For 25 years now, PlayStation players have had the pleasure of partaking in the Gran Turismo series of simcade racing experiences. As we all hoped, the 25th anniversary celebration that is Gran Turismo 7 is the best iteration yet.
It all kicks off with an engaging credits sequence that takes us from the year dot of automobile culture to the present day – a history lesson interspersed with significant pop culture moments. Once watched, you can skip it or stop it from subsequent plays.
Next, it’s a bit of Out Run-styled arcade fun, as to the strains of everything from the cheese-fest Hooked on Classics to French easy-listening maestro Paul Mauriat, we take to a track and try to keep the pace well enough to get to the end. It’s a sneaky way of getting us used to the controls, as well as a bit of a chance to hint at the glories to come.
Yes, it’s the main event that we’re here for, and in classic GT style it unravels gradually, rewarding the persistent with more and more goodies. The hub within the World Map hub is the Café, the nerve centre of the action if you wish to unlock everything from new tracks to shiny new vehicles and bonus roulette wheel spins. The proprietor, Luca, sets tasks for the eager player to partake in, which may range from winning a race to conquering an entire series, collecting a set of a certain model or just checking something new out. It’s a slick and, more importantly, fun way to progress.
The Café is also a source of entertainment, in that depending upon which shiny motor you’ve pulled up in, you’ll find various patrons more than eager to impart their marque-specific impressions of your current ride. Ultimately, the Café is aimed specifically at solo players, which is a blessing for those who don’t quite feel up to taking on the online world quite yet.
Unlocking everything isn’t by any means a doddle, making any such achievement all the more rewarding. Taking the Café route you’ll encounter the odd chore – we’re looking at you, licence tests – but all is necessary to get further, to such much-craved unlocks as the legendary Nürburgring and the even more legendary Mount Panorama at Bathurst. They’re two of the classic real-world tracks available, along with the likes of Monza, Suzuka, Brans Hatch, Laguna Seca and Fuji International. Then there are fab fictional circuits, including the ace Deep Forest. In all there are 34 locations, with some 97 variations to get to grips with.
While we’re talking numbers, the cars, the wonderful, ever-so- shiny cars! This time out we’ve 424 to lust after. Running the gamut from really old classics to recent releases, via classes ranging from everyday runabouts to pickups, and dream cars to concepts, it really is a cornucopia of “Ooh, want!” What’s even more impressive than the range is how every one of them has been so lovingly represented. Serious detail has gone into every curve, every nuance of the wonderful machinery that we get to play with. You could disappear down a rabbit hole for days just checking out all of the shiny.
As for adding these beauties to your collection, this can come via completing Café challenges, beating other events, roulette spins or the old school way, by earning the cash and buying them outright.
Once everything’s unlocked on the main menu screen, it’s a breeze to flit between the various options. Budget conscious buyers can check out Used Cars, or if new is more your go, then Brand Central is the place to haunt. Loaded and looking for something extra spesh? Check out Legend Cars and try not to get sticker shock. That Veyron does look rather fetching though…
“…it really is a cornucopia of ‘Ooh, want!'”
Other handy hub options amount to the Tuning Shop – which you will need in order to get some of your rides up to spec for certain challenges – and the unnecessary but nice GT Auto for cosmetics, be they for your auto or you. Attention to detail is impressive, for example we plopped a shopping cart-like spoiler on our GR Yaris and from then on every instance throughout the game, down to small icons, reflected the addition. Such little touches are the things that elevate a game from good to great.
As an aside, incredibly great fun can be had taking a severely underpowered car, enhancing the heck out of it with racing upgrades, slapping a set of super-sticky tyres on and going for it. We had an absolute ball owning Lamborghinis, Porsches, Beemers, AMG Mercedes’ and their ilk in a teensy Abarth. Well, in the corners at least. Still, the results speak for themselves…
Right, where were we? Oh yeah, that isn’t it for the hub. There’s the Licence Centre for nailing the basics – it can be a chore, but passes are necessary to get to the fun stuff – another play option in Missions, Showcase to show off your fave captures from Scapes, which offers so many locations to shoot your wheels it borders on bonkers. We found several places in Melbourne that we’ve never even seen, and we’ve lived here for decades now. The level of photographic geek detail that you can dive into is astonishing, including all the full-on camera options that usually have us getting brain-fried and reaching for the nearest Instamatic.
If you’re more of a multiplayer type then, of course, you’re well catered for. Pop into the appropriately named Multiplayer sub-hub and go local and/or online, while those who reckon they’re as good as it gets can take on the rest of the world’s oh-so-serious types in Sport, after signing up and agreeing to play nice.
We’ve avoided the PS5-specific stuff so far, but we can’t hang out any longer. Wow. Wow! The DualSense rumble stuff is cool (even down to that heart-in-the-mouth feeling when you hit a puddle that’s bigger than you expected), and so is the audio, whether you go the hi-fi way or via headset. The loading times? Almost always imperceptible – joy! But it’s the graphics that truly floored us – and that was just running it prioritising framerate. Kick it into prioritising raytracing and there’s a sizeable improvement over the already gorgeous graphics in replays and cutscenes. At times the line between video game and photorealism truly is blurred. As a certain portly and rather curmudgeonly fellow who reviews cars might squeal, “Astonishing!”
Part of this graphical majesty is down to the lighting effects. From small sun glints on vehicles ahead, to the reflections of overhead lights on the pleasingly realistic dashboards of our cars, it’s seriously impressive. In one race we were heading onto Mount Panorama’s Conrod Straight with another car right on our jacksie as night fell. The headlights of the opponent that we were valiantly holding off shone through our back window, ominously illuminating our interior, flickering as we navigated the bumps. Insert another superlative here.
“At times the line between video game and photorealism truly is blurred.”
There aren’t any massive downsides to the action of GT7, just some little niggles that could, if anybody felt obliged, easily be rectified. Sometimes you may enter a race woefully underpowered, and rather than being able to swap out your wheels quickly you have to drill backwards through several menus, change cars or get upgrading, then drill forward again. Also, if you head a little off track, it can be an absolute *bleep* when the game resets your position just as you were getting things right. Then there are surprising little bloopers, such as listing the classic 1960s Minis as German cars (along with the initial run of new MINIs, which were also very proudly British).
If you crave a realistic-looking driving experience that can be as arcade as you want – the first thing we turned off were auto-steering and auto-braking, and we highly recommend that you do the same – or as sim as you can deal with, there’s absolutely nothing out there like Gran Turismo 7. It truly is a gauntlet-hurling milestone in video game circuit racing.
Gran Turismo is available now on PS5 and PS4.