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Gran Turismo 7: The Real Driving Simulator Is Back!

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Gran Turismo 7 Review

Developer: Polyphony Digital | Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment | Genre: Racing, Veichle Simulation | Platform: PlayStation 4/5 | Reviewed on: PlayStation 5


Editor’s Note: To our readers, thank you for taking the time to read Goomba Stomp’s review of Gran Turismo 7. We would like you to know that in response to Sony’s recent Gran Turismo 7 Changes, we have published a separate piece that our editorial staff advises you to also look at. The following piece reflects a playthrough of Gran Turismo 7 before its launch and not the most recent patch. Thank you.

Throughout the late 90s and early 2000s, the racing genre was dominated by Need for Speed and Gran Turismo. Gran Turismo 2 and Gran Turismo 3 were instrumental to the success of the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 respectively, but after the success of Gran Turismo 3, the series seemed to stagnate. That stagnation combined with the prolific rise of Forza Motorsport followed by Forza Horizon ultimately resulted in Gran Turismo becoming somewhat of an afterthought on the PlayStation platform. Gran Turismo 7 stands as a monumental return to form by providing a world-class driving simulator that strikes an excellent balance between brutal realism and approachable fun. The result is an experience that rewards patience and skill above all else making for the best Gran Turismo game in more than 20 years. 

Too Hot To Handle

Driving has always been at the core of the Gran Turismo experience and driving in Gran Turismo 7 is nothing short of incredible. Throughout the adventure mode, the driving experience ranges from slow and heavy consumer cars to finely tuned performance vehicles and dirt racing builds. By nature of the simulation gameplay, variation of vehicle classes creates a dearth of radically different experiences and that variety makes progression feel entirely organic. 

Early in the game, the more casual cars feel heavy, sluggish, and slow to respond. The way vehicles in the early game handle truly highlight how much of a simulation experience Gran Turismo 7 offers as well as perspective on how the cars we see and drive every day are not machines that have been optimized for specific performance. After progressing beyond the earliest stages of the game higher performance cars are unlocked. High-end Japanese tuners, luxury European coupes, and powerful American muscle cars make the gameplay experience more visceral and fun. After that exotic supercars, track cars, and F1 cars offer the apex of the Gran Turismo experience. 

Image: Sony

Part of the beauty of Gran Turismo 7 is in how those racing experiences build on each other and prepare the player for what’s to come. Had I started the game with my 700+ PP Nissan Fairlady Z or McLaren P1 GTR my skills wouldn’t have been prepared by the diligence demanded when racing the Mazda Demio or the Honda Integra. Skills developed in the early game are utilized for success in the late game and help to better understand how each car drives.

The biggest departure from the standard racing experience is when the game moves off the track and into the dirt. Rally and truck racing naturally offer the least predictable track conditions which inherently demands the most leniency found in the entire game. When rounding dirt corners at high speeds cars slide sideways and are more prone to spinning out of control. Considering loose dirt presents some of the most difficult to master driving conditions imaginable, rally races are when the game strays from the simulation experience the most. Ironically it is this change in focus that makes for the most enjoyable driving in the entire game. Bumps, jumps, and loose dirt make for the most interesting and dynamic driving in which the player needs the most assistance, that assistance makes the game more forgiving and traditionally fun.

Kind of Your Father’s Racing Game

Image: Sony

Overall, driving in Gran Turismo 7 clearly shares a lot of DNA with that of the game’s immediate predecessor, Gran Turismo Sport. Cars feel properly weighty and asphalt provides a realistic feeling of friction and opposition. While driving feels similar to Gran Turismo Sport there have undeniably been improvements. Despite the realism that was achieved through the severe punishment of mistakes in Sport, that punishment being significantly reduced in GT7 makes for less realistic but more enjoyable gameplay. Gran Turismo has become notorious for being realistically difficult and after the reception of Gran Turismo Sport, a subtle shift towards a more arcade-like experience has done wonders for the fun factor in this new iteration.

Obviously, there cannot be driving without cars. Vehicles are what drive the masterfully crafted difficulty curve of GT7. The rate at which the players driving skills grow moves in perfect lockstep with the rate at which increasingly powerful cars are acquired. Throughout the roughly 40 GT café menus, I never felt as though the vehicle class I was driving was either unmanageably difficult or boringly easy. Unlike the vehicle progression, the variety of those vehicles falls just slightly short. While the game touts more than 400 unique cars, there being slightly different variations on the same make and model results in the practical number of cars that the player will actually find themselves using being significantly less than advertised. And yet there is no shortage of interesting and engaging cars to drive.

Throughout the game’s adventure mode the player is presented with a variety of challenges that force them to utilize different vehicles. Not only is the player forced into situations in which they have to utilize different types of cars but the game also demands the player learn how to properly upgrade and tune each car. By setting a suggested power point [PP] level for each race, then making the most accessible eligible cars for any given race slightly lower than that suggested PP level the player has the freedom to upgrade to their heart’s content. This mechanic effectively allows for monetary investment in each vehicle to scale the difficulty level of each race. The combination of different vehicle classes and upgrades changing how each car drives kept the gameplay fresh by always having something new to learn and master.

race simulation playstation 5
Image: Sony

Progression through Gran Turismo 7’s adventure mode is managed almost entirely through the Gran Turismo café. Through the GT café, the player will get menus that provide objectives ranging from acquiring specific cars, placing in championships, acquiring licenses, and much more. Initially, the menu system felt a bit heavy-handed in how strictly it would dictate what I was supposed to do next but as I progressed further and further into the game it actually worked to introduce new systems and mechanics in a way that felt entirely organic. 

