Gran Turismo is a truly singular racing game series; there’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in the genre, from the particular sensibilities of the driving and car handling, to its evergreen selection of original race circuits, and even its visual style. More than that, though, it’s the way that certain fascinations from series creator Kazunori Yamauchi and the team at Polyphony Digital are able to infuse each new entry.
After GT5‘s maximalist approach and GT6‘s Vision GT project, GT Sport took on the realms of esports with a side helping of digital photography through its ‘Scapes’ mode. GT7’s new passion projects include spoon feeding you automotive history and listening to music.
Music Rally is literally the first thing you see in the game, an adaptation of the classic checkpoint races where time ticks down to the music’s BPM instead of second-by-second. It’s immediately followed by Music Replay, which has the replay cut camera angles in time to the musical phrases. They’re nice enough modes and features, a change of pace from the regular racing, but I doubt they’ll be more than a passing distraction for many. It’s odd to me that Music Rally has such a prominent position on the start menu, choosing between that and the World Map where you access everything else in the game.
GT Mode is gone, by the way. The single player structure of classic Gran Turismo games has been replaced primarily by a café and Luca, its exceedingly cheery proprietor who sends you out to race and collect different cars, as well as unlocking and exploring the other activities that you’ll find across the world map. These ‘Menu Books’ will send you to a few Japanese tracks to race in Japanese superminis, then pop into some European hatchback sprints, then go and take a photo of a car in Scapes, then some more racing, then license tests, and on and on.
It’s a redressing of the familiar progression from those same superminis up through to ever higher-powered cars from around the world, but each time you return with a completed menu book, you’re then regaled by tales of those cars, and designers will pop in if you’re currently driving a car that they worked on. It’s a nice thematic shift to preserving automotive history, even if it gets in the way of letting you hop online for the first few hours of the game. Eventually you’ll have the full freedom to take on the more difficult Mission Challenges, tackle the returning License Tests, and really tax yourself by taking on events marked with spicy chillies where the AI actually feels like they’ve got a bit of pace.
Throughout, GT7‘s handling feels impeccable. It’s easy to pick up and play, but there’s still so much depth and nuance to getting the best out of your car. The PS5’s DualSense can enhance the experience on the new generation, giving you feedback through the triggers in a way that’s informative rather than bombastic as it relays the sensation of the brakes struggling as you slam them down ahead of an apex, or the edge of grip under acceleration. Even so, a serious racer will obviously want to plug in a racing wheel.
A returning layer is the need to buy cars from the second hand dealer, grabbing classic cars that have been pre-loved in addition to new vehicles from Brand Central, and a smattering of classics from a third auto-store. You’ll likely want to visit the Tuning Shop to throw Gran Turismo’s usual array of car upgrades. There’s some new bits of kit in there, such as a power limiter and permanent engine improvement like a bore up or high lift camshaft, but many familiar upgrades return, and tyre compounds continue to have a huge impact on car performance. GT Auto is also back, which brings back the classic GT oil change, alongside wide body mods, and a comprehensive but overwhelming livery editor.
One of the new behind the scenes features of GT7 is that Performance Points (PP) of all the cars is now simulated whenever you make changes and upgrades. That should help tighten up some of the performance disparities between vehicles, though obviously you will still have strengths and weaknesses in performance between different cars through different parts of the track.
Returning for GT7 is wet weather racing, adding the potential treachery of slippery conditions, untrustworthy kerbs and ill-suited tyres to the list of things you need to worry about. There’s nothing quite like peering through the thick spray kicked up by the car in front, barely able to make out their tail lights while trying to figure out where you might need to brake. The rain can come and go through a race, with a natural progression between dry and wet that occurs differently when on or off the racing line.
There’s also the passage of time that returns. Where GT Sport had fixed times through the day, GT7 brings back the ability for time to shift, the sun to arc through the sky and dip below the horizon. The light that it casts, the clouds, even the starry skies have been sampled and recreated to match what it would really be like.
The caveat is that Polyphony has been typically restrained in which tracks to implement both wet weather and 24 hour racing on. You get them where it makes sense – so you’ll get rain but not night races at the Red Bull Ring and the reverse for Mount Panorama – but it’s a shame that these aren’t universally afforded to Polyphony’s fictional tracks.
GT7 looks great, even if it can feel a tad beholden to the last generation in action. The art direction still exudes pristine precision, even when considering the build up of dirt and rubber from cars rampaging across kerbs and cutting into the grassy verges. That all holds true across both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, though the PS5 runs at a higher resolution. It also has a ray tracing option, though this is as restricted as VR was in GT Sport. Ray tracing only features in replays, in the garage and scenes where you’re not driving the car. It does refine the lighting and shadows, in replays it adds a refined motion blur that’s missing in performance mode, but it’s honestly rather subtle and you’ll be hard pressed to spot the differences without side-by-side analysis. You’ll be far more likely to feel the shift from 60fps to 30fps. Of course, none of that matters when you’re racing.
Speaking of the graphics, we can return to Kaz’s last passion project: Scapes. This mode lets you blend digital cars with meticulously captured photographic data, really letting you set a car in a location. Perhaps I’m just more used to the idea now than I was five years ago, but Scapes now sits firmly in the uncanny valley of CGI.
GT7’s multiplayer is effectively identical to what you have in GT Sport. You have Sport mode, with its excellent scheduled races that have qualifying-based matchmaking to try and engender close racing. This even brings forward whatever player ratings you’d earned in GT Sport, so you can pick up right where you left off. That’s joined by custom multiplayer lobbies, where you can set whatever track, vehicle restrictions, and race conditions you like and go racing, whether it’s open to all players or kept private.
The one additional multiplayer mode is the Meeting Rooms that many, but not all tracks on the World Circuit have. These boil down to being free driving lobbies, where you can hop in and take to the track, but are defined spaces to join instead of being found through the custom lobbies where a host can fiddle with the settings.
Thanks a million for the fantastic review Stefan.
Can’t wait to play and start searching the used cars section again.
I hope they let you change the position of the lap timer away from the center, it used to annoy me when looking at rear view especially.
There’s no HUD layout options like that, I’m afraid…
Ah that’s a shame, thanks for letting us know though. Maybe down the line ?
I’ve bought various GT games over the years and never really enjoyed any of them. You’d think I’d learn my lesson that they’re just not for me, yet here I am considering buying this one too.
The bit I’m looking forward to most is GT Sophy, the most realistic AI ever in a racing game. It’s a shame ‘she’ won’t be included at launch but Polyphony are hoping it will be added later this year.
I’m also hoping GT 7 will support PSVR 2 when it’s launched. It would certainly help to sell the HMD.
Yeah, I’d hope that they add PSVR2 support as well, but it should be as comprehensive as possible. If it’s like the ultra-basic side mode from GT Sport, then there’s really no point.
I’m hoping the whole game will be playable in VR. I can’t see any reason why it couldn’t, maybe multi-player might cause problems but there are pc games where it’s possible.
I’m still really enjoying GT Sport. I know it’s a slimmed down GT package, but I just can’t see enough to warrant upgrading to 7 quite yet. My only issue is the AI – they’re so slow!