Gran Turismo Sport is the killer app of the HDR standard – article

Gran Turismo has rightfully earned a reputation over the years by pushing the technological limits of consoles, and after some not entirely convincing preliminary betas, Gran Turismo Sport seems to provide another proof of strength from a technical standpoint. A few days ago Sony released a mammoth demo version that allowed players to experience various events and features of the final game. It was an opportunity to taste an almost ready dish, especially for users with screens with High Dynamic Range. Many titles benefit from HDR but with Gran Turismo Sport the upgrade is more pronounced and beautiful to such an extent that you won’t enjoy the full experience without HDR.

The majority of our gameplay was done on PS4 Pro using its high resolution mode, which offers 1800p internal resolution upscaled to 4K via checkerboarding. The results aren’t as crisp as other PS4 Pro titles or Forza Motorsport 7 itself on Xbox One X, but we’re still looking at gorgeous gameplay on the go, and PS4 Pro showcases the best of GT Sport and the HDR.

GT Sport offers a remarkable level of detail in every aspect of the presentation. The move to PlayStation 4 implies that materials, textures and lighting have been upgraded from what was previously possible. Relying on physics-based rendering, the game is able to offer realistic surfaces and objects in all environments and on all cars. The textures are therefore much sharper and more realistic even at close range. The game offers a breadth that no other racing simulation can match, and the environments spread out at a distance creating the illusion of a giant world.

But it is the HDR support that has impressed us more than any other aspect. Some titles use HDR very well but it is clear that not all implementations are equally effective, and many disappoint. Gran Turismo has always been a series created to push the technological limits forward, and so it’s no surprise that HDR plays a key role in the aesthetics of the game. And in a world where so many HDR displays offer such different experiences, Polyphony Digital is to be appreciated for its solution.

GT Sport is able to give users full control of the HDR experience. When you enable this feature, a configuration page allows you to set the HDR10 to match the standard supported by your TV to get the best picture quality. If you are using an LG display with reduced brightness using HDR game mode, GT Sport allows you to completely bypass this setting but the reality is that each screen will benefit from being able to calibrate the HDR level that best suits the capabilities of your display. Other games could draw inspiration from this implementation of HDR.

There are several elements that help define this HDR presentation. We start with the rendering of the sky. The greater depth of color and brightness of HDR allows sunlight and clouds to express a level of brightness similar to that of reality. And then there are the front and rear lights of the cars. The contrast between bright lights and the dark environment works great, contributing even more to increase the sense of realism. All these elements together give an excellent, vibrant and clear result. There are however a lot of smudges here and there, like the “flat” trees a lack of detail in certain areas of the background, but during the action we are faced with a wonderful game.

There is other good news, notably a marked increase in high resolution performance compared to previous beta stages. Based on our experience the overall consistency level is impressive, as Polyphony managed to deliver a frame-rate nailed to 60fps, which hasn’t been the case since the PS2 era. We really had a hard time experiencing slowdowns during gameplay, which implies that if that happens it will be a very rare event. The races are all smooth at 60fps, a level of performance not reached by the PS3 chapters. And PS4 Pro owners also have the benefit of 1080p60 replays, while the base PS4 and PS4 Pro’s high-resolution mode play them at 30fps. They are not completely stable but the result is brilliant, a good news after the major racing games have been limited to replays at 30fps for ten years.

But that puts an interesting limit to the game. With PS4 Pro set to 1080p output you can choose whether to prioritize copper-rate or resolution, which is a fantastic option as it basically allows super-sampling to come into play. When the output is set to 4K instead, prioritizing the frame-rate is not possible and you can only set the highest resolution. In our latest GT Sport beta report we were very curious to understand how the various modes were partitioned among users based on their displays, and PS4 Pro owners using 1080p screens have a clear advantage, hence the fact that such choices have been offered is a good thing. But gameplay is pretty much locked down anyway, and an extra option we would have liked to have found is the ability to prioritize frame-rate in replays, allowing the main game to still run at 1800p checherboard, while replays are always limited to 1080p. and 60fps.

Overall, therefore, Gran Turismo Sport exceeds expectations. Polyphony did a great job this time around, fixing many of the problems found in the early beta code, but also in older GT series titles on older PlayStation platforms. The graphics are obviously much better but it’s the overall experience that impresses the most. From streamlined menus to seamless online and clever design choices, the title invites you to play. If you are a seasoned fan of the series or new to the racing genre in general, this title could be a great entry point.

And then there is the implementation of HDR. We’ve seen some good showdowns from other developers before, but GT Sport is the first title we’ve seen so far that looks so phenomenal in HDR that it has the potential to entice numerous users to upgrade the screen. Just remember that a display that shows the HDR badge may not reach the full specifications of the standard – our 4K HDR TV buying guide should put you on the right path to the right choice. When it expresses its full potential, HDR is a “game changer” and GT Sport could easily offer itself as the killer-app of this video standard.