Saturday, 10 July 2021

From Oban to Castle Stalker by Brompton

Off to Scotland, to do some cycling and camping and also have my arms bitten off by midges. Have you ever seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail? It was mostly shot in and around Doune Castle in Central Scotland, but a couple of scenes were filmed at Castle Stalker in the west of the country.

Castle Stalker is privately owned and you can only see it from the outside. The Monty Python team were restricted to shooting exteriors. Graham Chapman's King Arthur goes up the steps and knocks on the door, but he doesn't go inside. Nonetheless I've always wanted to see it, but how?

I don't drive. The nearest train station is Oban, ten miles as the crow flies to the south, but more like twenty miles once you account for the twists and turns of the coastline. That's too far to walk. I could take a taxi, but that seems wrong. Besides, do I want to spend five hours on the train to Glasgow, then another three on a train to Oban, just to take a taxi to look at a castle for a few minutes? No, I do not.

So I filed Castle Stalker away in my filing cabinet of "places in Britain that are harder and more expensive to visit than Rome, so why not go to Rome". However last year I bought a Brompton folding bicycle, and that planted an idea in my mind.

Long-term readers of this blog might wonder why I started writing about military food a couple of years ago:

Partially it was curiosity, but mostly it was because 2020 was going to be the year I did some hiking and camping. Proper multi-day hiking. Real man-vs-nature stuff. I wanted to see if military MREs were any good as hiking food (they are not; too bulky). So I bought a bunch of different MREs and tried them out, and I got hold of some camping equipment, including a Trangia alcohol stove. I stocked up on compressed toilet paper, dried food, and alcoholic hand gel, which ironically came in handy a few months later...

... because nature also had plans for 2020. It decided to give us all a playful kicking, in the process shutting down international air travel. Before 2020 a complete shutdown of international air travel would have been the plot of a thriller, but it actually happened in real life. An extraordinary period that is not yet over.

After the airline refunded my tickets I made a profit of four pounds, on account of currency fluctuations. Four pounds! Flush with this cash I bought a Brompton folding bicycle, which I took off to Italy during the brief period at the end of 2020 when it looked as though the world was getting back to normal. A year later I still have that bicycle, plus my camping gear, so why not put it to some use? It's too late to fly on a 747 - they're all gone - and Mongolia is still closed, and Monica Bellucci will  have to look after herself for a while longer, but Castle Stalker is still there.

As mentioned earlier a main road leads from Oban to the Castle and then north to Inverness, but it's not ideal for cycling, especially not cycle touring with lots of luggage. Here's what part of the A828 looks like:

It's not hyper-busy, but it's the only road north of Oban, so there's a steady stream of cars and trucks, usually in little groups, once every couple of minutes. Bicycles are explicitly forbidden from some parts of the road. Could I have risked it, and pulled over when traffic came along? No, I could not.

But there is hope. National Cycle Route 78 runs alongside the A828. A few parts run on the road, albeit only on sections with a 30mph speed restriction, but mostly you can cycle up the left coast of Scotland without having to share space with lorries. So I refined my plans. I broke the route into three sections:

Section one runs for about four miles from Oban to a bridge at Connel. Section two is about eight miles from Connel to another bridge at Dallachulish / Creagan. Section three is another four miles to Castle Stalker. My original idea was to continue north to the village of Duror and then camp out near a bothy in the hills above it, but I decided to drop that part of the route. Too ambitious, and the section from Dalnatrat to Duror is one of the few parts that runs along a main road. Perhaps I will visit Duror another time.

Instead of visiting Duror I devised a plan to cycle up to Dallachulish / Creagan, find somewhere to camp overnight, then continue to Castle Stalker the next day, then visit Port Appin to kill time, then return to my camp and rest overnight, then cycle back to Oban on day three. I could in theory have done it all in two days, but a train strike forced me to spend three days on the road. If I had a proper touring bike or I was very fit (or both) I could in theory have cycled from Connel to Castle Stalker and back in a single day, but I didn't just want to see the castle, I wanted to do some camping as well, and if I'm going to camp for one day, why not two?

One of the many great things about Scotland is that you can, in theory, camp on non-privately-owned land without a permit. It's one of the few places - along with Mongolia, Greenland, off the top of my head Norway and Sweden - that permits wild camping. Obviously there are limits, and even if I was legally in the right it would be a terrible idea to camp near a road, because there are hooligans all over the world. I am familiar with the Country Code, the gist of which is that you should leave no trace.

All gone. I used an ever-handy Ikea Dimpa bag as a small groundsheet. After setting it up I noticed a red plastic stick stuck in the ground, just visible in the bottom-left - had someone else used this spot beforehand?

I'll write about the camping side of things separately. I took along my Trangia stove, which burns alcohol. You're supposed to use meths, but I used alcoholic hand gel, which worked just as well. I want to stress that in the following picture it isn't lit (it's too close to the tent flap):

That red stick again.

The tent is a Six Moons Lunar Solo. I chose a tent over a bivvy bag so that I had space to store my Brompton if necessary. The Lunar Solo requires six tent pegs, with fittings for another two if you have them, and in theory it requires a 49" hiking pole, but I bought a carbon fibre tent pole from eBay which worked just as well. I suppose I could have used the Brompton's seatpost as a makeshift pole if there were exceptionally high winds.

Here's a shot of the equipment I took, all packed up:

That's a Brompton B75, a generic backpack, a Brompton Large Metro Bag, and the Dimpa bag, which went inside the backpack. It was handy in case my Brompton was covered in mud and I had to bag it up for the train.

Two things worried me. Firstly that the combined weight of the backpack and my chunky body would cause the seatpost to collapse. In the end this wasn't a problem - after cycling for an hour the seatpost dropped about an inch, and no more - but just in case I put all the fluffy, lightweight stuff in the backpack. That included the tent, the sleeping bag, the sleeping bag liner, and an inflatable bed.

Do you remember the fad for rubber horse masks from a few years ago? I could have brought along one of them. It would have been nostalgic, and perhaps it might have sparked up some conversations, but in the end I left mine at home. The second thing that worried me was this:

It's the standard Brompton front luggage block. Rated for 10kg, and apparently very sturdy. Brompton bags have a frame with a plastic slot that slides over the luggage block. It's a clever design that works well, but how would the block hold up to sudden knocks, or hours of being pushed over cattle grids and rutted tracks? Would the block snap? Would the block hold, but gradually come loose from the bike? Would I have to tie the bag to the frame with some tent ropes? In the end I left behind a couple of things, including a tripod, to make sure that the luggage bag weighed as little as possible (about 6kg in the end).

