Gran Turismo 7 review: polished nostalgia

Published: 02 March 2022

► Gran Turismo 7 in detail
► The most ambitious title to date
► Out March 4th

Only Gran Turismo 7 could begin like this. We’re in a Porsche Speedster, racing through checkpoints with a medley of classical numbers blasting over the top. This is GT7’s new Music Rally mode: It doesn’t make total sense – it didn’t in our preview of the game either – but we’re too into the new PS5-powered visuals to care. 

In fact, it takes a while for us to notice the cars we’re passing: we outbrake a showroom clean BMW 3.0 CSL before passing an immaculate Mk1 Golf in a left hander. Every car we pass shows up on the right-hand side of the screen, reminding us of the depth in GT7’s new car roster.

As I skip our left wheels across the kerbs, the left side of our controller vibrates.  And after we try a little too much throttle, the tyres on our Porsche screech and shudder through the controller too. Even in these first tentative laps, this feels like the essence of Gran Turismo; only now made to look and feel as good as we thought it did in 1998. 

The story mode

After that, you’re shuffled over to the Home Map, an area where you’ll spend most of your time. After the stripped-down feel of Gran Turismo Sport, it’s a welcome nod to the games that built the GT mythos. Just like the older games, there’s a licence centre, racing area and places to buy new and used cars – but this time there’s also a café which we’ll get to later.  

It’s a lot to take in for those new to the franchise, and it’s why our tour guide, Sarah, asks if we’ve done any of this before. If you haven’t, it’s worth reading this review. If you have, then you’ll already know what to expect from Gran Turismo 7; because it’s basically the best of all the GT7 games in a ray-traced, polished package.

What’s the same?

Most things: aside from the Music Rally mode which you’re thrown into at the beginning, and a Café which gives you extra facts and helps steer you through the game’s content – this is like every other Gran Turismo game. In fact, the first few hours could broadly take place in almost any GT besides Gran Turismo Sport and the odd Prologue.

With that in mind, the first few hours are a refreshing or somewhat restrictive experience – depending on what you like about car culture. Unlike Forza and DiRT and other games which immediately throw you in something tasty, Gran Turismo 7 is all about the grind and racing your way up the ladder. 

It’s no surprise, then, that you’re forcefully recommended a small, boxy Japanese compact car to start with (we went for the stunning Toyota Aqua) and that you also must pass a range of licence tests to get into the more interesting races. 

The handling feels largely like previous games; but that’s not a bad thing; like Gran Turismo Sport before it, GT7 is still more of a sim than an arcade racer – but iRacing it ain’t. Depending on your tyre compounds and track conditions, your car will handle very differently, and you’ll need to change your inputs to compensate. Wet weather requires lighter, smoother driving, and it’s possible to feel the grip change as you enter wetter and drier parts of the track. 

Even in the dry, diving into corners with less performance-orientated cars means you’ll need to deal with grip and weight transfer problems. Take the same corners in a lighter or tuned car, and you’ll find pitch and roll less of an issue. 

Interestingly, we’ve played the game with both a wheel and controller – and found the PS5 controller’s new features to be a game changer. More detailed feedback, from ABS, kerbs and other events, makes it far easier to understand what the car is doing – helping you to better tailor your corrections. It offers nowhere near the feedback of a wheel, but it’s a far more tactile experience than before.

We’re told AI has been reworked, but in practice the computer seems just as unaware of you now as it did throughout the previous GT titles. It’s a shame, as it takes away from the realism the rest of the game works so hard to achieve. We were told this will be updated throughout the game’s life – so hopefully that happens sooner rather than later. 

Online play should be the same as GT Sport, though we’ve yet to test it.

What’s different?

The cars may feel like previous games, but they look very different in Gran Turismo 7. Ray-tracing in replays along with high-resolution details, HDR throughout and a smooth frame rate all help to make GT7 look as polished as the cars it showcases. The level of detail here hasn’t been in a GT game before, and easily eclipses more realistic games such as Assetto Corsa, or iRacing on the PC. Only something such as Forza on the Xbox Series X matches the visuals here. 

Chrome gleams on classic cars, liveries reflect in puddles, while light and shadow look almost life-like. Only the cleanliness and lack of dirt is the main thing stopping GT7 from being photorealistic.  

Sound also feels a little more realistic than before, thanks to more accurate modelling which uses spatial audio technology. 

Presentation aside, there’s little else that’ll feel new to existing GT gamers. Aside from a Café, which educates and guides the uninitiated through the game, there’s also a Music Rally mode, which is a bit like a time attack with louder music. The return of used cars and performance upgrades is also a welcome addition – but again, this is isn’t outright innovation.

Verdict

Gran Turismo 7 is a return to form and is surely the most complete racing game ever made. Featuring more classic and contemporary cars, more tracks from new and old titles, and more customization, it’s everything we’d expect from Gran Turismo – for better or worse. 

While it replaces what GT Sport left out and while it also includes a strong dose of nostalgia and car culture, it does so on its own, and Kazunori Yamauchi’s terms. And you’ll either love it or hate it. 

From the first 10 minutes onwards, this is a game that doesn’t try to pander to new crowds. Instead, it gives you the best of Gran Turismo and assumes it’s enough to get you hooked – and to be fair it probably is. 

If you’re addicted to the grinding and tweaking of GT games past – or getting gold on every licence test – this is game will be everything you want. If, however, you’re after something a little more accessible or you’re new to the series, the way you progress though the game and the way you win could be a little daunting. Still, the same can be said of the previous games – and they’re now classics, responsible for creating a new generation of car fans – including the author. 

Gran Turismo 7

Price: £64.99 | VIEW OFFER

Gran Turismo 7 is out on March 4th.

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast

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