More recent entries in the Gran Turismo series have been closely associated with real motorsport. Photorealistic graphics and realistic handling physics have long been a target for the franchise. Polyphony Digital must have been particularly pleased when their "GT Academy" - a televised competition using their game engine - spawned professional race drivers among its ranks. One of the racers was even thought to be a prospect for F1.
It makes sense. As the game simulation and peripherals get closer to the sport, the game becomes a greater tool to hone the skills of wannabe drivers, in the safety of their homes.
Being realistic, while still being a video game, comes at a cost. Not all gamers are cut out for real motorsport competition and behind the wheel of a real sports car, are likely to have a very nasty accident. That's why in GT Sport, alongside various assists, there is a very detailed and lengthy driving school in the game. This tutorial educates the player into understanding the relationship between the driver and the vehicle in a way I've never seen in games before. You learn how to intelligently prevent over/understeer, maintain the health of your tyres and preserve fuel. You even get etiquette classes on how to behave on the grid.
This training plays an important role for GT Sport, with the game having a focus on realistic race competition in an online environment. With every car on the track in the game's main mode being piloted by an actual player, Polyphony understood their responsibility to educate and onboard all players. Even in the bottom ranks of the game, a minimum skill level is required and I think the game does a brilliant job of getting everyone there.
What I appreciated most was that this isn't just a finishing school for racing enthusiasts, but also serves as a "101" beginner's class, which genuinely improved my ability to cleanly overtake opponents and find better lines on the track to improve my lap times. Even better, these racing fundamentals have improved my skills in other racing games.
Passing with honours
That's right. I may not be graduating from the GT Academy and starting a death-wish career in professional racing, but I am becoming a better gamer thanks to GT Sport. Despite having no real skill behind a wheel, I've always enjoyed a good racing game and with my newfound confidence, have gone back through my collection to see how much I have improved.
Lap times and general performance were noticeably better when revisiting DiRT Rally, Project CARS, F1 2016 and Forza Motorsport 6. Perhaps surprisingly, Virtua Racing: FlatOut, one of my favourite arcade racing games of all time saw personal bests that have survived for years get broken. With the exception of games like Mario Kart, racing games are essentially built up from the same DNA and it was exciting to break through my own glass ceiling and see the genre through a new pair of spectacles.
Simulation racing games can be intimidating and while GT Sport makes no apologies for being on the hardcore end of the scale, it does do an excellent job of holding your hand and making you feel included in what can be a frightening world, particularly online. While I've yet to come close to winning a race online, I feel rewarded as part of the online community as a whole.
Racing clean, finishing without damage and bettering your past positions come with their own rewards and are incredibly satisfying. Motorsport fans will understand me when I say that it's not all about the winner of the championship and GT Sport does an amazing job of making those battles in the middle of the grid both memorable and meaningful.
With a slew of content just announced for the game, including an enhanced offline career mode, now is as good a time as any to play the longest running franchise in PlayStation history.