Sunday, May 22, 2022

Gran Turismo 7, Honest One Month Review

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With the rapidly rising cost of gasoline, the release of Gran Turismo 7, the Real Driving Simulator, could not have come at a more appropriate time.

The game was released February 4th, 2022 and is the first main title game in the series since the Gran Turismo 6 launched in 2013.

Having now logged over 40 hours of game play on both the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 versions of the game, this is my honest one month review of Gran Turismo 7.

Graphics

On the PlayStation 5, the graphics are truly next generation. The level of detail on the cars, the interiors, and the track is phenomenal. Paired with the PS5’s ray tracing capability, 4K resolution, HDR, and a fairly consistent 60 frames per second, this is one of the best looking video games on the market.

The PlayStation 4 version does not show much graphical improvement over the previous console release, Gran Turismo Sport, but it is easy to ignore any faults once you are fully immersed in a race.

Both variants will provide photo realism in replays and the photography modes.

While there are more detailed games and there are occasional hiccups or distortions that remind you this is a video game, these do not take away from the experience.

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Physics

The physics of the game are a more controversial topic. For a game that calls itself “The Real Driving Simulator,” it is not quite up to par with true driving sims.

Since Gran Turismo 3 on the PlayStation 2, the series has done an excellent job of bridging the gap between arcade racers and full simulation. Pick up a controller and after understanding that this isn’t Mario Kart, most people can enjoy the game and become fairly decent. But get behind the wheel of a ThrustMaster or Fanatec driving wheel setup and this will be one of the closest real-driving experiences that you can have in console gaming.

The physics are greatly improved from the Gran Turismo Sport predecessor. Director Kazunori Yamauchi strongly emphasized the concept of brake balancing while cornering and this is strongly apparent in Gran Turismo 7, perhaps a bit overly dramatic. In the real world, I often trailbrake my Boxster to keep the mid engine car balanced through a corner. In the game, if you touch the brake pedal while turning the steering wheel, you will either understeer or snap oversteer.

The game is also heavily weighted towards oversteer on all drivetrain setups. Tap the gas in a stock Toyota GT86 and the back end will pop out like a 1,000hp Supra. An 86 in the real world requires a quick flick of the steering wheel or a clutch kick to make this happen. Even the FWD cars seem oversteer prone; it’s almost hard to understeer. As a gamer, this is fun. As a driver, I’ve had to adjust my real world driving habits to become fast in the game.

Assetto Corsa Competizione remains a more realistic driving simulator on the console, being very unforgiving unless you can actually drive GT cars. Gran Turismo 7 provides the perfect balance of being easy to pick up and play for anyone, but only capable of being mastered by good real-world drivers.

Let’s not forget, the game is only 30 days old and has already seen 3 updates for improvements. Assetto Corsa lacked a lot at launch and took years of updates before it was called quality. Give the Gran Turismo team more time and I’m sure that these complaints and imbalance will be resolved.

Controls

If you are using a PlayStation 4 controller, the game is essentially an arcade racer. Go, stop, turn.

If you are using a PlayStation 5 controller, the haptic feedback and high definition vibration unlock a whole new level of experience. The shoulder triggers adjust resistance based on having street brakes or racing brakes installed, you can feel the car lose grip, you can feel the rumble strips and dirt. I’m a dedicated wheel racer and refuse to play any racing game without a proper setup, but I actually enjoyed the experience of the DualShock 5 controller.

That being said, the real experience comes from a proper steering wheel. Both Thrusmaster and Fanatec have licensed wheels specifically for Gran Turismo. While there are obvious differences between a $600 entry level simulator quality wheel and a $2000 direct drive simulator wheel, both will provide you with an enhanced experience and improve your techniques behind the wheel of a real car.

Cars

The original Gran Turismo titles had so many cars that collecting them became a game of its own. Winning cars in races, buying cars at dealers, selling cars to get enough credits to buy your dream machine; this was a key experience for many.

Gran Turismo Sport intentionally got away from this. Their advertisement even stated that it should be about driving and accurately modeling the handling characteristics of a few cars, rather than providing hundreds of options with little variances.

Gran Turismo 7 has returned with the car collecting intentions, even presenting Cafe challenges where you need to collect certain cars to complete the “orders” on the Cafe Menus. With 424 cars currently available in the game, it may seem extensive, but it provides a selection for everyone to enjoy.

