Remember when Gran Turismo 5’s pre-release screens looked too good to be true? They were. Thankfully, PS5 has finally allowed Kazunori Yamauchi and his team to realise that vision with Gran Turismo 7. Best of all, it doesn’t pander to modernity in the slightest, instead delivering thoroughly ’90s game design, only in exquisite detail. The main bulk of the career mode is spent outrunning outwardly slower cars in gameplay more reminiscent of Ridge Racer: Type 4. As the game goes on, the hip hop dies away, leaving guitar solos that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Sega Saturn. Yet it does this all with an abundance of class. It’s playfully silly when it wants to be, yet absolutely serious when the helmet’s on.
Fast Facts: Gran Turismo 7
Release Date: March 4, 2022
Platforms: PS5, PS4
Developer: Polyphony Digital
It’s an absolutely gargantuan game. It’s taken me about 28 hours to master all the license tests and all of the menu books in the all-new ‘Gran Turismo Cafe’, but there are hundreds of things left to do after that, let alone play online. It’s some six hours before multiplayer opens up, with a full-on GT Sport mode, as well as split-screen, and two-player local play. Even more solo missions are locked away behind your collector level, which rises as you accumulate cars, whether by buying them or winning them. The cafe menus of automotive delights direct you towards races that will win you the cars you need, which is a great way of leading you by the hand through what would otherwise be a bewildering wealth of racing options. Progression events are clearly marked with a little yellow icon, and the gameplay itself in these races is very short – usually about 10 minutes a race.
With the ultra-fast load times of PS5 (and not actually over-long on PS4), you’ll be zipping in and out of events, making it feel like – oddly – a handheld game. It’s perfect for quick bursts of fun, though you may yearn for more substantial races for the first 15 hours or so as you focus on piecemeal events, usually striving for gold rankings on short sections of track, whether that’s on the exquisitely precise license tests, the missions (which include drift and drag events) or the new ‘Circuit Experience’ which breaks up the track into a few corners at a time before giving you three-tiered target times to hit for the full lap.
There are, however, longer events too. Try 30 laps of Tsukuba on a track that starts dry before being drenched with rain then partially drying out again. It’s a massive test of your skills. Wet weather tyres help, of course, but if you haven’t got them, you can still get around by sticking to the dry(er) line that emerges. Venture onto the visibly wet portion of the track and it’s like an ice rink. The weather change works beautifully in real-time, as does the accelerated day/night cycle. And it all looks wonderful. The very last licence test takes this to its extreme conclusion with a lap of a half-dry Spa. It’s superb and absolutely hardcore.
A joy to behold
Not enough is made about how games actually move, but Gran Turismo 7 nails it. It’s simply a joy to control, with smooth, ultra-solid driving physics that simulate every element of the car’s interaction with the track surface. The game runs at 60FPS at 4K on PS5, and if there’s any dynamic resolution scaling to maintain the frame-rate, I haven’t noticed it. However, it does occasionally hitch when things are ultra-busy, just going a bit choppy rather than slow. It’s also worth noting that I had one freeze crash and two instances where an incident on the track made the game suddenly seize up, running at a low frame-rate and reduced speed. Restarting the race sorted that out, but it was very strange. Fortunately that was all the trouble in some 30 hours of play, so I’m happy to say the game is an absolute delight for 99.9% of the time.
That’s all on Performance Mode, but I have to say the PS5-exclusive ray-tracing mode doesn’t really do it for me. 30FPS replays with weird edges don’t look anywhere near as good as the standard, super-slick 60FPS action, so unless you’re taking stills, I’d advise leaving it off. It still looks next-gen. In fact going back to the PS4 version after 30 hours on PS5 is like stepping into the past. It looks so rough in comparison, though it’s by no means inferior to the excellent GT Sport. PS5 just makes it look supreme – a showcase for 4K gaming.
With so many modes, talking about them all in depth would take thousands of words, so I’ll be brief. Music Rally is entertaining enough as you pass checkpoints to earn more beats per minute (basically ‘more time’) on a song that’s played with a higher volume than usual, at least compared to the cars. The game gives you three of these – again with Gold, Silver or Bronze awards – to play with while you wait for the full game to install, which is a nice touch, with three more when it has. Music Replay syncs camera cuts to the music that you’re listening to, which is nice but not really worthy of a bullet point on the box. Some tracks also have a new ‘meeting place’ where you can connect to an online lobby and use a text window to talk to other people, share photos and liveries and enjoy just driving around the track.
Events are now collected under the banner of each racetrack, so you would select, say, Brands Hatch, and then decide whether to play an arcade race (with three difficulties), a time trial, a drift trial or a custom race. These go up to 200 laps with a maximum of 20 cars on the screen. You can choose slipstream strength and even the option of switching on mechanical damage. The heaviest setting for this really affects your car handling and engine power, but it’s simply not used during the main game, which is odd.
Damage (slightly) inc.
However, cosmetic damage is underplayed, though it is present. You can slightly dent up the panels of your shiny car, scratch some paintwork and cause hairline cracks on headlights. Normally I would be up in arms about such things, but this game is not about close contact racing and spectacular crashes. Instead, it’s a gentlemanly affair, constantly reminding you to play nice and leave other cars room. It rewards you with more credits for a clean race. And honestly, the cars look so beautiful, for once I don’t mind them staying that way.
The only other area of consternation is the difficulty balancing. With the ‘pass all the cars’ gameplay of the cafe mode, you’re not going to have a proper race with an AI car for any of the core Cafe menu game, except perhaps some races around the Nordschleife. But the ability to freely modify your ride to boost its ‘Performance Points’ is dubious as it makes you far faster than the rest of the field with no come-back. Arcade mode is better balanced, but the racing feel should be game-wide.
I’m less concerned about the threat of microtransactions. Having reviewed the game with these not yet enabled, I’m happy to report I always had enough credits to do what I wanted to do, but the option will be there to buy more credits with real money, to spend on cars and mods for them.
Fundamentally, this is one of the best driving games I’ve ever played. Not as bright or arrogant as Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec, nor as gorgeously-presented off the track as Forza Motorsport 7. But the most telling thing is that I just haven’t been able to stop playing it since I installed it, which I find is increasingly rare for a driving game. Gran Turismo 7 is the real deal and every PlayStation owner should buy it.
Reviewed on PS5 with a code provided by the publisher.
4.5 out of 5
Gran Turismo 7
Everything that made GT Sport so good, plus everything that made early Gran Turismo games so good. A simply stunning driving game and a superb showcase for PS5.