It’s been a long time since I played a Gran Turismo game. Specifically, since the PS1 days with Gran Turismo 2, mostly with my dad who’s a gear head. Since then I’ve been mostly into kart racers, but have been known to dabble in more realistic racing games like Forza Horizon. Going into Gran Turismo 7, I was excited to revisit this franchise from my childhood, but a bit wary that it would be too complicated for a casual player like me. Immediately upon starting it up, however, it’s clear that GT7 was made with all types of players in mind, so anyone and everyone can race and appreciate car culture regardless of skill level.
Gran Turismo 7 is divided into two main modes: World Map and Music Rally. World Map is the main attraction and where you’ll spend most of your time. After entering a nickname, choosing a difficulty level and a control scheme, you’re treated to a lengthy opening credits sequence showing the history of the automobile and racing, culminating in some in-game footage. After that’s over, you’ll purchase your first car from the used car dealer on the map and see just how in-depth the tuning and performance customization can go. Next, you’ll head off to the cafe for your first quest – called “menus” in this case. These cafe menus are how you progress through the game and unlock basically everything. Most of these will ask you to collect a set of three cars by completing races, while a few will have you engage with systems you just unlocked like the parts shop, livery customization, or even the photo mode. After completing a menu, you’ll get a short history lesson on the cars you collected, a reward similar to a loot box, possibly unlock a new section of the world map, and move on to the next menu.
I like how structured the progression is here, you’re never stuck wondering what to do next or what a feature does; it’s all laid out plainly for you. It does come with some big baggage though. You unlock literally everything through completing menus, including multiplayer both local and online. I can understand this choice to an extent, as you use cars you’ve bought or collected in everything, but it’s frustrating to not be able to race against my dad without playing about 5 hours of the game first. There are also a few times menus (or certain competitions) will ask you to acquire the next class of license in what are supposed to be tutorials. The problem with these tutorials is that they don’t really explain how to do anything. Sure, they tell you generally what you’re supposed to be learning, such as how to slow down and take a corner properly, but they don’t tell you how you’re supposed to do that. The driving line and brake markers can only tell you so much, and the time limits on some of these lessons are extremely strict, with my only passing by fractions of a second, and without really learning what I did right that time. As someone who can’t drive in real life, it would have been nice having things more succinctly explained here, including what all those icons at the bottom of the screen mean.
Speaking of icons, GT7 gives you a lot of information about your cars and the race itself. You can see basically everything that’s going on at any given moment, including if your high beams are on and the state of each of your tires. It can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know what most of it means, and it does clutter the screen, but you don’t really have to understand all of it to enjoy the game. Given how gorgeous the game is, I wish you could turn off more parts of the HUD just to appreciate all the work that went into the visuals. Gran Turismo 7 does come with two graphics modes on PS5, but there’s really no reason not to choose Ray Tracing unless you’re especially sensitive to frame rate changes. During non-interactive sections like pre-race camera view or replays, the game will use Ray Tracing to make everything especially pretty, but the second you take control and start driving Ray Tracing will disable and the game swaps to 60fps. It feels like magic, and I’m honestly shocked you can do that on a console and not specialized hardware like an arcade machine.
Gran Turismo 7 does feel a lot like an arcade game in some aspects, other than visuals that feel too pretty to be on a home console even after the death of the arcade. In particular, the feedback from the DualSense and the soundtrack give me that feeling. You will feel every bump in the road through the controller’s vibration and have to squeeze the brakes just a bit harder thanks to the resistance. It feels really good and enhances immersion in a way that’s difficult to describe if you haven’t experienced it. As for the music, there are all kinds of genres and artists here, with everything from licensed tunes to original tracks. Sadly you won’t get to listen to a lot of them in their entirety outside of races, because the music will change every few seconds if you’re actively navigating the menus. Some shops have their own themes, but the constant changing can get on your nerves after a while.
The World Map contains a ton of things to do aside from the main races, multiplayer, and tutorials. You can access a very detailed photo studio, where you can show off livery’s you’ve designed in locations around the world. After earning credits racing, you can purchase cars either used or new in two different stores, or use them to supe up your favorite vehicle with some new parts or even just give it a wash and repair. There’s also a mission mode, which puts you in a specific car to complete objectives like passing everyone in front of you without hitting them or going off course.
As for the multiplayer itself, you have three options: local, online, and Sport. Local and online are more casual affairs and pretty self explanatory; you race casually with other people (although the screen size for local leaves a lot to be desired). Sport is a bit more complicated, being a bit like a ranked mode in a fighting game. You compete in races at specified, real world times and are expected to conduct yourself in a sportsman-like manner. While placing first will earn you points for your rank, things like hitting other cars or being a dirty, dirty line crosser will incur penalties. This mode is definitely for people who want to seriously compete in the game, but it’s still very interesting to a casual player like me if only for the respectfulness for the sport and each other that it directly asks of you.
With most modes in the World Map using cars you’ve bought or acquired, Gran Turismo 7 has the potential to be very predatory on players susceptible to microtransactions. The loot boxes, in my experience, rarely give you anything of value and the credit rewards are pitiful compared to the cost of high end cars or even some in the used car dealer. It saddens me then to see that the option to “top off your wallet” is constantly at the top of the screen and shows up whenever a transaction is completed in your wallet. I cannot buy more credits with real world money before launch, but the way it’s presented here feels really gross and frankly disrespectful. You are constantly spending credits to progress even through the campaign, so it’s easy to see some players wanting to just skip the grind and pay to get ready for the next race, upgrade their car to stay competitive, or buy a paint color they really like. The game is a lot of fun, but the tedium of progression coupled with how easy it is to spend real world money on a game you already have to pay for is shameful.
To end on a high note (you’ll understand the pun in a bit), let’s talk about my favorite mode: music rally. You can play this while the game is installing, and it asks you to race while certain songs are playing to see how much distance you can cover on a specific track. The catch is that a timer will constantly decrease to the beat of the music, and if it reaches 0 it’s game over. You can add more beats by reaching pink checkpoints, so you’re constantly going as fast as possible to keep the music playing. Unfortunately there aren’t a ton of songs to race to, I only unlocked a total of 8, so I hope this mode can be fleshed out in the future because it’s a ton of fun.
Gran Turismo 7
Gran Turismo 7 is an excellent racing simulator for those looking for a more realistic experience or to learn more about cars. There’s a ton of things to do, cars to collect, and tracks to master with the game’s great driving model. While you can feel the sheer passion the developers have for the subject, it does come with some flaws like very slow and tedious progression gates and persistent microtransaction prompts.