A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gran Turismo Sport is a realistic driving simulator set on closed-circuit courses. Cars crash at high speeds, but no drivers or pedestrians are injured. A lengthy series of tutorials instructs players on how to drive race cars properly, including mandatory videos on how to be a good sport when playing online and not crash into other vehicles. The game rewards good driving behavior by negatively adjusting the sportsmanship ratings of players who drive too carelessly or aggressively. Parents should also be aware that this game takes in-game product placement and brand sponsorship to new levels, with a brand section that contains what are essentially product advertisement videos and links to external websites -- and not just for automotive companies but also for unrelated brands, such as Tag Heuer watches.
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What's it about?
GRAN TURISMO SPORT is the latest entry in developer Polyphony Digital's long-running "real driving simulator" series. It features more than 40 circuits -- several of which are real-world tracks -- plus scores of production, racing, and concept cars from dozens of manufacturers. It also strives to authentically re-create the performance and feel of each individual car, giving players a feel for different types of engine configurations. Like other entries in the series, Sport is concerned with instructing players on how to properly drive race cars, providing dozens of lessons as well as challenges designed to teach players how to effectively navigate specific portions of individual tracks. But unlike other games in the franchise, the focus here is on online racing. Online races are treated as important events, with players encouraged to sign up in advance and complete time trial laps to determine starting grid positions. More than that, players are encouraged to drive safely and respectfully via a dynamic "sportsmanship" rating that will rise or fall depending on the level of caution and aggression players show around other drivers. As players progress through both the single-player tutorials and challenges and the online mode, they will level up, earn new cars, and unlock additional content to customize their vehicles and driver avatar.
Is it any good?
This is not the standard racer that series fans are accustomed to, but it does bring an authentic racer fully into the online arena. Gran Turismo Sport carries over the impeccable vehicle handling, gorgeous car models, and track designs that have become hallmarks of the series -- it's arguably the prettiest racer around when scaled up to 4K and played on an HDR display -- but it marks a noticeable shift in other areas. For starters, the number of available cars has been drastically scaled back. Whereas Gran Turismo 6 had over a thousand cars for players to earn, Sport has fewer than 200 at launch. And its single-player offerings are surprisingly sparse. The campaign, if it can be called such, is really just a collection of challenges designed to help players master each track and type of car. An Arcade mode allows players to create the exact sort of competitions they like -- including two-player events -- but without an overarching story or goal, it's hard to see many players spending much time with it.
In place of a meaty single-player component, Polyphony Digital has dumped all of its effort into a robust and expertly designed online experience. A mix of daily and championship races in Sport mode are presented as major events taking place at scheduled times. These make for thrilling matchups, creating a sense of added pressure because they only happen during specific intervals. And rating players based on their commitment to sportsmanlike conduct seems to make a marked difference in how some competitors behave on the track; we noticed players courtesy-braking on corners and yielding the driving line on straightaways. There's also a Lobby mode where players can create their own matches with both friends and strangers, but it's the Sport mode that will likely drive most competitive players to keep coming back day after day. Whether Gran Turismo Sport's change of tack will prove a hit with the majority of the series' fans is debatable, but serious fans of online racing are in for something special.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about marketing in games. Were you lured into clicking on any of the advertising videos or website links in Gran Turismo Sport?
Talk about good sportsmanship. If you need to behave badly and make people upset in order to win a competition, does the end justify the means?
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