Gran Turismo 7 review: The legend continues

GranTurismo 7 laps the competition on most fronts

Gran Turismo 7 screen capture
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Sony)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Gran Turismo 7 is the pinnacle of simulation racing, with a wide array of vehicles, customization options and experiences that both newbies and series veterans will enjoy.

Pros

  • +

    Stunning realism and graphics

  • +

    Great usage of DualSense adaptive triggers and haptics

  • +

    Excellent presentation across UI and featurettes

  • +

    Successfully melds classic Gran Turismo elements with modern features

Cons

  • -

    Would have benefited from light narrative elements

  • -

    Frame Rate mode suffers from some slowdown

  • -

    No voiceover for character interaction

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It's been five years in the making, but Gran Turismo 7 has finally sped past the checkered flag and onto PlayStation 5. This inimitable racing simulator series has always been about one thing: putting you in your favorite car's driver's seat, and then letting you run wild.

We've come a long way since the days of Gran Turismo's PS1 debut, and the series has gone through many iterations since then. But its seventh core entry proves one important point: Racing sims age like fine wine. Now that the PS5 has entered the ring, this heavyweight franchise is taking things to the next level. My time in-game was nothing short of phenomenal, save for a few small issues. Read on for our full Gran Turismo 7 review.

Gran Turismo 7 review: Gameplay

The reason we're all here in Gran Turismo 7 is to hit the road. I'm pleased to say that this installment polishes up its unique brand of driving simulation mechanics to a fine shine. At its heart, GT7 is a cool, capable racing sim that's more focused on the single-player, offline experience (despite being "always online") than on bringing racers together to compete in multiplayer events. 

You'll drive a dizzying number of cars in the most realistic racing sim in the GT series so far. The PS5's DualSense controller delivers adaptive trigger and haptic support in full force. You'll start with an entry-level ride, figuring out when and how to apply your brakes so you don’t go careening into a guard rail. The experience feels smooth, weighty and addictive. Once you get behind the wheel, you’ll want to do it again and again, as everything in the game is complementary: the incredible graphics, fantastic handling, stunning realism and fitting music.

Gran Turismo 7 screen capture

(Image credit: Sony)

There are more than 420 cars to purchase and/or unlock with credits. You'll earn credits through completing challenges, finishing races and cashing in roulette tickets, which you earn after competing in championships. If earning credits in-game is too slow for you, there's also the option to use real-world currency, but I was unable to do so ahead of launch. Microtransactions often detract from a game, but GT7 never makes you feel as though there’s a lengthy wait to earn additional credits, or that you absolutely have to spend cash to unlock cars. Paying real money is an option if you want to use it — not a pay-to-win feature or a requirement, in my experience.

There are 34 racetrack locations, as well as 90 layouts to explore, across both real and fictional circuits. You'll find a healthy mix of returning tracks and new additions, with more options to come post-launch. Each track has its own variant in terms of weather, with full day-and-night transitions. This may not seem as though it would matter initially, but racing in one area in full daylight feels drastically different from seeing the same place again at night.

Gran Turismo 7 screen capture

(Image credit: Sony)

There’s a lot more to Gran Turismo 7 than just racing. Starting at the World Map, you can travel to different areas to take part in races, buy new cars from Brand Central and buy old cars from Used Cars. These are based on real-world data that continually evolves as trends ebb and flow. You can also participate in various "sim life" activities, which make GT7 feel almost as if it were inspired by Japanese dating sims.

Gran Turismo 7 screen capture

(Image credit: Sony)

One such addition is the Gran Turismo Café, where you visit a cozy little nook and chat with the proprietor, who shares his knowledge about the various cars of the world. He'll offer you "Menu Books" to peruse and complete, with over 30 on offer to pore over. Each comes with its own set of challenges and cars to collect, with varying rewards as you meet each book's requirements.

Gran Turismo 7 screen capture

(Image credit: Sony)

These books usually require that you add certain cars to your collection. Quite often, you can buy at least some of these vehicles at the Used Car Dealership. You might otherwise need to win a race. Whatever the case may be, these optional challenges add another dimension to the game beyond the rigid races and championships available to you.

There are even more activities beyond that, ranging from taking part in learning sessions about the cars you’re driving, to checking out pop culture factoids that show up from time to time while the game loads. (Even the appearance of COVID-19 makes an appearance as a world event.)

Gran Turismo 7 screen capture

(Image credit: Sony)

In keeping with GT7's other simulation features, you have to maintain your cars, just like any real-life vehicle. That necessitates trips to GT Auto, the expansive in-game shop that provides customization options and gear, as well as tune-ups, car washing services and oil changes. It's important to visit GT Auto regularly if you want to keep your car in tip-top shape. It's also a fun way to get immersed in an expansive world of car simulation. You’ve got to admit: the novelty of needing to wash your virtual car is amusing.

