Gran Turismo 7 review: 'sprawling and engrossing'
Gaming: Sony's racing behemoth returns, built for the PS5
It's hard to adequately convey the excitement when a new, full-fat, numbered Gran Turismo title lands. We'd have described it as akin to the arrival a new Star Wars movie, if there hadn't been approximately a hundred of those, of varying quality, in the last few years. Without a convenient, trite analogy close to hand, we'll just have to call it what it is: the biggest news in racing games all year.
But does Gran Turismo 7 itself, out this week on PlayStations 4 and 5, live up to the sky-high expectation? Well, yes and no. Rest assured, the sheer quality of GT remains completely unmatched – these are still the most precisely modelled, most lovingly textured and certainly the shiniest cars you'll have ever seen in a videogame. The handling is also brilliantly intuitive, particularly in conjunction with the PS5's DualSense controller, which transmits a remarkable amount of information via your clammy palms. You'll feel everything from locking brakes to the weighty thunk of a racing gear-shift, stuff that's usually the preserve of owners of high end sim equipment.
Most anticipated by longstanding series fans is the return of GT Mode, the sprawling car-collecting campaign that took you all the way from liberating a second hand road car from the classified ads to competing in the top echelons of motorsport. It's back, in the shape of GT 7's World Map, but there has been a fundamental change that may frustrate those very same fans. Even more than trying to claim gold medals on those last few license tests.
Your progress through the single player game is now a lot more prescribed than it used to be. Whereas your choice of cars and races entered used to feel unique to your own chosen route through the game, GT7 now holds your hand tighter than a frightened four-year old. It's perhaps less daunting to newcomers, but it feels restrictive compared to previous GT Modes until the very late hours of the campaign and turns your accumulation of cars into more of a checklist to be completed rather than a carefully curated, deeply personal garage.
Combine that with stingy prize payouts and absolutely brutal roulette spins that usually seem to pay out either pocket change or a camshaft for a Mazda Atenza and you can't help but feel the game is pushing you ever so gently towards spending real money and further away from earning your way to that dream car, whatever it is.
That's by far our biggest gripe, but it's probably our only one. The on-track driving experience is masterful, the tuning options are better than they've ever been and we're particularly impressed by the dynamic day and night system and the localised, changing weather. Those two wildcard elements combine to add texture and variety to race events, meaning rocking up to a circuit where you've already turned hundreds of laps doesn't necessarily mean exactly the same experience as last time. It's helpful because, necessarily, there's a lot of duplication of content from previous game GT Sport – each car in a modern Gran Turismo game is the 3D modelling equivalent of painting the Sistine Chapel, so it's not really surprising that there aren't many all-new vehicles.
We should also mention the bizarre new Music Rally mode, which is a brief diversion that for some reason takes pride of place on the main menu. It's designed to be a more casual driving experience, emphasising driving to an eclectic, and frankly weird, selection of music tracks rather than focussing on listening intently for the first evidence of tyre scrub. Not to sound like a joyless pedant, but that does also mean that the Hungarian folk song blasting out of the speakers drowns out the engine note and makes it considerably easier to miss a gear shift.
Most importantly, Gran Turismo 7 remains a sprawling, engrossing racing game that will handily hoover up hours of your life, to the detriment of work, family and personal hygiene. It's also heart-stoppingly beautiful on PlayStation 5 hardware. This is a game where you'll complete a race and then happily sit through the full replay just to ogle the cars. Which, unfortunately for the state of our armpits, is only likely to double the hours we're going to plough into this enormous, brilliant game...
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