Thankfully however nothing went wrong. The luggage block feels as solid now as it did before the trip. Furthermore the rest of the B75 held up. The hinges are still intact, nothing has rusted, the gears still work, as do the brakes etc. I have Schwalbe Marathon tyres - not the Plus variety, just ordinary Marathons - and they're still intact as well, despite pushing the bike up several gravel tracks.

Google tells me that some people have cycled through China and Tibet on their Bromptons, so perhaps I'm worrying too much, but let's talk about the trip. Stage zero involved transporting myself and the Brompton from the south of England to Glasgow via train, but that was just a load-carrying exercise. Stage zero point one involved getting the train from Glasgow to Oban. I arrived at just gone 11:20. Oban is a popular outdoorsy location and lots of the other passengers had luggage and bikes:

I'm not sure what happens if you try to get on with a bicycle but there's no space. Luckily my Brompton fits into the standard end-of-carriage luggage racks and would at a pinch fit in front of a seat.

Stage One
This runs from Oban to the bridge at Connel. I picked up National Cycle Route 78 on Glencruitten Road, which leads east-north-east from Oban:

It winds uphill before splitting into two roads; the eastern road leads to a C-road that runs north to Connel, through scenic farmland:

This part of the journey isn't much fun. It's a single-track road with periodic passing places. The section above is relatively flat, but the first part is very hilly. There's just enough space for a bicycle and off-roader to pass on the road. I mention off-roaders because although the volume of traffic was objectively low there was nonetheless a steady trickle of cars, almost entirely off-roaders, often in little convoys of two or three vehicles in a clump. Furthermore with all this luggage my Brompton didn't do inclines at all, so I found myself awkwardly pushing a bike uphill, hoping that nobody would come over the crest too quickly to dodge.

The irony is that this part of the journey was entirely superfluous. After reaching the bridge I realised that I could have skipped Oban entirely and got off the train at Connel Ferry station, which is about a quarter of a mile from the bridge. I have to say that if you're planning to do this trip yourself, you don't lose anything by cutting out Oban.

The bridge at Connel

Before going on I took the opportunity to stop off at a village shop in Connel to get something to drink. This part of the trip was, judging by Google's distance measuring ruler, five and a bit miles long. It took me around an hour and three-quarters to reach the bridge, although I could have done it faster if I hadn't kept stopping to take photographs. Minus luggage, on a proper touring bike, with stronger leg muscles, I would have been quicker still.

Stage Two
The rest of the trip was a lot easier because it was almost entirely on a flat cycle path. Once past the bridge I came to a new part of the cycle route that goes by Oban Airport (EGEO):

Oban Airport is also in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. The arrangement is roughly correct. Just up the coast is a caravan park - there are several camping stops in the area, but they're all aimed at motor caravaners, not tent-ers:

Cycle Route 78 then goes through some nice wooded paths that lead to Benderloch, a mile and a half up the road, which has a shop and a camping store. At that point you can turn off to visit Tralee Beach, which is mostly covered in shingles. The biggest problem I found was insects. Scotland is plagued with midges in the summer months. If spiders ever discover Scotland they would have a field day, but perhaps the cure would be worse than the disease. There were benches along the route, but they were swarmed with flies and midges, so I kept going.

The route eventually turns into a pavement that runs beside the road. I remember cycling past a man selling oysters, and a small truck stop area that had a restaurant and a pottery shop. Was it a pottery shop? Yes, according to Google Maps, it was.

Just past the half-way point you have to cross the road from west to east and detour around another caravan park:

It took me around two hours to reach this point, although I took time to have a look at the beach. At that point I had to find somewhere in the vicinity of Gleann Dubh reservoir to make camp, so I stopped taking photographs because the reservoir was half-way up a hill:

In the following photo I'm standing roughly at the bottom-right, the southern edge of the reservoir, looking at the spit of land that sticks into the water on the right of the picture.

Looking back south-west

I went counter-clockwise around the reservoir. A couple of lads, possibly from the caravan site at the foot of the hill, were fishing, so in order not to attract attention I didn't explore the clockwise part of the water's edge. I have no idea if it's legal to fish in reservoirs in Scotland. I have to say that the water didn't look particularly appealing. As per the image from Microsoft Flight Simulator the clockwise part was much less wooded. I will probably never know if it would have been a better camping spot.

Incidentally my biggest worry throughout the trip was other people. I know that wild camping is allowed in Scotland, but do the locals know that? Are they keen on it? I imagined a busybody asking  me where I was going, then threatening to call the police if I didn't buzz off, then smashing my bike if I refused.

A track led down to the water's edge, but there were already a pair of tents. A second group of lads were kayaking. I have no idea if they were connected to the first group. On the positive side I was at least in the right ballpark, although as it began to rain it dawned on me that I had travelled four hundred miles across the UK on the off chance that one of the green patches on Google Maps was the right place to pitch a tent, and that I was now half-way up a hill with a bunch of neds for company.

However the nearby forests had a couple of patches that looked less boggy than the others, so as mentioned above I pitched my tent and got settled in. It was by now seven o'clock in the evening. As mentioned earlier there was a red plastic stick at the exact spot I pitched my tent. It was obviously artificial. There were a couple of other signs of human passage:

Satanic signal? Hobo code? Something to do with the Forestry Commission? Random crap? Who knows.

After spending the night in nature's sweet embrace I decided to risk leaving the tent standing throughout day two, so after waking at around 06:00 I left my backpack in the tent and cycled on to Castle Stalker with a few things in my Brompton bag.

Gleann Dubh at half-seven in the morning.

The kayak people were still about. I encountered a couple of dog-walkers on the trail early in the morning. It took a surprisingly long time to cover the three-quarters of a mile from the reservoir back to the road, because it was a bunch of steep, winding, gravel tracks.

The kayakers left on the third morning - they had built a fire.

Stage Three
Day two. The last stage was easy. The cycle route crosses a bridge at Creagan / Dallachulish:

And then becomes a wooded path:

Eventually it crosses the A828. You can in theory turn off west and cycle up to check out Port Appin at this point, although you would have to cycle up a steep hill to get there. I decided to go off to Castle Stalker first:

Castle Stalker is also in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.

Incidentally I navigated with OSMAnd on my mobile phone. OSMAnd is the only open source project I have ever donated money to, because it's the only one that has been genuinely useful. It showed me that there was a bridge leading from the vicinity of the castle to Port Appin. The Jubilee Bridge.

