There are numerous reasons why Gran Turismo 7 may annoy you.
Take its menus, for example, which are unnecessarily fiddly. Starting from the world map, you might navigate to the World Circuits pavilion, enter it, select a region, select a location, then select an event, only to discover you’re not in the correct car for it. Thankfully you can easily change your car for one that is eligible with just a couple of additional button presses providing you have one in your garage, but if you don’t, or if it’s not at the required performance level, it’s back to the world map you go to click through yet more menus.
It’s perhaps when tuning your car that Gran Turismo 7‘s menus are at their most egregious. Instead of grouping all of your exhaust options together, for example, they’re instead split into the performance categories they fall into. Upgrade parts are spread across Sports, Club Sports, Semi-Racing, Racing and Extreme tabs, basically, and to fully upgrade your vehicles you’ll have to grab parts from nearly all of them. You might sit there wondering “do I need this upgrade, or does something supersede it in another tab?”. It’s just needlessly complicated.
Another thing that might annoy you is the new career structure. Gone are the days where you’re just presented with a screen of events that are available to you, and it’s up to you to chart your own path through them while unlocking new ones. No, Gran Turismo 7 wants to hold your hand. Instead, you’ll be making frequent visits to a café, where a gentleman presents objectives to you in the form of menu books. Complete this menu book by obtaining these three cars and you’ll unlock these locations, he muses. After that he’s got another menu book for you. And then another. And another. You’ll quite possibly get fed up of receiving roulette tickets as rewards which almost always give you the worst prize possible.
While you can ignore the menu books and go about your own business if you wish, you’ll find your options fairly limited. You see, it’s only by completing menu books that you’ll unlock all of the modes and features available in the game, as well as race locations. And you’re not given a choice of menu books, either; they’re simply handed to you one by one, keeping you on a very linear path. It’s the path to becoming a car collector, in fact, and with cars doled out to you for free left, right and centre as rewards, you’ve soon got a collection that makes you wonder if you’ll ever need to spend any money. You will, of course. Eventually.
Once you’ve unlocked every mode, feature and track available in Gran Turismo 7, it finally starts to feel like a good old-fashioned Gran Turismo game. There’ll still be menus to tackle, both of the user interface and game progression variety, but with everything you need to have fun and express yourself at your fingertips, they’ll no longer be quite the speed bumps that they were. It’s just a shame it takes so long to get there. The café menu book system is no doubt a change made to better onboard players new to the world of Gran Turismo. And it probably works. But it should have perhaps been entirely optional for those who have poured hundreds of hours into the series prior.
When Gran Turismo 7 fully opens up, there’s nearly everything a car fanatic could dream about. Hundreds of iconic cars from around the world, painstakingly recreated? Check. A wide range of real-world and fantasy tracks? Check. Dynamic weather? Check. Unparalleled handing and physics? Check. Online modes for fun and serious competition? Check. This is the real driving simulator, with new features such as a dynamic racing line and water accumulation on the track truly being game changers. You really can feel the difference between one lap of a track and the next, especially when the rain picks up. And if you don’t have full control of your car, you won’t find yourself getting far.
There are multiple difficulty settings available, and many events allow you to make your car outperform everything else on the track if you wish. But otherwise, Gran Turismo 7 is tough. You need to learn each track, and the little quirks of each car that you drive, otherwise you’ll quickly find yourself at the back of the pack. You won’t find some of the assists and crutches that you’ll find in other racing games here, such as rewinds or a colour-coded racing line that tells you when to break and accelerate, but you will find licence tests and circuit experiences to help you develop your skills. For some it will be off-putting, but for others overwhelmingly rewarding.
When it comes to the racing experience, however, there are some bugbears. The A.I., for example: why, after seven mainline entries in the series, do your competitors still drive around like mindless drones? It is somewhat improved, but your opponents still rarely make mistakes and have zero track awareness, making races feel a little sterile. Also, where’s the option to take part in qualifying before events so you don’t have to start at the rear of the pack all of the time? And why’s there no way to see what the weather is expected to be like during the upcoming race so you can decide whether to equip the right tyres for a heavy downpour or not?
For all of its irritations and disappointments, though, there’s something magical about Gran Turismo 7 that keeps you playing. Like the entries that came before it, there’s a certain je ne sais quoi that you just can’t find anywhere else. This is a game where you can talk to a young chap called Beauvois before a race, who’ll happily tell you about his love of baguettes. It’s also a game where upon choosing to modify your car with a wide body, a little animation plays out where numerous mechanics can be seen to pull on a car’s body panels as if to stretch them out. It’s weird and wonderful. It has charm.
It’s also absurdly beautiful – at least on PS5, the format we used for review. The car models here are second to none, and so are the tracks. It’s a level of detail that’s bordering on obsessive, with even the stars and clouds being simulated. No matter what location you’re at or the time of day, it always looks absurdly nice – but every once in a while the weather and lighting systems combine to put something on screen that’s eerily realistic. It’s just criminal there’s no photo mode to activate while you play, but then we’d probably never actually finish any races. At least there’s Scapes mode where you can fulfil your photography dreams.
A special mention must also go out to the game’s use of the DualSense controller. Adaptive trigger supports means you feel tension under acceleration and braking, while haptic feedback lets you feel every bump in the road, every gear change, and every wheel that goes over a chevron. It adds another dimension to each and every event, drawing you further into the action while also providing valuable feedback. Gran Turismo 7 is best enjoyed with a steering wheel, of course, but the features of the DualSense make using a controller more appealing than ever.
Has Gran Turismo 7 fulfilled all of our wildest dreams? Unfortunately not. And for some players the new career structure, unwieldy menus and drone-like A.I. might really knock their duck off. But for those prepared to scratch under the surface and accept that not everything can be perfect, there’s one hell of a racing game to be enjoyed here. Although to call it a racing game is perhaps reductive: this is about the love of cars just as much it is about racing them. Whether you want to learn about the history of some of the most iconic cars in the world, take stunning photographs, complete your car collection or race others online, this is the game for you. This is Gran Turismo, and there’s nothing else quite like it.
Gran Turismo 7 Review – GameSpew’s Score