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.