I’ve reviewed a few Gran Turismo games over the years, but I can’t put my finger on why they just haven’t held my interest. They are fantastic games, something we’ve reiterated time and again in our reviews. The graphics are immaculate thanks to incredible photogrammetry to the sub-millimeter level, the simulation engine is impeccable, and the car selection is mind-bogglingly huge. They truly do set the bar for simulation driving, and I commend Polyphony for their singular, near-obsessive focus on that purpose. For whatever reason, though, it just hasn’t hooked me for more than a week or two after launch. It’s frustrating because I want to love this series.
That all just changed.
I’ve said a great deal about how much of a game changer the PlayStation VR2 really is for the platform. The device is stacked to the gills with incredible truly revolutionary hardware features that take VR to the next level. I knew I liked Gran Turismo, but would VR make that much of a difference that I’d be able to stick with it for more than a fleeting moment? Well, I just sat down to write this after having spent almost six hours straight in VR racing. I don’t typically sit down and play racing games for extended play sessions on a flat screen, but wow am I hooked in VR. Let’s talk about what’s new.
I’m not going to rehash our review – it covered everything about the game, and David did a fantastic job with it. Instead I’m going to focus exclusively on the VR experience on Sony’s new hardware.
First and foremost, with the arrival of Update 1.29, the VR patch is free for anyone who owns Gran Turismo 7. If you have VR hardware, it’ll be loaded and ready as soon as the game is patched. With it comes a number of unique features exclusive to the VR platform, the biggest of which being full VR immersion during racing. We’ll get back to that, but let’s talk about the side content.
As soon as the game fires up in PSVR2 you’ll be treated to an IMAX-style presentation for the game. You’ll get a flat screen, but with very large panel not unlike sitting on your couch. You’ll notice a few little 3D elements here and there, such as your “Workout meter” icon being a 3D running person, or dots on the map that hover off the surface, but it’s all very surface level – flourishes more than features, if you will. Heading into the garage, however, you’ll find your first major feature.
There are over 400 cars in Gran Turismo 7, and when you collect them you’ll be able to view them in your garage. Walking around you can inspect every knob on the tires, glisten of the paint, ridge on the steering wheel, and knob on the radio, for every single car in the game. On the flat screen version you can walk around and get into the car, but now you can get closer than ever before. It’s like sitting in the car in the real world, and it’s mind boggling just how much detail you can see at a whole level. There are twelve showrooms to choose from, just adding to the overall experience.
Leaving the showroom and heading to the race line, you’ll still be using the large IMAX style screen to select your car, the race parameters, and anything all the way up to the word go. It’s here that the magic happens.
In every race game almost from the beginning you’ve been able to turn the camera in some way to see 90 degrees to the left or right, or swing around to look behind you. We’ve almost always had rear and side view mirrors to glance at, but it’s always been a “snap” to reach those other views. As the world of VR immerses you completely, you’ll simply turn your head to see around you. A casual glance to your left reveals the other racer you just passed. A quick look up shows you the rear view mirror. Looking down you can see your driver snap the shifter on your Mini Cooper S into the next gear. Rounding a steep corner you’ll instinctively lean and look downwards into the well. VR is always hard to describe and even harder to show on a video, but I assure you that it’s a completely different world. Simply put, the game is transformed, and almost entirely for the better.
To be clear, I’m a nausea sufferer, so I have to be careful about constant motion instead of teleportation in games. Surprisingly, I didn’t have any problems with GT7 once I switched it from Fidelity mode to Framerate preference. Sure, I lost a little bit of that RTX magic, but the smoothness was more of a necessity.
Unfortunately, at the time of writing there are a few bugs at present that may mar your experience. While my wife didn’t see it present on the screen, during loading sequences and during some cutscenes I experienced a jitter of the entire scene. Enough of this happened where I had a small bit of nausea that thankfully subsided quickly. I’m not sure if it was an issue with loading textures or something else, but it happened more than a few times over the last few days.
The game does support a number of control options, though that doesn’t include the included PSVR2 Sense Controllers. It also doesn’t offer any haptics that I’ve found in the headset, though frankly I’m not sure where they’d belong anyway. With Fidelity mode enabled, you are treated to HDR tone mapping, which makes the game look gorgeous, as well as 3D audio support which sounds fantastic in the headset itself. There is a split-screen two-player mode of sorts, though you can only use a single VR headset on the platform, so somebody is going to end up on the flat screen. Thankfully it also supports foveated rendering, ensuring that wherever your eyes are focused looks its very best.
It’s very clear to me that Polyphony Digital loves cars and motorsports. This one simple change to the formula was such a game changer that it’s made me into a car devotee as well. How much so? I’m about to head over to Amazon to find myself a racing wheel – it’s that good, and I hope every game after this carries the same support. As long as it does, I’m officially a Gran Turismo fan.