Gran Turismo 7 Should Be the Greatest One Yet
Designers not only simulated the sky, but also how moisture, sunshine, and cloud cover can affect grip and other track conditions.
On Wednesday, PlayStation streamed a special "State of Play" update entirely focused on Gran Turismo 7 and, no, it wasn't to inform us that the game would be delayed. GT7 is indeed on track to release just a month from now—March 4, 2022—on both PS5 and PS4, and series creator Kazunori Yamauchi thought it'd be helpful to give us all a 30-minute rundown on what the next installment of PlayStation's flagship racer will be like. I've played enough modern video games to know that it's always wise to temper expectations but, as far as I can tell, GT7 is shaping up to be a return to form for the series, at least in terms of premise and content. Billed as "the pinnacle of the GT journey" and "the most complete GT to date," the game was apparently designed to appeal to both hardcore car nuts, people who have never touched a racing game before, and everybody in between.
First off, let's get some numbers out of the way. At launch, there will be 400 cars on tap, all of which have been meticulously modeled in full 4K, PS5 quality (no upscaled PS2-era "standard cars" here). Some new-to-series models spotted throughout the presentation include the outgoing Honda Civic Type R, the Ferrari F8 Tributo, the Mercedes-AMG GT R and C 63, the Shelby GT350R, third-gen Ford Focus RS, and the Porsche Carrera GT. The game will also ship with 34 distinct track locations from which developers have extracted 97 different circuit layouts. These include returning GT fantasy classics Deep Forest, High Speed Ring, and Trial Mountain as well as the usual real-world suspects like Laguna Seca, the Nürburgring, Suzuka, and more. Daytona, by the way, is making a return after being completely absent from the last game, GT Sport. More cars are tracks are set to be added through future updates.
Nostalgia Is a Helluva Drug...
Even before you step foot inside a digital car, GT7 hits the nostalgia hard in the way its main menu is set up. It's all laid out on a geographical map, just like the ones in the early Gran Turismo games were. "Our inspiration here was to create a paradise, a vacation resort that celebrates car culture," Yamauchi says. In other words, exactly how it all existed in my mind playing the very first GT game back in the third grade. Just like Gran Turismo games of old, there is a place to purchase shiny and new rides but you'll start with a modest compact commuter car purchased from the Used Car Dealership and use it to race your way up the ranks, acquiring more credits, faster cars, and more wins along the way. The classic Gran Turismo CaRPG experience.
Other series hallmarks also making a return include license tests, two-player local split-screen racing (when was the last time you did that?), extensive car customization in regards to both performance and aesthetics, and, as true classic GT throwbacks, a "car wash" function and the ability to perform virtual oil changes.
...But It's Still 2022, After All
The '90s nostalgia isn't completely devoid of modern-day quirks, however, because it looks like the realities of our grim, microtransaction-laden, post-Bring a Trailer existence will be reflected in this game's Used Car Dealership. "Some very popular used cars may be sold at an even higher price than when they originally came out," explains Yamauchi. "These include the Japanese sports cars of the '90s that are seeing a big boom in popularity worldwide." Look closely at the Used shop's UI and you'll also learn that players can indeed choose to purchase in-game credits with real-life money via the PlayStation Store, a decidedly modern video game trope that would've likely caused mass outrage in this series' heyday. In any case, the Used Car Dealer's inventory is said to change daily.
If an 85,700-credit A80 Supra or 187,400 credits for an E30 M3 isn't quite rich enough for your blood, there's the Legendary Car Dealership. If the Used Car Dealer is GT7's version of Bring a Trailer, then the Legendary shop is its rendition of Bonhams, a tweed-and-caviar-drenched establishment where you'll find seven- and eight-figure classics like Aston Martin DB5s, original Shelby Cobras, and vintage Le Mans race cars.
