I haven’t talked much about addiction in ANY of the stuff I’ve written over the last 20+ years of talking about games – at least not beyond the idea that something is or isn’t – but the older I get, the more I get that it’s a function of how we operate in life. We spend endless time talking about how horrid it is, and for things that are detrimental, they are, but for trades, or hobbies, or just things that harm no one other than the obsessor (shut up, I know it’s not a real word, just imagine there’s an applied obsessed), where do model train builders or photographers or watch makers sit?
It’s a moot point; we know too much of A Thing is bad, but addiction can produce theorems that become laws as easily as they can drive a person to ruin just seeking a fix. Our brains crave this shit, and they’re made to pump out all the right chemicals to make us feel like we have to have it.
Which is, perhaps, why Gran Turismo 7 doesn’t feel – at least not innately – like an obsession, though I’ve probably spent entire days’ worth of raw time gnawing into it like a buffalo wing. I can’t get it out of my head; I just keep mentally nibbling at teases of stray thoughts in a way that a game hasn’t done before. The world itself hasn’t been Tetrisized, I’m not imagining jacking every cars, I’m just… always thinking about GT.
Part of the infatuation with the game is, of course, the return to the old CaRPG roots, offering a “single-player” path (if you can call it that) through the livery that unlike older games, forces you to try (and gain) new cars for your stable. It’s a gorgeous, pure, earnest expression of car porn. It’s cars’ Behind the Green Door.
But because it’s above all earnest, the love is infectious. All of the tech that dazzled as we moved between generations and this simple presentation of mechanical horses got fancier are all still here; legit, some of the Scapes – the game’s overwrought Photo Mode – are indistinguishable from actual. They convince utterly, especially at a glance, but even when you try to peek around the edges. They are sumptuously glossy and sun-glinted and just… they’re celebratory of the work that goes into all of these machines stretching back to culmination.
So, again, car porn. Fine. Yay. It’s good and right and nobody can complain about objectifying an actual object, but the deeper you slip into these cars, you feel their personalities, their faults, their infurations and docility at taking the exact same corner you’ve taken a hundred times, but this one is new because it’s in a different shiny new mechano-carapace. The subtlety is the point.
I think that’s partly because the race to just go photo-real finally took a back seat for a bit. GT7 straddles generations of hardware, so we’re not (and probably not in this generation) going to see fully globally-illuminated, ray-traced courses teeming with infinite pebble detail. Instead, the choices are about minutia, or at least how they’re delivered to the player.
A racing wheel is, of course, and will always be the ultimate way to experience these games, but the sense of understanding of the road and the way your tires are screaming to snatch that last stitch of asphalt because friction gives way to momentum with a DualSense is sublime. A lot of very, very good games have used this controller in fun new ways, but they feel like party tricks next to driving a GT7 car.
“Rumble” is cool and fun and Hideo Kojima’s Rumble Guy/Girl basically justifies it with every game they make. This is a different kind of feedback and the difference matters. This is rubbery tugs accelerating out of a corner and bump strips in time with your speed happening only on one side of the controller while separate knocks from an overtaker getting a bit too familiar with how your paint tastes at the same time. It’s sensory in a way that controllers couldn’t do before, and it’s lost with a wheel, in part, because it’s bifurcated in a way a single instrument couldn’t before.
I still don’t have a wheel. I keep seeing co-workers set up their fancy new ones, but I’ve neither the room nor the budget to spring for the kind of setup that would truly justify the cost, and I pray their experiences on dirt are as good as mine.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because I can hear their “holy shit” moments in my mind as they experience how a new car hugs a corner or out-accelerates an opponent, or how spending a bunch of cash in the story to take a schlump ride from stock to impossibly peppery feels.
I know, because I’ve said them myself – multiple times – over the course of what will likely be a years-long journey with this game. It’s frankly a little stupid how much I’ve fallen back in love with just buying random shit to upgrade a car. Most of said upgrades are delicately explained, if you ask, in plain talk, though things necessarily dip into gearhead talk at a certain point. The sensation of spending hard-earned winnings on a few potent updates (all spelled out with a continuation of the PP system in previous games that both indicates how supe your hooptie is AND what races it’s allowed into) and watching your little pep-mobile overtake the other cars is every bit as potent as it was 25 years ago.
I’ve barely dabbled with the online bit; I doubt I will, nor did I with the last game’s over-emphasis on it (for obvious reasons; it all paved the way for this game), save for races with work friends at lunch. Thankfully, with a fun new tour-cum-celebration of cars across the years, I don’t really have to. I’ve finished the “single-player” part of GT7, but as the ending credits remind, it’s a Grand Tour; it’s not meant to end, just to extend until there’s no more road, and as a permanent install on my PS5, it’ll be just that as new cars and tracks are added.