GT Sport: Technical Analysis & Comparison PS4 - Pro
High Dynamic Range has a new Champion!
Gran Turismo has been around as long as the PlayStation brand itself, a passion project that was started before the PS1 was even a twinkle in Ken Kutaragi’s eye. Kazunori Yamauchi set out his stall to craft the most in-depth, compete and all-encompassing simulated racer yet seen.
The new title follows the familiar trend with an Arcade mode that allows you to get used to tracks, modes and cars in a more controlled fashion with up to 20 AI controlled competitors, with the same breadth & depth in simulation, physics and handling of all the modes. Then the meat of the game, its career mode is where it all happens (aside the cutbacks from previous titles at launch at least). This follows the same trend of earning credits to buy cars, upgrades, perks and such to boost your garage via miles travels, challenges and races. As you grow the selection on offer to fill your garage from the 162 models available in the game split by classes, extras or unwanted ones can be sold to get the latest BHP beauty. This is also fleshed out with an extravagant photo mode that goes above and beyond, but more on that later.
The 3rd and final mode is one that was introduced fully in GT5 Prologue and has been gaining ground and attention ever since. E-sports are a big thing, this is a mode that gains press coverage and market deals not to mention prizes. GT Sport takes this even further with a fully endorsed FIA online racing championship to compete in, along with professional tips and advice from Lewis Hamilton, but no F1 races are in this but Karts are here so you can mimic his rise if you desire. The full suite of 17 tracks and multiple layouts are open to play with again up to 20 other cars to race against. This mixes up offline and online portions that do not require PS plus, only the direct online races require that. With the need to be online at all times a big deal, something affected many of us in the demo with saves being synced with the servers, no connection then you could lose your work, but something I will cover in my full review when I get access to the full game.
In need of aid
Driving aids can be turned on and off, with it making driving almost automatic at its highest level, to chaotic at times on the lowest settings and some of the rear wheel cars, still fun to tame. You can tweak as needed and this gives the game a great feeling of customisation, something that also helps is the tutorials and driving schools which return here and help you become accustomed to the controls and physics in the title and the again all the elements of tyre choices, pre-load, gear ratios and more all allowing you to tinker and fettle till the cows come how to shave off those vital ms.
Base(PS4) how low can you go?
Onto the versions and the base PS4 is up first, the numbers some may concentrate on are as good as they could be 1080/60 is the aim and from my tests, that is smashed “almost” all the time. The only real sacrifice comes from the real-time replays that drop this to 30fps but the increase in fidelity and effects (something the series really started back on the PS1) are more than recompense for these self-indulgent moments. The game also supports HDR on the base & Pro models equally with it having one of, if not, the best set-up process for any game that support it. Taking you through a complete Contrast & Brightness ratio balance that sets the exposure of scenes and clipping levels so that you get the absolute best quality for your set-up with a range of images to test before you commit.
This also works for SDR displays and the game still looks incredible as you can plainly see from the visuals you can ogle in the video above. But it is with HDR enabled on a decent 4K screen where this is taken to even better levels, so good in fact it is will be the first of my continued coverage and expansion that I will rate and detail. This is truly beautiful as it really enhances the colours, tones, depth and environments as they given more breathing space across a wider spectrum. Enabling sun glare to dissipate across the tree lines or bounce across the pearlescent bodywork. Bloom is used immaculately to glimmer from car edges or enhance the Fresnel reaction across cars, tarmac surfaces, upholstered dash or striking vista’s alike this is a real showcase for the technology with not only being suited to motorsport and the TV and photo presentation this empowers but also the effort that has gone into the Physically Based Rendering this updated engine deploys, which is one of the reasons the car count is lower, everything here has had to be remade for the game to capture all the energy levels, geometric details, up porting PS2 or PS3 models would simply ruin the consistency and conviction every model has. Going into the scape mode, another photo mode, allows you to set-up some car pornography photography across many real locales and once placed, tweaked and composited achieves results simply not possible within the real-time action. Having the real light and energy levels from the scene mixed with the PBR material system results in an almost perfect synergy of augmenting the CGI into reality, convincing you are looking at a genuine photo. Light bounce and reflections are near raytraced quality and I can see this being used over the Holiday season to sell Sony TV’s and maybe even many other models in Electronic stores across the globe, it really is that good, and the PRO only pushes that further still with higher fidelity and LOD across the 2 modes it ships with.
