Nearly 12 months ago, Sony live-streamed its ‘the future of gaming show’. A mere seven minutes into the big showcase, Gran Turismo 7 was revealed.
Including the seventh numbered instalment of the revered PlayStation-exclusive racing series within the initial PS5 launch event can be interpreted in many ways. For me, it showed the continued commitment by Sony in developers Polyphony Digital, despite releasing just one Gran Turismo game during the entire PS4 generation.
The series that has so far sold over 85 million copies, continues. But when, it’s not clear.
Not even a small teaser clip has been shown of the game since that first look a year ago. We do know that the release has been moved to 2022 due to “Covid-related production challenges” and there’s the frankly strange news that it could also release on PS4.
Before we see more from the signature car game that inspired entire generations, allow me to indulge in my hopes and dreams for the upcoming release.
There are some obvious elements that could be improved over GT Sport, such as overhauling the single-player AI, that would go a long way.
But, for those really into Gran Turismo, the return of shuffle racing would be even better. If you’re unaccustomed, this was a fun online feature in Gran Turismo 5. The lobby host would select a class of vehicle and then the game would randomly assign each participant a car of similar performance. Pair that with the ‘boost’ (read; rubber banding) set to high and you have a recipe for laughter.
I had more fun playing shuffle races in GT5 than I did strapped to the front of Nemesis at Alton Towers. Plus, they didn’t make me feel queasy. With GT7 looking to include a lot more cars than the ~330 currently in GT Sport, I hope this feature makes a welcome return. But, it’s not just a bigger volume of cars required for shuffle racing to be implemented…
Balance of Performance changes
You also need the cars to be balanced. Within GT Sport, each car is placed within a category based upon relative performance, before the weight and power are modified to try and keep lap times on a level playing field. This is known as the Balance of Performance, or BoP, and is also used in real-life motorsports.
This is handled well for racing cars, but when it comes to road cars, the balancing can be all over the shop. A lumbering Toyota Tundra pick-up truck is in the same class as a 2005 Ford GT, and it simply doesn’t work.
A quick look at the GT7 trailer though provides some hope, as at the top of the screen you can see ‘N600/PP’. This refers to ‘Performance Points’ and is how cars have been performance-classified in previous GT games. This combined with the BoP (in this instance, the N600 category) could see the end of races where whoever has the Porsche 911 will disappear from a field of Honda Civics.
Yes, all of GT Sport. The detail in the visuals, the varied tracklist, the responsive vehicle handling, the fuel and tyre strategies, the private online lobbies and the rock-solid 60fps performance. Keep it all. Well, maybe not the after-thought that is the offline career.
More specifically, the ‘Sport’ in GT Sport. Sport mode is the real revelation, and it could be argued that the current Gran Turismo game is simply an extended beta platform for this ranked online racing. It considers your skill level, how clean you race and your qualifying lap time, then places you into a lobby of similarly skilled rivals across a rotating weekly menu of events.
iRacing on PC lead the charge with this kind of online racing, which means don’t have to join a league or assemble friends every time you want a close and competitive online race, but GT Sport created an accessible version and delivered it to 9.5 million console players at a more affordable price point.
There is a reason every other current racing game either has a version of ranked racing or something in the works. I would not bet against the next Forza Motorsport following this lead either.
Fly me to the moon
I just said I would like to see most of GT Sport included in GT7, but now I’m going to contradict myself faster than a tuned-up Suzuki Escudo Pikes Peak.
While taking GT Sport and padding out the single-player campaign equates to a new game, I’d like to push for even more and see some innovation too, please. Something different.
While it may seem that each Gran Turismo release features marginal gains, much like when you look back at old iPhone models, it becomes apparent that each game did take significant steps forward.
Previous Gran Turismo games pioneered in many ways, from buying cars at dealerships, to license tests and even a mode driving on the moon. You could connect an Epson printer to Gran Turismo 4 on PS2 to print your best photo mode creations. Bananas, until you realise how far ahead of the photo mode curve GT was.
Perhaps this could be advanced esports director tools so I can create my own interactive streams or for the game to automatically keep track of online championship positions. Being able to replicate something analogous to the official FIA streams yourself would take the Sport mode to the next level.
Or could be something radically new that minds lesser than Producer Kazunori Yamauchi’s can’t comprehend. After all, in a recent interview with KPMG, he said: “I would like to take on the challenge of creating a world where people feel more reality than the real thing, whether this is through Gran Turismo or not.” Right…
A Lister Storm
During the Covid-19 enforced lockdown, I became obsessed with researching the history of the Lister Storm. A British designed and built GT car by an independent company that took on the world and won. Sometimes.
Anyway, you could drive one in 1999’s Gran Turismo 2. Resplendent in a bright yellow and green livery, it was my favourite car in the game.
GT7 does not necessarily have to have a Lister Storm. But what I would like to see is the series continuing a fine tradition of not just including headline-grabbing new models, but recreating cars that are important throughout the history of the automobile.
It is this obsession with the weird and wonderful that gives Gran Turismo a unique character. So, Polyphony Digital, please carry this on. Kind regards, someone who needs to get out more instead of re-watching the 1999 FIA GT Championship on YouTube.
The list of venues will undoubtedly include many returning favourites from previous GT games, such as Trial Mountain. There is a wave of support online for classics such as Deep Forest Raceway and Grand Valley Speedway too.
But this is just nostalgia talking. What about creative new locations? It’s not a remake of Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec after all.
After playing Gran Turismo for countless hours that I could have spent becoming an equestrian gold medallist or winning the nonfiction Pulitzer Prize, I’d like there to be a selection of circuits that I don’t know with my eyes shut.
Some of the new fictional venues in GT Sport were superb – the varied twists and turns of Autodrome Lago Maggiore entering straight into the pantheon of incredible original tracks created by the Tokyo masters. More originality please, alongside some real-life attractions not yet given the Polyphony treatment.
I’m thinking Virginia International Raceway and Macau Circuito de Guia, alongside Knockhill for the Tunnock’s Teacake fans and Bristol Motor Speedway for those who like turning exclusively left.
Ultimately, beggars can’t be choosers. I’d simply like a new Gran Turismo game and I think the world would be a better place with one. Fingers crossed that there’s at least a new teaser trailer later this year that I can pause every frame of and dissect. I’m sad like that.