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Review – Gran Turismo 7

Available on PlayStation 4 & 5, Reviewed on PlayStation 5

I was a teenager, getting into cars and looking to take my driving test when the first Gran Turismo game was released on the original PlayStation in 1997. It hooked me immediately, showing me a world of cars, racing, and car culture that I’d never seen before. I played it obsessively, ending up with a garage of mad cars that I could smash onto a memory card and take to my mates houses to race against them. For such a long time, it was my go-to game for all things racing.

In the generations that followed, I played every release that I could get my hands on. Gran Turismo 4 was particularly memorable, with its A-Mode and B-Mode, and 24 hour real-time races and just a dizzying amount of content. I must admit that when the Forza Motorsport franchise from Microsoft came along, I found myself torn between them. Forza offered better visual customisation for your cars, a better damage model, and better in-car / dashboard-cam views in the early releases, but Gran Turismo had the better simulation engine, soundtrack, and selection of circuits. It’s been great to see these two mainstays of console racing deliver, up until their most recent releases in 2017 with Forza Motorsport 7 and Gran Turismo Sport.

In recent times, it’s been something of a challenge, as the Forza games have tended more towards their arcade-y Horizons titles, and the last Gran Turismo release was focused largely around online play, which whilst cool, didn’t really appeal to me that much. So, you can imagine my excitement when it was announced that Gran Turismo 7 was coming out, and would include the return of their campaign mode, and so much more than that. If you can’t imagine my excitement, I can say this – I was very excited by this.

This is also a massive milestone for Polyphony Digital and the Gran Turismo series, with GT7 being released on the 25th anniversary of the series. It blows my mind to think about it, but several of the core team that released the original game are still the core team on this title, 25 years later. Think about that, the sheer passion and dedication to all things automotive that is required to see a series of games through 5 generations of console, and seeing what each new generation of consoles was capable of. For me, it’s mind-bending to consider that dedication to the pursuit of creating the best possible racing and car-culture experience across multiple generations of technology. It is single-minded, and almost obsessive in nature, and without spoiling it, fully brought to bear in the delivery of Gran Turismo 7. It’s in everything, from the tracks, to the cars, to the simulation engine, the skyboxes, the rules for racing, the license tests, the café where you get objectives in the guise of “menus”, the missions with some quick-fire challenges, the multiplayer, both casual and competitive, and the sheer depth of love for all things automotive that exist in this space.

I don’t have enough words to be able to go into all of this, both in this review, and in real life. There’s so much happening here, and whilst you’ll be familiar with a quite a bit of it from titles past, there is a lot that feels fresh and new here in 7. On the PlayStation 5, you’ve got extra feedback through the enhanced haptics, 3-d audio, and adaptive triggers going on as well, and as you’d expect from a Gran Turismo title, it looks simply amazing, with the photo mode verging on the “is this actually a real car picture” levels of quality with Ray-Tracing and its rendering ability. However, Ray Tracing doesn’t get applied in the races, and is a strictly for replays and photography / scenic modes. Even with that caveat, The game is beautiful, with incredible detail on the cars and tracks, the general lighting is beautiful, and racing on a track that moves through day and into night during the race is especially cool, it’s just sublime.

Alongside the visuals, the cars in GT7 are fantastic. There’s a decent selection (which admittedly can be difficult to access outside of the ones you win in the single-player) at the Brand Central hub, used car garage, and specialist garages, and each vehicle I drove had a distinct handling characteristic that was fairly unique. Older cars felt a bit bouncy with their aged suspension, and adding power to them made it feel like they were glass cannons unless you had exceptional throttle control. Modern vehicles felt much tighter off the bat, and then race-prepped cars are rigid and ready to take to the track. Rally cars were a bit different, and I’ll just say up front that I don’t think they quite hit the mark with how this game plays on dirt, but on the road, it’s a fantastic experience. A special mention to the weather effects on this game too. I’ve never had to consider my vehicle’s setup and tyre selection prior to the start of a race in a meaningful way before, but here, it’s essential to achieving a good driving experience and ultimately, winning races in adverse conditions!

