Sony’s flagship racing franchise has finally arrived on PS5. Not only does it get off to a flying start, but it follows its course and delivers a gold medal in triumphant fashion.
After a barnstorming first few entries into the Gran Turismo franchise, the series wobbled a bit during the PS3 era and things improved a bit more on the PS4. With Xbox’s Forza brand continuing to put out high-quality racing games across Motorsport and Horizon, Polyphony Digital’s first appearance on the PS5 needed to kick things into high gear.
After many hours of sampling its ridiculous array of content and absorbing racing mechanics, I can confidently declare that Gran Turismo 7 is back atop the podium.
Gran Turismo 7 – Key details
- Price: $59.99 / £49.99
- Developer: Polyphony Digital
- Release date: March 4, 2022
- Platforms: PlayStation
Gran Turismo 7 trailer
Racing ahead of its competition
Part of Gran Turismo 7’s brilliance is its constant desire to keep things interesting and ensure you’re entertained. Immediately from the get-go, instead of a boring tutorial or introductory platitude to placate newcomers, we get a Music Rally mini-game that has players competing against a song.
A la V-Rally or the classic Outrun, you have to reach a checkpoint before time runs out to ensure you get to see the rest of the song.
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It’s just one way in which the game subverts expectations, and it feels like the devs are having a blast. Gran Turismo 7, perhaps more than any entry in the franchise before it, feels like a love letter to autosport. The game’s historical introductory movie exemplifies this with a run-through of over 100 years of automotive history.
If you’ve played Gran Turismo before then you know the score with the game’s main mode. Buy a car with your paltry budget, win a few races on the World Circuit, buy better cars, upgrade their parts, enter bigger and faster races, and so on and so forth. It’s as complete and cohesive a GT Mode as you could ever ask for and certainly makes up for its omission from GT Sport.
On an important side note, I do wish the interface was smoother and more user-friendly for casual race fans. Finding and swapping out parts, especially when it isn’t always clear what they actually do, can be finicky. Having to back out and traverse several sub-menus to acquire said parts is also frustrating and definitely could’ve been made easier.
Along for the rest of the ride though are multiple features such as the classic License Tests in which you need to complete multiple driving scenarios, beat a final test, and get a license that enables you to enter more advanced events.
Another mode making a welcome return is Circuit Experience, in which you need to master individual sectors in a race track before having to again show that you’ve learned a course enough to beat a lap time. Add in some scenario-based Missions that include slipstreaming and clawing back deficits, and Gran Turismo 7 has an insane amount of content for you to enjoy.
But one of the fascinating aspects of the Career Mode is the GT Cafe.
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Here, you are given Menu Books that come with challenges. Complete a book and you’ll be rewarded with roulette tickets that will earn you anything from a huge sum of Credits (the game’s currency) to even a car.
I also enjoyed the fun facts about the game’s cars and manufacturers you’re treated to for completing a book. Together with the game’s cutscenes that flesh out the experience and make it feel deeper and more immersive, you realize the scope of this project and how Polyphony Digital is trying to make you care about more than just its driving element, and it helps forge attachments with the cars you’re driving.
The god of gameplay
Speaking of which, Gran Turismo 7’s gameplay could be the best of any car simulation. Ever.
Vehicles feel responsive on the controller and the difference between a small 90 BHP versus a robust 1,000 BHP Supercar is like two different worlds. What makes this possible is the fabulous integration of Haptic Feedback running through the PS5’s DualSense controller.
The actions of your car will have a huge and varied bearing on how your pad will react. If a heavy car exceeds its top speed and turns hard around a corner, then your controller will feel like it’s going to jump out of your hands as your wheels cling to the tarmac.
Braking, colliding with objects, and the raw screeching of tires will trigger different reactions from the DualSense, and really feel like you’re in the car. It’s a surreal but cleverly implemented use of Haptic Feedback.
With over 400 cars and 90+ courses to choose from, long-time fans such as myself can’t help but soak up the nostalgia of classics like Trial Mountain and Deep Forest Raceway. You won’t get bored with the mixture of real-life venues like Brands Hatch and the Nurburgring. But you will also embrace and enjoyed the repeated trips to the tight and twisty turns of Tokyo Expressway, which are a wild swing from the picturesque sights and wild inclines of France’s Alsace.
