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Three Laps On 'Gran Turismo Sport' In VR, Hands On

As a child, the original Gran Turismo was our gateway to the world of racing, and it’s because of that game that we are still fascinated with motorsport games today such as Project Cars, the Forza franchise, and Dirt Rally. Between the first Gran Turismo and these modern titles, racing games are more immersive thanks to peripherals and, most recently, the introduction of virtual reality. Our most recent experience with VR and racing games was yesterday, as we got to play the upcoming Gran Turismo Sport with PlayStation VR.

As part of the full immersion experience, the booth for the game featured a racing cockpit pod complete with gas and brake pedals, a Thrustmaster wheel, and the PSVR headset. After a quick recalibration for the HMD and some menu selections, we chose our car--the BMW M6 GT3--picked a difficulty setting, and began the race. The three-lap contest pitted me against a computer-controlled vehicle, and we had to beat it to the finish line.

In the brief seconds before the race started we looked around our virtual car and noticed details, such as the roll cage frame, that made the interior as realistic as possible. When the sound to start the race rang, we immediately pressed our foot to the gas and bolted down the track. We saw in our peripheral vision a small UI area that showed current speed, RPM limiter, and the suggested gear to use on specific turns. We found this handy, not just because we didn’t know what gears to use as we made turns, but also because it helped newcomers keep track of important information without having to continuously look down at the dashboard to see the current speed.

We consider ourselves racing game amateurs, so we often use the in-game racing line to determine the best route to take in the course, but Polyphony Digital took out the traditional line of arrows that show you the proper route when entering or exiting a corner. Instead, there were green notches floating in the middle of the air throughout the track, and their position indicated the best place to brake before making a crucial turn. This addition further added to the immersion of the game, and made it feel just a little more realistic because they were less intrusive to the experience. In turn it allowed us to take in the sights. Speaking of the sights, there was a portion of the race where we had to go up a slope and make a turn, and the sun peeked out just as we were about to reach the apex of said turn. The sun was a bit blinding, which we thought was actually impressive, so we had to squint a bit in order to find the apex of the turn and the right braking point to keep our lead intact. Overall, the VR demo was impressive, and it’s these little details that make it even more satisfying to play.

However, it wasn’t a completely flawless experience. For the first time in a while, the demo gave us a bit of motion sickness at the beginning. The last time we played a racing game in VR was sometime last year when we performed the 24-hour race (in two real-world hours) on the Nurburgring track on Project Cars. During that race we didn’t experience any motion sickness from start to finish, but as our vehicle left the starting line in Gran Turismo Sport, we felt a nauseating head rush. Turning on the first corner of the track didn’t help either, and it felt like our head rush was even worse after the turn. However, it wasn’t enough to deter us from trying the game. It took a few turns for our brain to get adjusted to the virtual surroundings, but our nausea was completely gone by the time we finished the first lap. We talked with other people afterwards to figure out what possibly caused the motion sickness, but we never received a definitive answer. This is a telltale sign, however, that Polyphony might need to make a few adjustments to its VR experience so you don’t feel like you're going to throw up at the start of each race.

Even with the small hiccup at the beginning, we genuinely enjoyed our race around the track. The fact that we had to constantly check our side and rear view mirrors to see our opponent’s position made it even more intense as we tussled for first place with every major turn. Gran Turismo Sport is scheduled for released sometime this year, and the trailer above, which came out yesterday, indicates that it will its make its debut sometime this fall.

NameGran Turismo Sport
TypeRacing, Simulation
DeveloperPolyphony Digital
PublisherSony Interactive Entertainment
PlatformsPlayStation 4
Where To BuyPlayStation StoreAmazonBest BuyGameStop
Release DateFall 2017
  • KirbyKirby
    Impressed that you guys were able to "push through" the nausea. That typically doesn't work well for me. :)
    Reply
  • Sakkura
    I think the first-person plural gets a little odd when you're describing things that are obviously just related to one person ("we immediately pressed our foot to the gas"), and there's even a lapse into first-person singular at one point.

    Anyway... hopefully the nausea is just a sign that the game isn't quite complete yet. Might be low performance or they might need to make some other tweaks. Usually cockpit VR games can be made pretty mild, nausea-wise.

    I like that they've ditched the racing line, that should be reasonably simple to figure out yourself (and part of the skill of driving). Indicators for the braking point are more crucial IMO (and braking points are more about memorization than necessarily skill).
    Reply
  • JamesSneed
    Its a new erra, games that are not performant wont just cause lag they will make you vomit. I can see reviews now, buy xxxx GPU if you don't want to barf playing new game xxxxx. Will need a barf factor chart to show how likely you are to barf playing a game with a certain GPU.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    19812222 said:
    wont just cause lag they will make you vomit. I can see reviews now, buy xxxx GPU if you don't want to barf playing new game xxxxx.
    Well, why do you think Oculus and Valve published minimum specs for their HMDs? Developers are supposed to make sure their games run well on those platforms, including minimum framerate. That said, I have heard that using higher-end GPUs can indeed help, sometimes. It reduces latency and it seems there's often some framedrop on lower-end platforms.

    In this case, a PS4 is a PS4 (unless it's a PS4 Pro). And I'm guessing the demo ran on a PS4 Pro. So, they really can't blame the hardware.

    The issue here is more that your virtual self is accelerating, while your physical self is stationary. That's not something better hardware will help. That's exactly the type of thing VR developers should avoid, in order to minimize the chances of making people sick. There are some tricks they can use to mitigate it, such as having a cockpit with smaller windows or cutting down your peripheral vision.

    For racing games, there's not much you can do, short of putting the cockpit in a centrifuge or at least adding some mechanical actuators. However, racing on larger circuits should lessen the effect.
    Reply