It’s been 84 years…
Back when Gran Turismo was one of the only simulation-heavy racing games, it was an institution: both at large and in my home. Gran Turismo 2 is one of my most-played games of all time, period, over my lifetime. But somewhere around the “Prologue” release of the fifth iteration, I started to get a little more distant. Instead of living in its world, I was merely a frequent tourist. Gran Turismo 7 changed that.
One of the first things I noticed about Gran Turismo 7 is that its loading screens are littered with jazz and basketball facts. Historical facts, actually.
Polyphony Digital is really leaning into nostalgia this time around, and not just for the GT series, but nostalgia as a whole. And you know what? It works. The whole product, from top to bottom, feels like it has stuff packed in, so that something is always going on, even if you’re looking at brief text on-screen.
The second thing I noticed about the new entry is the visual style. I experienced the game on PS5, where it looks stunning and runs fantastically. A few screens looked like they were real, and GT7 along with the Forza series has brought in a hyper-realistic style that works super well for modern racers. While a lot of visual mediums suffer from it, it’s a boon for the genre, especially when the weather kicks in.
Since numbers often matter to racing fans, here are the cold hard stats as to what GT7 entails at launch:
- Over 400 cars (in-game I have a “there are 424 cars to collect” notification)
- 60 manufacturers
- 34 tracks (with 97 layouts total) with traditional races and a “music rally” arcade mode
Your main sense of progression is going to come from the hub, which facilitates café questlines (mostly involving completing objectives like a specific race to chase, or collecting a certain array of cars), license challenges (gates that allow you to unlock more content), and general races that up your cashflow [credits] and let you buy more cars to store in your garage. There are a few hubs you can visit in the text-based overworld (like your garage, used car dealerships, the aforementioned café, and so on). That’s the loop. And to GT fans, it’s very familiar.
The café itself is a bizarre bourgeois location where you acquire literal restaurant menus as “quests,” and try and complete them to move on to the next set of menus. It’s strange, and I want to meet the person behind the concept because I think they’d have a lot of interesting things to say. You can see this come through in the dialogue from the “car experts” in-universe, where they wax poetic about the olden days of car design and spout car facts left and right.
All of those descriptors are compliments. While GT7 looks traditional on the surface, it can get a little weird at times and strangely contemplative. While I wouldn’t say that I encountered “gates” so to speak in a traditional sense, there were lull periods, where I was expected to dabble in racing cheaper cars for a bit to appreciate them before moving on to the next loose “stage.”
Depending on the type of person you are, it can be exhausting at times, and can feel like a drip-feed of unlocks. But GT7 does make it clear that you should stop and smell the roses and not rush: there’s plenty to get to. Circling back to those track layouts, there are multiple ways to play a course. You can do a classic reverse racing situation, as well as dabble in parts of the track (to the point where it doesn’t even feel like the same location, in a good way), and take on time trials, free play lobbies (where you can just drive around and chill), arcade mode, and events.
If you’re concerned that Gran Turismo 7 is going to be too “simmy,” you can change that. The difficulty settings have a ton of sliders, and you can alter pretty much every facet of actual driving and how the map presents information. You can turn on brake areas, and have your car automatically brake in those zones. Or you can do a combination of that, put turn markers on so you see how to tackle a course, and have visual cues or straight-up autopilot on with several driving mechanics. Tutorials like starting and stopping your car also help you learn the basics.
As time has gone on, some studios (mainly first-party Sony outfits) have started to really justify the DualSense. It started wonderfully with Astro’s Playroom at launch, but a lot of developers just kind of…forgot about it. Polyphony Digital on the other hand uses haptic feedback to simulate sliding, understeering, and road conditions. To say it’s “immersive” is a bit cliché, but it helps soften the blow for folks who don’t want to shell out hundreds of bucks for a racing wheel. To its credit, Microsoft did this a generation ago with Forza, and it was better for it: I like the trend! Fully customizable controls and even full menus for individual racing wheels are going to make a lot of people happy.
GT7 is an approachable sim that will also cater to people who like to just tinker and flip through menus, or look at the cars they picked up at their own pace. That tinkering can get as broad as installing a new air filter to get a slight edge, or changing your oil and giving your vehicle a car wash. And you know what? It kind of offers the same experience as a Tamagotchi pet, and it’s still addicting. Gran Turismo allows you to invest in specific cars, and it’s easy to bond with these formations of pixels. Picking out cars that can show potential is a skill, and the game makes it convenient to continue to hone in on that intuition.
Which leads me to the photo mode. When combined with the tune-up portion, it really becomes a “game away from the game.” For some people, a lot of your time isn’t going to be spent actually racing: you’re doing side activities that can often lead into more side activities. And it’s arguably the best part of some racing games. As sims have leaned more into the “get inside and check out the car” mechanics, I’ve leaned with it. I’m no car audio expert — and I’m sure some people might have issues with the engine notes — but the 3D audio in Gran Turismo 7 sounds fantastic as well.
Gran Turismo 7 isn’t the second coming of racing games, and it doesn’t need to be. It still captures that feeling of spending hours and hours admiring your garage and flipping through car facts from a few of the best entries in the series, and still feels like a big-budget racer.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]