It’s been many years since Gran Turismo had this air about it. Not since its PS2 heyday has the series truly felt whole, complete, and utterly self-assured. Five years in the making, Gran Turismo 7 looks set to demonstrate exactly what PS5 is capable of and, personally, I haven’t felt this excited about a racing game in years. I’ve just seen an hour of the game being shown in exquisite detail and I’m here to tell you it looks magnificent.
Let’s start with the core game, which is a serious racing sim, as per usual. It’s ‘always online’ in that it requires an internet connection, but it isn’t focused purely on multiplayer like GT Sport was at launch. Instead, the World Map returns, offering Brand Central to buy new cars from 2001 onwards, Used Cars to buy these and older models at reduced prices (unless the car is rare in which case it’ll go up, and this is based on real-world data that’ll be updated slightly every day) and a Legends area where you can buy all-time classics.
But this classic career is not the only single-player mode on offer – far from it. Complementing this is the all-new Gran Turismo Café. This is a virtual café complete with a knowledgeable proprietor who talks you through the cars as you browse and fill out various menus. There are 30+ menus to complete, each with challenges and cars to collect. Better still, other people will visit this café and talk about the cars you’re collecting, including some of the actual engineers and designers who built them. That’s super-cool.
Then there’s the new Music Rally mode, which is intended to allow you to focus on the underrated joy of driving to music. While the game’s creator Kazunori Yamauchi clearly intends it to be relaxing, it currently looks pretty stressful, as the beats-per-minute ticks down, replenished by arcade-esque checkpoints, but he assured us there’s plenty of scope for drifts and donuts between tracks. We shall see.
Music seems to have been a core area expanded for this game, with some 75 artists and 300 music tracks spanning different genres and moods. There’s also a new ‘Music Replay’ mode which dynamically changes camera angles in your replays, in time with the music. But the sonic delights don’t stop there, with 3D spatial audio known as ‘ambisonics’ that can create the world in a soundscape around you with multiple speakers, or convert it to a stereo mix for headphones. Sure enough, it does sound phenomenal as cars zoom up behind your parked vehicle before zooming by and away. Sound will be acoustically mapped and dampened according to the properties of the surfaces it bounces off, all in real-time. It sounds like a studio-mastered soundtrack. All the time.
Track-wise, there will be 34 locations and 90 layouts on Day 1 across a mix of real and fictional circuits, including classics like Trial Mountain, Deep Forest, and the High Speed Ring, which were seen in the original Gran Turismo 25 years ago. More will be added later via DLC. All tracks will have sunny and cloudy variants and morning to evening time-of-day changes, while others like Spa, Nurburgring, and the Le Mans 24 Hour circuit will feature full day/night transitions. Not every track will feature wet weather, but those that do will feature an advanced weather simulation, complete with organic dry lines emerging, puddles forming and drying realistically and even one side of the track seeing rainfall while the other is dry. Tracks also now host their own events, with the familiar Clubman Cup and Sunday Cup, plus a meeting space to chat with other players, and a Circuit Experience which will help you learn the circuit.
Modding returns (hooray!), with comprehensive setup options all based on real-world physics. Whereas in the past your Performance Points rating would be based on a simple mathematical formula based on grip, engine power, and weight, here everything is simulated in full at the touch of a very inviting-looking button. This allows slower, entry-level cars like the classic Volkswagen Beetle to be able to match a Porsche 911 on the track as you soup it up.
You can even modify the wheelbase of some cars, and then go to town on stickers and decals, with more detail and placement options than ever before. Yamauchi told us: “If you look at Gran Turismo 7 from a different angle, I think you could see it as a huge collection of creative tools, like a creative suite.” While setups can’t be shared due to too many modding variables, styles, stickers, liveries, replays, and photos can all be shared.
There is, of course, also the prospect of ray tracing. The game runs at 60fps with ray tracing switched off (known as Frame Rate mode), but can also run at 30fps with ray tracing switched on. We were shown a comparison between the two modes running side-by-side, but I’ve got to say I’d never go with ray-tracing based on this evidence. The dip in motion fluidity grates and even a layman would surely point to Frame Rate mode looking better overall. However, where ray tracing will certainly come into its own is in the returning photo mode, which will feature 2,500 locations around the globe. The options for camera setup are astonishingly detailed and the pictures are absolutely beautiful, no question.
Then there are DualSense’s advanced DualSense features like adaptive triggers and haptic feedback. Yamauchi told us that the haptic feedback is aiming for the frequencies that sound alone cannot reach, even going so far as to say it doesn’t go over 100hz because “that just becomes sounds”. You’ll feel the rumble of kerbs, bumps, and your tyres struggling for grip. The adaptive triggers will accurately simulate the play and resistance of the brake pedal of each car you use.
One question mark does still hang over damage modeling. It wasn’t mentioned at all in the presentation, and when I submitted the question for the Q&A afterwards, it was ignored, so make of that what you will.
Yamauchi describes the game as “the car life simulator”, which is a pleasing play on the original tagline of ‘The Real Driving Simulator’. Ironically, that original tagline looks to be more true than ever even with the automotive world built around it. From aerodynamic physics in slipstream modeling to the new modding system, weather, cloud formation, and even the second-hand car market, this is a comprehensive simulation of real life. Of course, it’ll have some bonkers elements – it is Gran Turismo after all – and daft Easter Eggs have been confirmed, if not detailed. But it’s also looking like being the ultimate racing game. And anyone who knows me will know I do not say such things lightly.
Best of all, the game is out on March 4, 2022, which is next month. Be excited. Be very excited.