Gran Turismo 7 Review: A sublime racing simulator

Just over 20 years ago, I unboxed the original PlayStation and with it, two of the first games I ever played, in Tekken 3 and Gran Turismo. I still remember being amazed by the stunning visuals, if a little intimidated by the realistic gameplay. Cut to the present day. I am a car lover and it is in this latest iteration that I feel the same as I did as a young boy, now obsessed with the stunning visuals, and enticed by the realistic mechanics and gameplay. But I can’t help but admit that Gran Turismo 7 already holds a special place in my heart. The series has helped my love of cars come full circle. Now able to appreciate the historical implications that brought racing as a sport to this point in time. Gran Turismo 7 has in fact grown with me, taking a moment to delicately reflect on the milestones that have brought the franchise this far.

In many ways, Gran Turismo 7 is the culmination of all that has come before. It enhances so many of the franchise’s staples, all while respecting the history of the automobile industry. Upon the 25th anniversary of the series, Gran Turismo 7 manages to draw both fans and newcomers alike. Gorgeous visuals, responsive gameplay, and deep customisation all combine for not only one of the best Gran Turismo games in the series but one of the best racing simulators in recent memory.

A Stroll Through Memory Lane

The first thing you’ll notice about Gran Turismo 7 is its introduction. The montage of various historical images plays out like a nostalgic slideshow, taking gamers on a trip to the present day. It might not account for much after the fact, but this introduction sets the tone for a game that’s intent on reflection and respect.

Most of your time in Gran Turismo 7 will be spent bouncing between the GT Café and the track. The GT Café serves as a central hub of sorts, as the fine dining atmosphere and friendly owner Luca, encourage you to race for and collect certain cars via ‘Menu Books’. These menus contain small collections of cars, from European hatches to JDM classics. You’ll take part in various races that offer these cars as rewards, should you finish in a podium spot. These challenges are easy to complete for the most part but play a huge part in rewarding the rather simplistic gameplay loop that Gran Turismo 7 prides itself on. The HUB menu is easy enough to jump around in, and thanks to the PlayStation 5’s blisteringly fast loading times, these trips rarely keep you waiting. You’ll accept a new menu book, exit the GT Café, head over to the track, and pick the relevant races which hold these cars as rewards.

While I had noted that this process is rather simplistic, it’s very much a double-edged sword. As races are so accessible and rather short in length, this gameplay loop caters for quick sessions when you don’t have too much time on your hands. However, this loop can wear a tad thin after hours of racing, although the great controls, an impressive lineup of vehicles, and a hefty amount of tracks and circuits, do a great job at adding versatility to those longer sessions. Thankfully, with over 50 tracks, both real and fictional to race on, you’ll find that each challenge does a great job at highlighting a new corner of the world, from the Americas to Asia and Europe. The tracks themselves are beautifully rendered and painstakingly recreated, allowing you to feel the true sense of scope and wonder that encapsulate these many iconic locations and tracks.

Fans of the franchise will be glad to know that ‘Licenses’ make a triumphant return. Used as a way to help hone your skills and learn the ropes, these licenses do a great job at presenting their own unique challenge, pushing you to not only learn the controls but master them in the process. Gold, silver, and bronze awards also return, but should you wish to earn that gold, expect yourself to retry these challenges more than a few times. I have never wanted to drive a car so fast in a straight line, only to stop it in the desired location quite so quickly. Other modes like Music Rally keep the fun going, in which players must race against a timer and pass checkpoints in order to extend their chances, set to upbeat iterations of classic music. It definitely takes the edge off some of the more series and straightforward modes. It may have initially felt like a novelty, but I dived into this mode more times than I would like to admit.

However, Gran Turismo 7’s single-player campaign requires an online connection. While this is to prevent cheating and save file manipulations, I can’t help but feel this is a dangerous path forward, which raises questions for the future, when games inevitably go offline. When offline, you are only able to access the Arcade Mode and a small selection of cars, which feels like a little bit of a cop-out for those who just want to race for fun.

I Feel the Need

General gameplay feels responsive and weighty, thanks to some impressive physics and accessible controls. Once again, players are able to adjust their experience, accounting for braking assistance, guidelines, and general steering perks. But much like any simulator, it’s the cars that do the talking. And these cars talk. Handling a variety of different vehicles from different classes, from a simple Toyota hatchback to a Mercedes-AMG GT R coupe, adds so much depth to each race.