The road to Port Appin was similar to the road in stage one of my journey, but easier, because there were fewer trucks:

I arrived at around 10:00, which was handy because the local Co-Op opened at that time. I chowed down on some chocolate and fizzy pop. Port Appin itself is a jetty with a couple of restaurants and a nice view of a distant lighthouse. I was tempted to stop for breakfast, but my trousers were covered in mud, I had nowhere to put my bike, and I probably smelled strongly of deodorant. I've seen lots of films in which the locals spurn the out-of-town drifter so I decided not to risk it. Port Appin struck me was a nice place to stay if you wanted to get some writing done.

And that was essentially that. I retraced my path back over the bridge and cycled back to my tent. Almost immediately I realised that I hadn't taken an Instagram-friendly shot of my Brompton with Castle Stalker in the background, but I was in no mood to backtrack. I had a mean sore throat, probably a combination of cycling with my mouth open and drinking chemically-purified water. After getting back to the tent I had a meal, read a bit more of my book - Richard Rhodes' Dark Sun - and got some rest. I can confirm that the Six Moons Lunar Solo has an effective anti-midge screen.

I was aware that the train left Oban at 12:21, and would arrive at Connel Ferry a few minutes later. I woke up early enough so that I could in theory have walked the distance in time - perhaps my Brompton would finally develop a puncture - but in the end nothing went wrong, so my trip ended with a mixture of freewheeling and pushing my Brompton back to Connel Ferry in the early hours of Monday morning while it drizzled.

Suppose you want to do something like this but without the camping? The obvious answer would be to book a room in Port Appin or the surrounding area and use that as a base. I would suggest cycling from Connel Ferry to Port Appin, and if you want to see Oban perhaps you could cycle back to Connel Ferry and take the train to Oban on your last day there, then take the train from Oban to Glasgow Queen Street. Connel Ferry doesn't have a ticket dispenser so you'd either have to book in advance online or ask the ticket inspector.

From Port Appin you could then pop across the water to Lismore and also perhaps go north and visit Duror and the hills above it. Your attempts to have a nice picnic will be frustrated by flies and midges, unless you go in the colder months, but that's part of the charm of being in the outdoors.

Of course if you don't want to camp or cycle there are, as mentioned, several motor-caravan camping sites in the local area. I'm not a lawyer, but I understand you can't just park at the side of the road and sleep in your motorhome overnight, although this raises the question of whether you could park the motorhome and then sleep in a tent outside it.

And of course if you're really fit you could do the journey in one day. The earliest train is 05:20-08:35 Glasgow-Oban, the last train Oban-Glasgow 20:37-23:33, more than enough time to cycle there and back with a long pause for lunch and some exploration on top of that.

Will I ever go back? Who knows.

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Gran Turismo Sport

Let's have a look at Gran Turismo Sport, a car racing game for the PlayStation 4. It's the most recent entry in the long-running-but-not-as-popular-as-it-used-to-be Gran Turismo series. It was released in 2017 but has been extensively upgraded since then, so it's not the same game as it was five years ago.

The first Gran Turismo was the best-selling game for the original PlayStation, and the sequels went on to be either the second- or third-best-selling titles of their respective generation. This culminated with Gran Turismo 5 for the PlayStation 3, which was only outsold on that platform by the commercial juggernaut of Grand Theft Auto V. The series has amassed sales of eighty million copies spread across seven main instalments, which makes Gran Turismo the PlayStation's most popular exclusive franchise.

Things came to a juddering halt with Gran Turismo 6, which was released in 2013 to a surprisingly tepid reception. On its own merits it was one of the best racing games for any platform, but it felt like more of the same, and the release was overshadowed by the launch of the PlayStation 4 a month earlier. With sales of five million copies it was a big step down from its predecessors in commercial terms.

Perhaps because of this Gran Turismo Sport had a muted reception. The developers seemed to blame GT6's failure on a lack of motoring knowledge among a new generation of gamers, and the announcement that GTS would be an online-only multiplayer title did not go down well. Furthermore Sony seems to have grown cool on the series. Gran Turismo isn't exactly forgotten, but in recent years it has been overshadowed by Uncharted, The Last of Us, Spider-Man, latterly Ratchet and Clank in roughly that order.

And yet despite all that Gran Turismo Sport has managed to outsell its predecessor, and after masses of patches it's an entertaining single-player game. It's now out on budget. Is it any good? Is it okay? Entertaining?

Good? Great? Okay? It's okay-good, good-okay. Not great. High-okay. And also frustrating, because it feels less ambitious than its predecessors. Much of the mad grandeur of the earlier games is gone. It looks terrific - the Gran Turismo games have always been good adverts for the PlayStation's technology - but so do lots of other games, and there's an underlying sterility to the graphics that feels increasingly old-fashioned. On the other hand for £15 (or even less - I bought it in a recent sale for £7.98) it's excellent value for money even if you never plan to race against anybody online.

Technical stuff. On the PS4 / PS4 Slim GT Sport runs at 1080p with a target of 60fps, although it dips occasionally; the PS4 Pro and PS5 run the game at a solid 60fps with 4K support, but are otherwise exactly the same. The game is available as a download or a physical product. There's a standard edition, plus Gran Turismo Sport: Spec II, which includes some of the post-release patches, some extra credits, and some non-exclusive cars.

You don't gain a lot of from owning the disc. In common with other PS4 titles the console simply copies the entire contents of the Blu-Ray to the hard drive and runs it from there, using the disc as a licence key. The total installation size is around 100gb.

There is one paid-for DLC, a set of time trials across a number of tracks set by Lewis Hamilton. I have no reason to believe that the times were not set by Hamilton himself. Sadly there is nothing from Pastor Maldonado, who was one of the few true artists in F1. Fans of the sport have always disliked the big beasts. When I was young it was Alain Prost, then Michael Schumacher, then Sebastian Vettel, then Lewis Hamilton. It's because they aren't like us. They challenge our belief that it's better to be "wromatic but wrong".

The likes of Senna and Hunt were probably just as cold and calculating under the surface, but they hid it beneath a mask of bonhomie. Maldonado on the other hand was one of us. Passionate, flawed, human. He failed time and time again. He failed spectacularly in full view of the world. And just once the stars aligned and he won! He won the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix against legitimate opposition, after starting from pole position, in a team that hadn't won a race since 2004.

He won, once. Just as we might win. We won't. But we can dream.

Before I bore you by moaning about GT Sport's gift car system and dearth of interesting tracks I'm going to bore you by talking about the Gran Turismo series in general. You will suffer as I have suffered, until you come to enjoy the suffering.