Every car is highly detailed both inside and out. Every car also drives differently in a way that is comparable to the real world. In many games, a Miata and a BRZ will feel identical being light weight, front engine, rear wheel drive cars. In Gran Turismo, these cars drive distinctly differently, just as you would expect.

The game has also provided real world manufacturers the opportunity to design concept cars and allow people to experience these. The Porsche Vision GT is the latest example, giving us potential insight into the future of hypercars.

Past Gran Turismo games were unique in that they had many mundane cars, but this often allowed people to buy and race their real world cars, including the Honda Odyssey minivan.

While there are definitely cars missing from Gran Turisom 7, give the developers time and we will continue to see new additions with updates and downloadable content.

Tuning

Tuning cars is one of the best experiences in the Gran Turismo series. True to the real world, a stripped out and supercharged Miata can actually give a Lamborghini a run for its money on track.

Make subtle tweaks to the camber and damping and you will actually feel a difference. Truth be told, I utilized both the Volvo C30 and Porsche Boxster in Gran Turismo 6 to test suspension, aero parts, and alignment settings in the game before making these time consuming changes on my real cars. The results were almost exactly as I wanted.

While you still cannot adjust tire pressures the near endless tuning options can allow you to modify your car specifically for each track. Drift, grip, rally, it can all be done. You can even stance a car to the point that it is undrivable.

Modifying Cars and Liveries

As already mentioned with tuning, you can convert any car for any form of racing. Want a Tundra setup for drifting? Done. Want to build a Prius for rally? Okay. LS swap a Miata? You can do it. Wide body a Ferrari GT40? Yes please!

Where the game really shines is in the livery editor. I have yet to find the boundaries for creating liveries in this game. The coolest thing is the ability to upload SVG files from your computer to the Gran Turismo servers. These immediately become available as stickers for personalizing your own car.

I was able to recreate my Subaru WRX almost perfectly utilizing the same digital files as I had used on my vinyl plotter.

While Volvo is no longer part of the game due to licensing, I did apply my C30’s livery to another AWD vehicle on the same chassis. I’m pleasantly surprised to see how well this design transfers to the Focus RS.

Tracks

There are currently 34 locations in Gran Turismo 7, with 63 different track layouts in total. Some are laser mapped real world circuits, some are enhanced versions or original tracks from the series. There is enough variety that anyone will have fun.

While I would love to see the return of go cart circuits, the Top Gear test track, hill climbs, rallycross, and the odd low gravity lunar exploration maps, I’m sure that the development team will add fresh new content with time.

Dynamic Weather

The reason why 63 tracks feels like more than enough is largely thanks to the dynamic weather. Beyond the 3D surround sound allowing rain to make a pitter patter on the roof of your car, the best way to describe dynamic weather is that it is artificial intelligence. Clouds and wind form naturally and uniquely in the different parts of the world. Rain falls at varying rates. Low elevations on the track puddle up first and are the last sections to dry out. Rain races have quickly become my favorite, as they are the most true to life rain driving experience that I have had on any sim racer.

Do you start the race with rain tires or leave the slicks on? Watch the radar during the race and you may decide that it will save more time to drive cautiously on racing tires than to pit and swap for something else.

Don’t forget the on-the-fly adjustments that you can make to brake balancing and traction control. You’ll need to tweak these settings if you hope to keep a decent pace as the weather progresses.

Photo Mode

If you enjoy automotive photography, then you’ll love this game’s real world scenes with highly detailed cars. You can easily change the placement, the amount of dirt on the car, travel speed, steering angle, and all the camera and photoshop settings. I have already tricked friends into thinking that I bought a new car when I photographed it next to my in-game WRX.

Prize Cars and the Roulette Wheel

In past Gran Turismo games, if you won a series of races, you would be awarded with a prize car. This car was usually a level up and often what was needed for the next series of races. This provided a sense of progression and forced you into using every car in your garage.

In Gran Turismo 7, prize cars come almost too easily. In many of the early races, you just need to compete in one race and finish in the top three to get a free car. I love the free cars, but I want to feel like I need to work for what I earn. I do not mind the grind when the prize is worth it. Half of these free cars are worse than what I have already unlocked, so they get parked in my garage and never driven.

