Racing games are a tricky thing to get right. It’s hard to cater to the entire demographic of racing fans, when some people want a pure racing simulation, and others want a relaxed, arcade-y type of experience. Gran Turismo 7 falls into the former category and does it extremely well.
I have very good memories of playing Gran Turismo, starting with the original Gran Turismo on the PS1. I remember my father buying it for my younger brother and I when I was in ninth grade and taking it home and playing for hours at a time. It was my first real introduction to cars and racing, and I couldn’t get enough. The same thing happened when I got GT2 and GT4. I took a break for 5 and 6, and then picked Gran Turismo Sport up on a whim because I had gotten tired of the arcade experience that I was getting with titles like Need for Speed, and Burnout Paradise.
I’ve had my eyes on Gran Turismo 7 for a while now, really looking forward to getting back into a full GT release. One of the things that Polyphony Digital wanted to do with this game is give a detailed history of motoring and racing. The opening cinematic is perfect evidence of that from images of the very first cars, to the current state of racing on tracks like the Nürburgring in Germany, and the Red Bull Ring in Austria.
The history lesson doesn’t stop there though, as almost every manufacturer available in the game has some kind of museum screen, or history excerpt in Brand Central (Gran Turismo 7’s new car shop) detailing how the company got started, their popular racing cars, etc. This is a fantastic touch for the history and racing buff in me. On multiple occasions, I found myself just reading about Renault, or the transition to the “M” division in BMW’s motorsport side of the company.
“One of the things that Polyphony Digital wanted to do with this game is give a detailed history of motoring and racing.”
The first thing Gran Turismo 7 makes you do is go through their newest game mode called “Music Rally”. This is where you have to see how far you can drive on a track before the time runs out. The big change though, is that it doesn’t go by time anymore, it goes by beats to the song that is playing. You extend the number of beats available by driving the track and passing checkpoints. I loved this game mode since it was a great, relaxing introduction to the game and made it fun to just drive, something that a lot of racing games have neglected recently.
Once the Music Rally section was completed, we were treated to the World Map, where the vast majority of the game is going to be played. We meet Sarah, who is the guide for most of the game. She tells us everything about the World Map as it is unlocked, starting with the Used Car Shop. The Used Car Shop has a lot of vehicles available from the start, but only some are within the budget. I selected the one that I thought was best for me, an inconsequential choice as I’d be getting a new vehicle very soon after anyways, and set off for the first race task.
There are a great many things to do on the World Map in Gran Turismo 7. Chief among them is going to be The Café This is where you’re going to progress the “story” and unlock the rest of the World Map, as well as tracks and cars along the way. The Café is run by Luca, one of many characters that take care of the different destinations on the World Map. Luca gives you a “menu book” of a task to complete and gives a reward upon completion. This task could be anything from completing a designated race or taking a photo of your car. The rewards vary as well, from unlocking new tracks and cars, to Roulette tickets.
“There are a great many things to do on the World Map in Gran Turismo 7.”
They have changed how items are awarded in the game this time around. Your daily workout reward is now a Roulette ticket instead of a random selection of three cars. Prizes can vary from cars, to credits, to parts. It is a tiered system as well, using a star system. 1-star tickets won’t be as good as, say, 4-star tickets. The latter of which you’ll earn as you progress in the game.
As you progress through the Café’s menu books, you’ll unlock more destinations on the World Map. Places like Brand Central, the Tuning Shop, The Garage, License Center, and more will become available as you play.
All of this is well and good, but if the game doesn’t play well, then what’s the point? Well, in short, the game plays beautifully. The menus are simple and easy to navigate, load times are minimal at worst, and the attention to detail in the tracks and cars is stunning. How a car handles in a racing game is a bit more involved than just making it go.
“As you progress through the Café’s menu books, you’ll unlock more destinations on the World Map.”
After playing Gran Turismo 7 for a little while now, I have noticed that the game is very much about tuning. I played a lot of the Daily Races in Gran Turismo Sport, and they allowed you to use a car that was pre-tuned to a balance of power so that all the other cars in that category were equally matched. In Gran Turismo 7, however, the regular races outside the online section require the cars to be upgraded using parts from the Tuning Shop. I realized very quickly, that I had been playing Need for Speed a bit too much because just buying and installing the parts is not enough to get the car to handle appropriately.
There were a fair few times that I was driving my ’03 BMW M3 around the big sweeping corner at Willow Springs and the car would start to slide out, forcing me to adjust the steering, resulting in a spin-out. Even when I would stubbornly try again, but not at full throttle, I’d get the same result. I took the car to my Garage and opened the car settings and quickly set to tuning the car to what I thought was good. I clearly had no idea what I was doing, but I was learning.
Make no mistake, the single-player portion of this game is absolutely geared towards tuning your cars for performance and handling alike. Some races require agile handling, like Alsace of the Nürburgring, and others need a lot of power all the time, like Daytona.
“Make no mistake, the single-player portion of this game is absolutely geared towards tuning your cars for performance and handling alike.”
