There are labours of love, and then there's Gran Turismo 7. From famed developer Polyphony Digital and series creator Kazunori Yamauchi, it's abundantly clear every single member of the studio has a passion for cars. In fact, we might even be selling them short. Gran Turismo 7 is a game born out of love. It's just as much about the engines under the hood as it is about the drivers behind the wheel and the minds that crafted the motors. If you didn't already have an appreciation for cars before Gran Turismo 7, you almost certainly will after.
The game goes above and beyond to put manufacturers both big and small on a pedestal. Not only can you purchase and race digital replicas of the vehicles they produce in real life, but also learn of their origins and what got them to where they are today. It's a deep dive into car history, detailing the beginnings of the automobile with in-game timelines specific to each company. The whole experience feels like a celebration of culture and entrepreneurship that almost uses car racing as simply a front. Mind you, that front just so happens to be spectacular.
The real driving simulator returns with its greatest asset at launch: a single player campaign. Implemented months after the fact in Gran Turismo Sport, the seventh mainline entry feels like it's got the best of both worlds. Long-time fans can begin their quest for vehicular greatness with the Sunday Cup, while online racers can pick up where they left off with the multiplayer Sport mode. No ifs or buts: Polyphony Digital has delivered on both sides of the track.
It's the single player campaign, though, that'll have the most hardcore supporters itching for a PlayStation 5 copy. Once again, you can work your way up from competing against the Toyota Yaris and Honda Civic to raising the chequered flag in a Bugatti Veyron. The CaRPG, as it's dubbed, successfully replicates the rags to riches story the series has told six times before.
New to this instalment is the GT Café, which acts as a sort of home base for progression. Instead of buttoning through lists of tournaments you can enter, Gran Turismo 7 revolves around Menus. Not in the literal sense, but rather a small collection of objectives to complete in exchange for new sets of wheels. This is how you'll source the vast majority of your car collection in the early game, gaining access to a variety of vehicles you can take for a spin in other events. It creates a natural sense of progression that lets you get to grips with the driving and handling mechanics of the game before moving on to faster cars and other types of tracks.
However, to its credit, the feature is yet another reminder of how the title is about more than racing to the finish line. Each Menu has a certain theme, and after accomplishing all of the listed tasks, GT Café owner Luca will provide backstory on the cars you've just added to your garage and what makes them relevant. Unfortunately, none of it is voiced, but it further reinforces how Polyphony Digital has developed a game that's about more than just battling for first place.
If that is what you want to focus on, though, then Gran Turismo 7 will still serve you very, very well. The campaign can be fine-tuned to your needs, with adjustable difficulty levels to get the right amount of simulation for your skill level. Racing lines and auto-braking options can be enabled for rookies while veterans can turn off all assists to reproduce the real thing. No matter where you're at with driving both in-game and in real life, the game has a setting for you. Everyone should be able to experience The Corkscrew of Raceway Laguna Seca, after all.
Gran Turismo titles have always hit that sweet spot with their controls and handling, and the same can be said here. Working within the parameters you set, your skills behind the wheel will be put to the test against somewhat challenging AI and the weather. It sticks to the tried and tested, then: an incredibly satisfying game in the driving seat.
It's the PS5 DualSense controller that takes the experience above and beyond. Polyphony Digital's use of haptic feedback is absolutely outstanding, rivalling Astro's Playroom as the best use of the feature so far. It genuinely feels like the driving wheel is right there in your hands as bumps in the road and puddles are reproduced in the innards of the controller. The vibrations quickly move from the front to the back of the pad, making it seem like you're really there on the track. Moving at such high speeds, the game isn't afraid to make these rumblings even feel a little rough if you catch them at a bad angle. It's an incredible feeling in your hands that proves what haptic feedback can do to elevate games in the PS5 generation.
The adaptive triggers, meanwhile, are a lot less pronounced. They're designed to mimic braking, applying resistance as your car comes to a standstill. However, that resistance disappears should the brakes lock up. This is accurate to real life, but it's a feature only the enthusiasts are likely to appreciate. From the perspective of a racing newcomer, it'll hardly feel like there's any adaptive trigger support at all.
There's no doubting the support of the PS5 SSD, however. Lightning-fast load times make retries of license tests a doddle, getting you in and out of attempts quicker than the three-second countdown to start the challenge itself. The same can be said of starting races and navigating menus: load screens are a thing of the past in Gran Turismo 7.
