March 4, 2022
Sony Interactive Entertainment
The first Gran Turismo title debuted in 1997, almost 25 years ago. It was the first game of its kind on home consoles. From humble beginnings with Motor Toon Grand Prix in 1994, Polyphony Digital, with Kazunori Yamauchi at the helm, built an empire. They used their obsessive attention to detail and love of cars to ensure that Gran Turismo is the undisputed yardstick when it comes to visual fidelity and near simulation-style racing on PlayStation.
So here we are, all of those decades later, the next generation of gaming is here and the first numbered entry in the series since 2013 is upon us. Given the history of Gran Turismo and the respect it has earned over that quarter of a century, it is safe to say that expectations are high for this hotly anticipated title. Gran Turismo 7 is here and I have spent a week playing every nook and cranny of it, does it live up to the hype?
Right from the opening seconds of Gran Turismo 7, Polyphony Digital’s absolute love for and obsession with cars shines bright. The opening film is a truly beautiful video featuring historical footage of cars through history interspersed with iconic figures from film and music, set to a light emotive classical piece. The first time the footage is screened, there is no option to skip (why would you anyway?) and this is just a taster of what is to come throughout the game. So you better hope you genuinely appreciate cars as much as the developers do.
A game with such love for automobiles is sadly somewhat timely as well because for better or worse, the fossil-fuelled combustion engine and traditional car design have their end of days on the horizon. There will never, ever, be new cars that resemble the classics on show here. So now is the perfect time to take a moment and immerse yourself in the history of some of the world’s greatest inventions, experience some of the greatest most legendary cars of all time, and learn about the history of some iconic models and brands.
“Gran Turismo 7 throws back to Turismo games of old with a world map to access the different areas of the game, even the license centre is back”
Gran Turismo 7 throws back to Turismo games of old with a world map to access the different areas of the game, even the license centre is back. But the location you will be visiting the most is the café because this is where you access the café menus that guide you through the game. The attention to detail and care present everywhere else in the game is also found here. Everything from the delicious-looking coffee on the table, the wood grain of the furniture, and the vignettes you get before starting a championship are perfectly crafted.
It needs to be called out that this is not optional and there are no branching routes. You are forced to play through this storyline campaign, it is the centre of the game. You are forced to move through the café menus one at a time to collect vehicles, earn credits, and unlock tracks and championships. The positive is that you will quickly amass a garage of varied vehicles to use at your leisure. But the downside is that you may not even be the slightest bit interested in hot hatchbacks from Europe. That is just too bad because you are going to need to complete the races, win the cars, and hear the story behind the collection whether you like it or not.
Although some may feel like this approach may not be ideal, it does add some structure to the game and ensures the game grows as you make your way through. You are encouraged to experience the range of vehicles across motoring history. But, if it takes your fancy, you can still just take a vastly overpowered car to the track and scream by the competition.
One of the interesting things about Gran Turismo 7 (and the whole series) is its unique approach to simulation. They focus heavily on realistic driving and realistic car models, yet eschew most of the other components one might expect from a true simulation experience. Things like visible car damage, 25 years later, is still not present here. I respect it as an artistic choice, but during one race I got distracted and went head-on into a wall going flat out. My car should have been completely totalled and the driver likely dead. I feel like my race should have been over, but I just bounced off and went on my merry way. Even though I am used to the series, it still feels a little weird.
This selective approach to simulation is present mostly in the café menu races and championships. Obviously you can decide whether you want any assists like counter steer assist or anti-lock braking but you cannot change the length of the races or add in fuel/tire usage. The vast majority of the races will be short with no pit stops or strategy required.
There is also no option to qualify for a race and so you always start at the back of the field. With a rolling start, it is not uncommon to have to make up 30 seconds on the leader in a 20 car field. On a track like Nurburgring (the green hell) when it is a one-lap race, that is a seriously tough ask.
Once you unlock some tracks, you can create your own custom races and there is a tonne of settings on offer, everything from weather changes (during the race), fuel usage, tire usage, mechanical damage, and more. This shows just how far the game can actually go into the sim space – when it wants to. The unfortunate thing though is that although creating your own races is fun and allows you to tailor your experience, the rewards are tiny compared to café menu races. That’s true even if you play with no assists, max AI difficulty, full realism, and extended length.
Full-on car customisation is finally back in Gran Turismo 7 with all of the different items and upgrades you could find in your local auto shop, as well as loads of visual upgrade options like body kits and custom liveries. The funny thing – which is also a testament to GT realism by the way – is that the old tricks from GT1 still work. Some of the cheapest items will still give you the advantage you need. Upgrade the ECU, buy sports suspension, get a new exhaust, and add in some soft tires, then you are pretty much sorted for most scenarios. Just be mindful to test out your car before you enter a championship. There’s nothing worse than spending a bomb and realising you chose the wrong tool for the job.