Do yourself a favour and save your credits in the first few hours. Jumping from my Toyota Aqua into something like a Honda Civic Type R was a blast, and it only improves from there. Gran Turismo 7 does a great job at handling a sense of speed and weight and striking a balance between both. You’ll still need to slow down to take corners, but you’ll feel that sense of excitement in the immediate change of pace and handling between vehicles, encouraging both exploration and experimentation between brands, classes, and strategies.

The PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller also does a great job at adding to the immersion and realism of the experience. Triggers will stiffen with tight corners and fast approaches, while the gentle rumble of an apex keeps your head on a swivel as you attempt to regain your composure. While many would have thought these haptic features would fade over the course of the console’s life, the DualSense keeps on giving, adding to experiences in minimalistic, yet important ways.

Chop and Change

As you would expect, you’ll be behind the wheel of an insane number of vehicles, with over 420 touted at launch. No, you didn’t misread that. With more on the way, it’s truly an amount that can make your head spin. And if you’re a car lover like I am, you’ll spend more time than you’d like to admit trying to either unlock or purchase them all. While credits won in races could be dealt a little more generously, the fact that you’ll unlock so many cars just by playing the game feels truly rewarding. It’s hard to believe, but given they all move and handle differently, is a true testament to the insane level of effort that developer Polyphony Digital has dedicated to this craft. Pair this with the fact that every car looks absolutely stunning, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better-looking collection of cars outside of the real thing. Detailed and rich, each recreation is borderline exact, from the interior dash to the shine of a fresh coat of paint on a warm Summer day. This might be the best-looking game on the market to date, and the prettiest racing game of all time.

On top of all this, you’ll also get the chance to enhance and customise all your favourites. The number of options on offer here can also make your head spin. From the smallest of car parts like shocks and springs to larger areas like engine performance and tuning, each car is open to a sense of freedom and interpretation the likes of which I don’t think I’ve ever seen. While this can be a little intimidating to casual fans, performance points can be used to account for the overall rating of the car. Smashed into a single number, players will get the chance to see just how much their car is improving, helping streamline the process for those who simply want to turn their car into a shiny demon on wheels.

Throughout every facet of Gran Turismo 7, countless accessibility and difficulty options allow the experience to cater to each and every fan. From driving assists to AI difficulty, players can finetune the experience into one that they feel comfortable with, on and off the track. Stick with the GT Cafe Menu Books, lower the AI difficulty, add track guidelines and brake assistance, and you’ll find each race and challenge easy enough to engage with on a consistent basis. It has never been clearer that Gran Turismo 7 would rather accommodate your playstyle, prioritising your love for cars over the need to impose a punishing experience. However, like me, if you’re feeling a little risky, you can turn each and every one of these options off and buckle your seatbelt. 

Final Thoughts

Gran Turismo 7 is a true example of racing sims done right. Delicately implemented and refined, this iteration respects not only the history of the automobile industry but those who wish to take part in the fun, filled with numerous accessibility and customisation options and a simplistic gameplay loop that makes the experience as easy to stick with as it is to jump into. The amount of cars and tracks on offer is nothing short of impressive, along with responsive controls and functional mechanics that make the game a joy to play, even with a controller. Thanks to the well-thought implementation of the DualSense controller, the realism of Gran Turismo 7 extends beyond the screen, further immersing you into each race. However, with the tight gameplay loop and the addition of the GT Café, Gran Turismo 7 always finds a way to reward your efforts after each race, with unlockable cars and the incentive to buy upgrades and improve your favourites. Gran Turismo 7 has returned; to the top of racing sims.


Highlights: Incredible visuals and performance; Satisfying gameplay;
Lowlights: Gameplay loop can feel a little repetitive after longer sessions; Always online functionality can be a little annoying
Developer: Polyphony Digital
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4
Available: 4 March

Review conducted on PlayStation 5 with a pre-release code provided by the publisher.

Matthew Arcari

Matthew Arcari is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. You can find him on Twitter at @sirchunkee, or at the Dagobah System, chilling with Luke and Yoda.