Gran Turismo 7 review: the grandaddy of racing games

How the screen saver reminds you when you are loading Gran Turismo 7, it’s the 25th anniversary of Sony’s flagship racing game for the PlayStation Plus; it’s been over eight years and an entire generation of consoles since we last saw the main, numbered entry in the series, the 2013 PlayStation 3 swan song Gran Turismo 6. These long stretches of time loom in the new game. Maybe they explain why he’s so concerned about legacy.

In the quarter-century since “real driving simulator” became a sensation with its intricate physics and grainy photorealism, our attitude towards cars has changed. Climate change has caused a reassessment and the internal combustion engine will soon disappear. Can cars be cool in 2022? “You won’t find so many people talking about car culture anymore,” director Kazunori Yamauchi said recently, adding that GT7 was built with this new reality in mind.

Our relationship with racing games has also changed since Gran Turismo 6. Then its main competitor was the Forza Motorsport series, created in the image and likeness of the GT. Today, the upstart from these games has become a popular phenomenon, prioritizing the atmosphere and borrowing the design of open-world adventures, culminating in the magnificent Forza Horizon 5 in which cars and racing were only part of the story.

However, in 2017 developer Polyphony Digital looked into the future with Gran Turismo Sport, a multiplayer bypass inspired by the live service. He did a lot of things right, not least the way he carried over the driver rating and safety systems from the hardcore sim. iRacing into a more accessible arena. But it started out as a thin shadow of what the public expected from a Gran Turismo game; the traditional single-player campaign was only retroactively fixed, and many GT features, including the car modification system that had always been a hallmark of the series, never appeared.

This is the world that Yamauchi and his team seek to confront Gran Turismo 7. It looks like they want fans to remember Gran Turismo with all the features they love. They want—desperately, it seems—to get people interested in cars again. They want this all-encompassing series to carry all their baggage, plus more than a century of automotive history, into the future.

It is a testament to their great skill and passion that they are largely successful. Despite great ambitions and wealth of content, Gran Turismo 7 always feels smooth and manageable, and it’s great to see Polyphony bring its famous tech polish to the PlayStation 5. Still, it’s not what you’d call easy on the feet. At times it seems to be shackled by tradition, and at other times it is held back by a heavy guiding hand.

That’s not to say it’s devoid of the eccentric flights of fancy that have long revived a series with an undeserved reputation for dryness. (GT6 finally took you in moon surface.) Even before you see the main menu, Gran Turismo 7 throws you into a round of Music Rally, a hilariously clunky new time attack mini-game in which you try to cover as much distance as possible in a single song. As if playing to a lucrative octogenarian demographic, Yamauchi suggests putting you behind the wheel of a 1956 Porsche to the sound of “Classic Hooked (Parts 1 & 2)”. The next round, you’re driving around Tokyo in a tiny Honda while Idris Elba raps for you. It’s the exact opposite of classy, ​​but very charming.

Once in the game itself, you get to know another GT7 innovation, GT Café. Here, enjoying the relaxed atmosphere and smooth jazz, you choose “Menu”, which are essentially quests that simultaneously determine and control your progress in the game, gradually unlocking tracks, championships, and features, as well as rewarding you with cars. The cafe is also where you engage in conversation (sort of) with a collection of talking heads who are as eager to teach you about automotive history as they are to guide you through the game. Some of them are actual car designers or GT players, but they all speak in the same unnatural, awkward, but strangely sentimental voice: the voice of Gran Turismo. (Possibly Yamauchi’s voice.)

A cafe is both a boon and a hindrance GT7. As a tour of the game and its car garage, this is a thoughtful and pleasing contrast to the basic event grid that previous GTs unceremoniously dumped on players. But as the main thrust of the campaign, it is linear and restrictive. It hands out unlocks at such a careful, steady pace that you could be in the game for a dozen hours before you really have the freedom to just pick what you like and find the right event.

The economy has a similar sluggish pace. The rate at which you earn credits seems to be slow and many coveted vehicles remain out of reach for a long time in the game. It’s equally possible to spend most of your money tuning your favorite car. Merely meeting entry requirements may require going off-track to earn credits. (Gran Turismo has always had strong family ties to Japanese RPGs, covering concepts like grinding and re-pumping that Western racing games tend to tone down.) GT7 the economy seems cynically designed to encourage players to buy PlayStation Store credits. On the other hand, having to think about how you spend your money and craving exotic cars that seem out of reach might seem like a welcome fix to Forza Horizon’s absurd “it’s raining cars” glut.