Strangely enough, then, the main menu from which you access all the features that encompass the single player campaign is surprisingly slow. Clicking on any of the icons brings the game to a crawl, almost as if it's caught up on something. We thought this could have something to do with the required online connection, but upon testing things offline, the main menu still appears to freeze for a second after both leaving and returning to it. Perhaps a post-launch patch will tend to matters.
The main menu will be heavily utilised too since it houses so many options. You can sort through your car collection at the Garage, then customise them at GT Auto before working on the parts underneath the bonnet at the Tuning Shop. Your vehicular portfolio can be expanded at the Used Cars auction, the Legend Cars tab invites you to pick up some classics, and Brand Central is where the fastest racers on the planet live. While it may be a bit clunky at times, the main menu provides a raft of clear and concise options that makes progression and navigation simple.
Perhaps its only drawback is how it begins to introduce some random elements into the experience. Upon completing Menus at the GT Café and winning specific races, you'll have the chance to spin a sort of roulette wheel packed full of prizes. You'll always be rewarded with something, but it just made us feel slightly uncomfortable at times. Another variation presents you with three cars you could win, and you've got to select a random card with the vehicles behind. Of course, it almost always felt like we were being awarded the least amount of credits or the worst performing car. With the 'Top-up on PlayStation Store' icon forever emblazoned below your credit balance, it's clear you'll be able to pay your way to the best cars in the game right away.
Back out on the track and weather effects are another key detail that could impact your finishing place. From puddles kicking up water as you pass through them to the hazy mist generated by cars in front of you, it's incredibly impressive how the dynamics of a race can dramatically change as it begins to pour. If you're caught out with the wrong tyres, rain can spell the end of your track performance as you skid about struggling for grip.
The game also subtly shifts from day into night, meaning two laps could be entirely different from one another as the headlights are switched on and your vision decreases. In sync with any bursts of rough weather and the driving experience genuinely changes, challenging you to keep all four wheels on the tarmac.
Your toughest tests, though, will be fought online. Gran Turismo is quite literally an Olympic sport now, so Polyphony Digital was always going to go big on multiplayer for its seventh mainline entry. However, the developer has come up with a smart approach that should appease every type of player. Multiplayer lobbies are designed for the more casual user: here you can browse through races seeking entrants and pick whichever one you'd like to take part in.
There's then an entirely separate Sport mode where devotees can race seriously, following guidelines to keep the race fair for all. While you no longer have to agree to a set of rules just to start racing, the concepts behind Gran Turismo Sport remain: treat other drivers with respect. If you break that code of conduct out on the track, you'll be penalised. Your Driver Rating and Sportsmanship Rating carry over from the PS4 title, so there's no getting away from those careless errors made a few years back.
As such, it feels like Gran Turismo 7 strikes the perfect balance between its single player and multiplayer offerings, and then accommodating for both casual and hardcore drivers. There's something for everyone here, no matter how much experience you have behind the wheel.
Two visual modes dictate how the game looks, and to be perfectly honest, it's nigh on impossible to tell the differences between them. One prioritises the framerate while the other turns on ray tracing during replays, Scapes, and the like. As a result, you're getting a super smooth framerate no matter which one you pick — 60 frames-per-second is used as a base, and the option to optimise performance smoothens the title out further. Ray tracing does seem to introduce a tiny bit of texture pop-in, but the actual picture quality remains the same.
That is to say the game looks fantastic — for the most part — no matter what mode you select. Car models are shiny and realistic, the tracks leave behind skid marks and residue from crashes, and the menus are clean and sophisticated. Some of that quality is lost if you look beyond the track and its immediate surroundings to the outskirts of the location. You'll spot some blocky textures and poor design work, but that's a problem part and parcel of racing games for what feels like a decade now.
It's exactly that sort of history that Gran Turismo 7 wants to celebrate, however. With a collector level tied to your profile, the game is just as much about racing cars as it is accumulating them. As you tour the showrooms of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, and all the other manufacturers producing the world's greatest vehicles, you gain an appreciation beyond what happens on the track. This is a game paying ode to the designers, the workers in the factories. Gran Turismo 7 is about car culture, history, and paying respect to how we got to this point today. Polyphony Digital excels and then some.
Gran Turismo 7 is a game for everyone: the racing enthusiasts, the novices, and anyone in between. It celebrates car culture and history within the confines of a driving experience, explaining how the automobiles you race past the chequered flag fit into the wider world. There's never been a game quite like it before: Gran Turismo 7 means more than just racing. It's something that matters; something that warrants appreciation and respect just as much as it hands it out itself.