Gran Turismo 7 showcase reveals a killer PS5 rival to Forza Horizon 5

Gran Turismo 7 racing footage screenshot
(Image credit: Sony)

From the original PlayStation onwards, Gran Turismo has been an exclusive staple game for Sony’s consoles. It's always marked a high point in graphics and simulation mechanics, appealing to racing game fans who wanted to see realism front and center, rather than simply bombing it around circuits or roads. Now Gran Turismo 7 looks set to continue that trend for the PS5 era. However, the game seems to be embracing accessibility as well.

In a virtual briefing ahead of Sony’s latest State of Play, Sony explained how Gran Turismo 7 will be a “car life simulator.”  That means players will be able to fully experience a digital racing career, from tuning entry-level cars in the beginning to getting access to high-end sports cars or classic cars later on. 

This is all rather similar to the Gran Turismo games of yore, only with a big jump in the graphics, sound and haptics (more on those later). This is no bad thing, as those games have a dedicated following.

Everyone on track

Gran Turismo 7 Cafe screenshot

(Image credit: Sony)

There's an argument that Gran Turismo falls in-between the most hardcore racing fans, who go for pure simulators, and people who prefer a more causal or arcade-style racing experience, such as that in Forza Horizon 5. As such, GT7 now has the Gran Turismo Café.

The café acts as a one-stop-shop for everything car-related, offering a central point where players old and new can learn about automotive culture. This involves hearing about a car’s design, history and more. They can also augment what they learn with more than 30 pseudo-quests or driving missions called “menu books." These challenge players to complete certain tasks, such as hitting driving milestones.

While we didn’t get to give this feature a spin, we got the feeling that this is a move by developer Polyphony Digital to make GT7 a more accessible racing game than previous Gran Turismo titles.

This is probably a smart move, as there will be more than 400 cars in GT7 on day one. These vehicles will be available from three types of car dealer: brand central for 2021 cars, a used car dealer for older cars, and a legendary car dealer that offers iconic cars.

Gran Turismo 7 Brand Central deal screenshot

(Image credit: Sony)

You can race these cars on 34 tracks, some real and some fantasy, all across Europe. With 90 layouts for said tracks and more than 100 race events to choose from, ranging from traditional racing to time and drift trials, GT7 has “no clear ending, even after a year of play. Basically, car fans probably won’t get bored of the game any time soon.

There's also a new system that gives players a range of content to share, such as stickers, car liveries, photos and replays. The latter is significant, as a new replay system now generates random camera angles, and can sync them with specific types of music. This feature promises to make watching such playbacks more dynamic, with different cameras angles used each time.

Speaking of music, it has a big part to play in GT7. With more than 75 artists and 300 music tracks, you'll be able to listen to a range of genres, from classical and hip hop to jazz and electro. Better still, this music is integrated into the driving experience, with the option to zip around tracks in time to music beats, with more time added each time a player passes through a race race gate. The idea here is to give players the option to simply relax and drive to music, rather than constantly race. Again, this feels like a move to better compete with the more relaxed and arcade-y Forza Horizon games.

Rooted in realism

Gran Turismo 7 Garage screenshot

(Image credit: Sony)

However, GT7 should still appeal to hardcore piston-heads, as the amount of tuning and customization on offer still seems to be vast. Again, that’s to be expected, but the kicker here is the real-time simulation element.

In previous Gran Turismo games, the game engine calculated tweaks to car parts and performance by measuring the relationship between car weight, power and tire grip. 

But in GT7, if one hits a "measure" button, a full background simulation appears to give a readout on how the tuning changes applied to a car will translate on the track. Players can still take a car out on the track to try this for themselves, though. For people who are into tire composites or the calibration of dampers, this level of simulation could be tantalizing.

PS5 power

Gran Turismo 7 racetrack replay screenshot

(Image credit: Sony)

Speaking of tuning, the GT7 developers have done a lot to harness the power of the PS5. Thanks to the PS5’s SSD, races load in mere seconds. The processing power of Sony’s latest console also means there are two notable graphics modes.

The frame rate mode targets a smooth 60 frames per second, while ray tracing mode won’t run as fast, but will offer more realistic lighting. Ray tracing can be hugely taxing on all but the most powerful and best gaming PCs. However, Sony explained that the feature will apply only to specific parts of the game where a super-fast response times aren't needed, such as in replays.

Sony’s 3D audio will also apply here, so that players can pick up granular sound details. You’ll want a Pulse 3D Wireless Headset though, as that’s going to be the best way to experience all the audio detail when GT7 arrives on March 4.

GT7 wouldn't be a first-party PS5 game if it didn't put the DualSense controller to good use. The peripheral's advanced haptics will simulate car inputs and feedback, such as the feeling of a car sliding or experiencing understeer. Pedal modulation and the brake-locking will translate to pressure and resistance on the adaptive triggers. Given how well the DualSense can communicate trigger pressure in shooting games, this functionality could help make GT7 a more involving and realistic racing experience.

Overall, Gran Turismo 7 could well be the biggest racing game of 2022. Of course, that's dependent on actually finding a PS5, considering that Sony has lowered its console shipping forecast. We’ll need to try the game ourselves before rendering a verdict, but the signs for this PS5 exclusive are promising so far.

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.