“Gran Turismo 7 makes use of the haptic feedback controller in an impressively nuanced way.”
On the PS5, Gran Turismo 7 makes use of the haptic feedback controller in an impressively nuanced way. Whilst many other racing games have gone with simply dialling up the trigger resistance to the max, Polyphony Digital has taken a different route. There is some SLIGHT resistance when using the brake, but really not much from the accelerator. I feel like as the race goes on or the brakes heat up, it takes more pressure.
You can really feel when the car is starting to lose some traction as the resistance ever so slightly increases. This makes sense because in reality an accelerator pedal won’t be fighting you every step of the way. The result of all of this sorcery is that some slight resistance helps you to find the point where you are just about to overcook a corner entry or exit. The controller rumble is also super subtle – you can feel little bumps in the road, you can feel when you hit a puddle on a wet track, or even sometimes the feeling of the draft when you are closing in on a car. It’s all a bit hard to explain… but the smart haptic feedback makes it feel like you can feel the air. How they have managed to be this precise with the haptics is beyond me.
Let’s talk graphics. It is just a fact that Gran Turismo has always been a showpiece for PlayStation hardware and through its 25 years, it has produced some astonishing visuals. So does Gran Turismo 7 make your eyes bleed with its high-resolution, crystal clear graphics? And will its beauty make you cry happy tears? It comes as no surprise that Gran Turismo 7 has some genuinely breathtaking visuals on display, but it comes with a bit of a caveat though; most of the time during races you probably won’t notice.
The third-person view in Gran Turismo 7, well, any Gran Turismo for that matter, is a bit odd. I can never quite put my finger on it, but I think it’s related to the camera angle/distance from the car and the fact the vehicle is locked to the centre of the screen. It comes dangerously close to giving the impression that the track is moving around the car rather than vice versa and it just always looks a little artificial to me. Sure, you can see more of the track and admire the environment… but it’s just a little weird. But who plays Gran Turismo like that anyway, right?
The in-car view is where the money is and definitely the only way to play. Gran Turismo 7 features variable weather and time during races so when it starts to rain you can see all those raindrops and the reflections coming off the windscreen. When day turns to night, the inside of your car flashes like a strobe light as you scream past floodlights.
Even little details like the effect of the headlights from the car behind you was something I never knew I needed in a racing game. You can feel the car behind you breathing down your neck as their blinding high beams light up the cockpit, this adds some excitement and urgency to your cornering, particularly in the latter stages of races. The sheer beauty of Gran Turismo 7 may pass you by during some of the races, but the replays put the visuals on full blast and demonstrate some truly amazing moments.
Aside from admiring my own driving skills, I watched a replay of a race where I was caning it around Special Stage Route X at max speed down the back straight. In this moment, the camera pans out to show the desert blasting by and an array of huge satellites in the distance – I don’t find myself genuinely impressed very often, but that was just one of those moments where I just thought to myself ‘wow’. As the camera moves around you can see all the effort and detail put into every single object, absolutely stunning.
“The beauty of Gran Turismo 7 extends to every aspect of the game, but none more so than ‘scapes’”
The beauty of Gran Turismo 7 extends to every aspect of the game, but none more so than ‘scapes’ where you can take photographs of your cars in stunning settings from all over the world. It is nice to have a way to admire your collection and create some beautiful keepsakes of your favourites. It is more fun than it sounds even though you may need to know something about photography to really understand what all of the settings do.
Of course, there is also online racing in Gran Turismo 7. There weren’t any races on when I went to check during my review period, but it is split up into two parts. There is the returning GT Sport (which is the global competition) made up of officially sanctioned races with set rules, with a global leader board if you want to be a pro GT racer. Or you can go old school and set up your own races in a lobby like any other racing game with online functions. The custom races will likely be more fun unless you really want to be a pro.
One thing that is missing at launch is VR support. This was my favourite part of GT Sport for PS4 and is the only genuine disappointment I felt during my time with Gran Turismo 7. It should have been there at launch, but I am sure that when PSVR2 arrives sometime in the future, I will be able to drive my collection the way I want to.
- Subtle and innovative use of haptic feedback
- Loads of options available to tailor your experience
- Trademark Gran Turismo visuals are on full blast
- This series is still amongst the best of all racers
- Structured campaign MAY be a turn off for some
- No PSVR support at launch
Gran Turismo 7 is essentially a celebration of the series’ 25th anniversary, melding features old and new and presenting it on next-generation hardware. Polyphony Digital’s sheer love of cars and obsession with detail flows through every single part of this game. The forced main campaign could be a turn off for some, but it is countered by their use of subtle, innovative haptic feedback and the experience of driving these legendary cars around legendary tracks. There is a method to the madness. The world is quickly moving on from fossil fuels and combustion engines, but there is no denying that these are some beautiful machines… and this is a beautiful game.