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Gran Turismo 7 Is The Most Accessible Game In The Franchise Yet

Platform(s): PS4, PS5 (Gran Turismo 7 version played)
Genre: Sim racing, racing simulator

It’s been almost a decade since the last mainline title in the franchise, Gran Turismo 6 for the PS3 in 2013, but the “real driving simulator” is finally back. 2017’s Gran Turismo Sport was a worthy multiplayer-focused experiment by Polyphony Digital, but fans of the series have been waiting for a more traditional Gran Turismo experience, and Gran Turismo 7 definitely delivers on that.

For full transparency, I would like to clarify that I played and reviewed Gran Turismo 7 as a casual fan of racing games. They’re not my forte in any way and the last Gran Turismo title I previously was Gran Turismo 4 for the PS2 (so you’ll know where I’m coming from). Still, the reality is that there’ll be just as many casual gamers interested in Gran Turismo 7 as hardcore fans, but this review will be prioritising more on the perspective of the former.

So, if you’ve never played a Gran Turismo title or if you don’t really play racing games in general, should you get Gran Turismo 7? I’ll be answering that in my review.

Put The Pedal To The Metal

The most important I should point out is that Gran Turismo 7 is a racing simulator, first and foremost. It’s closer to the annual F1 titles (a couple of which I previously reviewed) compared to say, arcade racing franchises like Need For Speed, Burnout or Forza Horizon. Hardcore sim racing fans may think it’s dumb of me to point this out, but many casual gamers may not realise just how different sim racing games play in comparison to arcade racers. You can’t just get a faster car and speed your way to victory by pressing the accelerate button.

Well, that’s not entirely true, either. Sure, Gran Turismo 7 has a bunch of extensive assist mechanics in the options menu that you can turn on, but ultimately, you still need to get good to win, usually. My point is this; there’s a steeper learning curve to this game that’s not in other more arcadey racing games. That said, with assists on, I had a much easier time than I expected, though the game is still pretty difficult for casual racing fans. You have to race more meticulously, and not just press the accelerate button.

Gran Turismo 7 is obviously a racing game, but what do you actually do? Well, Gran Turismo 7 doesn’t feature the open-world system of games like Forza Horizon 5 or the Need For Speed titles. In the GT Simulation Mode single-player campaign, you’ll get access to the World Map, which is a hub where you can access different locations for various purposes. These include the Café, the License Center, Tuning Shop, Garage, and more. More places will open up and be accessible as you progress through the game, including Scapes, Livery Editor and more.

The places you’ll visit the most, especially earlier on in the game before you unlock anything else, are the World Circuit and Café. The World Circuit speaks for itself; it’s where you’ll be selecting the tracks, races and championships you’ll be racing in. And no, the Café isn’t a place you’ll be having a virtual lunch or dinner at. It’s actually where part of the progression system is. You’ll go there and complete objectives as part of Menu Books. You’ll gain new cars simply by winning races at the World Circuit by completing the objectives on the Menu Books (which is the game’s primary method of unlocking new cars, besides using in-game money CP to buy new ones).

These Menu Books aren’t just all races either. They’re good for introducing players to try something new on the World Map. For example, when I unlocked the Scapes mode, one of the Menu Books’ objectives was simply to head there and take a picture. The Scapes mode is sort of like the game’s Photo Mode, where you can choose any car and any selected landscape/background of your choice for a picture. To my fellow Malaysians, yes, there are several Malaysian selections as well, including beautiful backgrounds set in Kuala Lumpur and Malacca.

Gran Turismo 7 also features a levelling system called the Collector Level. As you win more races or challenges, you’ll gain experience points and increase your level, thus unlocking more places on the World Map and more content. After winning a certain amount of races and completing a certain amount of Menu Books, you can participate in Championships. However, to take part in some of these Championships, you’ll need to acquire the required licenses at the License Center. This is where the game might frustrate players who are less skilled in racing games.

