So there it is: the update that makes Gran Turismo 7 playable with PlayStation VR2. And not just in a separate, very limited mode, as was the case with the predecessor, but on all routes, in all races, both online and offline. To do this, I started the download this morning before coffee and shortly afterwards sat in the virtual cockpit for a few hours. And the first impression was a fabulous one!
Now I already knew from numerous other simulations and racing games that this genre in particular benefits enormously from the additional overview. If you can already see the far exit in a long corner and glance sideways when overtaking instead of looking at a HUD display, then you have a much better sense of what’s going on around the vehicle and how you should steer it around reach the exit of the corner as quickly as possible.
You sit right in the middle and are not limited to the relatively small cone of vision directly in front of the hood. In any case, if you can only see how the road actually runs in the corkscrew, it could be an aha moment for you if you’ve only driven from the cockpit view before – which, by the way, is the only one available in VR . Suddenly you realize how steep some straights drop off. Suddenly you can estimate much more precisely how the weight shifts when turning.
Above all, it looks damn good! It starts with the wonderfully detailed fittings and continues with the detailed vehicles and the racetracks. In the rain, of course, it is more noticeable in virtual reality than it already is that GT7 throws neither the most impressive spray nor particularly credible raindrops on the windshield, but that is bearable.
What should not be underestimated, however, is the changed perception, because it took me more time to get used to it than I had expected based on my previous experiences in similar games. You have to adjust to the new way of looking around and rereading distances before you can accelerate in races like you would when looking at a television. Especially since the body in VR suddenly expects centrifugal forces, which of course do not exist. You first have to understand what the car is doing while you turn your head far to the side in a tight corner. Without real physics, this can be more irritating than it sounds. Even intuitively looking to the side takes some getting used to at first than looking at the HUD display mentioned at the beginning.
Could the developer Polyphony have gotten more out of the haptic feedback in the headset? It does vibrate in the event of accidents or collisions (disappointingly soft), but it might have been possible to imitate centrifugal forces. In any case, there is no such thing, although such feedback would be more important than reporting incidents.
And because I’m just dwelling on the little things: There are a few, which is why GT7 isn’t quite the “Real Driving Simulator” that you might have hoped for, even in VR. They start where you actually experience the pit exit as before on the virtual screen, before the game switches to VR mode at the exit. This is not a spoilsport, but disappointing in terms of immersion.
I also wish that individual HUD elements could now be switched off at the latest so that the display of the selected gear, among other things, doesn’t stick as an artificial element above the steering wheel. Oh, and don’t look at that text when you bring up a text input. Then the virtual keyboard is directly above it, so you can’t see what you’re typing.
The biggest annoyance for me, however, is the fact that the headset is centered on the console side by holding down the start button. That’s basically great! But you also call up the main menu with the start button – which is really unfortunate in a game that I play at least almost exclusively online. So I wish Polyphony would offer the option to map any button on the controller to the new tweak.
That would be practical because I have to center the headset surprisingly often here. Is it because it automatically refocuses when loading new tracks and entering certain menus, among other things? Then I would at least like to be able to choose a fixed fixed point. In any case, my view is often slightly offset, which is why I have to adjust it accordingly often.
But back to the strengths: did I mention the fancy vehicles and their cockpits? If you can’t get enough of them, then head over to the new showrooms, where you can admire the cars in an exclusive VR mode. This option is also available at the time of purchase – a great addition, because the cars simply look great, which is why admiring them is even more fun than it already is.
Finally, allow me to say a few words about Sophy, the new AI that Sony is testing publicly for the first time with the current update and with which competitors are supposed to behave more like human pilots – which, however, was pulled so close to the hood several times in Suzuka that I almost ran off her rear spoiler. Apart from that, one would have to explain to Sophy why the ideal line is called the “ideal” line and that even on lower levels of difficulty you don’t have to give in to slight kinks.
At the highest level, the speedsters with Sophy at the wheel cut a much better figure. There I experienced a few great moments and exciting races against tough opponents. But the new intelligence is still a test phase with specially set up solo races that will last until the end of March. So I really don’t want to complain. The way Sophy is already pushing in the rearview mirror in a rather unpredictable way, she actually feels more human than the previous AI. I’m excited to see what she’s up to when she’s officially launched!