We've attended a recent demo session to get a deeper look into Polyphony Digital's upcoming racing game.
The basic concept on which Gran Turismo has always been based had begun to feel rigid, predictable and exhausted, in my opinion. Something new and fresh was needed. And that was where Gran Turismo Sport came into the picture, a game that had a fresh view of esports-based GT racing, free from driver license-tests and the eternally pointless struggle of sitting behind the wheel of weak family cars. GT Sport was released in 2017 and stands out as the game series' best showing since its debut in 1998 and a title that has not only grown and improved radically over the past five years but also challenged me with dense, tight, challenging racing, based on a modified physics system and the series' best sound and graphics. Had I been in charge over at Sony, this year's Gran Turismo instalment would have revolved around a full-fledged GT Sport sequel with even more realistic car behaviour via a physical tire model (and not a strict empirical one that Polyphony has always used). However, now we know that this won't happen. We've known this for a long time, which means I'm just sitting here, daydreaming. What we're getting instead is Gran Turismo 7, a game that will be released for PlayStation 5 on March 4th, and just as the name suggests, it's of course the direct sequel to the sixth game.
The menu map (World Map, even if it does not include the world but rather a small fantasy island in "Gran Turismo Land") is back in GT7, and we've not seen it in this style since Gran Turismo 4, something that many fans requested and longed for. Based on the map, the player in Gran Turismo 7 can jump between different competitions, car dealers, workshops and more. One of the new features that lies there, which the producer Kazunori Yamauchi highlighted during a demonstration that Gamereactor had the opportunity to take part in, is the "Gran Turismo Café ", a coffee shop where you you spend time to love cars and car culture. The idea is that Gran Turismo 7, more than any other racing game will arouse that passion in us players. The desire to want to tune, style, paint, compete and just sit in that little café (which looks like it stems from a multimedia presentation from 1999) and drool over well-polished ultra-shiny sports cars.
In fact, Kazunori Yamauchi talks a lot about the fact that Gran Turismo 7 may no longer be a "Real Racing Simulator" but perhaps rather a "Car Life Simulator" where the focus is on life as a car owner, car lover, and car builder. Polyphony Digital seems to have focused far less on the driving experience itself, on the physics, the support for various direct drive wheels and the behaviour of the tires in relation to the asphalt, and instead put their collective power on everything around it; the presentation, the menu system, the replays, the music, the café, the styling possibilities. It looks fleshed out and detailed as hell, compared to especially Gran Turismo 6 and it is noticeable that they want to differentiate the products, which is most likely smart. Gran Turismo Sport is pure, raw, real racing (although the physics are not as realistic as in, for example, Assetto Corsa Competizione or Automobilista 2) while Gran Turismo 7 (and onwards) will most likely stand for the more digestible, universal and "casual" experience that focuses more on everything around the driving itself.
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From what I've seen, Gran Turismo 7 feels more like The Sims, with cars instead of EA's cute avatars. Polyphony wants our love for cars and the car world to be awakened and empowered during the game and the goal of the studio is for those who buy the game to enjoy it for at least (!) a full year. We will be offered over 400 licensed cars, 30 different tracks where 11 of them are Polyphony's fantasy creations and 19 of them are official, real variants such as Suzuka, Silverstone, Laguna Seca, Willow Springs, Hockenheim and Spa. There will be 75 different artists who have lent Polyphony their music for GT7 in genres like jazz, hip-hop, electro, house, classical music and lounge. So, no rock, and no pop.
Polyphony has this time built the career mode so that the different competitions and the game's "events" are track-specific rather than class-specific, which means that players can stay at Silverstone for a whole week and just smash through different competitions and still advance as fast as always, as before, through the career mode.
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Another new thing revolves around the replays that includes an "editor mode" this time where you will be able to select different cameras, collect clips, select the same clip from several different camera angles and cut a montage, all while also being able to add which of the songs from the game you want. There is also something completely new called "Music Rally" where the player chooses his favourite car and his favourite music and then drives at the beat of the music to receive bonus points that become extra time. The one who drives for the longest time, or the longest distance or to when the music is over, wins. And as I said, this is what the focus seems to be in Gran Turismo 7: everything except the actual driving, racing, tire physics and the feeling behind the wheel. It will certainly be the commercially smart decision where you attract as wide an audience as possible with an easily digestible "lifestyle experience" rooted in car culture and car collecting. I'm getting a little sceptical, though. I must admit that, because I feel that this game series is in need of the exact opposite. On March 4, we get to know how good (or bad) Yamauchi's seventh round of racing really turns out to be.