I’ve been playing Gran Turismo 7 on my PlayStation 5 and I LOVE it! The love Polyphony Digital has for the automobile and its history is contagious. The precision the gameplay asks for is gripping, and the polish the experience has as a whole is staggering. You don’t get that with some cheap Turtle Wax. Today, I want to dig into how Gran Turismo 7 accomplishes that, but from a casual’s perspective.
Gran Turismo 7’s Love For The History
Instead of injecting some lazy story about a driver’s rise through the racing scene, Polyphony Digital filled Gran Turismo 7 with the rich history of the automobile. The opening cinematic showcases this perfectly and while watching it, I felt like I was watching a documentary. The care and attention given to the history of each manufacturer and their vehicles is a love letter to the automotive industry.
Gran Turismo 7 asks you to collect cars by winning races and your rewards are new vehicles. Whenever you add a car to your collection, you store it in your garage. Each vehicle has its own history and description viewable in the garage. These aren’t descriptions like, “The Chevrolet Camaro was first made in 1967 to compete with the Ford Mustang,”. Instead, Polyphony Digital goes so much deeper than that. I have spent more time in the garage than I care to admit. Just reading about the cars I’ve won or purchased.
The writers at Polyphony Digital showed undivided love to each car’s description and history. Making what could have been throwaway collectible descriptions truly fascinating. Most games have collectibles but they’re just that, collectibles. Gran Turismo 7 could have the player unlocking silly accessories as collectibles, but instead Polyphony Digital made the collecting of cars a core mechanic. The depth of that mechanic is special and should be applauded.
Every time I complete one of the Menu Books, which are essentially the game’s chapters, I return to the Cafe. Luca, the Cafe’s chef, then regales me with the history of the cars I just collected to complete the menu he crafted. Most games would have just had you turn in the missions and then gave you another set. Gran Turismo 7 slows you down, ironically, and asks you to spend some time appreciating the automobile. It’s really special.
There was a time when I pulled up to the Cafe to collect another Menu Book, but I did so in a Mazda Miata. The designer of the Miata, Tom Matano, was at the Cafe and he told stories of the design philosophy and the impact of the Miata on enthusiasts. It was a great little moment that I haven’t seen in any other racing game. I also learned that Mazda calls the Miata the Eunos Roadster in Japan. The game is filled with lots of fun tidbits of information like that.
I’m not the type to read every text log that I find in a game or even listen to every audio log that auto-plays. But I’ve been combing through every description for every car, and reading every optional dialogue Gran Turismo 7 throws my way. All because I’m fascinated by Polyphony Digital’s apparent love for the history, the art, and the technology of the automotive industry.
That’s the power of Gran Turismo 7, and I never would have expected to have this reaction to the non-gameplay aspects of the game. But I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the gameplay because that too caught me completely by surprise.
When I bought Gran Turismo 7, I had to think twice about it because it’s a racing simulator. Outside of a brief period of time when I played Forza Motorsport 2, I typically steer clear of racing simulators. I tend to gravitate toward more arcade-like racing games. I enjoyed last year’s Forza Horizon 5 quite a bit. But would I like “the real racing simulator” that is Gran Turismo 7? The answer is yes, and way more than I anticipated.
First of all, Gran Turismo 7 eases you into the experience by starting you out with compact cars. Compact cars are much easier to control. Then it begins introducing License challenges and Missions. These give you focused practice with scenarios that help you develop the skills to compete at a higher level. I think this game is more accessible than most people would think. Unfortunately, I would bet a lot of people are missing out on an experience they would enjoy out of fear that it’s too difficult.
The game is challenging, don’t get me wrong, but it’s challenging in the, “one more try,” kind of way. Not to mention, there are plenty of accessibility options to make things easier. But the game lets you know that you can’t compete at the highest level while using them. These options are there while you acclimated to the experience, as well as to give you live examples of what you should do in certain scenarios.
Of course, you can set your car’s transmission to Automatic or Manual, but you can also tweak your traction control and your anti-lock braking system. Where things get a little more interesting is Auto-Drive, which will literally brake and steer for you. There’s also Driving Line Assistance that lets you know where you should be, when you should brake, and when you should start steering to most effectively take a turn.
There’s also a handful of additional settings: Active Stability Management helps prevent your car from spinning out, and Counter-Steering Assistance, which automatically corrects the car if it’s over-steered. What’s great about these options is that they’re not all On or Off options. You can adjust them from Weak to Strong to fit your needs. I found myself setting options to Strong, and once I felt like it was holding me back, I lowered the settings accordingly.
For the first time in a racing game, I’m using the first-person mode while driving. I typically feel like I’m worse at racing games while my perspective is inside the car, but in Gran Turismo 7, I feel the complete opposite way. Maybe the arcadey feel of games like Forza Horizon 5 throws off the first-person perspective but in Gran Turismo 7, it feels natural. I actually believe I drive better in first-person, and I want to drive better. Not stare at my car’s rear-end.
