Either by coincidence or design, Gran Turismo 7 was a quarter-century in the making. Since its inception on the original PlayStation, the franchise has maintained its singular focus of being a “real driving simulator” first and foremost, unlike most other arcade-style games in the genre. While some may find this philosophy little more than a gratification of the excesses of car culture, by sticking to this coda the series has practically become a genre unto itself.
Series creator Kazunori Yamauchi and Polyphony Digital have delivered the seventh mainline entry right on time to help ring in the 25th anniversary of Gran Turismo, an exquisite racing experience that goes far beyond merely getting from point A to B. It’s about more than that. Indeed, this is a loving celebration of everything that makes the automotive world so special and appealing. And with Gran Turismo 7, that love is palatable.
TLdr: the core of Gran Turismo 7 is exactly what you’d expect and appreciate from the series. While the prior release of Gran Turismo Sport primarily focused on competitive multiplayer within the constraints of formula-style motorsports, the GT7 experience returns to more conventional territory with its deceptively simple formula: offer up a wealth of content by collecting hundreds of pristine cars from the world’s most known automakers with dozens of tracks, along with a bunch of circuit exhibitions and challenges.
A Familiar Formula
Returning players will immediately recognize the basic progression from starting at the bottom with license tests, buying a cheap ride, and hitting a few tracks to earn credits. It’s par for the course with a overworld map hub to tie everything together similar to how GT4 looked, although GT7 does a bit more handholding to ease newcomers into the club. Unlike previous entries, you’re initially guided along with content gradually unlocking instead of being inundated with tons of activities you couldn’t access from the beginning anyways. Much of it being handled through the Café.
Speaking of the Café, players are introduced to a man named Luca, an NPC that runs a coffee shop and conveniently offers a menu of select races to earn specific vehicles to build your collection and get acquainted to their class types. The way these missions are doled out are intended to provide a brief explanation on why these cars are iconic, and sometimes a quip about the collection’s place in automotive history. It’s supposed to add some character and picturesque backdrops to what would have been static menus, which has always been somewhat plain compared to other games that have adopted more over-the-top flash in their presentations.
Progression in Gran Turismo has typically been a bit dry but purposeful. On one hand, the process of sending players out with low-end cars and slowly unlocking hypercars gives player a clear sense of accomplishment but instant gratification is never what GT7 or any other iteration in the series was about, instead you’ll have to either play for hours to earn the privilege or purchase some in-game credits on the PlayStation Store. Even then, many of the premier cars in the showroom still can’t be bought until you’ve earned a coveted invitation to do so.
For long-timers this won’t be much of a revelation, but others might be turned off by how explicitly limited and stringent a lot of these hurdles are to overcome. Oh well. Remember the saying that “money doesn’t buy prestige”.
Everything else from GT Sport is also included, so the usual license tests from ‘National A’ to the coveted ‘Super’ licenses will challenge your competence and prowess behind the wheel, sometimes more than the actual races themselves. When you do start racing for real, you’ll quickly learn that GT7 is unlike the arcade-style racers you’re used to and requires considerably more precision to compete. This is also when you realize that taking those license tests become vital and you’ll need more than in-game handicaps such as on-screen racing lines, assisted braking, and ABS among other things to learn the fundamentals.
Customization is another high point here, with an exorbitant amount of tuning and aesthetic options to play around with. The selection is comprehensive with a total of over 2000 parts from paint and aerodynamic and alterations pieces. This extends to actual tuning option that is easy to understand and tinker around with, whether your needs are standard, or you have knowledge for more extreme performance upgrades.
A Broader Audience
Other modes in GT7 such as Music Rally mode tries to add a casual mood from the usual grind, which plays more like an arcade-style game by hitting checkpoints within a time limit to the beat (BPM) of a chosen song from its soundtrack. You have to play it at least once when first play GT7 as a inoffensive, though unexceptionally mundane introduction to the game itself. Fortunately, online play is more substantial with casual and ranked options.
Those familiar with GT Sport will find much of the experience familiar, as will those who find the simulation of F1 rules and penalties appealing. There’s a huge emphasis on sportsmanship and enforced driving etiquette to a degree bordering on the obsessive.
PS4 vs. PS5
Let’s talk about the game’s presentation, which has been optimized to run on both current and last-generation PlayStation hardware. As we all know, this title is a multi-platform affair for PlayStation consoles with the source engine derived and retooled from Gran Turismo Sport. This means things generally look fantastic on the PS4/PS4 Pro but become noticeably enhanced on PlayStation 5 hardware, mainly in terms of detail aesthetics and native resolution.
PlayStation 5 gamers will enjoy native 4K output, improved environmental draw distances, motion blur (also on PS4 Pro in 1080p mode), and realistic lighting effects during gameplay, while the PS4 Pro gets 3200×1800 via checkerboard rendering with HDR (HDR10/bt.2020). Meanwhile the base PS4 versions makes do with just 1080p, but all iterations are optimized to hit 60fps.
It should go without saying that Gran Turismo 7 running on the PlayStation 5 looks gorgeous, and the sub-2 second loading times are quite incredible. Those lucky enough to have the console will feel more than justified with their purchase here. Other features like real-world raytracing are present on but deceptively limited to the non-driving things like racing replays and photoshoots in ‘Scapes’ mode. Beyond the visuals, other things like Tempest stereoscopic audio technology (on compatible headphones) and DualSense controller haptic feedback is accounted for.
Last-gen fans shouldn’t feel left out, however, and the game still shines brightly on older hardware (indeed, much of my time with GT7 was playing on an aging PS4 Pro, which is likely where most are going to enjoy the experience anyway). Those worrying about progression shouldn’t, as you’ll be able to upgrade your progress – and your platform – from PS4 to PS5 without much hassle when the time comes.
I’ve been pining for another console racing simulator like Gran Turismo 7 for what felt like forever, and I’m glad the series back in full form and ready to burn rubber once again with a killer app combination that’s equally demanding in structure as it is rewarding in scope. As much as I’ve come to appreciate the looser, more open structure of its racing competitors, namely the Forza games, there’s something admirable about a series that unabashedly worships car culture I find irresistible.