Gran Turismo 7 has classic PlayStation energy, and while playing its “Music Rally” mode during the installation of the main game, it hit me: PlayStation platforms in general have been lacking this for years, possibly even decades at this point.
What do I mean by classic PlayStation energy? Well, it’s hard to define, but I suspect anyone who grew up in the ’90s like me will instinctively know exactly what I’m talking about. It was about how the PlayStation brand was cool, about how the PlayStation made gaming cool, and how there was an absolutely unique feeling about playing a PlayStation game that you simply couldn’t get anywhere else — not even on its nearest rival, the Sega Saturn, which had a unique energy all of its own.
I’m not talking about a specifically Sony thing, either — though Sony themselves often leaned into it at the time, since back then they knew when they were on to a good thing — but rather an overall sense of the PlayStation platform having its own distinct culture.
PlayStation was cool. PlayStation players, developers and publishers listened to awesome indie bands, probably had a vibrant selection of posters all over their walls and could clear a level of Galaxian while Ridge Racer was loading. PlayStation games attracted hot talent to work on their soundtracks, in their voice casts and on their visual aesthetic. And slowly, but surely, PlayStation helped drag gaming in general out of the “just for nerds” mire it had been caught in since the earliest days of the medium.
I haven’t felt that from a PlayStation game in years; I think it died somewhere towards the end of the PS2 era. As Sony become more and more self-consciously corporate and American — culminating in the situation we have right now, where it’s rare for the company to even acknowledge Japanese developers exist, let alone treat them fairly with regard to their game content — PlayStation felt less and less like a unique cultural phenomenon and more and more like a generic place to play games. And I always thought that was a shame.
Today, though, I installed Gran Turismo 7 — on my PlayStation 4 because 1) I am a gaming hipster, 2) I do not have a PlayStation 5 and 3) I was genuinely curious to see how it performed on PS4 — and was both surprised and delighted to discover that, after copying the “Data Disc” to the hard drive and starting up the “Game Disc”, I was presented with something to play during the rest of the installation process. “Music Rally”, it was called, and boy, will I be returning to it frequently.
I haven’t experienced a “loading screen game” since the aforementioned Galaxians-while-Ridge-Racer-loads (and its best friend Galaga-while-Tekken-loads) and I tell you what, it was a real pleasure. Particularly since through some form of black magic, Gran Turismo 7 manages to provide you with an experience that is presumably quite close to what the full game is going to offer while it’s still installing itself.
Music Rally — or the installer version anyway — provides you with three courses drawn from Gran Turismo 7’s full lineup. Each course has a different associated musical track and a single car to drive, and your job is to drive as far as possible over the course of the complete song. There’s also an arcade-style “timers and checkpoints” element in there, where the countdown timer is synced up with the beat of the song, but in practice unless you’re an absolutely terrible driver, this will not be an issue at any point.
You will, however, want to replay the challenges at least a few times, because 1) the install process is quite long (about 40 minutes or so) and 2) there are, of course, bronze, silver and gold trophies to take aim for, with the acquisition thereof being dependent on the distance you were able to travel before the song finished. It’s a fun and unusual twist on arcade racing — albeit with rather more realistic handling than your average arcade racer, it should be noted — and the musical angle gives things a very pleasing sense of dynamism and energy, particularly with the more subtle aspects of the presentation.
What I really like about Gran Turismo 7’s Music Rally installer is that all three challenges are very different from one another, despite being conceptually the same.
The first sees you driving a 1956 Porsche 356 Speedster around the Alsace Village course accompanied by Louis Clark and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s Hooked on Classics (Parts 1 & 2). The second challenges you to scream around the Tokyo Expressway in a 1966 Honda S800 while listening to Idris Elba mumbling about Bugatti, Bugatti, Ducatti or something. And the third takes you to the classic Trial Mountain course to drive a 1966 Shelby Cobra while listening to Daiki Kasho’s SURV1V3 from the Gran Turismo 5 Prologue soundtrack — a deep cut, perhaps, but a fun, energetic song to drive to.
The combination of key elements — car, track and musical accompaniment — give each of these three different events quite a different feel to one another, and between them they act as an excellent introduction to the world of Gran Turismo 7, allowing you to experiment with different control schemes and assist settings.
My one minor gripe with this side of things is that upon startup, Gran Turismo 7 still prompted me to set up a DualShock 4 according to my preferences when a Logitech G29 steering wheel was plugged in — though once those initial defaults had been established, the G29 worked without issue and with no additional configuration required. I’m yet to play the “proper” game enough to speak for how well the default button setup for the G29 works in practice, but it certainly looked to be pretty comprehensive, with pretty much everything on it (including the mysterious turny-button that I’ve never used for anything so far) assigned to something or other.
I was planning to sit down and pen some first impressions on Gran Turismo 7’s main mode after spending an hour or two with it this afternoon — and I was particularly interested to provide the viewpoint of someone running the game on a base-model PS4, since most outlets have been understandably concentrating on the PS5 version. However, I found the Music Rally installer so striking that I just had to write something about it — because, for me, it was an oddly heartwarming sign that despite all the absolutely idiotic things Sony has done over the course of the last few years, there’s still just a hint of that classic old-school PlayStation energy hiding underneath all the corporate bullshit.
Now, question is, how do we draw that out and convince them that sometimes the old ways really are the best? How can we take them from Gran Turismo 7 having an awesome install process to developing new Tokyo Jungle and Gravity Rush games? I can’t say for sure — but in the meantime, I feel like I’m definitely going to have some genuine, honest-to-goodness fun with Gran Turismo 7. And you can, of course, expect to read more about that right here on Rice Digital in the very near future.
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