The Gran Turismo series has long been at the pinnacle of console racing simulators. Since its inception on the original PlayStation in 1997, it's been synonymous with realistic, ultra-competitive driving experiences quite detached from some of its more arcade-inspired contemporaries. That appeal has lingered in the decades since, which is even more apparent in the virulent hype behind this latest entry, Gran Turismo 7.
After the PlayStation 4 received just one core GT entry, the solid but somewhat streamlined Gran Turismo Sport in 2016, core entries are back in 2022 with this latest numbered instalment in the franchise. Coming nine years after Gran Turismo 6, expectations are unsurprisingly high that the game can justify its presence on the latest PlayStation hardware.
The good news is that Gran Turismo 7 delivers on that expectation, and then some. It's the most polished, addictive, and accessible Gran Turismo game yet, wholly justifying its place as a marquee PS5 title for years to come. Believe the hype, and then some: Gran Turismo 7 is one of the most complete racing experiences you'll ever lay your hands on.
Racing Like No Other
Gran Turismo 7 would earn none of this much-deserved praise if the gameplay wasn't suitably engaging, but it's some of the best driving the series has ever produced. The variety of cars and tracks on offer is astounding, with hundreds of unique vehicles and a total of 36 tracks at launch. It's a cliché for sure, but Gran Turismo 7 is an unfettered love letter to motor racing. From the emotive opening montage, showcasing stock footage from the early days of rally driving to the present day, to the high-octane battles at the Nurburgring, there's something for everyone, with a really intuitive tutorial mode to hold the hand of newcomers.
The driving is better than it's ever been, and that's in no small part thanks to the PS5 hardware, and especially the DualSense controller. More on that later, but it's the most responsive and skill-based gameplay in the series yet. You truly feel every gear change, every rumble of the brake pedals, every divot in the road. If you found GT Sport's roster to be a little too focused on F1-style tracks, then you'll be glad to know that there are a bunch of street rallies and off-road experiences to be had here, meaning every race is fresh.
But GT7 also carries over the strengths of its predecessor, most notably in the dynamic weather and environmental effects that ensure you can never rest on your laurels. Rain causes puddles to form in corners, sending waves splashing as you careen through them, and spray from other cars will spurt into your line of sight. Weather changes dynamically during races, which means you always need to be on alert: you can start a five-lap race in the dusky mid-evening light and end in pitch black, so you'll have to adapt your strategy mid-race, and often when in direct competition with other drivers. These glimmers of a real, tangible world make Gran Turismo 7 so much more than just a straight racing sim, with flair and dynamism beating through it.
Honed For PlayStation 5
But as mentioned, the subtle progressions the series makes with this entry are never clearer than when playing on PlayStation 5. It's evident that this latest hardware is at the core of Polyphony Digital's aspirations, and they eke out every bit of the high-grade performance you'd expect from the system. Gran Turismo has always been famed for its pretty visuals, but 7 takes it to a new level with jaw-dropping vistas and ray-tracing that creates the most intuitive lighting in a driving game, period. Sunlight glistens off of dashboards and rear lights, and driving through bridges creates some incredible shadow effects that truly show off how powerful the PS5 is. The odd bit of environmental pop-in is a little bit distracting, though it's a minor gripe when the rest of the presentation is impeccable.
That's on top of gorgeous track design, with locations like the Nurburgring and Brands Hatch, that'll no doubt be familiar to motorsport fans, recreated with incredible precision. There were numerous times where I was so engrossed with the racing that, when on a straight and given a second to look at the background, I was truly stunned. From rich greenery and imposing forests to dusky deserts, it's a game as gorgeous in its tracks as its vehicles. They're all recreated with surgical precision too, and the way light, dirt and shadows react to cars is simply mind-blowing. It's one of the best-looking games out there, and more than justifies its place as a next-gen staple.