You will spend the majority of your time on the World Map, which is actually more like a neighborhood map, with all of the various areas, from the used car area, the licensing area, world circuits, the Café, GT Auto, and the Tuning shop amongst others. These unlock progressively over your first few hours of play, and before you know it, you’re entering into your first championships and pushing for your advanced licenses. I’m a little over 30 hours into it, and I feel like I’m just getting started with this game. Interestingly enough, there’s enough data available in the profile page for me to know that I’ve been driving for about 12 of those 30 hours, meaning I spent a considerable amount of time tuning cars, creating decals, browsing for new vehicles, and absorbing trivia and bits and bobs about cars, and importantly, I was never bored at any point in the journey.

Okay, so I’m going to need to curb my enthusiasm for this title a bit, because there are a couple of missed opportunities for me here. Firstly, the overwhelming majority of the races I took part in were a rolling start. Now, that’s not a bad thing by itself, but a rolling start in motorsports is two lines of closely packed cars crossing the start line in close succession. On GT7, it’s a single-file, lengthy affair, and you’re always last. On the starter races, this is less of a bother as there are fewer cars, but when you get to the 20-car starts, the leader is often over a kilometer ahead of you before you even cross the line, which makes it less of a race and more of a chase as you hurtle past backmarkers in your attempt to make up the lost ground. There are grid starts in the game, but they are few and far between in my 30 hours. I will say that the online races I’ve done were grid starts, and they were as intense and competitive as I’d hoped they would be, but the single-player lacks that for the most part.

Secondly, and perhaps more concerningly for me are the microtransactions. You can top-up your in-game credit balance with real money in GT7, and with the way that they have structured accessibility to cars within the game with only a selection of modern vehicles being available in the Brand Central and some of the more classic cars you’ll enjoy being only available in the time-boxed Used Cars and specialist garages mean that there is a real rotation of vehicles and the potential for fear of missing out on something you wanted. It’s a short hop from there to grabbing a fistful of credits on your credit card in order to secure that car that you just have to get, and that’s a shame for me. One of the things I loved about old Gran Turismo games was the ability to sell your vehicles if you didn’t use them, and re-enter events if you wanted to re-win vehicles and use them as a means to generate revenue to either tune your favourite cars or purchase a top end racer. That’s absent in this game, and in my opinion, it’s poorer for it.

Finally, for me, the music experiences are a little bit odd and didn’t really connect with me in the way that the developers were hoping for. If I think back to Gran Turismo’s of the past, they had some banging soundtracks, and I’m just not quite getting that same sense in this iteration of the game. It’s not bad, but it’s not been a riveting part of the overall experience for me.

Ultimately, these challenges are relatively minor when compared against the mountain of content, simulation, racecraft, and challenge here. On the PlayStation 5, it is an utterly gorgeous experience, and every countdown to the green lights brings that sense of anticipation through from the games of old. This game is a celebration, of Gran Turismo’s history, but also of the automotive culture and motorsports that brought about this series of games. I will absolutely be playing this online in the upcoming months, because this game has gotten under my skin, and I want to see how I stack up against the community of passionate racers that are out there.

Compared to the online-focused Gran Turismo Sport, this is undeniably a return to form for the series, delivering a compelling single-player, with strong nostalgic ties to titles past, but delivering a stronger set of systems and simulated conditions for racing that make it an incredibly strong, simulation-focused racing game. There are a few bumps in the road, and not everything hits in the way that I think Polyphony wanted them too, and the microtransactions are a little bit cynical in my opinion, but they’re easily overshadowed by all of the things that are just done right in the game.

This is a 9.5/10 for me. A superb racing game, one that carries its legacy gracefully forward and offers it to old and new racers alike. There are bits that don’t hit as strongly as others, but overall it’s a deep, and deeply exciting racing game that delivers on far more than it misses. I’ll see you on the track!

– Dave

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Gaming & Technology Editor at The Empire Digital Media Ltd.
Gadget fiend, maker of beer, technology enthusiast, and Dad of three, Dave enjoys trying to protect expensive gadgets from the destructive power of tiny people, and frequently fails.

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