Gran Turismo 7 sounds like a car fanatic’s dream. It’s a love letter to the roaring engines, sleek chassis and robust floor of automobiles. Every inch of car and every meter of track will be meticulously recreated in the name of immersive simulation. You may not have one Porsche Taycanbut you can find out how it feels on the road by jumping into the virtual driver’s seat and taking a spin.
That’s my impression, at least. I’m not a racing game expert and certainly no car fanatic. While I have fond memories of tearing up streets in Need for Speed: Underground 2 and blowing up motorcycles and monster trucks in Motorstorm in the PS3’s heyday, I avoided most racing releases. The silliest titles in the genre might catch my eye, but serious racing sims often get a pass from me.
The promise of driving exorbitant cars on a virtual racetrack, or gradually learning the intricate handling techniques of a McLaren, does not whet my appetite. I need something other than the car, beautiful surroundings, or the thrill of racing to attract me. I want something new to take the brunt of my attention, leaving the real game to sit quietly in the passenger seat.
a suitable distraction
It’s a big question, and one that few developers would rightly bother to answer. But GT7 might fit the bill. Revealed during Sony’s recent State of Play event, the game will have a new Music Rally mode this seems specifically tailored for people like me – those who aren’t content to run around a track unless there’s another seemingly irrelevant but actually more interesting feature to occupy their impatient mind.
Music Rally seems to be a kind of musical time trial. You’ll race on a track against a timer while thunderous music plays in the background. Let the timer run down before reaching the next checkpoint, and the race will be over, so you’ll need to go through specific gates to replenish your time and continue in the race. So far so standard. What shakes things up, however, is the connection between the countdown timer and the music. The tempo decreases at the same rate as the tempo of the song, so you don’t have seconds to count, but the BPM (beats per minute) of whatever song you’re rushing to.
The idea is that you don’t just drive alongside the music, but race against it, trying to match your speed on the asphalt with the music that is blasting in your ears. Faster songs will be more challenging as the timer slows down at a higher rate, while slower songs are more forgiving as their slow pace gives you more time to get to the next checkpoint. Style and genre will determine the start position of the countdown timer and track length will also come into play; you’re not racing to cross the finish line, but trying to stay in the race when the music ends.
From what Polyphony Digital has shown so far, Music Rally seems to complement GT7 without interfering with the main gameplay loop. It lets you take part in a competitive race as usual, but gives you something extra to focus on. The specific hum of your car’s engine or the particularities of its handling will no longer be the only novelty to enjoy during a race. Instead, non-car aficionados might appreciate some sweet grooves and sickening riffs as they zip around corners at breakneck speeds.
What really makes the mode special is its integration. While it’s quite easy to maintain a Spotify playlist when playing Gran Turismo, this leaves the music disconnected from the game; nothing more than background sound completely separate from what you’re doing on the screen. The GT7’s Music Rally mode fills that gap, and while it might not meet the wild levels of interaction in Audiosurf and other music rhythm games, it certainly goes a step beyond mere musical accompaniment.
Without the competitive time trial component of the mode, I would be worried that the whole thing would seem pointless. As much as I enjoy listening to music while driving, I need a goal to focus on when playing racing games; something to direct my attention back to the screen. What better way for the GT7 to do this than to connect the music that enters my ears with the movement that happens with my thumbs.
There are a few questions that Polyphony has left open. It’s still unclear whether all of GT7’s 300+ songs can be used in the new mode, or if you’ll be able to import your own songs to use. That last one is probably too big a request, so don’t expect to send in a piece of math rock or some epic prog just to see how the changes of pace play out mid-race.
Will Music Rally convince me to buy GT7? Well, not at launch, certainly. But I imagine a few years from now, when I’m craving beautifully ray-traced cars and want to give my ears a gift, it will be the top of the pile. Even though I’m not part of GT7’s main target audience, Polyphony got me excited about a genre I forgot about years ago. This is no easy task.