherous series of "S" bends. Many of these challenges double as instructional sessions that will improve your race craft not only in Gran Turismo, but also in any racing game to which real-life racing theory can be applied. It's an incredibly humbling experience to race around a hairpin and be told that in the space of just one turn, you're two whole seconds slower than you should be, but with practice (and some help from a racing line and braking zone indicator that's superimposed on the asphalt), you can shave those seconds off. Unlike some of its predecessors' similar offerings, most of Gran Turismo's challenges are easy to beat at the speed required to earn a bronze trophy. If you want to earn gold trophies and the significantly larger prize moneys attached to them, though, you're in for a much more challenging ride.
In Challenge mode the rewards for shaving a few seconds off your best times are well worth the effort.
Improving your driving skills and earning prize money along the way are pretty good incentives for playing through the Challenge mode, which is just as well because other tangible rewards are sadly few and far between. Early on, you can unlock a customizable soundtrack feature that lets you listen to MP3s while you play, but beyond that and a great-looking ending movie (that's also a trailer for GT5) that you can rewatch at any time, your only reward for beating challenges is access to more challenges. It's neat that some of the bonus challenges afford you time at the controls of cars you might otherwise miss out on or overlook, but it's still no substitute for a full-fledged Career mode.
With some money in the bank, you'll no doubt be eager to put it to work by adding some cars to your collection. Selecting the "Dealerships" option from the main menu, you might initially be surprised to find that only four manufacturers are represented and that none of them ever have more than 10 cars in stock simultaneously. Don't worry, though, there are plenty more where those came from; it's just that different manufacturers rotate in and out randomly as you spend time playing, and their stock changes. It's tough having to wait for your favorite dealer to show up, especially if you've already seen it once but didn't have enough money for the car that you wanted at the time. However, this limited access to cars actually makes the collection aspect much more compelling. If you're impatient, you might spend your money on cars that you wouldn't have looked twice at had your dream car been available. If you have no problem waiting for your dream car to show up, you'll appreciate it all the more when you finally get your hands on it. Either way, you're a winner, and if you choose to share your collection with friends, they'll be winners too.
Few vehicles on the roster are more striking than this concept car from Mazda.
Every car in Gran Turismo is eligible either for sharing or for trade, and the former option lets you give cars to your friends without losing them from your own collection. Not all cars can be shared in this way, and those that can't--which tend to be those that are rare collector's items in real life--can only be traded on a one-for-one basis. When you and your friends aren't busily exchanging rides, you'll find that silky smooth multiplayer races for up to four players are generally more entertaining than those in single-player. AI drivers, who can be used to make the numbers up in multiplayer races if you wish, don't put up much of a fight early on, but as you prove yourself on certain tracks, you earn the right to face more competitive AI drivers. You also improve the performance of your own AI driver who, should you need to put your PSP down in the middle of an ad hoc race for some reason, will fill in for you the moment you push the start button.