£40 To Unlock New Cars?
Gran Turismo 7 is something of an enigma. On the one hand, Polyphony Digital have produced a visually stunning, enjoyable driving simulator. There are an abundance of cars, all of which handle very differently, with lots of game modes, cars and tracks for racing enthusiasts to sink their teeth into. Unfortunately, this good work also comes at the expense of some absolutely disgusting microtransactions, some questionable gambling minigames and a forced always-online connection. So yeah, Gran Turismo 7 is a bit of a mixed bag which is a shame because this could easily have been the best racing game to come out in some time.
After a massive 100GB install, Gran Turismo 7 splits its playtime into two distinct areas. Music Rally is essentially a big mini-game where you outrace your opponents while music plays in the background; a timer counting down with every beat to keep you going.
The main bulk of your playtime though will come from an area imaginatively titled: “World Map”. This isn’t anything new to Gran Turismo fans but this time the game tunnels everyone into the same experience, with online play unlocking around 4 hours into the 20 or so hour campaign. I say campaign, the game is essentially split into 39 different quests called Menu books. Stitched together with dull dialogue (minus the informative tidbits about the history of companies and cars), these essentially work to introduce players to various different areas of the game, including the tuning shop, world circuits, car dealerships and more.
Much like games past, you start off by choosing a starter car and then work your way through a litany of different races, unlocking new vehicles and building up your driving experience. This time though, the game features something of a collectathon, with 430+ different cars to play with. New cars come thick and fast though, with a whole array of vehicles unlocking in quick succession. Every race you finish coming third or higher will award both credits and a new car (if it’s part of a menu book quest of course.)
Credits can then be used to unlock parts for your vehicle or can be saved up to add more cars to your ever-growing collection. I mentioned earlier about the disgusting microtransactions and now seems a good enough time as any to bring that up. Given the game already costs £60+ – and racing enthusiasts will probably be splashing out for a steering wheel and accessories to enhance the experience – Gran Turismo 7 insultingly splatters in a whole array of credits you can buy. 1 million credits will set you back £19.99 but this is honestly a drop in the water compared to the cost of cars. The best cars will set you back upwards of 3 million credits, so you’re better off just buying another racing game than you are splashing out on these.
“They’re just cosmetic! You don’t have to buy them!” Will come the backlash to this and while that’s a valid critique, it doesn’t excuse the forced gambling minigame, which is insidiously placed in the form of roulette tickets that unlock a choice of 5 different items. These are gained everyday by driving 26 miles on-track or through rewards from completing missions. Good right? Well, no. 90% of the time you’re going to get the worst item on the list, with the end-goal here to make you buy more credits. For those with addictive tendencies or a history of recovering from gambling, I cannot in good faith recommend this game.
That’s a shame because on the track – where it matters most – Gran Turismo 7 is actually pretty decent. Each of the cars handle very differently as mentioned before, there’s a nice array of tracks with beautiful visual fidelity and a lot of customization thrown in. The draw distance is actually really good too, and although you’re really looking, you’re unlikely to notice any sort of pop-in.
The crowds and animations for figures on the side are another matter. On one race I intentionally smashed into a barrier near a whole crowd of people just to see if anyone would move. Nope, the flag-waver continued operating the same movements and the crowds didn’t even bat an eyelid. These little touches would have really helped live up to the tagline of calling itself a “real driving simulator.”
The opening cinematic to Gran Turismo 7 is absolutely majestic though and alongside that, completing each quest gives a really nice cut-scene of sorts, explaining the history of each car type and how they came to be. It’s great stuff and actually entices you to keep racing through each of these circuits.
The races generally take anywhere from 10 minutes up to 25, depending on the courses, AI and how far into the menu books you are. Of course, progression is the key to unlocking more tracks and races, with the later parts of this game adding prestigious tracks like Nurburgring, which takes about 8-10 minutes for a full circuit.
Beyond the races on the World Circuit are several different modes, accessible by selecting each track. Time trials are self-explanatory, while Arcade Races are your straightforward races with several laps and lots of different cars. There’s also Circuit Experience too, which allows you to race parts of a track (along with 1 full lap) in a souped up, fast car to try and get the best time. This also has the added benefit of understanding the ins and out of each track. However, there’s no more GT league this year and even less races too, at least from what I saw of the 30 hours I’ve spent with this one.
Outside of the single player modes are the online races with the bulk of your time likely to be taken up through Sport Mode, which sees 20 different players all battling it out for supremacy around different tracks. Unfortunately there are no collisions and hitting borders will give you a time penalty. For a game advertising itself as a “real racing simulator”, it sure takes you out of the experience when your car suddenly turns into a ghost when a car suddenly crosses your path.
Now, Gran Turismo fans will come back and argue that you’re not supposed to crash and smash into other drivers in this game and that’s certainly fair. I understand why there’s no car damage (although that too is pretty annoying) but online there should be collisions but punished with a time penalties. That way it would encourage people not to crash and still keep the idea of this being a proper driving simulator. It’s particularly amusing because the single-player modes do allow this and you’re not actually given a penalty if you slam on the brakes just before hitting a driver.
Instead, Sport Mode is just a straightforward race and there will always be those who dominate others. Still, it’s a more unpredictable experience than playing against the AI which is woeful, even on the most advanced difficulty levels. The jump in AI quality between every single race and the final world championship is actually pretty laughable too and I found myself wondering why this hadn’t been better balanced trough the game.
Another returning feature here comes from the licences, which are pretty much unchanged from games past. In order to complete the World Circuits you’ll need a B and A licence, but there are extra challenges here too, including gaining a rain license and progressing through more advanced sequences to bolster out your driving skills. Getting gold on all of these will be a very time-consuming but rewarding experience.
Gran Turismo 7 does have a lot going for it, and the graphics are excellent across the board. Weather effects in particular are absolutely fantastic and whether it be the sun glinting off your windscreen from the reflection on a car roof in front or the slippery feel of rain pelting down on the road, all of this has been well-thought out and adds a different challenge to racing. That’s before mentioning the subtle day/night cycle, allowing for a strangely tranquil and peaceful feel of racing through the dark to sundown. These moments are wonderful and it really helps elevate this racer.
The soundtrack certainly leaves a lot to be desired though, and this is certainly no Need For Speed Underground 2 or Gran Turismo 3. You’ll almost certainly switch this off and put your own playlist on. Personally, I just threw on Talksport during some of the longer races.
While Gran Turismo gets a lot right, it also gets a lot wrong too. The microtransactions and insidious roulette gambling are absolutely disgusting and have no place in a “AAA” game. Oh, and that’s before mentioning the mandatory always-online connection too. Without them this would be an easy 7.5/10. If you can stomach the inherent flaws and don’t have a history of addictive tendencies, Gran Turismo 7 is a decent racing title on the track but it misses a podium finish by spinning out on the home stretch.
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Verdict - 6/10