To acquire the licenses, you’ll need to complete a bunch of tests for each one. Most of the early ones teach you how to do corners and stuff, but to pass the tests, you’ll need at least Bronze. This, in turn, requires players to complete a particular test in a specific amount of time. Basically, these tests are time trials, and they can be annoying if you’re a perfectionist who strives for Gold. You only need Bronze for each test to acquire the license but trust me, some of these are difficult to pull off in the allotted. It’s frustrating when you’re just seconds or nanoseconds away from getting that Bronze, Silver or Gold, and there’s nothing you can do but to get good and practice until you can complete them.

You need these licenses to unlock more races and progress through the game, so you have no choice. That’s why it’s important for me to point out the “racing simulator” part of the game, so casual gamers will know what to expect. You can’t just trailblaze through this game. You have to consider what time of car you’re using, the track you’re racing on, the weather conditions (especially if it’s raining), and more. Thankfully, Gran Turismo 7 does make upgrading the performance and tuning of your car easier by giving each of them an overall performance level called PP. You’ll know that a 100,000 PP car will definitely be slower than a 200,000 PP car.

To be completely frank, I was expecting Gran Turismo 7 to be just as frustrating as other racing simulators out there. Using the assists in the F1 games made me feel like I’m not playing the game like I should, which made the experience unearned and therefore less satisfying. I didn’t have much of the same problem with Gran Turismo 7. There were still many races that frustrated me, but none of them was unfair. After familiarizing myself with the tracks and tuning my cars appropriately, I could still win those races and felt like I earned them.

One gripe that I do have with the game is that you have to be online at all times in the game in order to save your progress or even play the game. That’s right, despite having a single-player campaign, you can’t even play the game offline. The only thing you can play offline is the arcade mode. Everything else, including your progress, has to be done while online. That’s not exactly a big problem for me, since I always have my console connected online, but I’m sure there are some of you who’d prefer being able to play and save the game without needing an Internet connection at all times.

Gran Visuals

If there’s one thing that’s undeniable about Gran Turismo 7, it’s the visuals. The franchise has always impressed with near photo-realistic visuals but this one is no exception. Case in point, I had a few cousins over who watched the game while I was playing it, and they were marvelling over how lifelike the cars were to their real-life counterparts, including both the exterior and interior of the cars. After any race, the post-race replays look remarkably cinematic and are as close to photorealism as the series has ever been.

I’m not exaggerating when I say this is perhaps one of the most beautiful racing games I’ve ever seen. That may sound obvious if you’ve seen the trailers, but even as someone who’s normally clueless about cars, I would sometimes leave the post-race replays playing just because of how gorgeous the game looks. I had no qualms about sacrificing framerate to play the game in 4K with HDR activated. The game has to be seen to be believed.

However, the game isn’t exactly visually perfect. The environmental visuals could have been better. The developer went for a more subdued and subtle aesthetic when it came to the game’s environments. Perhaps the purpose of this was to make the game look more realistic. However, compared to the vibrant and lively visuals of the environments and settings in the Forza Horizon franchise, the world around the cars in Gran Turismo 7 can sometimes look a bit bland.

Ride Or Die

Polyphony Digital has definitely succeeded in making a racing simulator that even a casual gamer can enjoy. I remember having a harder time in Gran Turismo 4 and the more recent F1 titles. In comparison, Gran Turismo 7 is a lot more accessible, perhaps even the most accessible the franchise has ever been. It still has a few issues, but if you’re willing to put some effort into your racing skills, the game can be enjoyable and satisfying.

Pros

  • One of the most beautiful racing games we’ve ever seen.
  • Lifelike attention to detail on cars and more to satisfy fans.
  • An easy-to-understand progression system that regularly unlocks new cars.

Cons

  • The steep learning curve for casual racing game fans, even with all the assists.
  • Completing the time trial tests for acquiring licenses can be frustrating.
  • You have to be online at all times to play and save the game.

Final Score: 70/100

Review copy provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment. Played on PS5. Gran Turismo 7 releases for PS4 and PS5 on 4 March 2022.

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