I begin. I'm old enough to remember the first game, which was launched for the PlayStation back in 1997 (Japan) / 1998 (the rest of the world). Developers Polyphony Digital and publishers Sony had a habit of releasing the games at the end of December in Japan and the beginning of January elsewhere, a tradition that ended with GT Sport, which was the first title to be launched in the we-really-are-always-online-this-time age.

Do you remember how in 2013 a guy at Microsoft got in trouble for saying that Microsoft didn't care about people who weren't always-online? That was controversial because not everybody was online in 2013. In 2017 however the world has changed, and people who are not online are akin to people who don't own a microwave because they're scared of the radiation. Now that cloud computing is so popular an increasing number of people are online twice. That's how online the world has become.

Not my original discs. The two games sold over twenty million units between them so used copies aren't hard to find.

Today the A70 Toyota Supra lives in the shadow of the curvaceous A80, but it still has a following. When GT1 was new however the A70 was a bit naff because it looked old-fashioned. The design was introduced in 1986. Incidentally this is running on a PlayStation 3 - it's a photograph of the screen. On a period-correct CRT the jagged edges weren't so obvious.

The same generation of Supra in Gran Turismo Sport. If anything it demonstrates just how good the original game looked back in 1997.

There wasn't anything like Gran Turismo in 1997. Back then racing games tended to be either accurate single-model simulations such as Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix, or fantasy racing games such as Daytona USA and Ridge Racer, or for that matter outright sci-fi games such as F-Zero and WipeOut and of course Mario Kart. The cars were imaginary and the driving physics had very little to do with real life.

The big exception was Sega Rally Championship, which combined something that approached realistic physics with a small roster of real-life rally cars such as the Lancia Delta and Stratos. I have no idea if Polyphony Digital were inspired by Sega's game or not, but Gran Turismo took everything that was good about Rally Championship and expanded it immensely.

The resulting game had over two hundred real-life cars, almost a dozen tracks, oodles of racing events, lots of tuning options, even a bunch of licensed tunes from real bands, or at least it did in the US and European versions of the game. In Japan Gran Turismo's soundtrack was instrumental jazz-rock fusion; the rest of the world had remixes of Garbage, Ash, and The Manic Street Preachers. Such was the first game's impact it even inspired The Cardigans to name their fourth album after it, and in a clever bit of cross-pollination "My Favourite Game" was used as the theme tune for Gran Turismo 2:

Later games went mad with the music; Gran Turismo 4 had almost a hundred songs by artists including Photek, Snow Patrol, Erik Satie, Van Halen, Claude Debussy, the Kaiser Chiefs, the list is huge. That's what happens when your game is published by an enormous media conglomerate. In contrast Gran Turismo Sport cuts the soundtrack right down, perhaps because the game has such an emphasis on streaming and on-line play, which raises the legal issue of broadcasting licensed music on the internet. Or perhaps it was too expensive. Perhaps Polyphony hoped that you would notice the newly-recorded exhaust sounds. I don't know.

Back to the original game. It established the formula for the rest of the series. The cars were mostly street models rather than heavily modified race cars, which was a masterstroke because owners of the game could imagine owning the cars in real life. The list was dominated by Japanese sports coupes such as the Mitsubishi GTO and Honda CR-X (both generations), but there were cars from the US and Europe as well, including the TVR Cerbera and Dodge Viper, plus simple hatchbacks from Mazda and Chrysler etc. The second game vastly expanded the roster, although there's something melancholic about the range of cars because so many of the manufacturers have gone defunct. GT2 was the only game with anything that had a Rover badge, for example. TVR has long been a staple of the series and still appears in GT Sport but died off in the 2000s. Lancia still exists, but only as a vestigial appendix of Fiat, and it only sells one car.

I'm also reminded that GT2 predated the modern-day Mini, which makes me feel old because the modern Mini seems to have been around forever. The Mini dealership in that game is instead full of 1960s-style Mini Coopers. I'm digressing here.
In addition to the huge car list Gran Turismo had a large range of one-off arcade matches and campaign events, with most races restricted in some way - all-Japanese cars, or only four-wheel-drive, only cars made before 1979 etc. This stood in contrast to the likes of Daytona USA, which had three tracks and only one real event. When you won a match in Gran Turismo you earned imaginary money, which you could use to tune cars and buy new ones. There was no ultimate goal beyond perhaps owning a Nissan Skyline tuned to over 1,000 bhp. One thing the original game didn't have was online multiplayer, which was in its infancy in 1997. There was an experimental demo around the time of GT4 in the mid-2000s, but the series didn't embrace online multiplayer until the PS3 era.

Dot dot dot and it was fun to play. I haven't mentioned that. It would have been popular anyway but the icing on the cake was that it was fun to play. The driving physics felt realistic without being overwhelming, and although you had the option of tweaking the damping rate of the suspension you didn't have to. It was an early killer app for the then-new Dual Analogue / DualShock analogue control pad, but it was playable with digital-only controls, especially if you learned to tap the buttons repeatedly to simulate analogue steering.

On top of it all the game also looked really good. It was released at a time when 3D graphics cards for the PC were not yet ubiquitous, and for a brief period it rivalled the best PC games of the post-Doom, pre-Unreal era, especially if you account for the smoothing effect of CRT televisions. I was a PC person at the time and even I was impressed.

The car reflections in particular stood out. The developers were so proud of the reflections that they added a car wash into the game so you could make the cars extra-shiny. The game's simulation of suspension and body roll was also very clever at the time.

The licence tests were nightmarishly hard to pass with a gold rating. GTS on the other hand is much, much easier - I golded some of the tests on my first go and eventually golded them all, something I have never done before in a Gran Turismo game.

Throughout its life the Gran Turismo series has been a showcase for what the PlayStation can do, and in 1997 it was an excellent advert for the console. It was part of a second wind of PlayStation games released between 1997-1999 - along with Final Fantasy VII, Resident Evil 2, WipeOut 2097, Spyro the Dragon, Metal Gear Solid, the list is huge - that cemented the PlayStation's dominance over the competition. The original went on to be the best-selling PlayStation game of all time (the sequel, Gran Turismo 2, is the third-best-selling), helped by the fact that there was nothing else like it for years afterwards on any platform.

I like to think that Gran Turismo also had an impact on the real world, because it was essentially a big shopping list for Japanese domestic cars. In the 1970s and 1980s the western world embraced Japanese compact cars and saloons, but Japanese luxury cars and sports coupes were a harder sell because they didn't mean anything. They didn't have the sporting pedigree of Ferrari and Porsche, or the classy image of Aston Martin and Jaguar.

