It wasn’t for lack of trying, but I didn’t manage to buy a PlayStation 5 before the launch of Gran Turismo 7, despite it being my plan after the game’s long-awaited launch date was revealed. Instead I stuck with my trusty PlayStation 4 and bought a racing cockpit for my living room with the money I would have spent on a new console.
Now a couple of weeks into playing, I am so glad the PlayStation 5 proved to be elusive. For all its hardware -acilitated graphical upgrades, I cannot imagine how Gran Turismo 7 could actually play any better than it does when I’m sitting in my race seat holding on to that steering wheel.
When Gran Turismo 7’s March 4 release date was revealed, I began to look in earnest for a PS5. It’s not new information that the console is hard to find, but it was such a pain to get here in the U.K., I only had one opportunity to buy one over the period of several months. The pack I almost settled for was a digital edition, which wasn’t my preference at all, with a pair of controllers when I really only needed one, and a game I’d never play. The nearly 600 British pound price ($792 U.S.) also seemed inflated for what I was getting.
I didn’t buy it, and as the release date neared, I wondered what to do. I wanted it to be an occasion. Something a bit special. I truly fell in love with the series when Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec came out, and remembered buying it at the midnight launch along with the official Logitech Driving Force GT steering wheel. As much as I wanted one, racing seats were not attainable at the time, so it was clamped to a table. It was thinking back to this after failing to get a PS5 that I had my epiphany.
Why not do the same as I did with Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec, just on a grander scale? Racing games are fine with a controller, but it’s hardly the most natural method of steering a car. Of course I’d also need somewhere to sit, and so the dream of a racing cockpit setup in my living room began to take shape.
After much research (which is part of the fun), I settled on a Logitech G29 Driving Force steering wheel and pedals set, plus a PlaySeat Challenge foldable racing seat. Shopping around, together these cost a third of the PS5 set I didn’t buy, leaving me with money left over for a gaming headset so I don’t irritate my neighbors. For this, I’ve so far been testing the Master & Dynamic MG20 headphones. My accessories were exactly right, the game was pre-ordered in anticipation, and I was left only with nagging doubts over whether a 2013 console was capable enough to play a 2022 game.
These doubts quickly disappeared. My aging PlayStation 4 plays the game without any obvious problem at all. After playing for a while, I compared what I was seeing on the PS4 with videos and stories of Gran Turismo 7 on the PS5. The lighting is unquestionably beautiful and the tracks look lush and busy, but, well, that’s about it. If I had purchased a PlayStation 5 expressly for Gran Turismo 7, I really do question whether I’d have been that pleased.
I haven’t at any point wished there were a few more trees visible in the distance when playing on the PS4. The photo mode still looks glorious and, crucially, in all the videos I’ve watched, it doesn’t seem to be faster or smoother on the PS5 than it is on the PS4, at least not offline. Whether it’s Polyphony that needs to be congratulated for making the game run so well on the PS4, or a testament to the console’s ability despite its age, I don’t know. But I’m happy I didn’t decide to upgrade based on what I’ve seen.
I chose a physical copy of the game for the PS4 and installation only required patience, which is also what’s needed to overcome what I see as the only major difference between playing on the PS4 and PS5: Loading times. I have to wait for things to happen, but it’s not really that much different than playing Gran Turismo Sport, and I’ve lived with that for the last five years.
My fear that the old PS4 — it’s an original, not even a PS4 Pro I’m using — would creak under the weight of a 2022 mega-game were unfounded. It’s not just fine: I’d say it’s excellent provided you don’t crave the very best in visuals. If I had a PS5, I’d no doubt delight in the additional detail and graphical enhancements, and maybe even see some additional smoothness (placebo effect or otherwise), but I’d probably be playing the game with a controller, and I don’t think I’d be enjoying it anywhere near as much.
The racing seat and steering wheel may be two of the best frivolous purchases I’ve ever made. The G29’s fat leather-bound rim feels great to grip, the metal gearshift paddles are precise, and the peddles have actual weight to them. The PlaySeat has a bucket seat-like angle and the peddle box can be moved backwards and forwards, so it’s all very comfortable, letting you play for hours. It obviously doesn’t feel exactly like a real car, but it’s probably about as close as you can get to having one in your living room without spending a huge amount of money and taking up an unreasonable amount of space.
What I’ve found with this setup is I look forward to playing more, and in a different way than just sitting down with a controller. Sliding into the seat is the gamer equivalent of putting on racing booties and a helmet. It prepares you. It feels like an occasion, just like I wanted. The cars feel more alive in game, and there’s something grin-inducing about prompting the pops and bangs from the exhaust by lifting off an actual throttle and not a button, and catching oversteer with a wheel, not a stick. Playing Gran Turismo 7 with a wheel and seat perfectly straddles the line between game and simulation.
Master & Dynamic’s MG20 headset also adds a lot to the experience. It uses a plug-in dongle for wireless connectivity and there is no discernible latency at all. The whole kit is also very convenient. The steering wheel and pedals are securely attached to the PlaySeat Challenge and stay that way when you fold it up, It takes a minute or so to fold and unfold it, and when it’s ready to store, it takes up about the same amount of room as a modestly sized stationary exercise bike. It’s not quite compact enough to slide under the couch or bed though. The whole thing is easily moved around because it’s not that heavy, yet it feels more than sturdy enough that you don’t worry it’ll give way at any moment when you sit in it.
It’s probably clear that the PS4, steering wheel, seat, and headphones are satisfying all my Gran Turismo 7 needs. So am I still chasing a PlayStation 5? No, I’m not. I cannot see how I would get more exciting entertainment from the game if I suddenly played it on an PS5, particularly if it meant not playing with the wheel and seat. If I was playing a lot of other games, or planned to buy many other new releases, then this would probably be a different story, but I’m not. The PS4 plays the other games I do fire up without any issues, and seeing as they often use PlayStation VR, I wouldn’t be getting any benefit from the PS5 there either.
I am satisfied that I spent the money reserved for the PS5 more wisely, genuinely enhancing the game I have been looking forward to for years, and actually bringing a dream I’ve had since Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec days to life. If I was sitting down to play Gran Turismo 7 on my couch with a controller connected to a PS5, I may get to the driving part a little faster, but it would be less involving, less fun, and ultimately less exciting once I did.
If you’ve been chasing a PS5 and found it equally as difficult to obtain as I have, ask yourself if there’s a way you could enhance your gaming setup in a different way. Gran Turismo 7 has proved I don’t need the latest console to play the game, and that well-chosen accessories make it more enjoyable, and that’s equally, if not more important than flashier graphics. So I’ll say thank you to the stock shortages, the queues of people waiting, the scalpers, and the awfully high prices for making it impossible for me to buy a PS5. You’ve all helped make Gran Turismo 7 the special occasion I always wanted it to be.
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