The Biggest Sim Racing (and Gran Turismo) Stories of 2023

The Greatest Sim-Racing (and Gran Turismo) Tales of 2023

There’s only one more day to mark off in your 2023 page-a-day calendar, and it’s been an exciting year for fans of Gran Turismo in particular and racing games in general.

Following a few quite chaotic years, 2022 appeared to be the beginning of things getting back to normal. The gaming business was starting to return to its pre-20s status, thus there was definitely grounds for some little optimism (even though it was qualified by certain ongoing world events).

One major series has returned after an incredible six-year hiatus, hardware, which was severely damaged by chip shortages, is making a comeback, and there’s a brand-new method to play Gran Turismo without even picking up a controller.

Gran Turismo 7 Launches PlayStation VR2

We believe that the biggest event of 2023 was Gran Turismo 7, which introduced the new PlayStation VR2 hardware over a year after it was first released in 2022.

In contrast to the first VR experiment by Gran Turismo Sport, which was restricted to a single game mode, GT7 provides complete VR support for the whole game. Virtual reality allows you to drive a car in GT7 at any moment, and it’s a transformative experience. Many players find it difficult to return to a flat screen after engaging in virtual reality gaming.

Naturally, PlayStation 4 owners will be unable to utilize the PlayStation VR2 device since it requires a PlayStation 5—sales of which have now exceeded 50 million as the issues of 2021–2022 have subsided.

At the Game Awards, Resident Evil Village VR Mode took home the Best VR Mode trophy, defeating GT7’s nomination. It appears that a woman who was ten feet tall impressed the judges more.

Gran Turismo Sophy Arrives In-Game

One of the main complaints about the Gran Turismo series over its 25-year existence may have been its artificial intelligence (AI), but that started to change in 2023 with the introduction of the new “Gran Turismo Sophy” AI in the game.

In order to investigate whether it was feasible to have an AI drive in Gran Turismo Sport at “superhuman” speeds, the newly formed Sony AI initially developed Sophy. Using reinforcement learning techniques, the project developed into a full AI driver that was utilized in showcase events against the quickest Gran Turismo players worldwide.

In February 2023, Sophy unexpectedly made an appearance in Gran Turismo. It did so in a brief test mode that was only available on the PlayStation 5 and allowed users to compete against up to four of the finished Sophy agents.

Feedback from players on that short sample helped to fine-tune expectations for Sophy, which made a reappearance later that year with many more features, including grids of up to 20 cars at nine of the game’s circuits and support for about 75% of the car list.

Gran Turismo 7 Spec II

In November 2023, just over 18 months after the game’s release, GT7 got a surprise “Spec II” update that included some of the major modifications to the game and Sophy’s second, permanent, appearance.

This featured the largest single car drop in the history of the game as well as the debut of a brand-new snow circuit, Lake Louise, for the first time since Gran Turismo 6. However, some improvements to the game’s durability and user experience were more important.

That included new weekly challenges that offered a playlist-like experience with bonus prizes, featuring some of the game’s events along with sporadic new ones. This came with a new Event Directory that shows you your progress in single-player mode and a new Dashboard that gives you a quick summary of your whole gaming experience.

Additionally, we witnessed the addition of a new “Master License” level, modifications to Meeting Places, an enhanced four-player split screen mode, new Photomode shooting techniques, and an entirely new introductory film.

Live Audiences Return to the GT World Series

The Gran Turismo World Series made a comeback to live events in 2022, hosting the World Final and Showdown in their customary locations of Austria and Monaco. The only people allowed to attend these private parties were qualifiers, sponsors, media, and influential visitors.

Prior to being compelled to alter its strategy after Sydney 2020, Polyphony Digital had focused on public events. However, in 2023, it went back to this model for the Showdown and Final, which were held in Amsterdam and Barcelona and for which tickets were made accessible to the general public.

It’s safe to assume that the Amsterdam opening was a huge success, even though there may have been some anxiety beforehand. With a home triumph sure to electrify the audience, Barcelona turned out to be one of the best championship events to date!

Gran Turismo Hits the Silver Screen

2023 also saw the release of Gran Turismo as a motion picture, following more than ten years of anticipation, with a premiere at the previously mentioned Amsterdam Showdown.

Gran Turismo is a film that dramatizes the true events surrounding the career of Jann Mardenborough, who won the 2011 GT Academy competition and went on to become a professional racing driver. Orlando Bloom (The Hobbit), David Harbour (Hellboy), and Archie Madekwe (Saltburn) star as Mardenborough in this film, which is directed by Neill Blomkamp, the filmmaker of District 9.

Although the movie received a mediocre review at first, fans have responded considerably better, and Rotten Tomatoes still gives it a 98% positive rating. Additionally, it opened at number one at the US box office and recently crossed the $121 million mark worldwide, or about break-even. But it also lost to The Last of Us, another PlayStation Productions game, for Best Adaptation at the Game Awards.

