Full disclosure, I’m not a car nut, petrol head, automobile enthusiast or however you’d like to put it. I am a lifelong Gran Turismo fan though. Sure, I might not play with a wheel and turn all the assists off (see information at the end of the review), but it’s a series I have a lot of love for. I enjoyed playing the first three games, at my level. Hell, I even gained an appreciation for cars and learned a thing or two in the process. I played them all for hours on end, trying to get gold in all the licence tests and staying up many a late night getting through the endurance races. I’m giving you this context because I didn’t get on with 4, 5, 6 and even Sport. For me, they lost the series magic. The signature charm, quirkiness and (importantly) content; all missing. Thankfully, that’s not the case with Gran Turismo 7 though. That magic is back.
WELCOME TO OUR HUMBLE ABODE
It’s clear from the first hour or so with Gran Turismo 7 that this is a game lovingly crafted by car fanatics. No matter your interest and/or skill level, Polyphony Digital really wants you to enjoy the fruit of their labour. Given the genre, it’s usually tough to get the balance just right, but somehow the team has done exactly that. The game is so welcoming, charmingly so, explaining the options you have at your disposal, getting you onto the track and going into just enough details when it comes to the car culture bits. Even if you simply have a passing interest in the subject matter, the way it’s all delivered, you can’t help but be engaged and fascinated by it all. Different “characters” will guide you on your journey, cheering you on as you succeed and improve. Over 30 hours in, it should be annoying, but no. It’s actually endearing. In fact, I’m more into now compared to when I started.
The charm offensive continues as you’re guided into the World Map, Gran Turismo 7’s main mode or (more accurately) hub. Presented to you as a resort, with different locations on a map, this is where the “campaign” takes place. It’s essentially what you’d expect from a classic Gran Turismo, but modernised and improved for something that makes sense in the gaming world in 2022. Exactly what was needed and, simply put, it’s a joy. You start off by buying a used car with the meagre credits you have and begin your Gran Turismo journey. Do well in races, earn credits, collect cars, tune them, customise and repeat. Apart from one major addition.
COFFEE, CARS AND COURSES
Newly introduced to Gran Turismo 7 is the Café. This is one location you’ll visit a lot and get given tasks by a lovely chap called Luca. Tasks disguised as beautifully presented menus. These will include placing top three in progressively harder races, doing licence tests, taking photos and more. On completion, you’ll be rewarded with cars (there are so many), credits, new tracks and (of course) more menus. For most people playing the game (myself included), this will be the main hook and way to progress. However, if you’re too cool for school and want to do your own hardcore thing, you can mostly go off the “set” path and build your car collection that way. You’ll just take part in your choice of difficult races and earn credits that way to fuel your progression.
The choice is yours, and it’s something Gran Turismo 7 balances well. That said, honestly, I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to go down the Café route. It’s superbly done. After completing menus, Luca will tell all the facts about the subject matter at hand. The cars, their history and more. Not only is it a clear progression route, it’s so charming and endearing. Plus, you never feel rushed. The Café grabs you and shows you the love Polyphony Digital has poured into making the game. I’m still hooked, from both a progression point of view and insight. If you’re anything like me, you’ll look forward to the next menu, the one after that and more.
SO MUCH TO DO
Oh and there’s lots more. The tasks given to you from Luca (the Café man) link nicely to other bits of content the game has to offer. The cars you collect add to your Collector Level, adding further incentive to keep you in Gran Turismo 7’s fantastic gameplay loop. The higher your level, the more rewards you’ll get, locations and options will open up on the map. One of these locations include Missions, where you’ll be challenged in a variety of different events. From simple races to overtaking cars, drift trials and many other unique challenges. They’re so much fun, serving as a nice way to test yourself outside of the “campaign” path. Obviously, in true Gran Turismo fashion, you’ll be awarded with a bronze, silver or gold trophy depending on how you do. That’s where, of course, I’m going to mention the Licence Centre. Yes, those tests fans love to hate are back and still as challenging as ever if you want to go for gold. I couldn’t be happier to say that. FromSoftware games have nothing on Gran Turismo licence tests!
Wait, Gran Turismo 7 still has more to offer. I briefly mentioned tuning and customisation earlier; both provide a wealth of options. The former is done via Tuning Shop, increasing individual stats and an overall performance rating. Most races will have a suggested rating, so something to be aware of. For the hardcore out there, you can go a step further by heading to your Garage. Here you’ll be able to tweak settings like downforce until you have the perfect set-up for the track you want. For each car, you can even save them in different sheets and come back to them later as needed. Customisation wise, GT Auto is the place to go. Here you can change elements of your car such as the wheels, rear wing and more. Going a step further you can completely change the look of your vehicle thanks to a pretty decent livery editor. I created an NGB one for a Polo GTI, with relative ease. You can do the same for your driver avatar too.
