Is this real life?

Conquer Bathurst in VR with Gran Turismo Sport

© Sony

The verdict is still out on Virtual Reality’s best place in gaming, but Polyphony may have sealed the deal with how GT Sport plays in the virtual realm. Mt Panorama has never been so accessible.

Arguably, the biggest flaw in Gran Turismo Sport, right now, is a lack of any Aussie V8 Supercars. We say “biggest flaw”, because what the game offers around that lacking feature is divine. Native 4K automotive eye-candy in spades, plus a VR experience the likes of which you’ve probably never had.

To be fair, our hands-on with the game ahead of review access was inside a complete racing rig set-up, replete with adjustable driving seat and force-feedback steering wheel. We even had racing pedals so, you know, the experience was pretty dope. But things went from 10 out of 10 to beyond 11 once we threw on the PlayStation 4 VR headset, despite the massive dip in visual quality (it is jarring shifting from native 4K to 720p). Honestly, flooring our WRX straight into Hell’s Corner off the starting line with a full 360-degree view of everything while in said rig was… breathtaking. This writer has had the good fortune to take a hot lap around Mt Panorama ahead of a Bathurst before in a supercharged V8 SS Commodore, where we hit ‘unofficially’ (because you’re not supposed to ion hot laps), 250+kmph. So I can correctly relay the sensation of the track; its nuances, dips, curves and bumps, with some degree of familiarity.

And yes, GT Sport delivers on all of those counts for our most famous race track.

For me, Hell’s Corner has always been manageable in any of the games our great circuit finds representation in. I love taking it narrowly, because how you get to open up on Mountain Straight is probably the most exhilarating part of driving around Mt Panorama. Largely this is because once you hit the Quarry you’re ascending, and that bend is almost a pure perfect way to move into the more challenging parts of The Mountain. By the time you’ve shifted your way through the peak of the track, realising you’re essentially riding brakes now through The Dipper and onto Forrest’s Elbow, anxiety is replaced with exhilaration -- for a second -- because you know you’re about to let loose on Conrod Straight.

Needs more vanity plate action
Needs more vanity plate action

I mentioned earlier that Mountain Straight is my favourite part of the track, and I can hear people across the Internet yelling at me about ignoring the circuit’s biggest straight as far as my favourite parts go, but for some reason in any game I’ve ever played featuring Mt Panorama, I always, always, always lose it on that left at The Chase right after Conrod. I don’t know why, but it at least affords me a decent look over and over again at the Rydges Hotel that overlooks this menacing oversold chicane. And the more powerful the car I’m driving here, the more off-track I wind up. It’s vexing.

So, with all of that said, experiencing the aforementioned in VR is, honestly, an unbelievable experience. Sure, the drop in visual quality takes a little away from the experience, and the game’s more-than-forgiving damage system means your only real enemy here is spinning out and losing control, but these are beyond forgivable because in VR, with full view of the space around you and a steering wheel, pedals and racing seat as your stage, make you the star. But more importantly, even if you don’t have a racing rig set-up, the sensation remains largely the same. So, controller or steering wheel -- it really doesn’t matter (unless you’re a purist), because the PS4’s VR really does perfectly capture the experience. And this is the separation between our tint towards 4K now, and our exploration of where VR really sits in the grand scheme of things.

When VR looks this good, we'll know we've made it
When VR looks this good, we'll know we've made it
So, with all of that said, experiencing the aforementioned in VR is, honestly, an unbelievable experience. Sure, the drop in visual quality takes a little away from the experience...

Because, ultimately, what GT Sport does best is offer both, unhinged. And until we have 4K VR headsets, untethered, we’re not going to be able to fully transport ourselves into another realm as if we’re Jamie Whincup or Craig Lowndes. In the meantime, however, Polyphony Digital and Sony can give us the best kind of sneak preview of a future where you don’t really need to line-up for a hot lap at Mt Panorama , you can take on the challenging beast yourself. We just need more V8 Supercars options, please guys.

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