The MX-5 and Toyota MR2 were popular because they looked great and were relatively cheap, but no-one was willing to spent £25k on a Toyota Celica or £70k on a Honda NSX, because what were they? What did they mean? No-one famous drove them and they didn't win races.

The Ford Ka was one of Ford's New Edge designs. It was ubiquitous in the 1990s but you don't see them any more. Cars are like... they're like something. Cars are like people. They're worth something when they're young and fit, not so much when they start to break down.

Now, Gran Turismo didn't exist in isolation. Colin McRae and rallying made the Subaru Impreza famous without any help from GT, and the Datsun 240Z and Toyota AE86 were cults years before the PlayStation existed, but I like to think the game made a bunch of hitherto anonymous Japanese sports coupes suddenly meaningful and thus desirable. The PlayStation was aimed at a slightly older demographic than earlier games consoles - late teens, early twenties - and within a few years those people were lapping up Fast and Furious and Initial D etc, and at least some of them made some money during the boom. I personally own twenty-eight almost identical Mazda MX-5s and thirty-two subtly different Nissan Skylines, and that's entirely because of Gran Turismo. I'm not saying that GT single-handedly made JDM trendy, "but you can see it from here".

Gran Turismo 2 was more of the same, rushed out in 1999/2000 with a tonne of new cars, a few rally tracks, some bugs, but it sold almost as well. Rallying has been a constant presence in GT ever since, but it has always felt like an afterthought. It's an afterthought in Gran Turismo Sport as well. The game uses static, baked-in lighting, which means that dirt tracks in particular look poor because they never sustain damage, even if you plough into a dirt bank or a tree. Dancing in Chicago; in New Orleans. Dancing in Chicago. New Orleans.

The first two games also established a pattern whereby each generation of PlayStation got two iterations of Gran Turismo. The PS2 era went smoothly for Polyphony Digital. Gran Turismo 3 (2001) was launched towards the beginning of the console's life and was apparently a solid next-gen GT game; I haven't played it. I remember seeing demos of Gran Turismo 2000, as it was originally called, and then I lost touch with video games and now I am an old man. It will happen to you, but no-one will notice or care, because the world does not need you and will not miss you.

I don't have GT3 or GT4, so here's more of GT Sport. The AE86 model looks surprisingly simple for such an iconic car.

Gran Turismo 4 (2004) was launched on the verge of the HD era and is one of a handful of PS2 games that could run at 1080i. I haven't played it either, but the general consensus seems to be that GT4 was the high water mark of the series, the point at which everything gelled. It had seven hundred cars, fifty tracks - including a detailed recreation of the infamous Nürburgring - plus the aforementioned massive soundtrack, and it was still in a class of one. Forza Motorsport was released later in 2005 for the original XBox, but the series didn't start to take off until the sequel. Test Drive and Need for Speed were aimed at a more arcadey market and the likes of Grand Theft Auto and Driver were fundamentally different games. Never again would Gran Turismo be surrounded by so much clear blue water.

If you want to run any of the first four games or their spin-offs nowadays there are a couple of options. The PlayStation and PS2 were designed to connect to analogue televisions with component cables, so unless you have a really old television the original hardware is awkward, but still widely available. Neither console is a valuable antique yet. Every model of PlayStation 3 can run PlayStation games via HDMI, but only the first couple of PS3 models could run PS2 games.

The other option is emulation with for example ePSXe or Mednafen (PS) or PCSX2 (PS2), although I haven't tried this myself. With emulation GT4 in particular can be run on modern PCs at a higher resolution than the original, and it still looks very good. GT5 and GT6 on the PlayStation 3 are problematic because the PS3 is extremely difficult to emulate, but RPCS3 has made leaps and bounds. Sadly the PlayStation 4 is not backwards compatible at all, not even of the original PlayStation - the PS4's optical drive won't even read compact discs - and the PlayStation 5 is only backwards compatible with the PS4.

Not every element of the Gran Turismo series has been universally praised. The series has very simple damage modelling, because manufacturers don't want their cars to be associated with twisted metal and fiery death. As a result there's nothing to stop you from using the other cars as mobile speed brakes when you power through corners. This still works in GT Sport although if you try it online the game penalises you. In single-player mode there are no consequences for crashing into the barriers so a lot of the tension of real-life racing is missing.

The second is duff AI. The AI cars whizz around the track as if on rails, without deviating from their line or really racing with each other. They are mobile chicanes rather than independent drivers. Gran Turismo 6 added a bit of rubber banding, but throughout the series the AI has never been great, GT Sport included. Looking through the credits I note that only one chap is credited with AI programming:

Atsushi Hayashi also did the AI for Gran Turismo 5 and 6, with help from another chap called Yutaka Ito, but for GT Sport he was all by himself. Perhaps he is secretly working on a real-life version of The Talos Project and he only has a little bit of time for Gran Turismo.

The AI cars of Gran Turismo are in theory actors subject to the same physical limitations as the player, but they rarely crash or spin off, and when they do leave the track they recover almost immediately. This is particularly galling on courses such as Willow Springs, which has huge slippery run-off areas from which it's almost impossible for a human player to rejoin the race in a timely fashion.

One side-effect of the duff AI is that 99%, perhaps even 100% of the single-player races have a rolling start, with the other cars spread out through the track in front of you. Because if the events had a grid start you would be in first place by the end of the first lap, perhaps even at the end of the first corner.

Gran Turismo 5

But back to the history. We're up to Gran Turismo 5 on the PlayStation 3, the first high-def title for high-def consoles, the first with online racing.

I've written at length about the PlayStation 3 before; the machine had an infamously rough launch. Sony's original 2006 E3 showcase included footage of a forthcoming Gran Turismo game, but it was just a mock-up rendered on a PC. GT5 itself didn't come out until 2010, almost half-way through the console's life.

In defence of Polyphony Digital the PS3 was hard to develop for, and the shift to HD slowed down games development across the entire industry. In addition the team were also compelled to make a GT title for the PlayStation Portable. Nonetheless there were rumours that the developers were spending too much time getting the Nürburgring's track graffiti correct and not enough time finishing the game.

Some on-track graffiti, from Gran Turismo Sport.