I absolutely love the play-to-unlock format that Gran Turismo 7 employs here. The only thing I would have changed is the online section. In order to unlock the online section on the World Map, I had to play for roughly 2-2.5 hours first, opening up the other sections ahead of it. This is a bit of a grind to do if you just want to load the game and jump online with some friends. I understand that you’ll have to play for a bit, if only just to acquire a vehicle to use, but that’s a lot of gameplay if you aren’t keen on the format.
There are two hubs on the World Map that are online-oriented. One is called Sport and one is called Multiplayer. The Multiplayer hub is where you can create a lobby online, inviting your friends or random people to join, depending on your settings. You can select any track, limits on SR and DR (fans of GT Sport will recognize the abbreviations), and then join.
The Sport hub is where the Daily Races and FIA Championships are held. At the time of writing, there were no Daily Races available, nor any FIA championships, but I cannot imagine they will be any different from what was found in GT Sport.
For the uninitiated, Daily Races are generally split into three tracks and three different car requirements, and last about a week. Races typically run a couple of times an hour, and you are matched up based on your SR (Sportsmanship Rating) and DR (Driver Rating) respectively. Each of the two ratings has different ranks, E, D, C, B, A, A+, and S, with S being the highest/best.
Your Sportsmanship Rating is dictated by how clean you race, so don’t crash into people. Your Driver Rating is governed by how well you do in a race relative to your starting position. So, if you start in 8th place, let’s say, and you finish in 3rd, then your DR is going to go up. Similarly, it would go down if the opposite were true. SR and DR go up relative to each other as well, so you won’t get an E rating for SR and an A+ rating for DR.
FIA Championships, however, are multi-event championships, divided between Manufacturer and Nations. In the Manufacturers series, you select a manufacturer and choose one of their vehicles for each race in the series. In the Nations Cup, you represent your country and drive against others from other countries, with no restrictions on what manufacturer you can use.
If you played GT Sport, then your SR and DR will be carried over the Gran Turismo 7, so I am firmly sitting at a ‘C’ rating for both SR and DR.
License Center is back for Gran Turismo 7, with the same 5 licenses available in Gran Turismo 6: National-B, National-A, International-B, International-A, and Super License. Each of which has 9 tasks to complete and ends with a test for the 10th task. Standard fare for the Gran Turismo series. Gold, Silver, and Bronze trophies are awarded for different levels of completion, and if you get gold on each individual task in a License, you’ll get a reward car.
Mission events are also making a return in Gran Turismo 7. These mini events require you to complete a specific task in a short amount of time. For example, there is one Mission event where you need to pass all the Samba Buses on the uphill corners of Alsace in a 1966 Volkswagen Beetle 1200. These events are a lot of fun and give you a chance to drive some of the cars that generally get overlooked.
Gran Turismo 7 on PS5 is visually stunning. Polyphony Digital has really exceeded my expectations when it comes to making everything look good. There are two different graphics settings available as well: Prioritize Frame Rate, and Prioritize Ray Tracing. I kept my game set to Prioritize Frame Rate since Ray Tracing isn’t as important to me as frame rate.
There were so many times that I stopped and looked at the scenery around me when getting ready to drive, specifically on tracks like Monza, or Dragon Trail Gardens. The landscape is stunning and really makes the immersion even better, as the environments are as accurate as can be.
The PS5 version of the game also features things like haptic feedback on the controller and 3D audio. The haptic feedback I experienced almost instantly, feeling the controller vibrating under heavy braking. There were a couple of times that I felt it when I wasn’t expecting to as well. I was doing a Café menu book on the Tokyo Expressway track and could feel the controller vibrating subtly every second or so.
It took me a second, but I figured out that at set distances, there are bumps in the road that would cause that feedback. Things like this make it easier to get a good feel for the road and assist in determining how and when to brake or accelerate, all of which give an advantage in a race.
“The haptic feedback I experienced almost instantly, feeling the controller vibrating under heavy braking.”
As mentioned, Ray Tracing is available in Gran Turismo 7, but it is only available in Scapes mode, replays, and demo scenes. Now, this is a great feature if you are a big fan of the photography aspect of Gran Turismo 7. I, however, could take it or leave it. I feel like I would forget to switch between frame rate and ray tracing settings and the effect would be lost.
With over 400 different cars and 90 variations of tracks to drive on, there’s never a dull moment in Gran Turismo 7. There are a lot of real-world tracks and some returning fan favourites from previous GT entries like Trial Mountain. Not only are the tracks spectacular, but the weather also changes according to how the weather in that specific region changes, as well as time-based changes, like dusk moving to night. These all added an extra layer of immersion that I couldn’t have been happier about.
There are so many things I love about Gran Turismo 7, I can hardly fit them all in here. If you are looking for the definitive driving experience on PS5, then Gran Turismo 7 is the first and only stop on that train ride. It’s not called The Real Driving Simulator for nothing, and this is the best racing and driving game I have ever played. Casual players may find there is a lot to take in, but the opportunity is there to breed a new generation of racing and car enthusiasts.