Gran Turismo creator Kazunori Yamauchi doesn’t just love cars – he worships them. Addressing media as part of a virtual presentation earlier this week, the industry veteran appeared to express sadness that younger generations may not share the same level of passion that he has for the automotive industry. His solution is Gran Turismo 7, the latest numbered entry in Polyphony Digital’s long-running driving simulation series – and the game he hopes will spark interest in an entirely new era of automobile aficionados.
For Yamauchi, this is more than just a racing game: it’s a “car life simulator”. And if you were worried that the series may have lost some of its quirkiness over time, then rest assured this is a return to form: Gran Turismo has endured 25-years at the top of its genre because there’s nothing else quite like it, and you can feel Kaz’s fingerprints all over this title. It’s being pitched as the “best of Gran Turismo through the ages”, and it’s shaping up to be a compellingly comprehensive package.
Fans of the classic CaRPG campaign format that the franchise pioneered will immediately feel relieved: Polyphony Digital has designed its own digital island which serves as the hub for the single player experience. Here you’ll be able to visit different dealerships, purchase cars, tune them, and compete against the AI, which Yamauchi promises has been improved from previous entries. There’ll be license tests to complete, and new mission-based challenges like drag racing.
Pulling all of this together is one of Gran Turismo 7’s stranger additions: the GT Café. This is presented in-game as an immaculately rendered coffee shop, and it’s here that you’ll pick up menus filled with collection quests to complete. These look a little bit like mini-Pokédexes in French bistro form to us, and according to Yamauchi, upon completing the various menus you’ll be treated to insight and interviews from the designers and creators of some of the world’s most famous cars. It’s all consistent with Kaz’s goal of inspiring a new generation to learn about the history of the automotive industry.
Music also plays a key role in the game, with Polyphony Digital once again leaning heavily into the lounge tunes that define the series. There’ll be 75 artists and over 300 tracks in the game, and you’ll be able to pair replays to certain songs, with the camera transitioning dynamically to the beat of the music. Meanwhile, an entirely new mode named Music Rally will introduce checkpoint-based drives, where the emphasis is less on racing but more on enjoying your car and the soundtrack. It looks and sounds bizarre – as opposed to time, you’ll be driving against beats-per-second – but in the best possible way.
Of course, all of this is window-dressing to the core racing, and Yamauchi is promising the best simulation that Polyphony Digital has ever created. The attention to detail is bordering on psychopathic, with a tuning screen that perhaps better resembles a spreadsheet than a video game. Performance Points will no longer be a mathematically attributed total, but entirely simulation-based, meaning that the game is always calculating the max performance of your vehicle as you tune it, in order to give it an accurate overall grade.
This meticulous eye extends to the tracks themselves, where the developer has mapped real planetary and astrological data in order to achieve an accurate simulation of the night sky. And get this: it’s used meteorological information to ensure that clouds form in the same way as they would in the real-world, so the skybox will look different in Japan than it does in Germany because of the fluctuations in temperature, humidity, and altitude. Tracks that feature dynamic rain will factor into the simulation, meaning puddles will form and certain patches of tarmac will be slower to dry than others.
All of this will, of course, affect driving conditions and force you to adapt. However, it’s worth noting that not all tracks will feature rain – although they will all be able to transition from sunny to cloudy – and not all tracks will have a full day/night cycle. Fans may also be disappointed to learn that the game will require an online connection, in order to protect save data and prevent cheating according to Yamauchi. It’s not clear which modes will be available when offline, but we imagine it’ll be fairly stripped-back, as was the case with GT Sport.
Speaking of which, the series’ flagship competitive multiplayer mode will return, accompanied by live lobbies which allow you to chat and communicate with friends. There’ll also be local split-screen for up to two players. Yamauchi didn’t linger on the online multiplayer for too long – the focus for the developer very much appears to be the single player this time – but seeing as GT Sport set the standard for simulation racers, we’re expecting it to at the very least match what it managed previously.
In terms of PS5 specific features, Yamauchi spoke a lot about the 3D audio, and how it’s using Sony’s fancy Tempest Audio engine to accurately render the position of sounds. It’s also using haptic feedback to extend the sensory experience, with what it calls sub-audio vibrations. Effectively, the controller will capture and render frequencies below what the ears can hear, allowing you to feel those in your hands. It all combines for the most authentic Gran Turismo experience yet, although our questions about PSVR2 were conspicuously excluded from a Q&A session with Kaz.
Nevertheless, we came away from the showcase seriously impressed. There’s so much more we could talk about – Scapes are returning and the Livery editor from GT Sport has been improved – but we think the lingering takeaway here is just how unique this all looks and sounds. Gran Turismo has always had a je ne sais quoi unmatched by any other racer on the market, but you can tell that this version is the most personal to Yamauchi yet. Even if you’re not particularly interested in cars, the veteran’s enthusiasm is infectious, and it’s bursting out of every frame here.
Are you excited by what you’ve seen of Gran Turismo 7 so far? Will you be picking up the legendary sim racer on release day, or waiting a little longer for it? Start your engines in the comments section below.