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Gran Turismo 7 review: Pomp and circumstance

A Mazda Rx 7 drifts in the rain on a Tokyo Expressway in Gran Turismo 7.
Gran Turismo 7
MSRP $69.99
“Gran Turismo 7 lives up to its "real driving simulator" tagline by offering a comprehensive and educational racing game.”
Pros
  • Beautiful visuals
  • Super educational
  • Music Rally
  • Very customizable
Cons
  • Clunky UI
  • Not for casual players

I’ve never played a game as confident in itself as Gran Turismo 7. As soon as I booted up Polyphony Digital and Sony Interactive Entertainment’s latest PlayStation exclusive, the words “The Real Driving Simulator” graced the screen.

I was then directed to race to the beat of classical music from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra before watching a lengthy opening movie showing how the automobile is intertwined with history over the last century. From there, I discovered a game with extremely detailed car models, intricate simulations, and a bevy of information on the history of most major car manufacturers and the vehicles they produced.

Thankfully, this pompous attitude is earned because Gran Turismo 7 is a refined, beautiful driving simulator. While it isn’t the best choice for casual racing fun and the menus can be frustrating, Gran Turismo 7 is a gorgeous game that respects automobile culture so much that it wants to spread the good word to anyone who picks this game up. If you weren’t already a fan of cars, Gran Turismo 7 is trying its hardest to make you one, and it’s doing so with a confident smirk on its face.

A comprehensive driving experience

Gran Turismo 7 leans into its racing simulator roots much more than Microsoft’s racing game offerings. Like previous games in the series, the latest installment is all about buying and tuning cars for the best performance in races. Every car is rendered in stunning detail on and off the track, taking full advantage of the PS5.

Overall, the game is a tremendous PS5 showcase, with smooth performance and ray tracing modes that highlight the beauty of cars under certain lighting. The audio design is also quite crisp and sounds excellent in Sony’s Pulse 3D headset. The DualSense controller’s haptic feedback will respond to the surface the player is driving on, and its adaptive triggers simulate what it feels like to break.

Every car is rendered in stunning detail on and off the track, taking full advantage of the PS5.

Gran Turismo 7 encourages players to customize and take care of their vehicles. If a player doesn’t frequently service their cars by washing them, getting an oil change, and more, they will see a difference in its performance across all of Gran Turismo 7‘s modes. The backbone of the single-player experience is the “menu” objectives that players receive from a Café in the Gran Turismo resort. These objectives range from obtaining three of a specific type of car to visiting certain facilities to placing in the top three of a championship.

Cars race in Gran Turismo 7.

As it’s striving for a realistic feeling with its physics, Gran Turismo 7 feels slower than its contemporaries. Players won’t find themselves zooming down the racetrack at over 100 mph all the time, but that isn’t a bad thing. Gran Turismo 7‘s restraint in those areas makes those moments of speed more exciting, and it also encourages players to be cordial to others. Bumping into another car won’t give the player bonus points or spread debris everywhere; it’s a tough and uncomfortable bump that will put them at a disadvantage just as much as the person they are hitting. Players can’t rewind either, so there’s no undoing a crucial mistake in the last lap of a five-lap race that might cost the player their first-place spot.

Laps typically last anywhere from one to five minutes on most tracks, so restarts can be a momentum killer. Gran Turismo 7 punishes overzealous players by wasting their time, which in turn encourages them to get better.

Modes galore

The game provides the modes and tools for players to improve. Players can go to the License Center to learn both basic and high-level driving maneuvers. They then test them out with Missions, which are races with more specific parameters like driving through a certain part of a track under a time limit without hitting any walls. As players complete these menus, missions, World Circuit races, and license challenges, they’ll earn credits that can then be used to purchase new vehicles at one of three separate dealerships or used at the tuning shop to improve the cars they already own.

