Revisiting Gran Turismo 7 after a few controversial updates

I very much enjoyed my initial experiences with Gran Turismo 7 when the game first launched. Indeed, I stand by my initial impressions that in many ways, it’s the first “classic PlayStation” game I feel like we’ve had for quite some time; there’s just something about it that makes it immensely enjoyable and satisfying to play in a way I haven’t felt since the late ’90s.

But then came the updates, and the Internet being the Internet, everyone got angry — sometimes justifiably so, at other times less so. I decided to wait until things settled down a bit, because it sounded like developer Polyphony Digital were figuring a few things out — and then jump back in when things seemed a bit more stable. So let’s take a look at what Gran Turismo 7 looks like post-launch — and address a few common talking points that have arisen since the update process started.

Gran Turismo 7

Always-online single-player sucks

I won’t argue with this one at all, and it really cannot be emphasised enough. Taking an entire game — including its single-player component — down for “maintenance” when an update is being applied is not acceptable. It’s a pain in the arse on mobile games, and it’s positively criminal for games on proper computers and consoles.

By all means, lock people out of the online components of the game — be they leaderboards, the ability to share liveries and tuning setups or the actual multiplayer modes — but do not, do NOT make the entire game unplayable.

I am yet to see a convincing reason that the entirety of Gran Turismo 7’s single-player offering needs to be online. I would assume the main reason is to discourage cheating, but honestly speaking there’s not really a lot of ways you can “cheat” in Gran Turismo 7 in a way that would adversely affect the online experience anyway.

Unnaturally souped-up cars would be easily detectible once the multiplayer servers came back online, and if someone found an exploit that allowed them to get enough credits to acquire hard-to-find cars easily… well, the ability to acquire credits without earning them is already present in the game in its online state. Speaking of which…

Gran Turismo 7

The microtransactions were always there

A lot of people online spread the misinformation that a post-launch patch for Gran Turismo 7 added microtransactions to the game. This is false — and the fact that no-one noticed their presence prior to everyone getting mad about them demonstrates how admirably unobtrusive they are.

Now, of course, I think most of us would prefer our games to be completely microtransaction-free, but this is certainly no Chocobo GP situation where the main menu looks like the worst kind of free-to-play straight-to-mobile garbage. You have to actively go looking for the “top up” option in Gran Turismo 7, and you’re certainly never bombarded with limited-time sales and other such nonsense.

What is a little worrying is a note that one of the recent patches raised the cap on “non-paid credits” — meaning that if you don’t pay up for microtransactions, the maximum amount of in-game credits you can have on-hand is 100 million, up from the original 20 million.

To be honest, for most players this probably isn’t going to be an issue, because once you have that kind of money in the game you will almost immediately spend it on something, and most of the easily accessible expensive cars in the game are a few million at most. Supposedly the most expensive Legend (limited-release) car in the game — a 1929 Mercedes S Barker Tourer — costs 20 million, so with the increase to the cap you can have some change left over if you’re lucky enough to be able to buy one before they sell out.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping even more pricy cars being added to the game later, but since that hasn’t happened (yet?) it’s probably not worth getting mad about (yet?).

Gran Turismo 7

They adjusted the rewards

Yes they did, and while I’m not a major fan of this, part of the reason they did this was to balance out the game as a whole and make sure that people didn’t get to what is essentially Gran Turismo 7’s “endgame” too quickly. Which, given that they want the game to last a good long while — particularly through its multiplayer modes — is probably fair enough.

While you work your way through the 39 “Menu Books” that form Gran Turismo 7’s initial directed single-player experience, you’ll be bombarded with new cars and credits to a significant degree, anyway — so there’s plenty to explore well before you get to the point where you’ll want to drop several million on a Legend car or build up a themed collection. Appropriately enough for a game about cars, this is about the journey, not the destination.

Gran Turismo 7

Live service makes sense for racing games… to a point

Now, I know what I said above about always-online single-player modes sucking, and I stand by that. But one thing I think that is worth acknowledging is that overall, “always-online” aspect aside, the idea behind live service games is perhaps more fitting for games like Gran Turismo 7 than anything else out there.

Since the game doesn’t have a story and can potentially be played forever even after you complete all the Menu Books, it makes sense that Polyphony and Sony would want to add additional things to the game over time — be they new cars, new courses, new environments or new music tracks. Gran Turismo has always marketed itself as being the ultimate driving simulator for consoles, and new stuff constantly being added to the game really allows it to live up to that potential in the way that simulations on PC are frequently updated and revamped.

Not only that, but the strong community aspect of the game with things like the Scapes photo mode, the custom liveries and the shareable tuning setups fits in perfectly with the live service way in which the game works. Even if you’re not actively engaging with the multiplayer — which I probably won’t be — it’s still nice to feel like you’re “sharing” the game experience with others in various ways through these online systems. It’s the same as how you can enjoy something like Final Fantasy XIV even if you primarily play solo — the simple presence of other people adds a distinct feel to the experience.

The difference here, I guess, is that something like, say, Euro Truck Simulator 2 on PC gets its regular updates and expansions, but is still perfectly playable offline — and if its developer were suddenly to cease to exist, the game would continue to work. That will presumably not be the case for Gran Turismo 7, given the way in which its live service element is implemented.

In other words, this sucks from an archival perspective, since if and when Gran Turismo 7’s servers go down, all copies of the game will become unplayable unless Polyphony and Sony patch it to be playable offline prior to “sunsetting” (ugh) it. This means that unlike the PS1 and PS2 installments in the series, which you can boot up right now and enjoy just as they were back when they originally released, Gran Turismo 7 has an as-yet undefined expiry date on it.

But then there are other great games out there that also have this issue — at some point, we’re no longer going to be able to enjoy two mainline Final Fantasy games due to their online-only nature, for example. At some point I think you just have to say, “well, I can enjoy this now while it’s a thing that is available to be enjoyed, or I can spend my time worrying about whether I might be able to enjoy it in 20 years’ time”. Seize the day; if you think you might dig it right now, enjoy it right now.

Gran Turismo 7

The game’s just fun

When it all comes down to it, this is the thing worth remembering. Is the game enjoyable to play, and does it work right now? If the answers to those things are “yes”, and you want to play Gran Turismo 7, you should play Gran Turismo 7. I’m certainly going to enjoy it while I feel like enjoying it — and I suspect I’ll have had my fill of fun with it well before any of the concerns about its live service nature become an issue.

It’s a shame that, at the time of writing, we don’t have any reassurances that the game will be accessible or playable in years to come and subsequent console generations — but such is the way of things right now. It’ll be around for a good while at least — so if you want to give it a go, there’s no time like the present.

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Pete Davison
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