SO MUCH TO SEE
Obviously, it’s the cars that are the main attraction in Gran Turismo 7 and, boy, do Polyphony Digital make sure you know that. Rightly so, they want you to look at and showcase the beautiful vehicles they have crafted. There are several ways of doing this. If you just want to look, you can head to the Used Cars and Brand Central locations on the map to peruse all the cars at your leisure. The latter goes all out, offering up detailed showrooms and, for certain manufacturers, Museum slideshows to educate you a little. To show off cars in your collection, Scapes and Showcase are the places to go. The former provides similar but expanded options to Gran Turismo Sport, allowing you place your cars in real locations and take snaps. Some of the shots you can take are simply stunning. They look like real photos of cars. The same applies to photos taken from replay mode too. It’s mad. As for Showcase, it does exactly what it says on the tin. You can share your snaps proudly with the world. As a lover of photo modes, I have and will continue to do so.
That brings me nicely onto Gran Turismo 7’s visuals. Simply put, they are stunning. The cars look ridiculously good. So much so that they make the track and surrounding environments look bland in comparison. That’s not to say those elements are horrible looking, far from it. The sky boxes, especially in races where the weather and time of day changes, look amazing. Taking part in an evening race on Tokyo Expressway as the sun sets and the rain comes down is something to behold. That’s on the track, when you’re actually racing. The replays look even better. I urge you to watch them and even spend time in the photo mode. The attention to detail from Polyphony Digital really comes to the fore. It’s crazy to think how far they’ve come since Gran Turismo on the PlayStation. Playing on the PlayStation 5, you’ll have access to two visual modes. Prioritise Frame Rate does exactly that, delivering 4K and a solid 60 frames per second. Prioritise Ray Tracing is an interesting one compared to most other games. It also delivers 4K, but at 30 frames per second in certain situations. These include replays, Café demo scenes, your Garage, Scapes and photo mode. Otherwise, frame rate will always be prioritised. It’s an interesting way to go, but given the type of game we’re talking about it ultimately makes sense.
TOP GEAR ON THE TRACK
Finally, time to talk about Gran Turismo 7 on the track. Where it matters most. There’s a reason the series is known as ‘The Real Driving Simulator’. First and foremost, it’s a driving game. Once you understand the basics of that, getting used to braking, accelerating and taking corners like you would when driving in real life, you’ll succeed at racing in the game. I can’t emphasise that enough, whatever assists you have on or off. Then there’s the nuance of getting used to how differently each car handles and drives. For example, what are its limits and how much can you push it. A shout out to the DualSense controller here as you’ll literally feel this when you’re playing thanks to the Haptic Feedback and Adaptive Triggers. 3D audio is outstanding too. The above might sound daunting, but as I mentioned earlier this more than any other Gran Turismo welcomes you in and teaches you as you progress through the “campaign”. You genuinely feel like you’re learning and getting better, delivering a real sense of accomplishment as you progress.
The AI drivers add to this, seemingly named after professional Gran Turismo drivers. A nice touch, if indeed true. While they aren’t as aggressive or dynamic as counterparts in the likes of Forza Motorsport or GRID, there has been some improvement made here. Compared to previous iterations, they’ll overtake realistically and even have the occasional wobble. However, most of the time they will stick to the racing line. Given that Gran Turismo 7 is a driving game, all about car culture and etiquette, to me, this makes sense. This extends to the online side of things too. The Sport mode from the last game makes a return and will be the place to go for regular sessions with serious players, building a Driver and Sportsmanship rating over time. No bumper cars here or you’ll get penalised. I took part in a few races in this mode, finding it to be stable unlike the driving of some fellow reviewers (I kid, mostly). Elsewhere, multiplayer options include standard lobbies, two-player split screen and the newly introduced Meeting Places. Here you can essentially casually hang out with friends. No pressure to do anything. Just chill, chat and race. Maybe even show off a livery you’ve been working on. Personally, I’m looking forward to driving around with some of the NGB crew here.
HARD TO FAULT
After sinking over 30 hours into Gran Turismo 7 and looking forward to playing more, I’m struggling to find a proper fault in the game. Polyphony Digital has delivered what it set out to do and more. It’s the most welcoming yet deep game in the series to date, finding that golden balance with ease. If the “campaign” and additional content wasn’t evidence enough already, the new Music Rally mode just adds to it. Sure, it’s essentially a time extend “race”, but it’s yet another string to an already impressive bow. I can imagine casual players enjoying a quick spin and the more hardcore putting in the hours to get the best times. If pushed to find a negative, I’d say perhaps the fact that you need to be online to enjoy most of what the game has to offer is a shame, but I’d imagine if you’re thinking about picking this up you’re connected to the wonderful world of the Internet already. Honestly, I can’t recommend Gran Turismo 7 highly enough. It’s fantastic. Stunning even.
Note: The reviewer played Gran Turismo 7 on normal race difficulty. Assist settings were mostly intermediate but customised, with auto-drive, driving line assistance, braking indicator and braking area all turned off. Occasionally expert assists settings were used too, with the same as above turned off.