It’s been a while since a proper one of these. Gran Turismo 7 is Polyphony’s Digital’s return to the mainline series and effectively celebrates the 25th anniversary of a very specific product. With that comes a lot of familiarity but a few new tweaks that do add some flavour to what can occasionally feel like a sterile, muted racer.
You begin Gran Turismo 7 with a choice to visit the World Map or the new Music Rally mode. This new diversion tasks you with racing against a musical track. Once the music stops, so do you. With half a dozen at launch, it’s not an especially engaging drive. It can be chill and somewhat simulates a track day experience, but that’s not what I’m here for.
The World Map takes you to the traditional Gran Turismo mode. It’s seen many changes over the years but Gran Turismo 7‘s version has more in common with those on the Playstation 2. You’re introduced to a cityscape where events can be entered, licenses can be earned and cars can be bought. You have the usual servicing and tuning shops to round out the options. It’s familiar and I’m glad the format feels a lot more traditional and thankfully doesn’t worship grinding for credits. At least, not for the bread and butter. Legendary cars come at astonishing price tags. It’ll give players some serious sticker shock and it does seem to be something Polyphony Digital are looking to address in future updates. As someone used to Gran Turismo as a service, I’m not that put off by it.
Instead, the emphasis is on car collection. The Café houses what can be considered a main campaign and this takes on a rather strange, visual novel styling that probably shows up how much the pandemic might’ve effected development. In this café are dozens of menus to work through and a few people to talk to about the cars you’re driving and your next mission.
Each menu largely consists of three cars the owner wants you to collect. These can be done by buying them outright at a dealership or by winning them in specific races. The game handily points you in the direction necessary events but purchasing vehicles can shortcut this process. I prefer to win them as the cheaper option but it’s nice to know it can be circumvented, if you have the credits to hand.
I completed all of them in a long weekend of playtime which seems shorter than the Gran Turismo of old. I really, really hammered this game which is something I haven’t done in a long while. The 39 menus didn’t make me feel short changed but I do miss not having recognisable endurance races on the docket. Races don’t go longer than 7 laps so they’ve been quite digestible in terms of time commitment.
They do, at the very least, showcase what Gran Turismo 7 has to offer. You unlock the game’s circuits as you go and, whilst you do revisit them plenty of times, you’ve sent to new locations quickly enough. None of them are new if you’ve played Gran Turismo Sport. We do get reimagined classics like Deep Forest Raceway and Trial Mountain. These are well-recreated and there’s been changes to the layout which deliver a new challenge to old favourites.
I’ve been using the DualSense throughout my playthrough and I do find the haptic feedback to be good. Whilst I don’t quite feel the game is really putting the tech through its paces, the resistance on the triggers can really help hone in your throttle and brake control. It’s nice to feel the bumps of the Tokyo Expressway but it doesn’t quite feel as finessed in the way some other parts of the game have been polished. Raytracing does feature, although only in replays and photos. It doesn’t impede the framerate and does produce some lovely reflections, when you’re in a position to see them.
Attention to detail is something I’ve always come to expect from Digital Polyphony and it’s very present here. They’ve long since banished the vacuum cleaner sound effects in favour of more personalised and unique engine notes. It gives each car a personality of their own but Polyphony Digital has went a step further with the way upgrades change how your car sounds. Upgrading exhausts and adding turbos do have a transformative effect that you can hear as well as see.
Adding to the bodywork finally adds a visible presence beyond just rear wings. You can add splitters to the front and rear end and also perform wide body modifications. I’ve never normally cared about car tuner culture but it seems to be a much more embraceable part of the package. Previously, I could tune a Skyline up to 1000 horsepower monster but it would look and sound like any other stock Skyline. Now it’s distinctly mine and it really fits with the series’ car fetishism.
When they announced realistic weather effects, I was excited at the prospect of seeing Polyphony Digital give it a shot. Variable weather is a staple of many racing games but some implementations are much more fluid than others. What we have in Gran Turismo 7 is something very dynamic. Clouds roll in and skies darken whilst the rain itself doesn’t immediately ruin traction. You have a working weather radar on hand to anticipate and react to the conditions and a grip meter that tells you what the tarmac below you is like.
As the weather clears, the cars on track help form a dry line. Puddles really upset vehicles and aquaplaning is a real danger. When a dry line forms, it really narrows the racetrack and the final license test highlights this well. Getting on the wet stuff is a gamble and it really adds to the challenge of driving. The idea of microclimates seem to have been realised with longer tracks like the Nordshleife having sections of dry and drenched track. I was having a race at Spa where the fog rolled in and I suddenly had to consider a plan B if the rain started to intervene. Having to make those decisions is something console gamers are getting used to but Gran Turismo 7‘s representation of it seems really impressive.
Those details do help when the content maybe feels occasionally thin and the soundtrack lands flat. The menu music is fairly mellow and really helps set the relaxing tone the game is going for. In races, the licensed music they’ve went for seems like a grab bag of classical music and some old songs returning from Gran Turismo’s past. None of the ones you want, sadly. It doesn’t pop or excite me and I wouldn’t blame anyone for turning it off.
The online component is well implemented. You have the Sport mode for serious, direct competition. You can partake in daily events whilst making sure not to impact your sportsmanship rating. I’ve been sceptical of ratings when you’re at the mercy of a penalty system that might not act consistently. That said, there’s fun to be had in serious racing and, for more chill sessions, the standard multiplayer lobbies are available.
In many ways, nothing’s been shaken up with Gran Turismo’s core. The café does act as an effective funnel towards events but the routine of racing and buying cars remains intact. Whilst so much is borrowed from Gran Turismo Sport, there’s a very different mood to Gran Turismo 7. It’s mellow and, whilst the content isn’t as vast as previous titles, I feel it’s enough. Visually, it’s detailed without really blowing me away but the polish and care is on display. I’ve had a blast, even if some of it comes with a big slice of nostalgia.
+ Solid, consistent handling.
+ Variable conditions really add to the challenge of driving.
+ Circuits have plenty of life to them.
- The soundtrack in races sounds like a mess.
- The café menus are fun to complete but they do funnel you to the finish.
- The presentation remains fairly sterile.