E3 2016: Polyphony Digital Insists that GT Sport is Not Just a Spinoff

Despite the fact that Gran Turismo is the best-selling first-party franchise in PlayStation history, the series as a whole feels like it’s in some bizarre state of flux. After Gran Turismo 6 launched on PlayStation 3 a month after the launch of the PlayStation 4, it seemed as though western gamers all but forgot about the most popular simulation racing series in the world. Add this to the fact that Microsoft’s Forza franchise has rapidly taken the market by storm, with annual releases alternating between the standard Motorsport series and the hugely popular Horizon series, and it’s clear that Sony has to change up their approach to the Gran Turismo IP. Enter Gran Turismo Sport, which is set to launch on November 15. Polyphony Digital is claiming that this is a new step forward for the franchise, which is the main reason it wasn’t simply titled Gran Turismo 7, but there are definitely some questions surrounding this simulation racer.

Though Gran Turismo’s six core entries have all largely been renowned for their quality, it’s hard not to argue that their level of sterility play against them. When you consider that the core Forza Motorsport entries have managed to inject a bit of fun into the genre while still maintaining the clean aesthetic that fans come to expect from simulation racers, it makes a lot of sense that Gran Turismo would shift its focus to a more sporty feel. Polphony Digital wants everyone to be aware that this is a full-fledged Gran Turismo title and not just some spinoff that core fans can skip. Studio director┬áKazunori Yamauchi has been adamant that the Sport name is simply a shift in ideology, perhaps indicating that fans can expect an injection of arcade action into the mix. Still, the fact that Polyphony Digital has had to explain this over and over again doesn’t necessarily bode well for their bet on a new generation of Gran Turismo games.

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One of the most interesting aspects of Gran Turismo sport, for better or for worse, is the lack both dynamic weather and a dynamic day-night cycle. In practical terms, this means that players are going to have to set the weather and time of day before a race begins, and these variables will never change throughout the course of an event. Yamauchi noted that this was to prevent Gran Turismo Sport’s graphical fidelity from dropping during the course of a race, which is slightly troubling when you think about it. A skeptic would suggest that this is an indication of a focus on visuals over gameplay, a thought that’s a bit disturbing considering that Forza Horizon 3 looks to be an incredibly fun gameplay-first title.

The hope here is obviously that Gran Turismo Sport answers every question and positions itself as the best Gran Turismo title to date. However, in a world where Forza has essentially taken over the console racing crown, it’s hard to imagine GT Sport being an overwhelming success without some real changes to its core formula. Whether the Sport designation and focus shift is enough is anyone’s guess at this point, but it’s going to be an interesting November in the racing world. After all, we’re going to have a nearly two full months to digest the wild world of Forza Horizon 3 before Gran Turismo Sport releases, and it’s hard not to envision a world where a GT title feels sterile and bland after driving through an open-world Australia.

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