Sat. Sep 24th, 2022
Rest assured, the headlights and fireworks in this image look dramatically different on an HDR-rated display (which we can't recreate through standard web browsers).
enlarge / Rest assured, the headlights and fireworks in this image look dramatically different on an HDR-rated display (which we can’t recreate through standard web browsers).

Sony

As Ars’ car guru, Jonathan Gitlin, rips through the racing nuts and bolts of this week’s new racing video game, Gran Turismo Sport, he asked me to pass the time by reviewing the more expensive elements. Jon doesn’t own a PlayStation VR headset or a 4K HDR display, and both are specifically and uniquely supported by the latest Gran Turismo game (and first in the series for the PlayStation 4 Pro).

Basically, he wants to feel better by not buying any of those ridiculous gadgets. I have good news and bad news for him.

4K/HDR performance: a well-oiled machine

Let’s start with the high-end TV stuff. This applies specifically to TVs rated for both 4K resolution (some 3840×2160 pixels) and HDR-10 color gamut, and you’ll need a PlayStation 4 Pro to take advantage of the combination. All PlayStation 4 consoles can push HDR-10 colors, but the effects are much more dramatic with a higher pixel count, and you’ll need a PS4 Pro for that.

Anyone who owns a display capable of HDR-10 content knows how hard it is to find showcase material — the kind that look great on everyone, unlike that sort of “me.” swear this is a nice scene “tv snake oil. Complicating things are a variety of “HDR” movies and content that aren’t quite mastered for the higher gamma standard, not to mention that for games to To really be in HDR, they need a full HDR specific color and texture pass.

Forza Motorsport 7 looks pretty good on my screen, but as we said in that game’s review, it’s an example of HDR fitted into a project specifically designed for standard gamut screens. Certain details, such as a bright sun in the distance or a hanging light in a tunnel, can come out forza 7 at the maximum range of an HDR screen, but the rest of the content, from racetrack details to car paint jobs to even the vast blue skies above a track, can suffer from unoptimized color details.

Gran Turismo Sport, on the other hand, is definitely built for the “I spent way too much on my TV” audience. There really isn’t anything like it on the market, and that’s coming from a guy who’s looked Planet Earth II on a 4K HDR screen at least 37 times since viewing it.

The main distinguishing point comes from the lights on all cars. Every headlight and taillight is literally brilliant. As in, they are bright as all onions, brimming with pure red, yellow and white color details. Most of the electrically powered lights in the game are set to the highest gamma value, so they have a naturally glare effect in your eyes, rather than relying on the usual baked “light glow” effect you usually see in every car commercial. With HDR enabled and less artificial glow in the way, you also get to see the tiny light arrays sometimes packed into high-end headlight arrays.

Nearby lights, from setting suns to street lamps, aren’t afraid to reflect off GTSs stupid waxed cars, but the game also benefits from physically based lighting that bounces off nearby environments, which beautifully reproduces the HDR color gamut pipeline. Each sunrise, sunset and night race is dipped in an extra layer of orange, blue or green, based on the objects and darkness in sight at any given time, and the effect is quite dramatic on a bold red-orange sports car.

You can also take solace in the stupidly accurate color rendition on the game’s expensive real cars, which is really worth it if you’re settling for nothing less than, say, the “rosso corsa” hue so obviously from Ferrari. is. It’s such a special shade of red, with oh-so-subtle orange lingering below the surface, and GTS is the first video game to bring its specific, dramatic colors to a compatible TV with incredible accuracy.

Every car here benefits from an accurate reproduction of such expensive paint jobs. How good are the results? Sure, a Ferrari or Lamborghini sells the idea, but I was more impressed with a really weird car: the Toyota S-FR.

This funky roadster from 2015 only comes in one color GTS: artificial, candy-Runt banana yellow. My HDR display can take its clunky hue in a way standard screens just can’t replicate, thanks in large part to the mix of intense yellow data and hints of color-changing blue mixed in at the high end of the gamut spectrum. I was both amazed and grossed out by the result in the beginning – like, hey Toyota, maybe do not show HDR TV owners.