The original plan was for the first PS3 GT game to be almost entirely made out of downloadable content. Gran Turismo HD Classic would be an engine that required the player to download all the cars and tracks separately, for a fee; there would be a disc version called HD Premium that had some of the content built-in, but this idea was quickly scrapped because it was naff. A demo called Gran Turismo HD Concept was released in late 2006, with ten cars and one track, and then in 2007 a much larger teaser called Gran Turismo 5 Prologue came out, which at £24.99/$39.99 was uncomfortably expensive for a demo. It says a lot about the popularity of GT and the pent-up demand for GT5 that Prologue sold almost four million copies, a decent hit by itself.

The full game was pencilled in for 2008, but in the end it didn't come out until October 2010. In its favour it had a huge list of cars albeit that most of them were ported from Gran Turismo 4, plus online play, a tie-in with Top Gear, many more real-world tracks than before, huge soundtrack etc, and it mostly looked gorgeous, but on the other hand it felt unfinished and was followed by hundreds of megabytes of patches that make it onerous to install nowadays.

608mb doesn't sound too bad, but there are 27 patches, and this is just one of them.

One thing that let GT5 down was the low-resolution spray and shadows, which were apparently downgraded from GT5 Prologue to compensate for the game's enhanced physics.

I didn't own a PlayStation 3 in 2013 so I have no idea how the game played at launch, but by all accounts it needed a few more months in the oven. Despite the huge delay it sold eleven million copies and became the PS3's second-best-selling title.

I did however play GT5 several years after the dust had settled, and if you're prepared to spend an afternoon installing patches it's good fun, albeit that the online functionality was turned off years ago. The big problem is that it was made redundant by Gran Turismo 6, which carried over a lot of GT5's content and was essentially GT5 Plus, although it still had a lot of rough edges. In 2013 it had a muted reception that was overshadowed by the concurrent launch of the PlayStation 4 and as mentioned it only sold five million copies, not many more than GT5 Prologue. That was an alarming drop for what had until recently been a sales juggernaut.

What was wrong with GT6? It had a Vision Gran Turismo programme whereby manufacturers and designers were asked to submit concept cars for the game, but only two-thirds of the promised cars were implemented. To this day the rest of the entries are just placeholders. A track editor was added in 2015, three years after release, but it required an internet connection and thus became inoperative when the online services were shut down in 2018. Your tracks became useless at that point.

A later patch added a GPS visualiser that in theory let you drive an actual car around a real race track and upload your GPS track to the game, but it only worked with two specific models of the Nissan Skyline and Toyota GT86, and only with an expensive GPS upgrade, and it was also dependent on the game's online services so it no longer works at all. GT5 has a little notice that announces the end of the online services but GT6 just spits out an error code, as if the team had been ordered to cease work on it immediately. One consequence of the online shutdown is that it's now almost impossible to earn enough money to buy the most expensive cars, as the single-player races give out piddling amounts of money (40,000 credits per race in a game where the top cars sell for 20 million).

Both games also had a curious B-spec mode, which let you hire a roster of AI drivers to race for you. This was introduced in Gran Turismo 4, where it made sense because that game had some lengthy endurance races, including three 24-hour races that ran for twenty-four actual hours in real time - unless you used the B-Spec mode, where you could accelerate time and take a break while your AI driver had a go. GT5 and GT6 cut the endurance races down, which rendered the B-spec mode largely pointless, and yet it was still there, sucking up development time.

From a distance GT6's hi-res car models look very similar to their Gran Turismo Sport successors. The most obvious difference is in the headlight lenses.

Racing shots from GT6 (top) and Gran Turismo Sport (bottom) - 2013 vs 2017.

On the positive side most of the cars were upgraded to HD models, at least on the outside, and as of 2021 it's the most modern Gran Turismo game that includes cars from Lotus. Graphically it has aged well - GT5 has aged well, too - although the game cheats slightly by using higher-def models in the photo mode. A late update added a fun Outrun-style event on a long countryside track in Spain, the Sierra Time Rally, which could have been expanded into a spin-off budget title.

GT5 and GT6 also coincided with the GT Academy, a programme sponsored by Nissan whereby top players of the game were selected for Nissan's real-life race programme; winners of the series have placed credibly at Le Mans and in GT3 touring car racing. This came to an end shortly after the release of Gran Turismo Sport. I'm sorry for not writing any more about it - if nothing else it convincingly demonstrates that sitting in front of a games console can turn you into a race car driver - but it passed me by at the time.

Gran Turismo Sport

Which brings us to Gran Turismo Sport, which was originally scheduled for release in November 2016 but held back a year until October 2017. The reviews were mixed. The key thing is that Polyphony Digital decided to concentrate on online multiplayer. Not just casual play but professional e-sports, officially sanctioned by the FIA. In a major coup Gran Turismo Sport is one of several virtual sports that were selected for the 2022 Olympic Games.

This is fantastic if you own a steering wheel and pedals and are prepared to pour your life and soul into the game, and it's good for Polyphony's profile, but at launch GTS had very little to offer people like me. People who just want to effortlessly trounce the AI cars while amassing imaginary money work on their sub-06:30 Nürburgring times. People who just want to drive around Monza in a Mini, because perhaps one day they might get to drive around that track in real life and not look like an amateur because they know all the corners from having played Gran Turismo.

The game does cater for casual players. The setup is that there are three "daily races", although they actually update every week. They were daily for a while, but the developers switched to a weekly schedule, perhaps so that casual players had time to learn the courses. There's a low-speed race, often with a slow hatchback, and two faster races with different classes of sports car. There are also championship races that run every few months, aimed at elite players; you sign up to drive for e.g. Toyota, and then you race against other people in Toyotas until the field is whittled down.

The cars are now divided into classes. N100-1000 for road cars, with N100 being Minis and Fiat 500s and N1000s being top supercars by Bugatti and Ferrari etc. However most of the races use touring cars and silhouette race cars in the FIA's Group 2/3/4 categories, which mandate a certain power output and weight.

One side-effect of the Group system is that the cars look and feel the same. They're commodities, designed to meet the same specification. In theory Group Three race cars are fantastic - they hug the road and accelerate quickly - but in practice they feel like a collection of attributes rather than individuals.

It's not all that hard to win enough money to afford the game's cars, although it takes a lot of work to afford the half-dozen 20,000,000-credit supercars. You can't buy the most expensive cars from the PlayStation shop, you really do have to play for them.

The 20,000,000-credit Ferrari 330 P4 drives as well as it looks and is "easy mode" for the pre-1979 sports car races.

This leads to one of the game's other problems. The initial car roster was dominated by Group 3 touring cars. I have nothing against touring cars but they just don't mean anything to me. They resemble road cars, but they're custom racing chassis with a fibreglass bodyshell stuck on top.

