The Gran Turismo games have been on a downward trajectory ever since their PlayStation 3 days. Granted, Gran Turismo 5 and 6 were both good games in their own right, but Gran Turismo Sport is where, in my opinion, the series started to drift away from its roots. It was an online-only title, and the lack of a focused single player component at launch kind of detached it from a series that was always known for its in-depth solo offerings. This is not to say that Sports was a bad game, and in the years following its release it received a ton of updates to its online modes, along with a decent chunk of single player content added in for good measure. In hindsight, in fact, Gran Turismo Sport was setting up the stage for Gran Turismo 7- a stage so big that Sport itself is just a mode within the series’ latest iteration. That alone should give you an idea about the scale that Polyphony Digital is aiming for with Gran Turismo 7. And after having played it over the last several days, I am convinced that it is by far the best entry the series has seen in years, if not one of the greatest racing simulation games of all time.
Gran Turismo 7 offers a number of single player modes, but chief among them is GT Café, which will ease players into the game’s various gameplay mechanics. Literally taking place in a café, an NPC will initially take you through amateur activities, like how the in-game garage works, and tuning your rides. But as more Menus (which is what tasks in the mode are called) are completed, more complex racing scenarios start getting triggered. From collecting cars from a specific vehicle manufacturer to competing in championships, the Café is an enthralling ride that never gets old. Once you complete a specific event, you will be treated with splendid visuals describing the manufacturer’s origins. It literally feels like you are a student in a school where you have undertaken this beautiful journey of learning the history behind the cars you collect and the people who made them. All of this is backed by a solid yet simple progression system called Collector Level. As the name implies, your Collector Level will increase when you procure a new vehicle. As you level up, you will unlock rewards like in-game credits, cosmetic items like helmet and attires, and even vehicles. The Café mode is easily one of the biggest highlights of Gran Turismo 7, and it’s a bit shocking that something so simple can be so addicting.
"Gran Turismo 7 is by far the best entry the series has seen in years, if not one of the greatest racing simulation games of all time."
On the roster front, Gran Turismo 7 features over 400 car models that have been stunningly recreated with the utmost attention to detail. The vehicles in Gran Turismo Sport already looked superb, so the improvements here are mostly down to how the lighting is handled, and the improved texture materials. Thanks to the PlayStation 5’s processing power, cars look much closer to reality- the reflections are crisp and detailed, the way the light bounces off each vehicle during night races is a sight to behold, and the interiors of the vehicles are intricately crafted. Players can also buy new vehicles from the Used Cars section or Brand Central. The in-game pricing felt balanced in my experience, and many of the vehicles on offer can also be bought by completing the various modes that Gran Turismo 7 has to offer. I didn’t need to grind to buy a new car, as the credit system just flows naturally. There is also a way to buy in-game credits through real money, but the store content was not available during my time with the game, so I have no impressions to share on how monetization is handled in Gran Turismo 7- but as I mentioned, the existing system felt balanced enough, so I think players need not worry.
Although not much has changed in the way players will increase their car collection, the same cannot be said about how vehicles handle. Gran Turismo 7 has this laser sharp focus on precise driving, which places an emphasis on speed, braking point, taking the right angle while rounding a corner, and many other minor details as important parameters when you are racing. But when you get the hang of it, controlling vehicles feels like a sweet dream. On top of that, driving becomes even more challenging thanks to the game’s AI. Vehicle AI is smart, and opponents will defend their position, cut you off, or hold their line, especially on higher difficulties. Do not expect rash AI behavior, as Gran Turismo 7 is about doing things the right way. All of this comes together to deliver excellent racing mechanics and memorable moments.
Where tracks are concerned, Gran Turismo 7 features over 90 variations of them, which include fan favorites like Trial Mountain, Le Mans, and Nürburgring. As expected, the tracks have been designed carefully so that they resemble their real life counterparts as closely as possible. Each of these tracks has different events attached to them. You can select an Arcade mode and go head-to-head against the game’s AI, do time trials and best your own lap times, or complete drift trials. If that is not enough, you can also run through a Circuit Experience, where you need to hit specific lap times within sections of the same track. You can also have a race with custom settings that govern things like penalty rules, the number of cars, and more. All in all, there is a comprehensive suite of options attached to each track, which makes them highly replayable.
"Gran Turismo 7 has this laser sharp focus on precise driving, which places an emphasis on speed, braking point, taking the right angle while rounding a corner, and many other minor details as important parameters when you are racing."
As mentioned earlier, a number of other single player modes have been added besides the aforementioned Café as well. Players can partake in Missions and Music Rally- the former is a series of events that require players to compete in activities like completing a lap in a vehicle with limited fuel, drifting around a track to achieve a certain score, catching up with other vehicles to win a race, maintaining a certain straight line speed, or hitting every cone in your path. The Music Rally mode, meanwhile, is similar to the classic time extension races that you have probably played a million times before, but the difference here is that seconds have been replaced with beats. Granted, none of these modes sound like out-of-the-box ideas, but as a whole they do add to the experience. Personally, I found them to be nice distractions from the Café mode, and think they’re something that players can focus on once they complete other modes.
