One of the most widespread elements of the games of this new console generation is the open world. While graphics, bells and whistles evolved only up to a certain point, open worlds have spread far and wide thanks to the improved asset bandwidth and memory of the PS4 and Xbox One.
Kazunori Yamauchi and his Polyphony Digital are hard at work on the next Gran Turismo for PS4, but very little is known about the game.
One thing not many know, is also that Kazunori Yamauchi already thought about some kind of free-roaming open world aspect for his games. Just after the launch of Gran Turismo 5, he revealed on Twitter that he would have liked to include a mode where one could drive freely in the game’s cities, but wasn’t able to.
The PS4 would definitely be able to handle that kind of game, and Forza Horizon 2 demonstrated once more the potential of open world racing games in conveying the pleasure of driving. That kind of sentiment has always been present in Yamauchi-san’s development philosophy.
While we don’t have any insider source telling us that Grsan Turismo 7 will be open world, the PS4 will soon have its own first party closed course racing game with Driveclub, so it would stand to reason for Gran Turismo 7 to go in a radically different direction.
How could an open world Gran Turismo work?
First of all, it would probably be more of a simulation compared to Forza Horizon 2, which is an awesome game, but really can’t be called realistic. Hypercars that have no trouble racing in the mud and tail-happy RWD rides that stay planted on the asphalt with the stability of a Ford Focus aren’t exactly my idea of a driving sim.
While Gran Turismo games aren’t full fledged simulators as well, and take more liberties compared to ultra-realistic experiences like iRacing, Yamauchi-san and his team have always been very much dedicated to create an experience that steers towards the realm of the simulation.
This has great potential in an open world game, especially considering the large variety of road surfaces that can be found outside of a traditional track. Even within a single city you find an enormous range of different range of conditions, which become even wider as soon as you drive out in the countryside.
The most likely setting for this kind of game would be a fictionalized version of Tokyo, which has been present in many chapters of the series with the iconic R246 track, and is said to have inspired almost all the “Special Stage Route” courses.
Tokyo features a delightful variety of roads, ranging from narrow alley-like streets to full fledged highways with the iconic and scenic Wangan, passing by broad four lane boulevards. It’s also fairly near to the the famous mountain passes used by street racers and made famous by anime series like Initial-D and by the Fujimi Kaido course in the Forza series.
The game’s world could focus around a condensed and scaled down Tokyo, and extend in the countryside to the mountains for some awesome touge racing. That’s pretty much the wet dream of a petrolhead like me. Considering Yamauchi-san’s dedication to realistic driving, we could even see a fully working traffic system with traffic lights and signs, rules to follow and similar caveats conducive to a better simulation of real world conditions.
Of course I really doubt that Polyphony Digital could give up completely on circuit racing, especially considering the enormous know-how and the amount of licenses accumulated in six mainline games of the series, which means that we could actually see a hybrid between open world and track-based racing.
Tired to drive on the open streets and want to clock in a few laps at Suzuka or Silverstone? Drive to the airport, select your destination, and you get transported with your car to your track of choice, offering something more similar to the classic Gran Turismo experience. This could also work with the various photo mode locations set around the world.
Given the little information we have, I can’t really say whether something like this will happen, or if it’s even possible. But wouldn’t it be awesome? The Real Driving Simulator could use a breath of fresh air, and this seems to me like a typhoon that could definitely make waves in the genre.
A combination of realistic driving, diverse urban environments, scenic mountain passes and the solid circuit racing we’ve seen in Gran Turismo games would definitely make me smile from ear to ear. I bet I’m not the only one.