The emphasis on Group Three cars has a knock-on effect. You get a free car every day if you drive more than twenty-six miles, which isn't hard. The range of free cars is drawn entirely from the cars that shipped with the launch version of the game, and the game doesn't care if it gives you a duplicate, so after a while your garage will become full of the same cars, predominantly Group Three models.

Here are my four BMW M6 GT3s, my three 1989 M3 Sports, and one of my three Group Four Citroen GTs. Not pictured are my three 2002 Enzo Ferraris, my two Group Four Mitsubishi Lancers, my two Group Four Porsche Caymans, my two Group Four Subaru Imprezas and I mean I could go on. In real life this would be an extraordinary garage, but this isn't real life.

I could paint them different colours, or get rid of them, but it seems a waste. You can't sell gift cars for money, you can only delete them.

What's the online racing like? You do a bunch of qualifying laps, and then the game matches you with the other players. You have a driver skill rating and a sporting rating that measures how often you smash into people. Perhaps because I'm a new player but more likely because I'm a naff driver I tend to be placed in the bottom quarter of the grid.

I did manage to fluke one win, which involved a lot of slipstreaming, a steady nerve, and deft timing:

Everybody won that race at least once because it was a novelty event on a huge oval, so at the end all the cars bunched up, and I was knocked over the line by the second-place racer. On more conventional races I'm usually ten seconds behind the pace of the top qualifiers, which is an eternity in race car terms. It's tempting to say "look at those saddoes", but as mentioned up the page some of those saddoes have gone on to be actual race car drivers, so perhaps it is me who is the saddo, not them.

Perhaps it is me. The man who doesn't try and loses is not sad, because it meant nothing to him. The man who tries and fails is sad - in the melancholic sense, not the pathetic sense - because he wanted to win. He stretched his fingers to touch those of God, but it was not enough. And the man who tries and succeeds is not sad because he succeeded. I belong to the second category.

GTS also has a bunch of player-created lobbies where friends can drive around the track having fun, but that isn't for me. On the whole the online aspect doesn't grab me, and if the game had not been patched extensively post-release I would dislike GTS, in fact I probably wouldn't have bought it.

But! A short while after the game came out Polyphony added a huge patch that added a bunch of single-player events, and since then the team has fleshed out the single-player side of things, and also added more cars.

The roster now has some surprises, including a 1971 De Tomaso Pantera that has never appeared in the series before, plus a high-res model of the 1960s Mini - the game previously had low-res 1960s Minis and high-res 2000s Minis, now they are both hi-res - and again for the first time in the series the roster includes Porsche. Until recently Porsches were exclusively licenced elsewhere, but now you can drive Porsche-made Porsches* in Gran Turismo.

* Earlier games in the series got around the licencing terms by using heavily-modified Porsches from RUF, a company that custom-made Porsches from bare chassis supplied by Porsche. RUF remains in GT Sport although there is only has a single model.

The game also carries over the high-resolution Ferraris, Bugattis, Lancia Delta and Stratos, the US muscle cars, the Toyotas etc that appeared in Gran Turismo 5 and 6, although the models have apparently been updated. The differences are subtle but they're there.

On the downside there are fewer cars than before, and several manufacturers are represented by just one car. There's one Maserati, one Fiat, one Plymouth - the Superbird is gone - one Pontiac, and if you discount novelty models and concept cars there are only a couple of Volkswagens, a couple of Renaults and a surprising dearth of Mitsubishis and Alfa Romeos.

Still, the cars that are in the game look great. Just for fun here's a little graphics comparison. The first shot is a VW Beetle from GT5 that uses a model ported from GT4:

There was also a high-resolution Beetle as a downloadable car:

The same model was used in GT6, but for GTS it has smoother curves:

Visually GTS is good, but it's less of a visual showcase than previous games. Partially this is because GT5 and GT6 were two of the best-looking games on the PS3 and so the upgrade isn't as striking as the jump from GT4 to GT5. Partially it's because the tracks look relatively drab, because real-life racetracks look drab, and you race mostly in bright midday sunshine. The circuits are a mixture of real-life tracks and fictional tracks designed to look like real life, with none of the fantasy tracks that appear in other games. You can't drive off the edge of the Grand Canyon or do massive loop-the-loops or anything like that.

On the positive side the lighting is smoother, the track textures are of a higher resolution, shadows are much easier on the eye, and I have never noticed any slowdown. About the only technical problem is noticeable pop-in, which is irritating on some tracks - the long straights at Monza, for example. The problem is that the game encourages you to pay close attention to the distant track so that you can check the other cars, at which point you notice that a bunch of trees have suddenly appeared. Furthermore the trackside details haven't been worked on all that much, although at 140mph this is less apparent:

This is a racing game, not a gardening simulator. Stylistically GTS does share an issue that has dogged the entire series - it's visually sterile. There's no heat haze, very little dust, overall very few atmospheric effects, so it often feels as if you're driving through a vacuum. The car models are pristine and completely dent-free, so they look plastic.

One thing worth pointing out is that the game uses different levels of detail for race replays and posed photo set-ups; the shot at the top was taken with a photo setup, the shot below it was taken during a race replay.

The lower level of detail is generally unnoticeable at speed, but in this shot the 911's lights aren't very pretty. This shot also illustrates how the game uses track details - an overhead sign, in this case - to help mask scenery pop-in.
Did the spectators paid money to see me drive badly around a track by myself in an old Porsche? I feel sorry for them.

The odd thing is that when the game does have atmospheric effects, such as spray on the rain-sodden Tokyo road track or patchy fog on the Nürburgring, it looks fantastic and runs smoothly. But that raises yet another issue. GT5 and GT6 had tweakable weather. You could set up a race with bright sunshine or rain, and have time advance so that it became dark and the rain cleared up or vice-versa. GTS doesn't have any of that. You can choose between half a dozen preset setups - 12:00 in the rain, or 10:00 in sunshine, for example - but during the race everything is static. And only three tracks have rain, which is at least an advance on the state of the game at launch, when none of the tracks had rain.

The fundamental problem is the new lighting. As with Mirror's Edge the tracks have been run through a ray-tracing engine, Iris, in order to generate realistic-looking shadows and reflections, which means that the lighting is baked into the level and can't be altered on-the-fly. Presumably it was impossible to load multiple copies of the track with different lighting and fade between them. GT7 will apparently have a degree of real-time ray tracing, so hopefully variable weather will return.

Have the models changed much? This shot is from Gran Turismo Sport.

And so is this.