Everything has its place, and the sheer volume of event types, tracks, and cars make this feel like the most content-rich Gran Turismo entry yet.
The gameplay and mix of features are complemented by AI that is well drilled and quite intelligent. They won’t just diligently stick to their racing line and will deviate from their desired path to avoid collisions, whereas aggression has been a problem for GT in the past. Still, they’re no pushovers.
If you’re less focused on AI competition though, then the online mode is where you’ll find the best action.
Gran Turismo 7’s online portion consists of Sports Mode and Multiplayer. So expect regular doses of daily races and championships to improve your rank to ascend the game’s many leagues. I got to take part in exclusively set up races and face off against other hungry competitors.
Although our numbers were limited, I experienced no server issues and the races went off without a hitch. With the experience and success of GT Sport’s online functionality, expect a dedicated online mode that will be improved on all the time.
Even GT7’s dirt looks beautiful
Another key area in which the game positively shines, in more ways than one, is the visual and audio department.
A masterstroke from Polyphony Digital was to focus less on delivering an exhaustive roster of cars, and instead, supply over 400 perfectly modeled vehicles. The team described the process as “the highest quality ever seen in the history of the series,” and it shows.
Photorealism is clearly at the forefront of Gran Turismo 7’s graphical goals with a focused, perfectionist attitude helping make every car feel special. The interior of them looks like they’ve been captured meticulously and faithfully, with even insignificant details such as texture patterns on the steering wheel being noticeable.
Showcase Mode allows you to join other players in admiring your rides and bonding, whereas the ridiculously deep Scapes mode is a traditional photo mode that allows you to go all-in on your art. Pick your car, select one of many stunning, real-life backgrounds, and meddle with apertures, exposure, and a litany of many other specific features and filters to satisfy photography aficionados.
I never realized how much I cared about this until I was hellbent on getting my shiny, average Mazda to look like it was worth about a million Credits more than it actually was.
The game’s in-play races are gorgeous and utterly spellbinding and distracting. Seriously, you will crash at least once from taking in the scenery.
GT7 has dynamic weather that progresses during a race and can dramatically alter conditions with sudden on-set rain making things skiddy and harder to negotiate. Puddles form in real-time and their size and structure will be manipulated by the frequency of cars splashing through them.
The transition from day to night, and vice versa, is seamless and long straights provide ample opportunity to soak in your surroundings and see the intricate detail outside of the racing track e.g towering mountains in the background.
You can play the game in Ray Tracing mode without FPS drops, and you get the added bonus of even flashier lighting effects that provide obscene levels of extra detail. The longer you play Gran Turismo 7 and get to try out new road surfaces, you get to see how else the game is excelling in the Ray Tracing department.
Kicking up dust will make visibility very difficult and it creates a sense of urgency to try and pass a rival car that is unintentionally blinding you. Scraping against barriers fractures the car’s pristine paintwork and sends sparks shooting off in all directions, whereas driving across gravel flings dirty granules everywhere, it’s fabulous.
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I do need to point out that the sun’s glare is obnoxiously bright at times and is certain to blind you. Additionally, the haphazard soundtrack is both to the game’s benefit and detriment as certain songs and cheesy pieces of music simply don’t fit the task at hand.
This can be overlooked though thanks to the game’s use of Tempest 3D Audio Tech. I used the SteelSeries Arctis 7P and the races were electrifying with engaging audio cues happening all around me.
After taking time to debate whether or not the game’s very minor, and few, shortcomings are enough to make the game fall short, ultimately, they don’t.
Not only is this a return to form for an elite racing game series, but Gran Turismo 7 is as close as you’ll get to the perfect driving game. Its sea of gameplay modes, beyond outstanding visuals, crisp sounds, and immersive use of PlayStation tech has given players an endlessly playable game that never gets dull.
Polyphony Digital have crafted a must-play, must-own, masterpiece.