Gran Turismo 7 review: Customization

Gran Turismo 7 offers a ridiculous amount of customization options for the vehicles you add to your collection. Ever since the dawn of the series, you've been able to make your mechanical menagerie feel distinctly "yours," and GT7 has no qualms with helping players entertain their most out-there, ride-enhancing fantasies. There are more than 650 different performance parts to choose from (with 60 available per car), 130 types of wheels, 1,200 hues to tinker with and a seriously impressive modding system.

Gran Turismo 7 screen capture

(Image credit: Sony)

While earlier entries used the serviceable Performance Points rating system, GT7's upgrades prove to be a major boon for realism, and that improves the game overall. It also means that, even if you find yourself with cheaper, less flashy cars, you can customize your ride so that it can go toe-to-toe with outlandishly expensive sports cars. This progression system makes pushing through each race, even when you're driving an entry-level car, feel much more rewarding. There's always an opportunity to work toward your car goals.

Of course, you can also modify your car's exterior via liveries that offer expansive detail and placement options. Plaster decals and stickers all over your car, then stand back to admire your work, and share your creations online to see what others think. If you have a vision for your favorite vehicle, you can dress it up exactly the way you want — and you can incorporate elements from other players' designs, to keep things fresh.

Gran Turismo 7 review: Visuals and sound

Gran Turismo 7 looks absolutely stunning. You’ll catch yourself second-guessing whether the vehicle parked near a home in the countryside is a photo of a real car, or an in-game rendering. You’ll wonder if that rain-slick track is just a looping video of a real-world location or built in-game. It’s that good. The same goes for many of the accompanying environments, including tracks and the incidental areas, such as the Café and GT Auto. 

Gran Turismo 7 screen capture

(Image credit: Sony)

In addition to impeccable modeling, the game runs at 60 fps with ray tracing disabled, or in Frame Rate mode. Turn on ray tracing, and you'll get 30fps, which does make for some breathtaking moments in Photo Mode. However, you're better off sticking to Frame Rate mode to avoid any unnecessary issues with fluidity of motion or slowdown. There are a few instances where the visuals become sluggish with ray tracing enabled.

The visuals aren’t the only department where the game excels, though. Gran Turismo 7 pulled out all the stops when it comes to recreating the roar of an engine or the screech of tires on the pavement. GT7 renders all cars and tracks with spatial audio, which you can hear as competitors overtake you, or you spin out from being too overzealous. It's a fantastic addition to a game that prides itself on so many other realistic elements. It works excellently, whether you're wearing headphones and opt for a stereo mix, or you let the sounds of the open road rip from a speaker.

Gran Turismo 7 screen capture

(Image credit: Sony)

But the cars aren't the only stars of the show. Music plays a massive role in Gran Turismo 7. There are around 300 music tracks from around 75 artists, ranging from classical music to rock, bossa nova to EDM, and seemingly everything in-between. Aside from punctuating races and menu-browsing, these tracks factor into the new "Music Replay" mode. When you go back to watch a replay of yourself tearing up the track, the game will change up camera angles in time with the music for a delightful mix of performance and tunes.

There's also Music Rally mode, which is all about racing to the tunes of your choice. You start out with a finite number of beats, and as you race around the track, you need to pass through extension gates. Collect additional beats to keep going, so that you can race until the end of the song. It's just another cool way to experiment with how music can become a transformative experience when paired with racing.

Gran Turismo 7 screen capture

(Image credit: Sony)

Oddly enough, however, for a game that focuses so much on sound, there is no voice acting to narrate the abundance of dialogue with NPCs. You'll meet and converse with a variety of "characters," who often have miniature history lessons about vehicles you unlock, and yet none of them speak beyond lines of cold, clinical on-screen text. It would have been nice to have that additional personality, especially since the Forza Horizon series pulls it off so well.

Gran Turismo 7 review: Verdict

Gran Turismo 7 is a delectable concoction of polished racing, a ridiculous amount of cars, plenty of items to customize them with, ultra-realistic graphics, a wide variety of musical accompaniments and an impeccable sense of style.

Whether you’ve been on board with the series since it began on the PlayStation in 1997, or this is your first brush with Polyphony Digital’s ambitious racer, GT7 is the best possible way to see what it’s like to zoom around the track in a souped-up ride – or to be a rich enthusiast, getting close to the world of professional racing. Save for a few fumbles, GT7 excels in nearly every category, and establishes itself as one of the best racing sims around.

Brittany Vincent has been covering video games and tech for over 13 years for publications including Tom's Guide, MTV, Rolling Stone, CNN, Popular Science, Playboy, IGN, GamesRadar, Polygon, Kotaku, Maxim, and more. She's also appeared as a panelist at video game conventions like PAX East and PAX West and has coordinated social media for companies like CNET. When she's not writing or gaming, she's looking for the next great visual novel in the vein of Saya no Uta. You can follow her on Twitter @MolotovCupcake.