Gamers familiar with Polyphony and their obsessively detailed Gran Turismo car racing series know one thing for sure – these developers are serious about realism….really, totally, ridiculously serious. Relative to their latest offering Tourist Trophy, a veritable motorcycle version of the Turismo franchise, this fact translates into one of two meanings for players – hours of joyous gameplay learning the ins and outs of hundreds of machines, courses, and tunings, or hours of frustrating, punishing, and brutally difficult gameplay with a torturous learning curve. It seems that there is no in-between. One thing is for sure – this ain't no pick-up-and-play arcade racer. Whether that's good or bad is purely in the eyes of the beholder.
Get Yer Motor Runnin'
There is no real set linear path to playing Trophy. Right off the bat, you'll have dozens of options available - there are licenses to acquire, challenges to undertake, races to win, motorcycles to tune, practices to attend, and photographs to take. It becomes a matter of what you're interested in as to which of these to jump into.
Practically speaking, it makes the most sense to go after at least one or two of the four licenses (Novice, Junior, Expert, and Super) early on. Not only will getting them open up a lot more challenges and races – and hence more motorcycles – but the basics of how to race Tourist Trophy-style will be made clear. Of course, those “basics” can be maddening to comprehend for the uninitiated. Who knew that going in a circle for less than a minute was so technically challenging? But therein lies some of the hidden beauty of the game – once the fundamentals are understood, there is a lot of satisfaction to be garnered from mastering seemingly simple moves. Sadly, I have the feeling that there are hundreds of busted controllers out there that never lived to see that day.
license requires successful completion of 10 individual tasks, which (naturally) increase in difficulty as the tests progress. Luckily for those of us who don't know an intake valve from a camshaft, there are levels of acceptance (bronze, silver, and gold) to move along in the license certification process. For the truly masochistic, achieving gold in all of them is evidently an option. However, despite literally hundreds of attempts, this reviewer was able to get gold in less than half of all license certifications. One has to assume that these gold medals are physically attainable, but the level of dedication and commitment (not to mention skill) it takes to get to them will likely be beyond many gamers' capabilities. All it takes to get each license is at least a bronze per test, though, which will take some work but is eminently doable.
Head out on the Highway
license tests begin to show off some of the painstaking attention to detail paid to the different motorcycles, but the Challenges are where this starts to shine. These are spread across all of the various tracks in the game, and generally your goal is to overtake an opponent within a couple of laps and stay ahead for an amount of time or finish ahead. The prize for winning each challenge race is your opponent's ride, while each license you acquire opens a slew of new challenges. All told, there are dozens and dozens of them available.
As you pick and choose the bikes that you wish to acquire, the phenomenal intricacies of sight and sound of each of the machines become evident. The various cycles all have their own sounds, which is impressive even to those outside the motor enthusiast set. In addition, the challenge mode really lets you get motoring at top speed for a few moments here and there, which gets the frighteningly realistic noise of wind whipping through your helmet and makes you realize just how fast you're moving. Not only does the wind overtake a lot of the other outside sound, it also brings home the amazing speed and danger of racing like no four-wheeled racer I've ever played.