Series creator Kazunori Yamauchi says Gran Turismo 7 is the “most complete Gran Turismo to date,” and you can see it in every single area of the game: the technical side, the simulation side, and in the quirky frivolities and obsessions that have come to live alongside the core racing and driving experience. Looking back to the series’ creation in the mid-90s, Yamauchi notes a distinct shift in our perception of cars. In other words, it’s going to be the most Gran Turismo-y Gran Turismo that ever Gran Turismo’d.
Let’s start with that simulation, which Polyphony Digital have worked to take further than in the FIA approved GT Sport. Pick up a game pad or plug in a racing wheel, and I’ve no doubt that the game will feel very similar to playing GT Sport, but careful refinements and added depths to the simulation will pervade the experience as well.
Take the dynamic time and weather systems which are returning to the game for the first time since GT5. For some of the game’s 34 tracks, Polyphony has sampled real world atmospheric and meteorological data, right down to ensuring the sun and moon rise in accurate locations and the starry nights shift depending on the date, and time. For the racing itself, the track is affected by the local atmosphere, the surface temperature impacts tyre grip, the weather and altitude impacts engine power, and there’s varying strength of slipstreaming modelled after CFD simulations. A new weather radar lets players see and predict weather conditions – handy on gigantic circuits like the Nurburgring, where one part can be wet and the other dry. The track will get damp, puddle and dry up in a natural fashion too.
The car physics have been tuned in consultation with Lewis Hamilton, top drivers from GT Sport’s esports championships, as well as car manufacturers, so lap times you can achieve in-game should match more closely to the real world.
Of course, there’s also car tuning, which can massively ramp up the speed and power of a car – even an oil change will help there! A new advance for Gran Turismo 7 is that instead of applying a simple formula of weight, power and tyre grip, the game will run background simulations on the fly to figure out how big your car’s PP is – hey, stop laughing at the back. PP stands for Performance Points, and while it’s been useful to mix cars in event previously, it’s always allowed for some serious advantages to exploit.
The fundamentals have been improved, but around it you have a traditional Gran Turismo experience. There’s license tests, there’s races and cups to compete in across the world of circuits, and Mission races that include specific racing forms like drag racing and drift trials – you’ll want to tune your car specifically for these challenges.
If it all sounds like the quintessential Gran Turismo experience, that’s because it probably is. That also means there’ll be some new quirks thrown into the mix, like Scapes (which has now been enhanced with ray tracing). Gran Turismo 7 is intended to kindle the fires of car enthusiasts, to recapture that vibe for a new generation.
At the heart of that is the new Café, a location on the game’s menu map that you can head to where you’ll be regaled with stories from the creators of the different cars you’ve been driving – Freeman Thomas recalling the creation of the Audi TT, Tom Matano talking about Mazda’s iconic roadsters and the like – and it’s also here that you’ll find the path to the game’s “ending”. There’s no traditional GT Mode, so it’s by completing the Menu Book quests to collect various different cars that you’ll get the credits rolling, though Polyphony obviously hope you’ll keep playing long after that.
Gran Turismo has long been a kind of automotive Pokémon. Remember the trophy for buying 1,000 cars in Gran Turismo 5? Expect a similar feeling as you visit Brand Central to pick up modern (2001 and later) cars from all manner of manufacturers in the game. You’ll want to check in each day for the Used Car Dealership’s latest array of more affordable cars (though some will be more expensive, in line with, for example, the 90s Japanese car boom that is currently in full swing). Then there’s the Legendary Car Dealership with some of the most storied vehicles available to buy. We’re talking the Aston Martin DB5, AMG CLK-LM and Porsche 917K, or a humble Jeep Willys MB from 1945.
Gran Turismo has always had the tagline ‘The Real Driving Simulator’. Gran Turismo 7 wants to capture a new aspect of that which previous games have largely failed to do: driving with the radio on. When you’re racing, when you need to hear the rev limiter for upshifts, or the sound of other cars to avoid a crash, having the music on is a distraction. Music Rally and Music Replay are the antidote to this.
Music Replay takes the game’s long-standing race replay feature and bends the camera switches to work with the tempo and musical phrases – expect them every 4 or 8 bars, at a basic level. Music Rally is more interesting, dropping you onto a track with an arcade-style time limit and gates to get more time, except that it’s ‘beats’, and they tick down with the BPM of the track you’re driving to, trying to survive until the end of the track with time in hand. Simple twists on familiar ideas, but a good enough reason to stuff the soundtrack with 75 artists and over 300 tracks across classic, jazz, hip hop, electro and lounge.
Gran Turismo 7 finds itself in an interesting spot technically, as it straddles the PS4 and PS5 generations. Expect it to be fundamentally quite similar to GT Sport on the last generation (though optimised to within an inch of its engine life to enable the dynamic weather, enhanced handling models and all the rest), while PS5 can push ahead with new technical innovations. There’s 3rd order Ambisonics for the audio, sound reflections being affected by different materials, the PS5’s 3DAudioTech allowing for the equivalent of 16 channel surround sound to help with positioning where overtaking cars are at.
Then there’s the haptics and adaptive triggers. I can’t wait to see how they pull of the feeling of locking brakes, steering wide and positionally rumbling over the kerbs… though I know that diehards will immediately plug in their racing wheel for the best experience possible.
And then we come to the final point: the resolution, performance and ray tracing. Ray tracing is limited to replays, the garage and photo modes, being too intensive to feature when the game has to hit 4K 60fps. Does that make the original reveal trailer that got everyone gushing over reflections a bit of a fib? Maybe, from side-by-side videos in the replay mode, I can confidently say it doesn’t matter one bit. You get better shadowing on wheel rims, more accurate light bounce and reflections, but I can’t say they matter in real time racing.
When you get right down to it, the most important thing about the most complete Gran Turismo to date is that it’s still fundamentally Gran Turismo. Gran Turismo 7 will take those steps forward in presentation, simulation and quirky new features, but the thing I’m most looking forward to is how it’s going to push me to show up on a Monday night and race online with some of TSA’s loveliest readers.