GT Sport: Technical Preview [Work In Progress]
1080P, 60FPS, VR support! A Podium contender or DNF?
When it comes to technology & hardware pushing teams Polyphony Digital are among the best in the business and when it comes to racing titles then they have arguably the GOAT in that regard with its long running Playstation champion Gran Turismo.
Starting with the PS1 it has never had a console without at least 1 of its ultimate driving simulator's within its library and they are not about to make the PS4 console the odd one out. In typical fashion though we have had to wait and GT sport is the first game from then on the original PS4 set to launch November 18th this year.
Leading up to that it has improved over its reveal by a considerable amount and its latest E3 demonstration is easily its best yet. Thanks to them releasing direct feed footage at full rate I am able to analysis the game much better and this includes my bespoke performance application to see just how well it hits the 60Hz target refresh rate in action, the de rigour for racing games. Before that I just want to cover the games visuals and physics along with its contents.
What's in the box?
140 cars are included with the game which covers both extreme racing machines to the more humble road going cars that should appease fans from every big manufacturer. These are grouped into classes as before with Mercedes, Ferrari, Subaru, Audi and of course Mazda and Toyota across the range from concept cars to real ones. These can be raced across a 19 tracks with multiple layouts ranging from the iconic Tokyo express, brand hatch which I have some firsthand experience onto dirt tracks to feed the rally driver in us all which with the games great physics, control and tweaking options should deliver a complete driving experience. This is expanded with the games online tournaments allowing you to not only compete but also view with the Gran Turismo Sport Live spectator mode and commentary.
Taking photo mode to a new level you can also use the "Scape" mode to drop your car into exotic locales across the globe creating your own advertising shot. Even with your own livery in the paintscheme editor. Which brings us nicely onto the games visuals and yet again the attention and passion of motorsport is evident in the car models. Each car has been recreated from scratch for this new game and now consist of much higher density polygon count and improved topology which includes individual interiors. The fabric of the seats, stitching of the steering wheel even the pop up sat nav screen is created with near CAD design levels making each car feel unique and so accurate you can smell the leather or is that cheap air freshener.
The outside is treated to the same lavish care if not more so with each car being incredibly well constructed right down to the metallic paint specular and Fresnel for each car. Headlights have separate levels of strength and this is all best realised in the games cracking replay option or many viewing modes of automobile pornography. For a game on such hardware with a 60fps target it has not scrimped on the lighting. Sadly no longer progressed through the race it can be chosen and stays as you admire the beauty and speed. Like the lacking of any dynamic weather this is to keep the frame-rate high as it reduces the calculations per frame. But low sun beams across tracks catching the cars bodywork or bouncing and diffusing on the tarmac with a nice bloom.
Varying times of day cover the less dramatic mid-day cycles also and even within city areas the light tone gamma correction saturates your view as you emerge from dark tunnels. Cubemaps bounce of cars and are well balanced across the tracks to convince and add extra features to each car in all modes. The replays obviously ramp this up with what looks to be a screen-space solution adding a GI bounce onto the undercarriage of cars that is not present in the actual races. This is not only normal in all racing games as the higher LOD cars are also used more often across the 20 on track here, you can at times notice the LOD switch from 0 to 1 in my preferred helmet view again not uncommon. But also due to the split in target rates that has some oddities I will get to shortly.
Handling and suspension looks to be another step up that before as you can see cars raise, sag and rebound as they hit broken and off camber sections of track as here. This can be seen throughout the races as you drive and in the replays and should only be even more fun and realistic when we can get off-road in the games track list. With the games detailed customisation features this should be the most gratifying and most likely hardest GT yet which should excite many.
Upgrades, repairs & fine tuning
Aside the performance that I will cover shortly the game does still show a few signs of areas it still needs to improve on. AA being possibly it largest at present with it having a simple Post AA choice that in the high sample rate Motion blur replays covers objects and camera movement it is not that much of an issue with the jagged edges of bodywork only noticeable at odd occasions. This is accompanied by a beautiful bokeh depth of field with a short and adjustable Focal length worthy of a track side photographer. This with the MB emphasises the speed and beauty on show as light glints of the car from the low sun creating a striking look as bokeh shapes and bloom bounce over the cars racing past. But in play the game has no MB and the AA now has a tougher job to cover up the shimmer from thin objects, bright areas and all the cars in your view. Not helping this is the games relatively low LOD detail on trackside and filtering on road textures low blurring some of the detail at very close distance. Dithering on shadows, fencing and many objects in the scene with in addition to the Rearview mirror having the same issues and no AA can take the shine of the presentation at certain points. These are all obvious and intelligent cutbacks for the game but I feel that increasing these or adding in a motion blur in races may help mask some of these issues in play which could help what is, taken as a whole, a cracking looking game and it still has a few months before its release we may see this change along with its performance.
The game in play targets 60hz and from this released video it achieves that but not always by design and at a cost. It runs with V-sync off and this results in the game tearing quite regularly in action. This can hang around at points for longer periods leaving the screen with a wobbly line running up and down. As this is an early show demo I am sure the game is going to ship with a fully V-synced display OR run an adaptive solution to deliver minor tears at the top section when just over budget. It is the best solution to keep the response time as high as possible in play and is an area I hope the team are concentrating on for release. The much higher quality and impressive real-time replays do not suffer from this with a no tearing present as they drop into a letterbox display. Accompanied by extra Post effects and dropping its target rate to 30Hz allows them to ramp up the visuals, reduce most of the dithering, improve the lighting and reflections and in short show us how much the framerate costs here. But not completely as it oddly at this point does not keep its 30Hz throughout replays as any in-car sections looking back raise into 60hz but still remain tear free from my tests which could mean that they are still working on trying to hit 60 here or more likely they will change these portions of the engine code to also adopt the 30 cap.
Any racing fan and GT lover is going to be looking forward to this latest release from a team that invented the driving simulator. With a decent choice already on the market they have most likely the toughest job yet to regain the title and aside some rougher areas and small performance concessions the underlying game simulation and mind boggling passion for the genre is clear again here after its latest E3 outing. I will cover more closer to launch and of course an in-depth analysis once it lands in November.