The following two shots are however from Gran Turismo 5, a game that came out in 2010:

In real life you have to drive the Nürburgring with your headlights on. GT5 - and only GT5 - lets you ignore this rule, which might explain why my lap time was slightly better in that game.

The following shot is from Gran Turismo 6 (I didn't bother with the track because it was identical):
The most noticeable difference is the headlights, but from a distance the cars look much the same. Which is understandable given that a real-life MX-5 only has so much detail. Perhaps for the next game they could dirty the models up slightly so that they don't look so plastic.

Are there other bad things? Earlier games were stuffed full of events. GT6 for example had the Goodwood Hillclimb, a set of driving missions in a lunar buggy on the moon, a tribute to Ayrton Senna where you raced some of the cars he had driven during his career, plus the aforementioned Sierra Time Rally, which could have been a budget title by itself.

In addition the series has always presented itself as more than just a set of car racing games. Gran Turismo is an extended tribute to motoring. GT5 began with an intro movie that illustrated the process of building a car, from refining the raw materials to polishing the cylinder heads, all set to the music of Prokofiev; the series was devised by enthusiastic drivers who owned and drove cars in their spare time, for fun.

GT Sport tones this down considerably. There are licence tests, a set of driving challenges, plus the chance to time attack sections of the game's tracks, but that's about it as far as special driving events. The drifting and rally challenges feel like an afterthought. The main menu has a historical timeline that sets things in context, which is neat, but it's just a slideshow, and it has a curious habit of featuring cars that aren't in the game. Most manufacturers have a museum, but it's just another historical timeline. It would have been nice if the game had a set of simple 3D rooms that you could walk around, inspecting each manufacturer's cars, but no.

There's a multi-part documentary about the Gran Turismo series, but it's just a link to some YouTube videos, which feels like cheating. Earlier games allowed you to fine-tune your cars by swapping out the exhausts, clutches etc, adding custom wings, that kind of thing, but GT Sport removes this entirely in favour of a simple click-to-go-up-a-level system powered by mileage points. One side-effect of this is that if you want a 1980s Lamborghini Countach with a big wing on the back, you can't have it; you can alter the livery but not the shape of the cars.

A real-life Countach at the Lamborghini Museum near Bologna.

Which reminds me of something else. GT5 and GT6 had a photo mode whereby you could pose your cars in a set of 3D environments and take photos of them. There were a bunch of camera controls and filters, and the results looked great; it was an instant wallpaper generator. GT Sport instead has Scapes, which is similar in concept but not as good.

It's essentially a set of photographic backdrops against which you can pose your cars, like a studio canvas. You can't move the camera around, because the scapes aren't 3D environments. You can zoom and pan the camera, but that's about it.

For dramatic effect most of the backdrops are angled so that the camera is pointing upward slightly, so you're limited to shots of your car looming over the camera. The results end up looking samey. On a technical level the lighting looks wonderful, but it feels as if I'm assembling a bunch of pre-made templates.

My only other complaint is that the championship matches feel sterile. Your driver levels up, but your level only unlocks tracks, and beyond level twenty you don't get anything new. In GT5 and GT6 when you won a series of championship races you got a prize of some kind. In GT Sport you get nothing, but on the other hand the driving challenges do give you a set of prizes, so perhaps I'm being picky.

And yet despite all of this moaning I warmed to GT Sport. Not enough to initiate or sustain an erection or any kind of emotional attachment, but enough to enjoy it. After moving from GT6 to GTS I was initially unimpressed, because despite being a new game on a new platform it didn't look much better. Not all of the cars have been upgraded. The Vision Gran Turismo cars don't have interiors and seem to have be ported straight from GT6, and some of the other models omit the rear view. It's obvious that the new hi-res models, such as the Mini pictured above, have had more work put into them than legacy models such as the MX-5 (for example).

Not everyone who has driven a second-generation MR2 in the wet has died.

Some of the races have fireworks at the end, or in this case a flypast with F-104s. This is Monza and the Italian Air Force flew F-104s until recently - and I'm in a 1980s car, complete with 1980s-style LCD - so plus one for fidelity.

But after going back to GT6 I was struck by the ugly, low-res track textures, the crude shadows, the lengthy loading times, the unimpressive engine noise, the slippy-slidey driving physics, a host of little things that irritated me. GT Sport's enhanced track detail is iterative rather than revolutionary, but the old tracks look mighty spartan in comparison. The sensation of driving a variety of different car configurations - mid-engined, rear-engined, front-drive, rear-drive - still comes through really well, and as a bonus I find the PS4's shoulder buttons easier to press than their PS3 equivalents, which isn't Polyphony's doing but I just wanted to point it out.

Now, there isn't really a game underneath it all, just a series of individual events. The event races aren't even arranged into multi-race championships, as per GT5 and GT6. It's very impersonal. I don't have a feeling that I'm managing my career or working to a goal. I unlocked the ending credits movie almost by accident; I was surprised when it popped up. The licence tests are a lot easier than their infamously brutal equivalents from earlier games, and although some of the circuit challenges are tricky a seasoned fan of the series will breeze through them, at which point there are only really time trials and single races to look forward to, and grinding for a free daily car.

On the other hand all of the aforementioned has taken dozens of hours during which I have had several memorable races. One of the driving challenges stood out - a endurance race at night on a street circuit that I eventually won on the final corner. It was tense and atmospheric. I wished more of the game was like that.

The campaign mode races are much less memorable, but Gran Turismo Sport is one of those games that people play for ages while simultaneously moaning about it, because it's easily pick-uppable as a casual game. I have no idea if the team are going to update it in the future, and it's unclear whether GT7 will come out for the PS4 or not, but as with its predecessors there's nothing else on the PlayStation with the breadth of its car library or the quantity of driving content.

So ultimately it's hard to judge. It has most of the content of GT6, but feels spartan in comparison, less of a cohesive whole. If you're dead keen on racing against other people online you'll probably love it. YouTube has a lots of videos in which people rant about dirty drivers and the unfair penalty system, which at least demonstrates passion. In the words of Devo, "love without anger isn't love at all".

On a personal level I find it entertaining as a casual game, which is fine given that it cost me less than £10; it's really a hybrid of the GT4 online test and one of the Prologues, which raises the question of whether Polyphony decided not to launch a full GT game for the PS4, and if so why. Perhaps after the excruciating development period of GT5 they reasoned that it would take a decade to make a new game, so they decided to write off the PS4 as a lost cause. GT Sport is developed by the same people who made GT, who are by now old men, so perhaps they have decided to slow down a bit. Who knows.