Gran Turismo 7 Review: Driving Simulator Slowed by Live Service Shenanigans

Written by Allen

April 8, 2022

Gran Turismo has been established itself as the driving simulator for the PlayStation Console. So my expectations for when I finally picked up its 7th (numbered) iteration on the PlayStation 5, I had my expectations set. Those expectations being able to watch beautiful machines push themselves and their drivers like me to it’s absolute limit.  Attempting to shave even the smallest milliseconds from lap time and figuring out the best way to go through turns with minimal loss in speed. And to be honest, it is a lot of that, but reality is a bit different. Gran Turismo 7 reminds me a lot about going to the country club that your rich friend Luca likes to frequent. You know, neat cafes, nice food, lots of talking about random trivia about hobbies, which is in this case, cars. And a more relaxed environment that’s more tuned for you to learn about a car geek’s the enthusiasm for the four wheeled members of their family.

It’s a lot of the above, along with the betrayal of hidden charges and exorbitant spending that you’re not completely aware of until the very end.

PlayStation has been trying to break into better Live Service offerings and Gran Turismo 7 is one of their newer ventures towards that direction. That alone is already placing it into a position that is disadvantageous towards how the public would view the title. While gaming is transient by nature, knowing that your save file, achievements, and the ability to play the game will one day be gone does dash the fun a bit. Especially when this won’t be by your own choice, but when the company takes down the service hosting Gran Turismo 7. While the always online requirement also wears down the charm a bit, it’s likely that anyone with a PlayStation 5 would have access to reliable internet. So maybe it’s not so bad from that point, but still, you can’t count on the internet always working properly. The fact that it’s required to play in any meaningful way does sting.

However, it’s not like Gran Turismo fumbled every step of the way, they still managed to make a game where it’s fun to drive any sort of car, and each of them feel unique in a way that you would expect different types of cars would perform. It also gives you a new approach to appreciate humanity’s long history with cars and capably keeps me engaged despite basically doing only a few things in a rinse and repeat fashion. So hop in for the joyride, because while the trip does have some bumpy sections, that’s not the entire journey. Let’s review, Gran Turismo 7.

 

Production (5 / 5)

In terms of what you can see, Polyphony has truly brought us a gem. Cars are no less of a 1 to 1 representation of what they’re like in real life. The sculpt of their body and details shown from how the lights perform to the typical weathering cars develop over time. The attention to detail is astounding, because yes we can say that creating accurate models of the cars is to be expected. But did you also expect the interior to be detailed and be unique for every vehicle you drive? Whenever I switch cars, I need a bit of time to get used to the new dashboard, not that it’s a problem, I’m simply blown away with how dedicated the developers are to making the vehicles be as accurate as possible.

This contrasts strongly against the environments that you drive through. Even though they’re static elements, they give unique characteristics to race. It can be something as aesthetic as seeing the sky dim towards the sunset. Or something dynamic that would change how you drive like getting rainfall in the middle of your run. It can even be something as in your face as barriers on a city road or the slippery dirt under your tires when you go off-road. Combining these with the weather and particle effects that react to your movement and actions, the experience is nothing less than convincing.

It’s also impressive how well this game is handled by the PlayStation 5. From reasonably quick loading times to being able to access many points of view instantly at any point, particularly during the replay. The amount of time spent when you decide to do a race from the main menu to getting to said race will maybe be a minute, probably less.

And as usual, the choice music for Gran Turismo feels like it’s always on point, the moment I heard ‘Life’s Coming Slow’ while doing one of the races, I decided I’d like to have that kind of song playing while I’m driving. So you can guess what I’ve picked as my playlist while I’m driving for a while.

If there’s anything I’m not going to be fond of, it’s the home screen and how interacting with anyone feels like I’m chatting with them through some social media app. I don’t think it’s particularly bad, but to see this kind of UI that you already constantly see on your phone and PC doesn’t win any points for me. But that’s really just a small gripe compared to the mountain of achievements that this title has achieved to my eyes, and ears.

