Gran Turismo’s reputation as ‘the real driving simulator’ can come off as just a bit on the serious or snobbish side. So imagine our surprise that before you even get behind the wheel of the new entry in this long-running sim-racer, the first thing you’re treated to is Music Rally.
A twist on arcade-style checkpoint races, you’re racing not against a clock but the song’s BPM, ranging from classical music medleys to Japanese rock riffs. The cars, the circuits and the music selection are all fixed for each challenge, but despite the limits on this seemingly throwaway extra, it’s a delightful appetiser to ease you into its grand main course.
After all, Gran Turismo 7 is also celebrating the series’ 25th anniversary, so unlike its divisive predecessor, online competition-focused Gran Turismo Sport, it wants to invite everyone to its classy shindig, whether you’re a petrolhead or racing noob. Let’s get into our Gran Turismo 7 review.
Automotive for the people
With Microsoft’s Forza franchise opting to go with two consecutive releases of its open-world arcadey Horizon spin-off rather than alternating straight back to Motorsport, sim-racing has taken a bit of a backseat. Polyphony Digital, therefore, has its work cut out in making a realistic driving sim with the same wide appeal and which you’d also be fine forking out £70 for, never mind one that requires you to be always online to play, whether or not you care for competing against other drivers.
But even if your idea of racers is to just floor the gas the whole way, Gran Turismo 7 does a terrific job of getting you acclimatised to all the finer points of driving with an incredible suite of assist options that you’re free to keep on the entire time, turn off as you get more confident, or customise with whatever suits. Licence Tests function as concise tutorials as you figure out how to make use of kerbs or approach the tricky hairpin turn, but also become rewarding challenges to repeat as you go for gold.
The campaign also returns to a classic loop that starts you off with a compact before you work your way up collecting a whole variety of cars, with over 400 included at launch that you can race across 34 tracks with over 90 variations. Cars naturally also require tuning up to stay competitive, and while increasing your car’s Performance Points (PP) feels simplistic to the point that feels almost like getting your gear’s light level up in Destiny, hardcore players are still welcome to dig into the more detailed settings to fine-tune every aspect to the granular.
Whether it’s a Mini-Cooper or Chevrolet’s sports car classic Corvette Stingray, every car in Gran Turismo 7 has been given the same level of love and attention, and we’re not just talking about the detailed descriptions each is given once it’s in your collection.
The series has always excelled at leveraging PlayStation hardware to produce gorgeous detailed graphics of real licensed cars, and while Gran Turismo Sport had already impressed in the last generation with 4K and HDR, Gran Turismo 7 is the first to make use of ray tracing.
It may not be used in actual racing gameplay, but it’s really going to make you want to watch every replay that automatically follows each race before you’re pausing each frame to find the perfect screenshot to show off on social media. That’s even before you start dropping your car into the thousands of real-world locations you can snap in the returning Scapes mode.
It’s not just about visuals, as the PS5 version pulls out the stops in immersive 3D Audio that makes a Pulse 3D wireless headset a worthwhile investment. While hardcore sim-racers will want to use steering wheel and pedal controllers, the DualSense controller goes a long way to provide the immersion that you’re really behind the wheel of your chosen vehicle in the way the triggers simulate the pressure of the pedals while the haptics make you feel the car going every bump or surface in relation to each wheel.
At the Drive-in
Not simply a milestone anniversary, Gran Turismo is also a celebration of car culture, history and the people that belong to it, as it sprinkles the simulation with all kinds of nuggets of trivia and famous faces, doled out at a pretty relaxing pace.
You’ll take your sweet time unlocking modes on the game’s World Map. The Cafe is one of the earliest of these modes, which sees you park your ride at a cosy location to chat with a delightful chap called Luca who’s always got a fresh menu. Not for your choice of hot beverage but rather a selection of cars to collect, all tied to a specific racing challenge.
Complete the menu and you’re regaled with a loving history of your collection before you’re sent on your way with another menu to continue ticking up your collector level. It all makes for a leisurely and sophisticated approach where you’re not being overwhelmed with content but able to really take your time and bask in the beauty of these shiny miracles of metal.
Sometimes you might even have a fellow car nut happy to share some history about the car you’ve brought in and maybe even get some insight and anecdotes from a few real engineers and designers responsible for making them. This extends to your fellow rivals and instructors who are actually real-life pros from motor racing and Gran Turismo competitions. Sure, these cameos may just be photos and text, but it still gives car culture a personal touch, an international phenomenon that brings people together.
Headstart but still catching up?
It’s a marked improvement over Gran Turismo Sport then, though the online multiplayer remains just as punishing. Here you’re judged not just on your finishing position but also your sportsmanship. That said, our brief pre-launch online tests also had instances of other player cars turning into ghosts and driving through each other without consequence, so we won’t really know how well it holds up until launch. Even so, the series still feels like it’s still playing catch up with the competition, such as how it doesn’t fully commit to dynamic weather, with the feature only used in certain tracks.
The total number of cars and track variations is also not nearly as many compared to its close rival on Xbox from three years ago, or even the ridiculous numbers of Gran Turismo 6 from two console generations ago. Then again, that’s just in terms of quantity rather than quality, because the quality here is impeccable and another top-notch example of Sony revving us into the new generation.
PSVR 2 reality check
This VR update may not be for the whole game, but you won’t complain once the tech kicks in and you’re suddenly behind the wheel of a Toyota Supra speeding through Tokyo Expressway. Having a racing wheel adds to the realism though we find that using a DualSense with motion controls turned on works just as well in this context (find something to rest your elbows on though).
The details are a sight to behold thanks to the sharp headset resolution, and you’d be forgiven for taking your eyes off the road to catch the glare of a rival’s headlights in HDR at night time or lean in to inspect all your dashboard buttons.
Fortunately, VR Showroom lets you do just that and bask in every angle of your ride with a variety of settings including the chill GT Café. We could sit in the cockpit of our Ferrari 308 all day.
Gran Turismo 7 verdict
One of the more serious sim racers out there is also at its most welcoming thanks to a comprehensive suite of assist options and a relaxing progression system that helps you improve and expand your skill set while dropping dollops of loving automotive history that will surely make a car lover out of you.
While another cross-gen release that ironically undermines Sony’s previous statement about believing in generations, Gran Turismo 7 is an undeniable showcase for every facet of the PS5 hardware, giving it a roaring headstart as the best sim racer for this generation.
A stunning celebration of car history and culture that’s as accessible as it is engrossing.
Accessible approach to realistic sim-racing
Looks absolutely stunning (even better with ray tracing)
Cafe’s relaxing vibes
Music Rally is a lot of fun
Have to be always online to access most modes
Still lagging behind in raw numbers compared to its closest rival