Gran Turismo 7 also features a suite of customization options scattered across its Tuning, Garage, and GT Auto sections. Through the settings menu in the Garage, you can customize your vehicle to the t. From changing body height to updating differentials, there are dozens of options that can be tinkered with. These settings will feel complex to the average player, but for those who are looking for that crucial tenth of a second, the customization suite provides a complex structure of options. You can also widen body of a vehicle, make your own livery in an editor, change wheels, and replace existing parts with brand new components. Some of these are cosmetic in nature, but the likes of adding a rear wing or regaining body rigidity will likely impact on-track handling. Gran Turismo 7 also has an in-game section for buying specific that will improve performance parameters for brakes, tires, and other components. Buying these items will be crucial for races where only specific components are allowed, like, say, races that allow only soft compound tires. All in all, the game features a very extensive framework for customization and tuning options for ensuring your car is up to snuff for upcoming races- provided you are ready to invest your time into learning about the game’s various complicated systems.
Another parameter that will impact races is Gran Turismo 7’s dynamic weather system. An excellent example of this is how the track behaves under heavy rain. As you follow the car ahead of you, a stream of water will get accumulated on the non-racing line, and should you dare to veer onto that, your car’s handling may suffer and it may go off track. Polyphony Digital has said that even little things like track temperature impact tire grip, so if you are racing during the day, the track temperature may be normal, resulting in better grip, while on the same track during nighttime, tire grip may not be as good. The developers have used a weather simulation system to implement atmospheric effects that result in several on-track conditions like that can also affect visibility. It’s a complex web of simulations that cannot be explained in full in a review, but in simpler terms, Gran Turismo 7 features one of the most realistic weather effects in a racing game.
"The game features a very extensive framework for customization and tuning options for ensuring your car is up to snuff for upcoming races- provided you are ready to invest your time into learning about the game’s various complicated systems."
Another technicality that Gran Turismo 7 excels in is the sound design of its cars. Up until the PlayStation 3 era, cars would sound like they were running through some cheap speaker. Gran Turismo Sport’s audio was much better, but now, thanks to the PS5’s Tempest 3D audio tech, Gran Turismo 7’s sound system is just fantastic. Listening to the engine roar as I sped down a straight was a pleasant experience. Furthermore, I was also able to predict the direction from which a vehicle was trying to overtake me just by judging the direction of the sound it was making as it advanced.
On top of that, besides using the PS5’s aural features, Gran Turismo 7 perhaps has the best implementation of the DualSense’s features. If you are moving with great speed down a straight and plan to brake late, the trigger will become harder to pull down. There is also a continuous sense of rumble as you switch gears or when, say, one of your tires lands in a puddle. Specific on-track events like the aforementioned ones have a different intensity of haptic feedback, resulting in a racing experience like never before.
A returning feature from Gran Turismo Sport is the Scapes mode. For those who are unaware, Scapes is Gran Turismo 7’s photo mode, but dialed up to the max. Because this isn’t just merely a photo mode. This is a photo editor’s dream. The mode features several hundred locations across the world where players can place their favorite cars and play with dozens of technical options like filters, lighting intensity, angles of shots, and others. I could easily see many players investing several hours into Scapes as they look for that perfect angle and shot. The fact that Polyphony Digital has added so many options into something that doesn’t impact gameplay is bedazzling.
"If I were to describe Gran Turismo 7 in a few words, it would be as follows: it is a celebration of car culture. It’s an accumulation of everything racing games should be."
Gran Turismo 7 also features the Sport mode, of course, which is technically another game entirely when you come to think of it. It features daily races as players aim for the best Driver Rating (DR), which in turn is related to your Sportsmanship Rating (SR). So, any kind of rash driving will impact your SR, which will also affect your DR. I was able to get some time with this mode, however the lobbies were not too populated, so I wasn’t able to test the full extent of it. But given that this mode is literally called Sport, I don’t expect the experience to be largely different from Gran Turismo Sport. Lastly, splitscreen returns with Gran Turismo 7, so you can tag along with a friend on a couch. This mode largely plays out as expected, but there is a lack of a cockpit view- which is kind of expected, given that the game has to render two instances of gameplay at once.
If I were to describe Gran Turismo 7 in a few words, it would be as follows: it is a celebration of car culture. It’s an accumulation of everything racing games should be. There is a long running “are video games art?” debate that has been part of the industry’s discourse for several years. My review won’t resolve that debate, but if games are indeed art, then Gran Turismo 7 is proof of that thesis. It’s an intricately designed product, a beautiful racing game crafted with love and care, and most importantly, it’s true to its soul and core, something that made the original Gran Turismo games a household name all those years ago. Gran Turismo 7 is a triumph for racing games and for Polyphony Digital, and we can’t wait to see what is next for the series.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.
In-depth car customization; Fantastic attention to detail; Beautiful graphics; Great variety in single player offerings; Café mode is amazing; Mind-blowing weather system; Excellent audio design; On-track racing action is second to none.