Mechanics (4.5 / 5)

The last Gran Turismo I played was way back in the PS2 age, so I’m not sure what sort of leaps in mechanics have been made over time. Specially when I don’t feel like how I’ve really played in the races has changed all that much. You read the track, anticipate how you’ll speed up and brake, and try to figure out the fastest way through each curve.

Learning each course has been made much easier by visual cues of when to brake and by how much, by simply painting the concerned section of the road red until you’ve gotten to the ideal speed to tackle the upcoming turn with. Of course, you’re free to challenge the conventional wisdom given to you by the game and risk doing a horrible turn while trying to get through it at a much higher speed.

You can of course change the performance of your vehicle with custom parts, and a general number called ‘PP’ gives you a rough idea of just how well the car will perform overall. Whether it be acceleration, maximum speed, braking, turning, stability or whatever else, they all contribute to the PP evaluation score. So in case you’re just not sure how powerful your vehicle is against another, or just how much a certain upgrade affects your chosen car’s capabilities.

A bit of a nitpick here is how each upgrade is unique per vehicle, and that there’s no way to share parts between vehicles or is there a way to sell ones you don’t plan to use. The concept of your progression here is all about expanding your collection, after all, so getting rid of cars is against that idea.

This also means that you’ll be burning a lot of credit just upgrading your roster. Though this also means you can just bulldoze your way through the campaign if you’re patient enough. However, just how much grinding is justified? Are there things that make it a bit easier and reasonable? Let’s go over them.

Like most Live Service or mobile games, the aim of the progression mechanics is to make you create a habit out of playing them. By implementing a ‘daily workout’ system, which has much less to do with you moving about to work up a sweat and more to do with you finishing virtual laps while sitting, you are incentivized to do at least short gameplay sessions daily. Finishing the goal amount awards you with a lottery ticket which more or less functions like a lootbox, where for the most part you are awarded with a small amount of in-game credit. It’s the same idea with menu missions from the café, giving you objectives that can quickly give you meaningful rewards that allow you to play fast and loose with however you want to progress through Gran Turismo 7’s campaign. It must be noted though that in-game credits can also be bought through micro-transactions and that there’s been a bit of a mess surrounding the economy of the game. Which I will cover more on, later.

The biggest change I’ve experienced with this title is the feeling of Gyroscopic Steering. What that means is instead of tilting the left analog stick to turn, I now rely on turning the DualSense controller to steer my vehicle. It gets a little tiring over time but how it responds to multiple ways of rotating the controller is amazing, along with the precision it reads at. I’ve decided to play Gran Turismo 5 like this so I can finally have a feel of what it’s like to own a steering wheel for racing games. It’s got nothing like resistant feedback but it does vibrate, and getting this much value out of the standard controller is pretty great on it’s own.

It’s difficult to go further with the mechanics of how this title works since on a direct gameplay basis, it’s hard to see any big changes. But it has certainly mastered what it does, and it’s recreating conditions in a race that’s realistic and match that with the smallest detailed differences of how each vehicle would handle.

Content (4.5 / 5)

Considering that Gran Turismo 7’s makes it your objective to collect cars, it’s no surprise that it’s going to offer a whole lot of them for you to find. At launch they’ve advertised that they will have 60 brands presenting over 400 cars. You can race these cars over 90 different tracks, which you can drive through clockwise and counterclockwise, giving you plenty of variance and challenging your skills not only in tuning but also your ability to speedily navigate any obstacle GT7 has to throw at you.

They also give you brief history lessons on the cars that you get to collect on the menu book missions. Which is pretty cool since the game really gives this vibe of celebrating the many years that man has partnered up with the motorized revolution and how far it’s come. Rather than making this about being the fastest driver around town, it became more about getting the players more involved and informed about the evolution of the wheeled machines. It helped me appreciate cars more aside from just looking for the one with the best stats to bring me over to first place the easiest.

Online is features are more like online content in this occasion, as it’s a live-service game, a good amount of stuff you can access, if not all, will be through online features. Of course there’s going to be the various types of matchmaking for you to be able to race either with your strongest machines or one you just particularly feel comfortable with through themed races.