They Simulated the Sky, Folks
Also painstakingly engineered to mimic reality is this game's freakin' sky. To make racing through real-world locales feel as authentic as technologically possible on a $500 machine you can theoretically buy from Walmart, Yamauchi says his team has simulated the process of how clouds themselves are formed. "Based on the vast amount of meteorological data, temperatures, humidity, and air pressure specific to each region, skies in Japan will change as they do in Japan and skies in California will change as they do in California." And when that highly advanced weather-and-time cycle circles to nighttime, GT7 will also simulate astrologically-accurate stars and planets. "The moon will rise and set in the same way that the sun rises and sets. The color of the stars will change depending on whether the atmosphere is clear or hazy."
Of course, this straight-up obsessive attention to detail not only applies to everything above you but also everything beneath. "Time changes and weather simulations are expressed in the scenery and light," the GT creator continued. "These factors can affect atmospheric and surface temperatures, and by doing so, affect the tire grip, engine power, and strength of the slipstream effect, integrating with the automotive physics simulation. It rains and the surface becomes wet. Puddles form in locations that are prone to them. The rain ends, and the surface starts to dry from the areas that tend to dry first. The areas with puddles will remain wet the longest. And these kinds of changes will occur naturally."
Even by Gran Turismo standards, this is a whole new level of nerdy and I love it. Y'know that commonly-quoted tidbit about how sometimes it can be raining on one section of the Nürburgring and sunny somewhere else? Well, prepare to experience it for yourself within the meticulously simulated world of Gran Turismo 7.
For the photographers in the crowd, Scapes photo mode makes a return featuring more than 2,500 real-world backdrops, HDR, and realistic virtual camera settings that, just like them cloud physics, I am in no way knowledgeable enough to completely understand.
As for new features that are less serious but just as wonderfully dorky in a quintessentially Gran Turismo way, "Music Rally" is a new game mode that sees the player drive while music plays. Drivers must keep hitting checkpoints in time to keep the beat up. "Music Replays," meanwhile, take race replays and incorporate on-the-fly-generated camera angles that sync up with the song being played in the background.
Further driving home the whole Fantasy Car Vacation vibe is the presence of a section called Gran Turismo Café. Modeled in the form of an actual coffee shop seemingly located in the middle of a forest, the GT Café is where you keep track of car collection objectives. When objectives are met, rewards include audio descriptions of the cars you've acquired, some of which might even involve the real-life automotive designers that helped bring them to life. If famed-car-designer-turned-YouTube-star Frank Stephenson doesn't make at least one appearance here, I riot.
Also new to the series is drag racing, which will be part of the game's "Mission" events that will involve drift trials as well.
As for technical enhancements, Gran Turismo 7 on PS5 will feature ray-tracing that simulates lighting and reflections more realistically. Car physics have also, of course, been improved using advice from "top drivers of the FIA GT Championships," Michelin, and a man named Lewis Hamilton. To better convey what cars are doing to the hands of gamers, GT7 takes advantage of the PS5 controller's nifty adaptive triggers and haptic feedback. This time around, not only does the controller vibrate when you, for example, hit rumble strips, but the adaptive triggers will also recreate the sensation of tires locking up while the DualSense's more nuanced haptics will really let you feel understeer.
I still have questions, though. Around two-and-a-half minutes into the presentation, there are two shots of what looks like the game's Tokyo night circuit being populated with traffic. And not traffic in the racing sense, mind you, but actual, everyday traffic complete with buses, trucks, and normie cars driving around at reasonable speeds. Something that has been, as far as I can remember, completely foreign to the circuit-racing-only series. Could this be a teaser for a whole new gameplay mode? Or maybe even a Forza Horizon-rivaling, open-world spinoff title?
As another easter egg, listen for what sounds like a fresh rendition of "Moon Over the Castle" at about 18:45, essentially the racing series' theme music and, as the youths might say, a Certified Hood Classic as long as that hood happens to be the floor of my parent's living room circa 1999.
The full half-hour presentation below is thorough and probably worth a watch if you're a GT fan. Excuse me while I put in a PTO request for March 4.
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