The target here is 2-fold, it has a plain PS4 mode which mimics that right down to the 1080P output, the biggest boost here comes from framerates, higher and 100% stable in races in conjunction with 60fps being carried over to the replays. Although these can dip when the screen is filled with geometry load from the cars and subsequent effects stack on top of that, but these are small from my tested sections and again do no impact the game. It would also do the same for the in-game racing but, so far, this has not been of a high requirement on the PS4 so seems a waste of resource here on Pro. Luckily, it also offers up some additional perks over the base model, edges and sub-pixel noise are reduced due to an enhanced AA, likely a form of EQAA (see MSAA) on top that helps improve the image quality over a standard 1080 of the PS4. Motion blur is less obvious in this mode on replays as you would expect due to the higher capture from the doubled replay speed. The Bokeh sprite sampled Depth of Field also looks to be of a slightly higher resolve which is all a welcome boost from the extra GPU headroom afforded.
We have another mode, Quality, that now has all of the mentioned benefits (aside the 60fps replays) but now outputs a Checkerboarded 3200x1800 resolution (which includes Super Sampling down to a 1080 display if you do not have a 4K one), just as we saw with Final Fantasy XV. The benefits carry over to the small details on textures, filtering is improved and overall image stability and edge shimmer is dramatically reduced over the other mode and the base model. The extra resolution allows details to be resolved further away from the camera such as thin objects and models, as does the texture details and normal maps from the road, cars and scenery, due to the near 3x pixel output increase here not only is obviously the best looking version, it also comes close to achieving a near 4K native image. Unless you absolutely want the 60fps replays this is the mode I suggest everyone uses it on the Pro EVEN IF you only have a 1080P display.
I never found any performance dips on the 4K Pro mode and the replays are also locked at the 30 rate without issues from my few hours of play. The 60fps replay mode though can have the biggest dips, not an issue as you are only admiring your skills or errors but these are the only sections that drop down from a near faultless 59.9fps average. The more important frame-time is locked across all versions in play at 16.67ms on the 95th and 99th percentile stage as a racing game should be.
So, what about the games visuals aside the pixel count, PBR materials and new benchmark HDR then? Well this is where the focus of the team can be seen, and the track details and objects meshes are not of an equally high and consistent nature. Grass, trees and track huts are the biggest culprits is letting the side down. Standard billboard sprites are used for trees and these simply pan like a cardboard cut-out as you drive, far from a deal breaker or eye sore, but for me at least, they do stand out and show an area I think they should have worked on more. Other sections such as the poor tuffs of grass and overall composited terrain details can let down the presentation quality, more so at the higher resolutions the Pro can offer. This is not an issue in the desert areas with sky filled balloons and some very high quality and modeled crowds and engineers adorning the tracks which hold up well even under closer scrutiny, this is a high point. As is the particle system that kicks up dust clouds as you go offline, or pebbles from the traps bouncing across the tracks even down to the sparks from chassis dragging on floors or bouncing off walls. But the cityscapes and plain Tokyo streets and empty office windows is not a high point of the visual package. These are small and not overly impacting areas, but do show the sacrifices made not only on the throughput of the machines at these small frame-times but also the budget and time allocation has been spent on the more obvious areas, the cars themselves, and this is where it can be clearly seen.
They all have various levels of LOD that still pop/switch a little to abruptly and close for my liking at times, you simply cannot fault the accuracy that has been lavished on them from inside and out. From the driver himself and his physical reaction and calculation inside the car as a separate entity and own energy model, to the hand details, car dash and each sculpted interior the view from inside the car and subsequent reflections and glare that accompanies it are as close to the real thing as I can imagine at the point, something which the VR mode will take to another level entirely, but we will have to wait till the final release next week and I will cover in detail.
AutoGlym the bodywork
The game is a vast improvement over previous GT titles, the engine has been significantly improved around the detail of the simulation, the accuracy of the models and the lighting properties that they all exhibit. Having fixed times of day and no dynamic weather will anger some, and as Driveclub clearly demonstrated, wetter is always better, but the package and visual presentation as a collective are all the better and more consistent for this. Light is calculated both directly and indirectly across all areas and surfaces, reacting in a way that fools you to its origin at times. Replays allow all this hard work to shine in every possible meaning of the word, as Motion blur is brought in across camera and object level with a clean and frequent sample rate, leaving no obvious or unsightly blend issues or banding artefacts and this just adds to the motorsport feel it captures so well. As a devoted fan of 2- wheeled sports I again bemoan the fact we never saw another bike game, past the simply phenomenal Tourist Trophy, from PD that I still play today for its accuracy and presentation, a highlight from the stacked PS2 era. And the thought of a DriveClub like weather pack and bike pack being released later into the games long lifespan is something I can only hope and bleat about as much as possible.
All these issues, omissions and sacrifices included what we have here is yet another PD title lavished with as much love, passion and detail that we have come to expect from the team. Another 5-year project or more it may have been, but this short taste from a few days demo has already convinced me to part with my cash and unlock all the treats it has in store. 4 wheels may not be my biggest passion, but with visuals, presentation and controls as slick and refined as this, I can certainly make do.
You can also check out my VR analysis above and here on the site.