Then there’s the community created content, which is pretty much the livery, meaning skins for the many cars you can own. I must say that searching through this made me disappointed, in myself, I don’t know how many times I favorited Asuka-themed skins but it’s going to take me a while to be able use them considering how many cars I haven’t collected yet. There really is a huge selection of designs you can choose from even with just anime themed designs alone, and a lot of fans do put in effort to make them actually look good. Though that doesn’t stop me from dying a little bit inside when I see myself and others use them.

Finally, there’s the ability to view replays, but the real masterpiece here is their highly detailed photo mode, allowing you to use camera effects to really capture the action and the beauty of your favorite machines through whatever filter, shutter speed, and more. I spent a good amount of time trying to capture nice photos of my favorite moments in a race to make it look like something you’d use as cover art for any other racing game. I really had fun with this because of how much I can do with it instead of just use a limited angle or whatever’s present in that scene.

Features (1 / 5)

Online features of Gran Turismo 7 border on the territory of ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.’

Just because you can remove split screen action, doesn’t mean you should.

Just because you can lock any gameplay or progression when your service goes offline, doesn’t mean you should.

Just because you can manipulate the economy of your single-player focused racing simulator, doesn’t mean you should.

While we can say that the online-only is to help servers check for cheats or modified saves, the game is already restricted to the PSN environment, there’d be better ways of handling security issues like this without passing the buck to players. Like maybe augmenting the save file to have a part that’s only for online racing and the other half meant to interact with gameplay that can be taken offline.

The most probable cause is really to closely monitor and stop any work arounds about micro-transactions. I can see some people just buying the credits off PSN for the convenience of their time, but when you straight up reduce the amount you can farm in-game a few weeks after release. It comes off as nothing less than greedy. On top of being asked to pay 70 USD to play the game, you are encouraged to further give it a steady stream of money so that you don’t have to play it as much. It’s like being asked to remove pickles from your burger and they charge you for it.

It’s a real shame because all the rest of how I’ve talked about Gran Turismo 7 is me liking what they’ve done so far, and they’ve done nothing but shoot themselves in the foot a few times with this games-as-service setup.

Recent weeks has us witness the president of Polyphony Digital, Kazunori Yamauchi, finally addressed the concerns of their player base. They’ve promised to rebalance the in-game rewards in favor of the players as well as making new content more pointed towards farming for those who want to do that intensely. Also, finally adding the ability to sell cars, which was what I immediately noticed when I was starting with Gran Turismo 7. We’ll have to see in the following weeks if they do deliver on these promises through April 2022, but having Polyphony acknowledge these issues in the first place is already a win for the consumers.

Conclusion

Despite my complaints on the game. I do have a good time just picking up Gran Turismo 7 and playing a bunch or races with it for maybe a good hour. Sometimes that stretches into a few hours if I decided it was time to grind out the next license. Their selection of music, attention to detail, and their willingness to help even the most casual players with guidance systems and easy to understand UI is a huge seller for me as well. I used to be intimidated by how technical the game would get, I mean it still very much is, but it now offers new avenues to get hooked with.

With Polyphony Digital assuring us that they have the best player experience in mind, we can likely rest easy and focus on what the game really has to offer at least for the moment. Moreso if they make good on the promises they’ve made.

Most of the more serious concerns would be for those who will be playing Gran Turismo 7 well beyond most consumers would. Many of us would probably play it for a good month or so and leave it behind us, only to pick it up once in a while for whatever reason. And for that share of the crowd, Gran Turismo 7 is likely a worthy pickup for you. But for those who play Gran Turismo 7 like there’s a career mode in it, I would advise to maybe wait it out a bit longer too see where the chips fall. Sony is very much interested in creating a successful live service game and this exclusive title is their latest offering to that venture. I’m certain they will eventually get things to working order, but it may come to test your patience.

 

Gran Turismo 7 had a bit of a bad start, but that could recover, scoring a 3.5 out of 5

 

Available on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5

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