In case you haven’t seen the film yet, it is currently accessible on physical media across the globe, in addition to Netflix and the Sony Pictures Core service.

Sport Shutdown

Gran Turismo 7 has a lot going on, so it should come as no surprise that PD has finally revealed that its predecessor’s departure will happen early in the new year.

Gran Turismo Sport was the game that successfully represented and gave rise to Gran Turismo-based esports. Despite some early backlash, the popularity of the drastically scaled-down game is undeniable.

According to Polyphony Digital’s most recent statistics, Sport brought in $355 million and sold 12.7 million copies during its lifetime, making it the second-highest-selling game in the series’ history behind Gran Turismo 3.

All online features, including multiplayer modes, the mileage store, and, regrettably, user-created liveries, will end when the game closes on January 31. Nevertheless, the majority of the game will still be playable, and from then on, progress can be saved locally.

Forza Motorsport Reboots

In 2023, Forza Motorsport also made a comeback with its first new game in six years, after seven games in a consistent two-year cycle. Dubbed simply Forza Motorsport, Turn 10 went back to the design board for this game, which signifies a total series reset. or to the floor, if not lower…

There was a lot of promise, as T10 repeatedly mentioned throughout the interim that a number of crucial components will be completely reworked, from tire physics and suspension to ray-traced lighting and a new audio system, along with a return to circuit racing.

Although we enjoyed the game overall, even with the Xbox Series X’s standardized hardware, we found it to be a patchy experience. It was immediately evident that PC users were suffering significantly more, as T10 was fixing a lot of problems. The gameplay loop for the car progression was also slightly retracted following an initially unfavorable reaction.

Actually, Forza Motorsport has been so unimpressive overall that the racing game community was shocked when it took up the Best Sports/Racing Game trophy at The Game Awards earlier this month. The year 2024 will be crucial for the series after that.

WRC Titles Move to EA

In 2023, the WRC license was transferred to EA after Nacon’s KT Racing studio produced a number of strong entrants. After a long wait, the first game in the series—which is now called EA SPORTS WRC in line with the company’s new branding—was released in October.

Similar to Forza Motorsport, there was a lot of potential. The game was developed by Codemasters, and since the company had a lot of rally experience from the Colin McRae Rally days and, later, the DIRT and DIRT Rally series (because the license had moved elsewhere), there was some hope for the game as well.

Although the company’s PR team sent a review code more than five hours before the embargo, so we were unable to review the game in its initial state, the general reaction was largely muted and couched. Nevertheless, EA is once again addressing the performance issues of its first racing game built on the Unreal Engine.

Toys Spring a Surprise

In fact, some of the most entertaining racing games we’ve played this year are a number of toy-based racers that were released in 2023.

All right, so maybe we shouldn’t have been shocked by Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged, considering that the original game was Milestone’s most popular racing title ever and absurdly entertaining. The developers actually removed the negative elements and added more positive ones for the sequel.

The other unexpected discovery was LEGO 2K Drive, which appeared out of nowhere. Even though it was obvious that there would be microtransactions—buying more bricks to build your cars—as soon as the game was revealed, which was two months before it was released, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the existing content is incredibly entertaining and addictive. If you act quickly, PS Plus is also offering it for free this month.

PlayStation Portal

With the release of the PlayStation VR2 in February and the new PlayStation Portal (PSP? See what they did there?) in November, the PlayStation 5 ecosystem will have grown by two full devices in 2023.

When Portal was originally unveiled as “Project Q” in May 2023, opinions were undoubtedly split. The Portal is not a gadget that can run its own games, in contrast to the original PSP. Rather, it is a specialized Remote Play gadget that allows you to broadcast games from your home PlayStation 5 console to any location in the world via WiFi.

While there is some input lag, it offers the ease of playing on a PS5 without the trouble of having to carry one along. It looks like a DualSense split in half, with an eight-inch LCD screen fitted between the two sides.

Fanatec ClubSport DD & DD+

In 2023, Fanatec introduced additional direct drive wheels to the market under its ClubSport product line, expanding the options available to sim racers for peripherals.

The CSL DD and GT DD wheelbases are essentially improved versions of the ClubSport DD and DD+, with the larger units offering better slew rates, more torque, and the introduction of new “FullForce” technology.

The basic DD is limited to PC and Xbox, with a torque peak of 12Nm. If you want the whole experience, the DD+ offers up to 15Nm of torque and PlayStation compatibility, becoming completely cross-platform when an Xbox compatible wheel is installed.

Finally, Fanatec has unveiled their new QR2 quick release system.

Thanks for a Great 2023!

The GTPlanet community had another amazing year in 2023, and we would especially like to thank the millions of readers and users that visit our site every day from all over the world. In 2024, we’re excited to deliver even more to you!

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