The timeline is fuzzy, but I think I was around seven at the time. I had managed to make my way to the front of the grid in my highly modified silver Evo IV. Climbing the tree-covered cliff section of Deep Forest Raceway, doing about twenty bucks with Ash’s “Lose Control” in the background, I thought, “This is the coolest thing I’ll ever do. in this life.” Frankly, I’ve been chasing that peak ever since.
Of course I’m talking about the original. Gran Turismo on the first PlayStation. Entered the scene 25 years ago, GT1 arguably revolutionized the racing game genre and set it on a trajectory to where it is today. It might not have been the very first racer to feature real-world automobiles, but it was certainly the most notable to do so, placing 140 then-incredible vehicles on its black PlayStation 1 CDs. It was also one of the first (if not the first) mainstream racing game to focus on realistic driving physics and pack as many variants of the Nissan Skyline and Mazda Miata into one title as possible.
Four generations of consoles, six sequels, a whole generation addicted to JDM, a detour to esports and a quarter of a century later, Gran Turismo 7 releases today on PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4. After more than a decade of arguably lackluster offerings during its PS3 and PS4 eras, GT7 promises to be a return to form for the series. The numbered title is back, for starters, as is the map-style main menu and cheap hatchback CaRPG and car life simulator gameplay. Along with providing some long-awaited fan service to those who enjoyed this series in its heyday, publisher Sony is also aiming to do with GT7 what he did with those first GTs: usher in a whole new generation of younger players into the wonderful world of motoring enthusiasm. When it comes to that first goal, GT7 succeeds most of the time. As for that second one, though, I’m not so sure.
While other racing games like fantasy Forza Horizon franchise are very modern products designed for an audience with a limited attention span, GT7 is decidedly clumsy and slow in his approach, almost at fault. The glaring lack of a true Arcade mode for any car, any track, and any time is also bound to alienate new, younger players. (If you’re looking to instantly hop in a Ferrari and zip around Monza, this game won’t let you do that, not after at least a dozen hours of gameplay.) Instead, the people behind GT have created a new game mode called Music Rally where you drive an extremely old car to a piece of music that no one under the age of 25 would have caught dead in their Spotify library.
Not everything is bad, of course, and in order to provide a fuller picture of Gran Turismo 7, I’ve spent about 10 hours selflessly playing this game on a PS5 this week. All the while I’ve been playing around with the Scapes photo mode, getting a “National A” license, and of course I’ve spent most of those hours working on the main racing campaign, amassing a varied collection of 35 cars in the process. Let’s go.
Gran Turismo 7 Quick Details
- Base price (as tested): $59.99 ($69.99)
- Platforms: PS4 and PS5
- Cars: 420+
- Tracks: 34 (97 layouts)
- Quick take: An expansive, beautiful and nostalgic love letter to GT fans 25 years in the making, but that might seem dated and laborious compared to modern competitors.
The driving physics are new and much improved
One of the first improvements you’ll notice while playing this game on PlayStation 5 is the vibration coming from the controller. GT7 took advantage of this console’s haptically complex DualSense gamepad to great effect. Each menu entry gets a little nudge (similar to what you’d get when holding a home screen icon on a sufficiently modern iPhone), giving the whole experience a substantial tactile feel. When driving, the triggers can independently simulate the feeling of the brakes locking and the slight vibration of the throttle as your car struggles for traction.
The feel of the rumble strips and expansion joints on the Tokyo freeway circuit is transmitted through the controller in a much more nuanced way than before. It claps your hands as you change gears; the feedback here even subtly differentiates between, say, the slight kick produced by Volkswagen’s DSG versus the loud thump of sliding the Honda Civic Type R’s manual shifter from cog to cog, which in turn also feels different from the notchier kerplunk you get when rowing your own in a Chevy Camaro ZL1 1LE. It’s remarkably detailed and a very welcome new dimension of feedback that most reasonably priced racing wheels can’t even replicate, although obviously the experience would be further enhanced by an expensive simulation rig. The depth of the game certainly encourages this type of setup, but it’s good to know that Polyphony hasn’t forgotten that most people will still be using a regular gamepad for fun.
The improved haptics are cool, but everything would be pointless if the underlying physics weren’t solid. Said to be developed using feedback from tire manufacturer Michelin, its own top esports players and a certain Lewis Hamilton, Gran TurismoThe reworked driving physics faithfully replicate the driving experience of a real car while being reasonably approachable in-game. As a result, the cars feel more distinct than in previous titles while being significantly more demanding to drive than their counterparts in any Forza Motorsport Game. It’s precise too, with the Civic Type R’s steadfast front axle looking eerily like the real thing. Corn GT7driving is also more sterile than Forza. The sense of speed is less pronounced and, played on a pad, the game seems to treat oversteer as an abnormal grip-killing event that should either be minimized via aids or impossible to recover rather than an elegantly entertaining way to cross a corner. It’s a common complaint, but it’s to be expected for a game that aims to simulate real-life driving rather than emulating it through an arcade filter.
Stop trying to slide all over the place, and the wheel-to-wheel racing action isn’t bad. Although competitors are still not as realistic as Forzathe AI is no longer the robot train it used to be and, provided you haven’t taken the easy way out by simply racing a much more competitive car, coming in first can be a tall order.
Superb to look at… especially
As a visual experience, Gran Turismo 7 looks pretty good but, probably because I was spoiled by Forza Horizon 5beautifully realistic open world environments, some off-track details (such as guardrail posts, foliage, and audience members) in GT7 indeed look jarring in low resolution. For every stunningly realistic yellow brick Tokyo tunnel, there’s a distracting rigid tree that wouldn’t look out of place in a PS3 game. And while the rain looks fairly realistic when poured onto the tarmac, the droplets on the windshield look embarrassingly primitive. Those cut corners will no doubt be annoying enough for some that they’ll state that’s reason enough to skip the game altogether, and while I disagree, it’s hard to fault anyone expecting what his $70 game feels completely polished.
On the other hand, mere existence continues to Gran Turismo and its proven formula after all this time almost feels like fan service. And if you’re on that side, shitty tree textures won’t stop you from enjoying the game’s true heroes and the love that recreated them: cars. car models in GT7 feature the series’ signature, millimeter-perfect porcelain paint look, and are incredibly impressive to behold. The PS5’s ray tracing technology in the Scapes photography mode and replays means even more realistic lighting, shadows and reflections than before.