When someone thinks of a racing game, especially one focused more around simulation than anything else, the first name that usually springs to mind is Gran Turismo. The reason for this is while a number of other racing games have come and gone through the years or undergone a number of stylistic changes, Gran Turismo has held steadfast to its style ever since it was introduced in 1997. Now Gran Turismo 7 celebrates the series’ 25th anniversary by bringing the racing game to Sony’s most powerful console yet while also celebrating the history of racing and the automobile industry itself.
Rather than drop players who might be unfamiliar with racing games right into the mix of things, Gran Turismo 7 starts off slow and methodical by initially setting a calming tone featuring a lengthy cutscene highlighting the history of the automobile industry before transitioning directly into the game. Here players will find themselves presented with a basic hub world where they will be presented with their Garage, a Used Car dealer, and the central hub of the game’s single player progress, the Café.
In the Café players will be given “Menus” that serve as their next goals, ranging from obtaining three of a certain type of car to unlock additional race tracks or facilities, making use of the tune-up shop to purchase and upgrade your vehicle, and even simply washing your car or applying a new paint job to one at GT Auto. The Café’s rollout of features and mechanics may be a bit tiresome for longtime fans but it may be welcomed by those who may feel overwhelmed at first. That being said, it is within the Café as well as the Brand Central that players will find the majority of the game’s depth of history for the industry. Players can “talk” with generic faces at the Café and learn more about their current car or series of vehicles while the museum will go in-depth into a car manufacturer’s entire history, even if there only happens to be one car available from said manufacturer.
With things unlocked, players will find the world of Gran Turismo 7 mostly open to them as they will find a wide variety of 34 tracks, with over ninety total layouts, to race through with over four hundred cars to eventually collect and race from sixty different manufacturers. Nearly every single one of these cars can be poured over and customized to a fairly extreme level, adjusting the weight balance, distribution, quality and type of tires, brake kits, on-board computer, suspension, air filters, and much more to give “gearheads” as much freedom to take their favorite car and tune it however they like. Occasionally this may be done simply to meet the “PP” requirements of the next race either through upgrades or occasional restrictors but for the most part this customization is handled incredibly in-depth though doing so will cost quite a bit of Credits, something that Gran Turismo 7 has an issue with.
As players race through the game’s single player modes they will earn Credits for every race, earning more the better they do and even earning bonuses such as “Clean Driving” that adds an extra 50% to the total, however nearly every aspect of the game outside of the races requires Credits in some form. Be it applying a fancy paint job or new aesthetic changes to a car, purchasing parts to tune it up, and of course actually buying new cars themselves can cost quite a bit. It is worth noting that players will earn a large number of vehicles throughout the course of the game’s single player Café menus as well as from various rewards but a large number of cars, especially some more sought after brands, must be purchased.
The rate players actually earn these Credits is rather slow, especially compared to some of the cars that happen to be available for purchase in the game. Herein lies an issue with the Credits beyond their slow pace and that is Sony’s rather focused effort to “Top Up” on Credits through the PlayStation Store. Every time that the player wants to use Credits, even if it is for a small item, the game will offer this prompt and considering some cars in the game can require upwards of three million credits to purchase this can mean spending nearly forty dollars in PlayStation Store purchases to reach. While it is certainly possible to grind away at races over time, earning Credits as you go, especially since the option to sell duplicate cars or those players don’t wish to drive is no longer an option, this, plus a rotating series of cars that appear on one section of the map, is an egregious way to push players towards microtransactions they otherwise would avoid.
Now that all that doom and gloom is out of the way, how does Gran Turismo 7 actually feel once the rubber meets the road? With a combination of the series’ signature driving mechanics being so refined players will feel as if they are driving on the razor’s edge at times, where taking a corner too quickly might send them into the grass or truly feeling the road beneath their car thanks to the DualSense controller. Obviously, there are some assistants that players can use for some help that can show the optimal drive line and even the ability to turn on brake assist to make things a bit easier in some gameplay modes but those looking for the best feeling driving simulator will find that this game delivers.
As mentioned before, the DualSense is partially the reason for this thanks to the amount of haptic feedback that the company has put into the controller. Sure, there is also the option to steer using gyro controls but that is a bit rough. The true elements come from the adaptive triggers that deliver tension when hitting the brakes or trying to accelerate around a corner and even the feeling and noise that comes from losing control of the car for a brief moment.
As far as the online component goes, players will find that Gran Turismo 7 features some fairly solid offerings for now with the game offering multiplayer lobbies that they can either create or join, customizing the options such as race track, weather conditions, vehicle restrictions, and more as well as special Sport style events where they can sign up for a session and wait for a race to begin, testing their skills against other opponents that are rated fairly accurately towards the player’s skill level. It is worth noting that some elements of driving online are a bit rough around the edges, as the game discourages bumping and will punish the player for trying to pass too aggressively, something that is a bit too touchy for a competitive racing simulator. On the flip side of things, there is the downside that Gran Turismo 7 must be connected to the internet at all times to even try and race.
Should the console lose connection due to server problems or the slightest blip in the user’s internet the game will either not recognize the race that was just completed or will instantly kick players to the map with only a basic arcade race with a small number of cars, and the odd but enjoyable enough Music Rally that sees players race through a track to the beat of a small collection of songs accessible to them.
Visuals & Audio
There comes a point in time where someone may wonder just how much better a racing game can look and Polyphony Digital has proven that things can always be taken a step further. The level of detail presented in the hundreds of vehicles present in Gran Turismo 7 is outstanding and driving from either inside the cabin or whichever camera angle the player chooses can be a real delight. This is especially true during night and rain races as the glow of headlights and tail lights as well as the various reflections can truly show what the PlayStation 5 can handle here. It is also nice to note that, again while it may cost Credits, players can choose to paint their cars however they wish including taking designs created and uploaded by others if they so choose.
While the cars may be outstanding to look at, there remains the issue with past games that, for whatever reason, they are also unbreakable. No matter how aggressive a driver may be, including taking some impressively fast collisions into walls and other vehicles, the worst a car might suffer is a bit of paint chipping around a bumper. Considering these are meant to be races, including some that are a bit dirtier than others, having every car come out flawless is a bit of a letdown especially since we have seen far better from competitors in far older titles.
Oddly enough, while there are generic talking faces players will interact with at the Café and at certain race tracks, none of them are given any voice work nor are most of the histories described to players at the location. The soundtrack features a rather eclectic collection of tracks ranging from classic music to more modern music making it a little something for everyone but also something that may be a bit annoying should a track not to the player’s liking be chosen for any given race.
Gran Turismo 7 celebrates the history of the automobile industry while delivering some of the tightest driving mechanics that fans of racing simulators could ask for. Whether players are driving a classic car from the ’50s or an open wheel race-car, there is no other game that captures the feeling of these vehicles like Gran Turismo 7 does all while giving players plenty of ways to tune the vehicles to their liking. Unfortunately, aggressive microtransactions, barely any actual vehicle damage, and touchy online requirements are the ballasts that slow Gran Turismo 7 down on its race towards greatness.
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