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The same can be said for its utilisation of the DualSense controller, which is equally engrossing. Braking feels more realistic than ever, chuntering down if you squeeze too rapidly to mimic the strain on the brake discs. The adaptive triggers of this new controller let you apply a dynamic amount of pressure, with the slightest tap gently braking just enough to get you around a slight curve, and more friction as you push harder. When you change gears you'll feel a subtle rumble within the controller, and hitting the apex mimics the contact you'd feel there too. It's more immersive than the PS4's DualShock ever permitted, and it'll be hard to ever go back to a racing experience without these features.
The only next-gen promise that Gran Turismo 7 doesn't quite live up to is the load times. While they're undeniably shorter than GT Sport's times, you'll still notice some lengthy waits between certain menus. Races load up just fine, but going between game modes to the main menu can take a number of seconds, which feels clunky in an otherwise seamless experience. It's something that'll easily be ironed out in future updates, but right now some of the gaps between exiting a mode, especially the customisation menu, and waiting for the main hub to appear are a bit disappointing.
Seeing What Sticks
But getting to that main hub is worth any sort of wait time because the range of modes and new additions in Gran Turismo 7 is mightily impressive. Gone is the single-player 'campaign' mode seen in GT Sport, instead opting for a Café mode that functions in a very similar way. It's the crux of the gameplay loop in these early stages, as you visit the café to unlock menu books: sets of objectives to complete, often themed around collecting cars of a certain make or completing a three-race endurance test. They're an awful lot of fun and very addictive, as you strive to reach the top three in each race to unlock a new car and plod your way through these objectives. They're more coherent than previous single-player pseudo-campaigns, always ending with an insight into the history of the make or designer in question, and gradually rise in difficulty to make sure you're completely put through your paces. By the time you complete the final menu book, you won't be far off from 20 hours of playtime, and you'll be more than ready to try out the other modes.
These other modes are equally audacious and sprawling, destined to keep you busy after completing the café. Missions are the other single-player focus, with individual challenges where you're given a specific car and track to nail a lap time. They're more bite-sized formats that are perfect for shorter play sessions, though they lack the continuity of the menu book system. However, combined with the beautiful Scapes mode that lets you set up your own photoshoots in hundreds of locations across the globe, there are plenty more hours to eke out once you're done with the café. It's a shame there's no mid-race photo mode to grab a snapshot of a particularly beautiful vista, but this extensive, professional alternative with a veritable feast of photo customisation options more than does the job.
Of course, though, most players will race through the single-player element and gear up for multiplayer. The servers were live during the review period but very sparse, so it's hard to give too much of an insight into how multiplayer works. When I got into a lobby, it was excellent: you're forced to be at your best to compete with rivals' lap times, and the competitiveness behind the mode is gripping.
However, more often than not it was hard to find other racers, and the sparse leaderboards leave you feeling a bit isolated, which is destined to change once the game launches. Online is where you'll get most of your hours in, but it's difficult to say just how successful that'll be when the version of multiplayer we tried was so limited compared to what it'll eventually become. What I did manage to play was very fun and no doubt the precursor to a vibrant and ceaseless live service model, but it's still too early to tell.
Verdict - 5/5
Gran Turismo 7 is the richest and most polished iteration in the series ever, and it's one of the very best racing games money can buy. With a near-endless fountain of lovingly recreated vehicles and tracks, petrolheads will easily sink countless hours into the accessible single-player mode and promising online functions. Never before has a racing sim looked just this stunning, and those slick visuals combined with innovative use of next-gen hardware mean all other imitators simply pale in comparison.
It's sprawling, addictive, and utterly dependent on your willingness to dedicate the hours into learning each car's niche performers and acclimating yourself with the tracks, but Gran Turismo 7 is one of the most rewarding racing games out there. A handful of minor graphical missteps and pre-launch online drawbacks are nowhere near enough to detract from the sheer depth of options and experiences on offer. The love that Polyphony Digital has for motor racing seeps through in every pixel, and the final product is a genre-defining victory lap for the Gran Turismo series.
Reviewed on PlayStation 5. A code was provided by the publisher.