We haven’t learned much new at all about Gran Turismo 7 in the seven months since it was unveiled, which feels a bit odd as the game is supposedly still on track for release later this year. Fortunately, series director Kazunori Yamauchi recently offered some clues as to what fans can expect in a new interview.
The interview, published by Japanese site Octane and caught by GTPlanet, touched on a wide range of topics, though the main takeaway is that Yamauchi and his team at Polyphony Digital are committed to delivering a comprehensive Gran Turismo experience more along the lines of the mainline titles rather than the trimmed-down Gran Turismo Sport. In fact, Yamauchi specifically calls out the series’ first four entries as the primary inspiration. Courtesy of Google Translate:
I think Gran Turismo Sport has created a fairly ambitious plan. So, while inheriting elements such as the championship realized in sports, Gran Turismo 7 will return to the royal purpose of full volume like 1 and 4 and provide the best Gran Turismo experience at present. Therefore, for those who know the old Gran Turismo, I think it smells a little nostalgic.
Now, Yamauchi has been hinting at old-school inspiration for GT7 since the game’s announcement, so on the surface, this particular bit doesn’t reveal anything new. However, I’m intrigued by the fact he focused his statement on the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 titles while leaving out Gran Turismo 5 and 6 on the PlayStation 3.
Reception of The Real Driving Simulator’s last two numbered entries remains mixed among GT fans. Yamauchi has gone on record stating that those two games, particularly GT5, were a challenge to develop due to the nature of the PS3's architecture.
The resulting titles were rather inconsistent in a host of ways. Both GT5 and GT6 carried over outdated car models from the PS2 years placed alongside far more detailed assets that actually took advantage of the system’s power, leading to a jarring visual dichotomy. (The video above from Digital Foundry illustrates the difference pretty well.) Head-scratching game design decisions, a sluggish menu system and unstable performance make those titles hard to go back to — harder, in some ways, than even GT3 or GT4 on the PS2.
All this to say, the fact Yamauchi highlighted versions one through four reads anything but random to me and indicates that Polyphony really has its priorities in order for GT7, which is wonderful to hear. The franchise is in a very good place right now, and the risk of concentrating GT Sport on competitive online multiplayer, rather than the single-player focus of previous entries, appears to have paid off — something Yamauchi also speaks to in the interview:
I think the title Gran Turismo is avant-garde for us, and we have consciously incorporated some new challenges every time we change generations. That’s why each series has fans, but sometimes the changes seemed to confuse users. For example, Gran Turismo Sport, which is currently on sale, took on the challenge of full-scale e-sports exclusively for online use, but it may have seemed quite outlandish for some people. As a result, we got 9.5 million users, but it didn’t sell explosively from the beginning, and it seemed that the understanding gradually progressed and the support increased over the three years. It’s like gathering at midnight and breaking up at 9 am, sleeping at a hotel during the day (laughs).
GT Sport’s multiplayer suite is about as smooth, seamless and effective as any racing game these days, even alongside the more hardcore iRacing. Ranked events happen on a cyclical basis, funneling all players to three races every day to ensure stacked grids and healthy competition. Meanwhile, an extensive public lobby system allows you and your friends to craft exactly the kind of experience you’re looking for. Couple that foundation with what Yamauchi is teasing for GT7 — a campaign that pulls from those in the franchise’s best iterations — and fans have every reason to be excited for the future.
The rest of the interview dives into the technical side of things, as well as Gran Turismo’s unique Scapes feature, which allows players to photograph cars in real-world environments using a combination of real-life 2D images and 3D spatial data. A particularly interesting portion occurs when Yamauchi pulls back to reflect on the franchise’s evolving position in the automotive industry, particularly in his native Japan:
There are some things I can’t say specifically, but what I can say clearly is that Gran Turismo was created by Japanese automobile culture. I myself grew up as a car enthusiast surrounded by the influence of Japanese automobile manufacturers and the transmission of automobile media, and that is also the driving force behind my production. Although the title has been played worldwide, I have never forgotten that it originated in Japan, and now I feel the responsibility and mission of inheriting the Japanese automobile culture.
It’s safe to say many of us of a certain age living outside Japan never would have grown up with the knowledge of Lancer Evolutions, Skyline GT-Rs or Impreza WRX STIs if not for Gran Turismo, and the series’ early success proved there was a market for those cars in the West. There’s something profound and heartwarming about Yamauchi recognizing that GT is now shaping the culture that influenced it in the first place, 23 years since it emerged on the scene.