More modes are built off this backbone. Players can visit “Scapes,” an extensive photo mode where players can take pictures of their cars around the world and really see the ray tracing in action. A casual and very customizable multiplayer mode and the competitive “Sport” multiplayer mode return from the previous entry, so players can go online and show what they’ve earned and customized to others.

Those looking for a hardcore simulator will find that Gran Turismo 7 is at the top of its class and an excellent showcase for what the PS5 can do.

The final notable mode is Music Rally, where players race to the beat of various songs, trying to hit checkpoints to extend their timer and drive as far as possible. This mode won’t make or break Gran Turismo 7 for anyone, but it’s the most approachable one in the game and what people will come back to if they only have a couple of minutes to play.

Surprisingly, Gran Turismo 7 is also a fantastic educational tool. Every vehicle featured has a well-detailed entry in the game’s car index, and Gran Turismo 7 features even more supplementary material like videos from each manufacturer and museum timelines that document a company’s whole history. The opening movie’s focus on the history of the automobile is intentional. The developers want to celebrate and educate people on the history of automobiles. As someone only partially exposed to that world, it was very informative.

A Honda Civic Type R races on a Gran Turismo 7 track sponsored by Dunlop.

Gran Turismo 7 mainly focuses on appealing to hardcore automobile fans, but it’s also hoping to convert anyone extra that it picks up along the way. And it does make some concerted attempts to appeal to causal racing game fans.

Casually intimidating

Unlike previous Gran Turismo games, Gran Turismo 7 has a more guided single-player experience to ease new players into its mechanics. This mode does a great job of introducing players into an intimidating simulator, though some of the later races and championships are long and frustrating. In particular, the final championship tasks players with driving multiple laps on five of the game’s longer tracks.

A lot of the menus feel made for a PC port that does not yet exist.

Those willing to spend real money on credits can also speed up the process of obtaining cars by just purchasing them instead of winning them in a race, which seems a bit unfair. Hardcore fans also might not like the fact that they need to complete some of these objectives to unlock all of the facilities and modes that Gran Turismo 7 offers.

Compounding that problem is a user interface on the game’s main menu that feels clunky to use. A lot of the menus feel made for a PC port that does not yet exist. I constantly wished that I could use a mouse, or even the DualSense’s touchpad, to navigate these menus, but instead I had to use the D-pad or control stick, neither of which felt quite right. Thankfully, information is displayed clearly enough on menus that discerning what one needs to click isn’t a problem.

A Gran Turismo 7 screenshot of a Ferrari showcases ray tracing.

Those on the fence about picking up Gran Turismo 7 need to know that this isn’t like Forza Horizon 5, an arcade racing game where players drive across a vast open world to complete missions and objectives. This is a simulator with lots of menus and customization options that offers a more casual and friendly single-player structure.

Gran Turismo 7 executes its vision of being “The Real Driving Simulator” confidently, but if someone wants just a few minutes of quick racing fun, this game might be too technical for them. Its dedication to teaching the player about cars and racing might just make some casuals into hardcore fans, though.

Our take

Gran Turismo 7 is a comprehensive racing simulator with features that will please series fans, those looking to learn about cars, and people who just want to race casually. While this simulator is more focused on making the player feel elegant rather than exhilarated, it sticks to its vision and highlights the power of the PS5.

Is there a better alternative?

For those looking for a car simulator on consoles, Gran Turismo 7 is the best option out there. If someone wants just a few minutes of quick racing fun, I’d recommend Forza Horizon 5 over this game.

How long does it last?

Completing all 39 menus to “finish” Gran Turismo 7 took me 23 hours. This time may differ depending on the difficulty one is playing on, which cars they are using, and how often they have to restart races. Racing games also don’t have a definitive conclusion and are meant to be played for dozens of hours.

Should I buy it?

Yes, car enthusiasts and those looking to showcase the power of their PS5 console will adore Gran Turismo 7.

Gran Turismo 7 was tested on PS5.

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