On the track, however, it is the quintessential Gran Turismo, boasting exquisite technical sophistication and a commitment to the same principles that founded the series in the late 90s. The control model remains the best among PC simulations, combining authenticity and accessibility with a tactile, “planted” feel that is far from the theatrical drift of Forza Horizon. The DualSense is Sony’s best controller for racing games and has a lot to do with both its rugged ergonomics and its quirky haptic feedback. Adaptive triggers report the harshness of the brakes and any loss of traction when you step on the gas pedal, while a wide hum brings the car’s physicality to life. Improved audio also plays a big part, once again eschewing the beefed-up approach of other games in favor of something more subdued but also more communicative, especially when it comes to wind and tire noise.

Polyphony also remains at the forefront of graphics rendering. Gran Turismo 7 is visually striking, whether it’s ray-traced replays, an unlikely photo mode, or silk-smooth racing action that boasts great time-of-day and weather dynamics. At its best, the game can evoke a poignant, perfectly believable sense of time and place: I won’t forget chasing taillights through twinkling fingers of mist as the sunset over Australia’s Mount Panorama circuit.

As a Gran Turismo fan who hasn’t had the full Gran Turismo experience in eight years, I just want to fill up on it all – which is why overly patient hand-holding can be annoying. I want to turn perfectly good road cars into snarling widebody racing monsters and use the new livery editor to decorate them with bright decals. I want to compulsively check out a used car dealership in the hope that my favorite pre-2000s classic might show up. I want to go through the rims and pointlessly wash the car and change the oil in the GT Auto. I want to photograph the Eunos Roadster Mk1 (which I have in real life) in front of world-famous landmarks in Scapes mode. I want to read paragraphs with scientific details included for each car in the car collection. I want to chase gold in the rigors of licensed testing and, even better, the amazingly varied racing mission scenarios that are back from GT Sport.

But does it all make sense in 2022 for someone who doesn’t already belong to the Gran Turismo church? It’s luxurious, but also very specific, both because of the love of cars and because of the slightly unconventional, defiantly uncool culture of Gran Turismo itself. The guiding principle that holds it all together is Yamauchi’s quixotic mission to preserve, curate, and evangelize all automotive culture—a mission he had pursued in earnest since at least 2004 when he included 1886 Daimler motor vehicle (among other curiosities) in the sprawling Gran Turismo 4. Gran Turismo 7 is probably the most complete expression of this aspiration. Authoritative, enthusiastic, and touchingly sincere, but at the same time a little boring, instructive, and old-fashioned – like a favorite weirdo uncle who corners you at a family meeting.

Therefore, it is important to emphasize that Gran Turismo 7 also includes a multiplayer sports mode, after which GT Sport was named. It was possible to do some limited testing prior to the game’s launch, but it’s already safe to assume that it will still outperform any other competitive racing game available on consoles. While it’s hardly a casual mode, it’s much more accessible to intermediate gamers (like me) than PC sims. However, it captures everything that makes these sims great: fairness, sportsmanship, and the thrill of the event that surrounds every race during the qualifying and warm-up periods. (There are also simple online lobbies, random hangout spots, and even a two-player local split-screen mode.)

If you are ever tempted to think that polyphony has been left behind with the times, we must remember that the Sport mode is its greatest achievement in the last decade and that it is unrivaled in its field. And if it seems astounding that the GT and its closest mass-market competitor, Forza Horizon, are now working in different worlds – stylistically, philosophically, structurally – we must consider ourselves lucky to be able to take two such different approaches, both done at the highest level. . With GT7, Gran Turismo continues to be a glorious anomaly: a game built with a different purpose and to a different standard than any other game; a game designed to serve a single, individual vision; a game in which all science and technology is outside, and inside is all history and heart.

Gran Turismo 7 will be released on March 4 on PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4. The game has been verified on PS5 using a download code provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment. Vox Media has partnerships. This does not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions on products purchased through affiliate links. You can find Read more about Polygon’s ethical policy here.

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