Gran Turismo is a racing series I’ve love since the first one was released. Looking back, I still recall thinking the first entry to the series looked like real life. All 25 pixels rendered on the screen were unbelievable because they kinda looked shiny against the sun.

GT2 came along in ’99, right about when I was really conscious of technology as a burgeoning teenager. And we (the collective of nerdy teens in school) were all absolutely gobsmacked by how good it was. It looked amazing.

By GT3 in 2001, we were aficionados. Knowledgable experts in both the right racing line on Laguna Seca, but how to properly tune up a Dodge Viper to get the most out of it. Moreover, everyone I know bought the special launch edition that had a scratch-and-sniff component to the disc print, so you could smell rubber (or oil, I can’t quite recall).

But by 2001 the look and feel of the game wasn’t the only draw. We had come to realise that the depth was unbelievable. Each game was touted as having enormous amounts of cars, new manufacturers, and there were exhaustive guides to bring you through the best path to getting these cars via in-game credits for races won. Guides in the Official PlayStation Magazine (where I imagine a lot of people got to test various GT games on the demo disc before making that huge €45 purchase!) and later online were our formal education on tuning, upgrading and purchasing cars. Long before we could ever dream of doing the real thing.

My Dad, brother & I would go to see Touring Car races in Mondello Park. It was like feeling Gran Turismo.

And now, 25 years into the franchises storied history, we had GT7. A proper, numbered Gran Turismo (as opposed to PS4’s Sport, which was a light edition of the game).

Not my car, but at least it’s the right manufacturer

Loading it up and playing for the first time, it has a few very familiar quirks that any GT fan will instantly recognise. The music is first. It’s such a distinctively Gran Turismo sound. Next is the menu. Instead of something easy to navigate, in-line with modern standards and obvious, it’s a menu made up of a map to get into different modes. Often with completely irrelevant icons to match the mode. It’s not important to the game, so you forgive the weirdness of it all. And then there’s the odd JRPG style system for interacting with characters in the game. Characters who are there to help guide you through things for the first time, or guide you through your career. Which isn’t a career; it’s a series of tasks and challenges issued to you by a café owner for some reason. It whole package harkens to a Haruki Murakami type scene, weirdly obsessive, definitely Japanese and operating over a bed of jazz.

If you’ve ever played any Gran Turismo game, the racing feels familiar. For someone like me and my friends, it feels like home. The cars have weight that’s just not captured by other — equally brilliant — series’. And now that I’m a fully grown adult (by age, not by design or tact) I drive my car regularly, and have raced cars in the aforementioned Mondello Park. That weight is real. It’s not a lunging, undulating mess of a car, it’s rubber hitting the road. It’s suspension. It’s why not, as an adult with some knowledge, the first upgrade I put into any car is better brakes. And it alters the car exactly how it should. As it would in the real world, almost.

Tracks are meticulously designed after real-world circuits. So well thought-out that other than being accurate to their real world counterparts (expect a lot of YouTube content comparing in-game with real lap times), there’s easter eggs throughout. Including SpaceX double boosters landing at Daytona. And while there’s a lot to choose from in the familiar Americas, Europe & Asia-Pacific format, I hope there’s more to come. These cars deserve more.

And thinking of cars, most manufacturers are represented and there are dozens of fantastic cars to choose from. In fact, there are four routes to attaining cars. One is through racing; a lot of the rewards (outside of credits) are cars you get to put in your garage. Typically this is to help you progress to a next series/challenge in the café. Then there’s a second-hand dealership, which offers used cars that you can buy at a discounted rate and tune up later. But it’s a game of chance to get the car you might want. Finally there are two dealership routes. One is your typical brand store. Go to the Mazda dealership, and buy one of the various Mazdas in there once you’ve picked out your colour. The other is a more exclusive, expensive car dealership that operates with a limited stock of supercars. My pre-order bonus of extra credits went entirely into a Ferrari F40.

I remember when in-car views were too difficult to do; now every car has it!

And here’s where things get murky for GT7. I’m glad I didn’t write anything on day 1 now. The game has been out for almost a week, but the dependence on micro-transactions to buy cars is ludicrous here. The credit system offers such paltry amounts that it simply encourages either a silly RPG-esque grind to get enough credits, or just becomes a pay-to-win scenario where you can buy your way into the best cars. Not that important for offline career players. But it becomes a really heavily unfairly weighted online experience as a result. Heck, the PS5 menu items on the game are focused on getting you to buy in-game credits.

This sullies the genuinely great game Polyphony have created here. Such an extreme poverty around credit issuing through normal gameplay to force people down a real-money credit purchase feels cheap. It feels like something a freemium game would do. GT7 is a full-priced new release. Making this feel even worse, the latest patch has buffed credits. Imagine releasing a game with a push towards micro-transactions and then buffing the credits players get from in-game competition.

To make things infinitely worse, the game’s servers were due to come down on March 16th for some routine maintenance to coincide with the latest patch. I’m now publishing this on the European morning (Japanese evening) of Friday March 18th, and the servers are not yet up.

As a result of the server being down, career-mode type gameplay is unavailable. In fact, a really limited set of gameplay modes are available. So limited it’s just not worth giving it a go while the servers are down.

This is all leading up to a potentially game-breaking sequence of events, depending on how Sony & Polyphony handle this fiasco. Buffing credit systems to force real-world money from players who, a week ago, paid full price for a title they can’t access as a result of some server maintenance issue is EA/Ubisoft levels of arrogance towards a very, very loyal player base. In a year where we’ve seen disasters from almost all publishers except Sony, this feels particularly poor form.

Players are absolutely trashing the game on metacritic. It’s at 4.7/10 at the time of writing. And moreover, folks are requesting refunds because this not-yet-1-week-old game has not worked for the guts of 3 days. And when it does, the alleged patch mucks up the in-game economy to force more money from players. I’ve never heard of anything quite like this towards players in my life. Not even from cash-grab mobile games.

As a result, a brilliant experience is obfuscated behind broken technology and a piss-poor progression system. Don’t buy this yet, if you haven’t already. Wait for fixes and patches that balance things in favour of the gamers, and not in the favour of some executives bonus cheque.

Gran Turismo 7: A brilliant racing experienced wrapped in a deeply flawed system Kevin

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