The other fault of this game is the roulette wheel. Prizes range from small amounts of credits, performance parts, all the way up to cars. 99 times out of 100, you will get the small amount of credits. I believe Nintendo’s heavily rigged Mario Party offers better odds of getting something good.

Multiplayer

Multiplayer is available. Split screen racing on the same console is fun for arcade racers, but not for games that present themselves as sim racers. You require the full field of view, listening for when you’re near shift points, the sound of tires squealing, and the sound of cars passing in your blind spot. When trying to depict two cars on screen at once, it becomes a jumbled mess.

The online experience is next level and supported by the FIA. Like to crash into people? You’ll be flagged and forced to only race with other scum. Drive clean and you’ll be rewarded by getting to move up. There have been numerous stories of Gran Turismo drivers going on to become real race car drivers.

Open online lobbies are not limited to just racing. You can also meet up with friends and just enjoy a cruise around various tracks. It’s a social experience. There are a few hiccups depending on your connection speed, but it is overall a quality experience that expands the game for hundreds of additional hours of enjoyment.

Micro Transactions

With cars and credits almost being too easy to come by, a recent update made it harder for people to progress. The completionist took to the internet and began bashing the game, giving it the lowest ranked score of any first party PlayStation title.

While real world money can be used to line your pockets in the game, micro transactions are not required to play or complete the game. It just takes time and a lot of grinding to get the rewards that you want.

Personally, I find no fault in this. Gran Turismo is not an adventure game with secrets to unlock and something different around every corner. It’s a racing game. It is going to be repetitive and monotonous. Enjoy a few races every evening and you’ll slowly gain enough credits to modify your car or buy something better. Perhaps this realism is what scares people. Patience and hard work built my cars in real life, so I’m enjoying every second of the in-game recreation.

Of course, there are some rare cars that show up in the used car lots and you may be tempted to pull out your credit card so that you can buy this limited time offer. But guess what? That car may not be available again for a few more months, but it’ll come back to market again. Just like real cars in the real world.

Overall Thoughts

The 110GB file size packs enough content to make this one of the best console racing games to date. Despite not changing the recipe for twenty years, the Gran Turismo team has created a new experience with GT7 that tugs strongly on the nostalgia of earlier games while not being boring or repetitive.

Turn off all assists and set the computer difficulty to expert and you may find that it’s actually hard to win races.

If there is one thing Gran Turismo fans will remember, it’s that GT3 and GT4 were both significantly delayed from their original promised launch dates. GT5 was so late, they actually released a Prologue demo game for people to play while the main game was still in development.

I say this, because there have been a lot of negative reviews about GT7; a game that was actually released on the date it was originally promised. The fact is, GT7, like many current games, hit store shelves while not being a finished game. It will be years before the game is truly done in development. Thanks to the internet and regular updates, we have been given the opportunity to play the current content that is available. We have been given a voice to provide feedback for improvements and updates. We the players can help sculpt this game into what we want it to be and not be left waiting years for the development team to finish their full vision.

Now a recent server issue did reveal that the majority of the game is unplayable when offline. I was also annoyed by this, as the servers were down for over 30 hours and I couldn’t partake in my daily virtual drives. Though I did accept the developers’ apology of sending me 1,000,000 credits.

While many people have started questioning what this means for the game in ten year’s time, the reality is that most people are not going back to play the old Gran Turismo games. Gran Turismo is focused as a driving sim, not an adventure like Need for Speed and Forza, so there is really no replay value in the old games because they feel outdated. The fact is, by the time the GT7 servers are actually disabled, we’ll be well into the next generation of Gran Turismo.

Let us not forget how insignificant Gran Turismo Sport was at launch. It also required an internet connection for any worthwhile gameplay. But after a few years, there was enough content added from free updates that it became a full game both online and offline. Gran Turismo 7 has already launched as a full game and we know that there is still more to come.

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Michael Hallockhttps://www.michaelchallock.com/
Michael is an automotive enthusiast and YouTube content creator, living amongst the twisty roads of the north Georgia mountains. You may recognize his screen name, MyNameIdeasWereTaken, within the Porsche, Volvo, and Subaru communities.

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