Gran Turismo 7 Review: THE driving simulator is back

Since its debut in 1997, the Gran Turismo (GT) series – developed by Polyphony Digital exclusively for PlayStation – has become the industry standard for racing simulation video games.

To mark its 25th anniversary, its eighth main installment – Gran Turismo 7 (GT7) – will launch this Friday, Mar 4.

SPECS
PRICE: From S$79.90 (PS4; PS4 Pro, version reviewed; PS5), available Mar 4 in PlayStation Store, Lazada and Shopee
GENRE: Racing simulation

The GT series has been famed for its ultra realism in the way the cars are presented as well as handled. And its realistic handling might scare off casual gamers. But with GT7, Polyphony Digital aims to unite long-time fans as well as attract new players in their passion for automobiles.

Gran Turismo 7 continues to look super ultra realistic in terms of graphics. (Photo: Polyphony Digital)

There will be over 400 cars and 90 race track variations at launch. So there is a substantial number of cars and tracks for you to unlock, admire and test drive. But in comparison, GT6 has 1,197 cars at launch. However, more cars will be added in GT7 later on.

While you can generally feel the difference of driving different cars using the controller, I would recommend investing in a good steering wheel setup to play this game.

As your game prepares to complete the installation, you will be able to sample the new Music Rally mode. This is essentially a variant of the classic time mode, whereby you cruise from one checkpoint to another in order to extend the race by increasing the beats.

FOR
+ Gorgeous visuals and beautiful sound
+ Swift and enhanced menu
+ Streamlined player experience
+ Each car handles differently
+ Still a super realistic driving experience  

AGAINST
– Limited collection of cars at launch
– Limited driver customisation options

The developer believes the fusion of music into driving is another way to interest a novice to the series. For a start, there are a selection of six music tracks to blast on your sound system, with more slated to be added.

This brings us to Music Replay, a new feature that cleverly selects and combines camera position angles with appropriate music tempo into a remarkable footage. I think this can be a great conversation starter when you showcase your sophisticated big screen TV and sound system setup with the console to your guests.

Driving into the sunset. (Photo: Polyphony Digital)

If you are playing this game on PS5, the DualSense controller’s haptic feedback adds to the realism every time you “step” on the pedal. Its Tempest 3D Audio Tech lets you sense where the car is coming from or closing in during the race. And with the PS5’s flash storage drive, you can switch around the menus and events swiftly.

Polyphony Digital has also worked hard to improve on several features. For instance, the car physics have been enhanced based on aerodynamics and wind effects. Cockpit View also allows for better appreciation of the car’s interior while you drive.

You can marvel at the interior of the cars you are driving. (Photo: Polyphony Digital)

The game also aims to simulate the appropriate skyline of actual locations based on meteorological data, including the alignment of stars, sun and moon. Yes, Polyphony Digital is just that detailed.

Wet weather effects are also expanded to influence your performance on the tracks. I love seeing the effects on puddles on the windscreen as you drive through. On longer tracks, it is possible to steer through different climate conditions within a single race just like what we have seen in real life.

This looks like a photo, ain’t it? (Photo: Polyphony Digital)

Through a new Café experience, you will meet a few character persons and a collection of menu books. They will highlight various groups of cars, including a short glimpse of its history, complete with narrative and historic visuals.

Each menu book comes with simple objectives, ranging from visiting a vendor, attaining a medal in a few races to capturing a killer photo frame. Completing objectives such as fulfilling your Daily Workout (driving a certain number of miles) will also earn you roulette tickets to earn cars, credits or tuning components.

These roulette tickets allow you to earn cars or other goodies. (Photo: Polyphony Digital)

As you progress, the Café becomes surrounded with key locations that you can easily access back and forth. This point-and-click layout saves time and allows you to make appropriate tuning and get into a race within seconds. As such, you can squeeze in a quick race or two before dinner or score a few wins before bedtime.

And then, there is the Scapes mode. Here, you can explore positioning the best angle of your favourite cars against one of 2,500 backdrops around the world. With the power of the PS4 or PS5 console, you can conjure beautiful results that would otherwise require a high level of proficiency with real-life photography and the availability of these cars.

On PS5, remember to set your graphics setting to ‘Prioritise Ray Tracing’ for best results. After every race, you can review the footage and adjust the angles to find that sweet spot in the action to be captured. This is something that is only possible to be done at the circuit with expensive equipment. I bet you will be spending some time marvelling at the intricate details.

The visuals in GT7 are just spectacular. (Photo: Polyphony Digital)

For most of us including myself, the experience of tuning the car is simplified based on the upgrade options. Only experts in this field would know how to achieve the balance between 60 types of performance parts.

Those inspired by great-looking custom cars from the movies will have a great time ploughing through the massive selection of aerodynamic parts, wheels and paint colours in order to create your very own “zhng” or souped-up car.

The dream Ferrari is a reality, at least in this game. (Photo: Polyphony Digital)

I am especially excited to see what the GT community will  bring through the livery editor. This is especially when you can now apply decals to areas that were not possible in past releases.

With all the enhancements given to cars, I had hoped to see more options to customise the player’s avatar from the start. Other than a country flag appearing on the helmet and racing suit, presumably based on your console’s location setting, there is no attention given about driver customisation until you start unlocking new designs from doing well in races. It feels the potential is not optimally explored from the get-go.

Cars are fully customisable but little can be done about your avatar in the beginning. (Photo: Polyphony Digital)

All creations can be shared and viewed under the Discover section. Players can comment, like and follow their favourites, with new content appearing on the feed. This in-built platform is convenient to use and can be a launchpad to grow the thriving fanbase.

Just a few days prior to this review, Mr Kazunori Yamauchi – Polyphony Digital founder and CEO – confirmed that Sophy, the much-anticipated driver artificial intelligence feature, will be introduced in GT7 in a future update.

Referred to as B-spec mode since GT4, Sophy is a fan-favourite that has prevailed in GT5 and GT6 and was notably useful during long endurance races. Fans may be dismayed with the delay but at least we know that it is in the pipeline. I have much faith in Yamauchi’s vision and passion. So, I am sure we can expect more news in the future, as GT7 aims to achieve a holistic experience for its fans.

VERDICT
Gran Turismo 7 is off to a great start by balancing a harmony of features with a symphony of cars, lighting and sound. As usual, it continues to be standard for other racing simulation games to follow.

RATING
9/10 [SGEEK Editor’s Choice]