Gran Turismo 7 Review: Racing Ahead
The makers of Gran Turismo 7 really love cars. I know that should go without saying, considering how much time and energy they put into making this crazy simulation series, but man, they love cars more than most people love anything. That love positively drips from the latest in the Gran Turismo series. Not just the cars themselves either. They love the history of those cars, and even the context of history around those cars. It makes for a game that almost beats you over the head with that history, but which provides a welcome entry into this world for the newly initiated.
While not the most technical racing series in the world, Gran Turismo is far more realistic than the sort of racing game I usually find myself pulled into. I tend to go more for games like Need for Speed or Forza Horizon. While not the most realistic racing game out there, Gran Turismo 7 is a lot more realistic than those more arcadey titles. As I dove deeper into it though, I found more than enough to recommend, even as I found more and more issues the longer I played.
A Great Introduction
After getting started with the new Music Rally mode, a fun yet shallow mode where you need to hit checkpoints to one of only a few songs, you’re dumped into the game’s menu, which looks a bit bare bones. But, don’t worry, it will fill out before long. On the path to do so, though, you’ll be taken at least initially down an incredibly narrow path.
One of the few places open right from the start is the café, the closest thing you have to a home base during the early hours of Gran Turismo 7. Here a guide will provide you with menu books, challenges that you’ll need to knock out to unlock more of the game’s many options and modes. These challenges vary, but the most common are assignments to unlock three specific cars. You can buy them theoretically, but all three will be available as a potential reward in a race somewhere. Place in the top three in those races, and you’ll complete the book. The books are organized in categories, by car type or manufacturer, and after completing each one, you’ll get a cool (if basic) history lesson about that type of car. Other books just have you test out different functions like customizing your car, while yet others put you in a championship where you’ll need to place in a series of three races.
These menu books are the equivalent of a career mode, and they do a great job of introducing someone who isn’t a long-time Gran Turismo player to everything the series offers. Which is a lot. Your initially fairly empty menu screen will fill in quickly with various storefronts, a garage where you can tune your car, a location to purchase upgrades, multiplayer modes, license challenges, and more. As a player who is fairly new to the series, having played a few past titles a bit but never in-depth, I appreciated the slow reveal. If the entire game was just thrown at me with no direction, I might well have felt lost.
The downside to this, however, is that the basic functions of Gran Turismo 7 are locked away until you’ve completed a fair number of menu books. Even as someone who hasn’t played that much of the series, I know how important it is to customize and tune your cars. Yet here, you can’t do so for hours. It’s a bizarre choice, as is locking multiplayer modes behind a significant amount of these menu books. Guiding players here is great, but you could let more experienced players have access to the reasons they may be playing the game at all a bit earlier.
Once you get into a race, though, Gran Turismo 7 feels incredible. Each of the 400 cars the game offers feels totally unique in a way few racing games can manage. The Dualsense implementation here isn’t quite as in your face as some games, but it’s incredibly effective, conveying detailed information like when your car is shifting gears or where other vehicles are around you. The adaptive triggers feel different on different cars, and show once again how superior they are for racing games. You’ll need to get used to the feel of each track and each car you switch to, but once you find one that feels right, you’ll have an incredible amount of control.
Play Your Way
That also includes an incredible amount of customization. Multiple difficulty options, the ability to have the game help you with breaking, tell you when to brake, provide a line to race on, most of the best options modern racing games have implemented. The only real option some games have that Gran Turismo 7 is missing is a rewind feature, but I personally liked having my choices have consequences and feeling like I had to recover when I made a mistake.
Wonderful aesthetics don’t hurt. Looks aren’t everything, but they’re definitely nice, and the cars in Gran Turismo 7 look as good as any racing game on the market. The environments around them look nice enough, too, even if they don’t quite stand up to those beautiful vehicles. The lighting here is some of the best I’ve ever seen, with many tracks having the time of day evolve as you go through the laps. Watching the sky go from blue to orange and purple and eventually turn to night is pretty amazing, even if I wish at times the brightness would turn down just a bit, so it doesn’t get in the way of the actual racing. The audio design is just as robust, with some of the best 3D Audio on PS5. The soundtrack is a bit hit or miss, but there are some excellent songs in the mix.
A Bit Of Whiplash
Between the incredible amount of options, a series of tracks and races providing astonishing variety, and near-perfect controls, the feel of Gran Turismo 7 is pretty incredible. At times though, strange choices creep in again. Later races are locked behind license challenges, despite not being part of a menu book. If a race that’s part of a menu book was too hard, you could save up enough money to buy the car from other races. These, however, just have to be completed. They mostly aren’t that hard, but a few here and there gave me trouble. You don’t have to complete all of them, but two sets are needed.
I also don’t love the fact that most of the game’s races go with a rolling start, placing you at the very back of the pack. It makes too many races feel less like an actual race and more like a chase to catch the leader. You’ll roar past the early cars, with them barely providing resistance, before finding huge gaps where you’re not interacting with other cars at all. In a race featuring twenty cars, you’ll rarely feel like you’re racing more than a few at a time. The AI can be excellent, especially on higher difficulties where your foes will use some advanced strategy and feel like they’re racing even each other, but you’ll rarely get to fully enjoy it because so often you’re not around multiple other cars at the same time.
If you get tired of the menu books, you can eventually pop in online, and the actual races generally felt excellent once I got into one. The casual modes, in particular, are poorly planned out. Individual lobbies are run by individual players, and there are so many of them that finding one that’s filling up is currently too convoluted. That might clear up a bit as we pass the game’s release period, but that will also mean less players to fill things in. Because one player is running the lobby, too, they have to start the race. I found myself in a number of lobbies that were full, and the creator just never started. Eventually, more and more players start dropping out, and the rest just sit there. With this many players coming together, having the game itself handle these functions would make a lot more sense and let those who aren’t playing with only their friends more easily get into races.
Gran Turismo 7 provides an excellent entry point to the series for players who are new to it. If the 7 in the title feels intimidating, you can let that go. Once you do, you’ll find a game that plays as well as any racing title on the market. Some strange choices along the way hold it back from racing perfection, but this is still a game that should keep PS5 racing fans busy for a long time.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PS5(Reviewed), PS4; Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment; Developer: Polyphony Digital; Players: 2 (offline), 20 (online); Released: March 4th, 2022; ESRB: E for Everyone; MSRP: $69.99 (PS5), $59.99 (PS4)
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Gran Turismo 7.