But then I took it to the game’s virtual showroom, where the car is driven through a huge variety of realistic scenes, such as city squares, race tracks, and even the edge of a cliff. In these scenes, the car’s curious shape and unique headlight arrangement can explode with realistic reflections and physically based shaders, while the dramatic, circular headlights explode at the high end of the HDR light intensity spectrum. By the time I saw the S-FR meandering through the cobbled streets of an old European city, I was starting to envy who could own this weird car in real life.

Once you are in the actual game unlike any of GTS‘s “car showcase” scenes, the HDR difference is still notable, but it can come and go depending on which track you’re on. Clear afternoon skies make for a nice ray of sunshine on the top of every car and a ton of nearby scenery, and nighttime races absolutely glow in all the lighting and color effects mentioned above. But a cloudy afternoon race seems, well, just like a cloudy middle of the day. Those mild, gray races just don’t pop the same way, and you have to tap the brakes of your expectations accordingly.

But even these “boring” scenes still look better in HDR than in standard resolution or color. (Good news for standard PS4 owners: all versions of the game run at a crisp 60 frames per second.) If you only play this game on a standard 1080p TV, you’ll miss details that move the visual design of the game not only looks like fancy model cars.

Gran Turismo VR: not much gas in the tank

The same drool cannot be applied to the game’s VR mode.

First, PlayStation VR owners are limited to Gran Turismo Sport‘VR Arcade’ mode, which isn’t even as fully featured as the 2D game’s Arcade mode. While you can choose a VR race from any track in the game, you can’t adjust the opponent’s difficulty…and you can’t race against more than one opponent. The number of racers is probably limited to reduce the game’s rendering load in VR, but I don’t understand why the difficulty is reduced to the dumbest setting the game can possibly muster.

That’s doubly awful when you consider how much GTS automatically assists drivers who dare to enter the VR racing cockpit. Even though I manually disabled any assistance the game provides, I was able to repeatedly activate automatic slowdowns and turn assists while driving as crappy as possible in the game’s VR mode. Both automatic VR aids are a little more subtle than when intentionally enabled in standard 2D driving, and I’ve still been able to hit walls or turn violently.

In general, however GTS really, really not that you feel like you’re losing control as you push PlayStation VR to its limits. What’s weird then is that it’s not a special one cozy VR racing game too. Polyphony Digital has turned the game’s rally races into VR for some reason, even though they produce the mode’s most vomit-inducing lateral drift moments. Meanwhile, for the standard, passable races that fill most of VR Arcade, I saw nothing in the way of sharp grounding techniques like peripheral blocking or cockpit grounding to add comfort. Anyone brand new to VR might want to consider this their very first VR experience, but it’s otherwise comfortable enough once you get used to how VR works.

The game runs efficiently enough in VR, but like DriveClub VR for the, GTS‘s VR mode runs at a faked 120Hz refresh, which is actually 60 frames per second, with some interpolation being generated automatically. This doesn’t quite keep up GTS‘s sense of speed, and while the results shouldn’t make anyone sick by default, they fall short Project cars 2‘s default “low” settings for VR, resulting in 90 fps performance on PC – and therefore appears smoother. That game also feels more comfortable in VR, thanks to more pronounced cockpit-anchoring visual details and a clearer sense of real car movement and inertia.

A real insult to VR injuries, none of your progress or efforts in VR Arcade mode pay off with in-game currencies such as experience points, miles driven, or in-game currency.

As a result, it is difficult to recommend GTS‘s VR mode as a reason to buy this game. Sony should have included this simplified mode as an approachable freebie for current PSVR owners. Assign to each to value it is ridiculous.

As for the rest of the pack, keep it tuned to Ars for Jonathan’s upcoming full game review.

By akfire1

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