Playstation-exclusive Gran Turismo Sport close to racing IRL? Racer brothers Shaun and Jasper Thong put it to the test

By Jamie Lam

Media-only event showcased technical improvements via demo racing pods set up with 65 inch 4K TVs and Thrustmaster-GT mock steering wheels

By Jamie Lam |

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Demo racing pods set up with the Thrustmaster-GT steering system were available for media members to try.

The long-awaited seventh instalment of bestselling racing game Gran Turismo Sport, exclusive for PlayStation 4, had its official Hong Kong launch at APM in Kwun Tong Wednesday afternoon.

Several celebrities were there to fete the occasion, including local racing sensations and brothers Shaun and Jasper Thong, veteran professional racer Marchy Lee and Hong Kong cantopop girl group Super Girls.

Noted automobile photographer Chester Ng was also present to introduce the new photo shoot mode, which allows gamers to create the perfect shot of their favourite cars in locations around the world.

Game developers Polyphony Digital prides itself on creating the most realistic commercially available software for car fanatics, and refers to GT Sport as a “racing simulator” rather than just a video game. With a confirmed roster of 159 cars so far from revered brands such as Ferrari, Lamborghini and for the first time ever, Porsche, it gives players the chance to “drive” cars they could only dream of owning in real life.

So, just how close is GTS to real-life racing? Young Post spoke to the race bros, 17-year-old Jasper and 21-year-old Shaun of Phoenix Racing Asia about the game.

Jasper (L) and Shaun Thong, HK's new generation of professional racers.
Photo: Jamie Lam/SCMP

Shaun said GT Sport is a big improvement over the older games, and is good enough to teach players about real-life racing. “It’s hard to book many hours at the real tracks, so it can help us to learn the course layout beforehand and lets us make better use of track time.”

Jasper added the conditions in the game help him figure out the correct line to take at the world famous courses recreated in-game, which is essential for when he races there in person.

The siblings also admitted to competing fiercely at an earlier instalment of Gran Turismo, but were coy about who won the most. However, Shaun couldn’t resist a chance to throw some shade at his shorter younger brother by quipping “Well, he is short, but he’s not actually that young. Don’t make him out to be some child prodigy.”

Despite the friendly sibling rivalry, the two fully support one another and help each other grow as racers.

To entice passers-by to check out the pop-up event, Sony pulled out all the stops, starting with a customised version of the Honda NSX with Gran Turismo decals for fans to fawn over. Also on display were various types of racing paraphernalia such as used tyres and a flame-retardant suit.

But the stars of the show were definitely the demo racing pods. Gloriously set up with 65-inch 4K TVs and Thrustmaster-GT mock steering wheels, players got to experience first-hand how fun the game is with a steering wheel rather than a hand-held controller.

This writer went hands-on in one of the pods and was surprised by how forceful the feedback was from the imitation wheel. Perhaps that’s why he clocked a disappointing lap time of 2 minutes 12 seconds on the Dragon Trial track, even though he was driving a Gr. X (the highest class of car) Mercedes-Benz AMG Vision GT.

However, even during this embarrassingly slow drive, it was clear the graphics, sound, and road conditions were a marked improvement from GT 6, which was released four years ago on the PlayStation 3. Unfortunately, while the Thrustmaster-GT did make the gaming experience much more enjoyable, HK$6,499 is a steep price to pay for anyone but the most fanatic of car lovers. Or the very rich.

Though Wednesday’s launch event was media-invite only, the entire display will be open to the public October 12-19, from 12 to 10.30pm. Anyone thinking about picking up the game should give it a test drive before a purchase. Even if you’re not into gaming, this is a nice afternoon out with friends. Beware of long queues though, as there are only five pods and it’s sure to be a popular distraction.

Edited by Ben Young