Where in previous Gran Turismo games the bulk of car collection was done by purchasing specific cars needed for challenges with in-game credits, Gran Turismo 7 makes car collection happen more naturally by making the cars needed for menu objectives rewards for placing in menu races. The menu system also provides a somewhat sappy but educational brief history lesson on each collection of cars that are menu objectives. These historical explanations can be both fun recaps for the player that is already in the know and extremely helpful information for those who aren’t to better explain the intricate differences as to why cars drive differently from one another. It’s clear that after Gran Turismo Sport’s progression represented a departure from the series’ car collecting roots, GT7 represents a course correction for the series putting the focus back on the single-player collecting experience.

The second pillar of progression comes from the games multi-tiered license system. Throughout the progression of the GT café menus, the player will be tasked with acquiring each of the game’s five different licenses with increasing difficulty. While they can be fairly easily plowed through all at once, the licenses function as an extended tutorial system teaching new and more advanced techniques that grow with the player’s skill level. The growth of the challenges in the license tests is clearly designed to keep pace with the player and as a result, these tests are better played as they come up rather than all at once. 

Upon starting the game for the first time when playing on PS5 the player is presented with the option to choose to prioritize framerate or ray tracing. In most games, I almost always opt for higher framerates so naturally, I chose to prioritize the framerate. Historically, each entry in the Gran Turismo series has been visual show stoppers that are known for pushing their respective hardware to the limit. Surprisingly after my first few hours with the Gran Turismo 7, I wasn’t finding myself nearly as impressed with the visuals as I have been with previous entries in the series. After changing my graphical settings to prioritize ray tracing lighting was noticeably better and framerates were still running at 60fps or close enough to 60 enough of the time that the ray-tracing mode was preferable. Unfortunately even after turning on ray tracing the game still wasn’t a visual show stopper like previous Gran Turismo’s have been and even struggled to impress me as much as the visuals of Forza Horizon 3 still do. 

The Ugly Duckling

GT7 Gran Turismo 7 review for PlayStation 5 race simulation
Image: Sony

One of the greatest strengths of Gran Turismo has always been the way the series makes a simulation racing experience approachable. After Gran Turismo Sport leaned a bit too hard in the direction of hardcore simulation, GT7 thankfully adjusts that balance to make it more fun again. Simulation games are constantly fighting to find the perfect balance between simulation realism and arcade-style fun. While the DNA of GT7 is significantly more simulation than it is arcade, it manages to stop just short of what can be called brutally realistic which makes for a unique but still incredibly fun simulator that rewards genuine skill. That skill reward is what perfects the gameplay loop on a micro-scale making every bend and turn an opportunity to make up ground on fellow racers.

Aside from the less-than-stellar visuals, there are a few minor imperfections with GT7 that bring the holistic experience down. Now that microtransactions have gone live the game makes it clear that the amount of credits that can be earned through gameplay is 20 million. 20 million credits is certainly nothing to scoff at and will definitely be enough for a casual or even very interested player to play through the adventure mode content and for a while beyond, but that limitation will undoubtedly affect the longevity of the game’s community. By forcing players to top up their credit balance with actual cash Sony will bleed their most dedicated fanbase dry and ostracize those exact fans reducing their likelihood of returning to the series. 

Visually Gran Turismo 7 looks good but not great, but when compared to the competition the graphics are unimpressive. But it isn’t the good, not great graphics that are concerning, it’s what they imply. Forza Horizon 5 looks truly next-gen on the Xbox Series X and runs well on the last generation Xbox One. The fact that GT7 was originally announced as a PS5 exclusive was undoubtedly an attempt to move PS5 consoles and only after supply chain issues significantly reduced the number of PS5 owners that would be able to buy the game it was announced that GT7 would also be coming to PS4. Forza Horizon 5 proves that with adequate development time allowed by inclusive planning, games can run on last-generation hardware while also making the most of newer hardware. Sony’s approach obviously didn’t account for a PS4 version of GT7 and when one was announced development resources being shifted to the PS4 version obviously hurt the end product on PS5. 

GT7 Review race simulation playstation
Image: Sony

So while the two biggest problems with GT7 are more conceptual than mechanical, those problems are fundamentally anti-consumer. Aggressive and predatory microtransactions have been specifically designed to take advantage of the people to whom Sony should be most grateful for the success of GT7. And visuals that don’t live up to the high standards set by previous entries in the series are possibly a result of Sony’s attempt to restrict the game from their PS4 audience and having to course-correct late in development. They aren’t huge problems and they won’t affect moment-to-moment gameplay but they do merit discussion and criticism.

A New Start

On the whole, Gran Turismo 7 is a wonderful return to form that I have been longing for with each new entry since GT3. While the biggest problem for the game will undoubtedly be Forza Horizon 5, as a fan of racing games it is wonderful to see Sony compete in a meaningful way again. GT7 is a feather in Sony’s cap and PlayStation players are lucky to be able to play such a highly polished and truly fun simulation racing experience. The game will almost certainly cultivate a dedicated ongoing community in an even more significant way than GT Sport did and it offers diversity in Sony’s first-party offering that hasn’t been seen since the PS3 days.

News writer and Xbox reviewer. Patrick lives in Minneapolis Minnesota with his wife and their dog Ghost. Patrick studied economics at the University of Northern Colorado and is particularly interested in the market dynamics of the video game industry. When he's not working Patrick can be found walking Ghost through downtown MPLS, binging The West Wing on repeat, or playing hockey. You see everything Patrick does right here on GoombaStomp.com.

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