I don’t think anyone anywhere loves anything as much as Kazunori “Kaz” Yamauchi loves cars. The opening credits for Gran Turismo 7 is a 10 minute montage that runs through the history of car culture, produced with the kind of overwhelming love with which a parent produces a slideshow to play at their kid’s wedding. The passion that runs through every ounce of this game is infectious—even as someone who is decidedly not a “car guy”, I can’t help but get swept up in it.
To put it another way, Gran Turismo 7 is everything the series has spent 25 year building up to: the ultimate celebration of cars, their history, and the culture that surrounds them.
It all starts with the Cafe. Part quest hub and part museum, the Cafe serves as you guide to Gran Turismo 7’s version of a campaign mode. On a purely functional level, it’s the means by which you progress through the singleplayer game and unlock new features, courses, races, and so on—with each new menu (quest), you’re asked to complete some event or collect a certain set of thematically-linked cars, gradually opening up more of the game and acting as a sort of extended tutorial and introduction to Gran Turismo’s depths.
But more than simply an introduction to the game, it’s an introduction to car culture as a whole. Each menu is a chance for the cafe owner, Luca, to share some knowledge about the significance of certain vehicles or drop an introductory lesson on some of the intricacies of automobile design, or for guests—in the form of real life car designers, collectors, and other experts—to add their own insights. They’re not dense lectures or dry snippets that feel like they’ve been ripped from a textbook, but quick, accessible, and most of all interesting little vignettes that go a long way in bringing people along on the journey into the fascinating world of cars.
(Again, I couldn’t be further from a gearhead, but the Cafe managed to make me genuinely interested in the Mustang-Camaro rivalry, the significance of the compact car boom, and the intricacies of how engine position and wheel configuration affect vehicle handling. That’s a sentence I never imagined I’d ever write.)
Beyond even its valuable role as a museum, the Cafe is just… well, a cafe. I don’t mean you can go there and order a coffee (maybe that’s a feature to think about for PlayStation 6, if you’re listening, Sony), but just in terms of atmosphere. It’s serene and calming, a quaint little coffee in the woodlands where you can look longingly out the window at your car and just enjoy the ambience. This is what I mean when I say that Kaz’s love of cars runs through every facet of Gran Turismo 7.
The celebratory nature of the Cafe extends to the car collection, too. Trying to catch ‘em all has always been a big part of Gran Turismo, and 7 takes that to glorious new highs, in both the way you expand your garage and the context that surrounds that. Winning events, completing challenges and license tests, and showrooms with a rotating selection of rare, desirable vehicles are all ways of picking up new cars. New gift cars arrive frequently as you work through the game (if only real life was like that), and while you might expect diminishing returns from the constant stream of new toys, the effect is the opposite. The progression is carefully crafted to ensure variety, and with each new car comes a detailed profile of it and its place in history—they’re more in-depth than the Cafe’s overviews, but no less engaging in the way they’re written.
And when you really want to show off your love for your collection, Scapes mode returns from Gran Turismo Sport. Here, you get to pose and photograph your cars in any of a thousand-odd different scenes from around the world (including a few from New Zealand!), with a wide array of settings for pro photographers to use and a decent set of handy presets for amateurs to still turn out some beautiful shots. It taps into the rich side of car culture that is automotive photography, but in some ways, it’s also the purest form of Gran Turismo 7’s adoration of cars—short of painting them like one of your French girls, few things come close to an expression of love for a vehicle than taking the time to fame up the perfect, most pristine photo of it.
Don’t worry—there is actually a racing game among all this, even if it’s taken me 700 words to get there, and it’s as good as ever. I’m not the right person to comment on the accuracy of its simulation, but Gran Turismo 7’s driving feels amazing. From raw engine power to the tiniest little change in road surface texture, you can feel every little detail, and that effect is amplified dramatically by the DualSense functions. I’ve said it before with WRC 9, but I think the tactile feedback of vehicle control is one of the most practical (and impressive) uses of the DualSense tech, and that’s as true as ever here: you can feel, in your hands, the shifting weight of the car, the ABS kicking in, the gear changes, variations in your tyres’ grip on the road, and respond accordingly.
Or, to put it more simply, it’s a racing game where the responsiveness of the cars is so finely tuned that I, noted non-expert, can actually notice and appreciate the difference between driving a Toyota Aqua and a Mazda Demio, despite their many similarities.
Gran Turismo 7 packs in a decent selection of courses, spanning high-speed loops like the Blue Moon Bay Speedway, the complexities of the Nurburgring, and everything in between. There are 34 locations all up, amounting to some 90 different courses between different layouts and variations, and a wide array of different events across them with different vehicle requirements and restrictions. Missions add a nice distraction, with quick challenges focused on specific track segments or driving skills, and License Tests return to their full glory of being both vital lessons in good racing and tough challenges when it comes to getting gold ranks.
Between online lobbies, two-player splitscreen, and the esports-oriented Sport mode, there’s a decent selection of options for online play, and while I haven’t played them extensively pre-launch, what I have seen has been good. Sport mode, in particular, has all the trappings of a deep, intricate online competition—I know I was harsh on GT Sport when I reviewed it, but it is good at what it does, and when it’s one mode in something as fulsome as Gran Turismo 7 instead of the entirety of the experience, it’s a nice way of really getting into the competitive side of Gran Turismo.
At the other end of the scale, Music Replay and the new Music Rally mode are pure relaxation. Music Replay returns from Gran Turismo 3, and is essentially a way of watching a race replay with camera shots, angles, and cuts all mapped to the mood and beat of the music. Music Rally, on the other hand, is Gran Turismo 7’s version of time extension-based arcade racing games, only instead of counting down seconds until your game ends (if you don’t hit a time-extending checkpoint before then), you’re counting down beats, with the ultimate goal of finishing the music track and travelling as far as you can in that time. It’s a fun to just jump in and enjoy a quick race, with no real pressure but also a nice little goal to work towards, and a great way to just unwind and enjoy the music and feel of the drive. My only complaint is that each Music Rally stage is a pre-selected arrangement of car, course, and music track, and there are only six at launch (with more to come through free updates over time, though).
Across all these modes, Gran Turismo 7 looks—unsurprisingly—incredible. The people at Polyphony Digital have spent the last quarter century perfecting the art of rendering cars as authentically and beautifully as possible, and with PlayStation 5’s horsepower behind it, the results are astounding. It takes photorealism and lifelike simulation to an unheard of level, going as far as as one of the most detailed meteorological simulations I’ve seen in a game to ensure that the weather conditions (and resulting impact on track conditions) are just right—I know I rag on the game industry’s obsession with photorealism a lot, but simulation games are one place where it’s worth its weight in gold. Gran Turismo 7 goes beyond “just” pushing the boundaries of realism and attention to detail, though, to using every tool it can to show off the sheer beauty of the cars at the heart of the game.
Whatever it is that draws you to Gran Turismo—the rags-to-riches solo campaign, online competition, collecting cars, automotive photography, technical accomplishment—Gran Turismo 7 goes above and beyond. It is, as it set out to be, the ultimate celebration of car culture, and I can think of no better way to commemorate the series’ 25th anniversary