I thought I would want to just race, but I’m spending way more time completing License Challenges and Missions. These bite-sized challenges are difficult but they’re also a ton of fun. They reinforce my understanding of the game and remind me of the trial-and-error of boss fights. The track is the boss and the corners are their attacks. Once you know how to anticipate and maneuver each corner, the track is a breeze.
These License Challenges also serve as checks to make sure you’re ready for the next set of Menus. Each set of Menus builds up to a championship race but before you can enter, you must have a B-License, A-License, and so on. The pacing this game enforces is really helpful and makes the game more accessible for beginners, which I appreciate.
What I enjoy the most about driving in Gran Turismo 7 is the connection between the DualSense controller and the vehicle. I feel more in-tune with the vehicle and how it handles, thanks to the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. The resistance in the triggers when cornering and braking make it easier to accurately accelerate and slow down. Plus, feeling the rumble when accidentally riding onto the shoulder of the road has the same startling sensation as it does in real life.
Every aspect of the gameplay is so finely tuned that I’m still in disbelief that this game is real. As soon as I launch into a race, I’m immediately immersed into the driving experience that is directly connected to the polish Polyphony Digital gave to every aspect of Gran Turismo 7. That polish extends to areas of the game well outside of driving, so let’s take a closer look.
Fit & Finish
The style and presentation that are on display in Gran Turismo 7 are second to none. As soon as the game launched, I was immediately aware that this was a superlative experience. Even my girlfriend, who doesn’t play many games, commented on its presentation. Polyphony Digital’s execution is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition, but let me explain how.
I mentioned before that the opening cinematic felt like I was watching a documentary, but I don’t mean something like Tiger King. This feels more like The Beatles: Get Back or The Last Dance. It’s essentially an opening credit scene that walks you through the history of the automobile, but the quality of its production is next-level.
The UI is sleek, minimalist, and so easily navigated. I played Forza Horizon 5 for months and still find myself lost while trying to find things in the menus. That is not at all a concern with Gran Turismo 7. It also oozes style, and at first, I admittedly thought that was unnecessary. But now that I’ve spent some time with it, I appreciate the elevation of what could have been monotonous.
For example, let’s look at the Cafe. Why would there be a Cafe in a racing game? That’s what I thought at first, but now I see why. Polyphony Digital took the simple idea of talking to the Non-Playable Character that gives you quests and elevated it with style, while still keeping it simple.
You arrive at the Cafe, and see your car out-front, shining in the sunlight. The music of the Cafe fills the negative space with ambiance and while you learn about your next Menu, the visuals are incredibly detailed. Just think, this could have been a lazy, visual novel-style scene with a semi-static NPC and a stock image of a Cafe for the background. But Polyphony Digital went the extra mile, and it elevates the experience completely.
Taking your car to the shop is simple, and compared to everything else, maybe too simple at a glance. But when you think about how tuning cars is traditionally the most difficult aspect of racing simulators, simplifying the experience is welcomed. You’re also eased into tuning with better performing parts by unlocking the Club Sports, Semi-Racing, Racing, and Extreme tabs as your Collector Level increases.
Visiting Brand Central is essentially an international dealership. Cars are first separated by America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. Then it gets more granular with brand separations. Each brand has a showroom, where you can view their cars and concept cars. Brands also have a channel section, where you can watch videos about the brand’s vehicles. Some have a museum section, where a historical timeline is presented. Others link to the brand’s official website. Brand Central looks great and is super easy to use.
You can take a break from racing to play with the photo mode called Scapes. Scapes allow you to pick from a plethora of Spots from all around the world to use as a backdrop for your photography. Here you can place any car you want into the Spot you’ve selected. Then add things like tire dirt, raindrops, brake dust, etc. You can toy around with a lot of camera settings, as well as edit the photo with myriad effects. I’m not the best with in-game photo modes but even I can use Gran Turismo 7’s.
I can’t think of any other game with this much style and finish that runs as smoothly as Gran Turismo 7. Every menu is snappy, simple, and beautiful. It’s truly an accomplishment that Polyphony Digital deserves all the roses for managing to pull off. The fit and finish are the immaculately tied bow on top of the new car in the driveway. It’s an incredibly special experience that I recommend anyone check out.
Gran Turismo 7’s Final Lap
I had my doubts about whether or not to buy Gran Turismo 7, but I am so happy that I did. Every facet of this game has captivated me. I honestly believe it is so much more than a racing game for racing fans. It is the quintessential racing game for video game players.
I truly believe that anyone that enjoys video games will enjoy this game and appreciate the attention to detail on display. The accessibility options will guide beginners until they are up-to-speed and experienced players will be off to the races immediately. From the finer details to the gameplay experience, and even the history of the automobile; Gran Turismo 7 excels and is superb.
I’m not here to sell you on the game. I was simply so caught off guard by Gran Turismo 7, that I felt compelled to share my experience with it. I know there are a lot of gamers out there that feel the way I did. But I am not being hyperbolic when I say that this is a Game of the Year Contender. You owe it to yourself to check out Gran Turismo 7 because Polyphony Digital gapped the competition and is proudly amongst the top three of 2022.
Have you played Gran Turismo 7? What do you think? If you haven’t, do you think you’ll check it out? Let us know in the comments below!