The next mainline instalment in Polyphony Digital's racing series is here and we've been putting it to the test.
Throughout my time as a gamer, there have been surprisingly few occasions when I came in contact with the racing genre and even in these selected cases, it has been 99% about colourful arcade racing. Racing Simulators I have thus had very little to do with over the years, despite games like Forza Motorsport, Dirt Rally and Gran Turismo whizzing past my periphery a couple of times. It has been a genre that I judged to be quite inaccessible as the feeling has been that it required too much prior knowledge of cars and racing for me as a curious outsider to dare to take the step into the drivers seat. But then I looked to GT7 to change all that.
From the start, it is clear that Gran Turismo 7 is a nostalgic tribute to everything car/motorsport related. The series' 25th anniversary kicks off with a sentimental slide show that reproduces, what I can assume are many of the most beautiful moments in motorsport history. When the introduction is over, it doesn't take long before I finally sit there with my fingers cramped at the steering wheel and it is with great anticipation that I look over the hood, the road and my opponents who are lined up in front of me in what I am convinced will be the beginning of my heyday as a virtual racing driver.
Already after the first race of the game, I feel humbled. This stuff is hard - and I have some serious learning to do, something that Gran Turismo 7 luckily is very good at. My next race introduces me into the GT-sphere of constant understeer that I have overheard Swedish editor-in-chief and avid sim-racer Petter Hegevall talk about a couple of times. For the first time ever I understand what he has been saying and I think I know why this is happening here. For me, I think it all comes down to the fact that Polyphony does not really succeed in simulating the sheer speed of GT-racing in a good enough way, which in this case make drivers, like me, go into corners carrying too much speed. And when carrying too much speed into a corner, the car of course understeers and goes straight. And that "issue", if you wanna call it that, is very much a part of this game, as well.
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However, the difficult-to-steer cars and the mediocre feeling of speed do not stop me from having a lot of fun in Gran Turismo 7 and the more races I participate in, the better grip I seem to get on my racing. In the end, even the shortcomings listed above become driving challenges that make me try new tricks to be able to tackle the corners of the tracks as smoothly as possible and I often find that it is about how early I brake, and from what angle I get into the turn. Steer-in is of course important. My only approach that works 100% of the time, however, is to, in the middle of the curve, make sure to crash into the side of one of my rivals from a good angle to partly slow down my speed but also to straighten myself to be able to quickly accelerate further towards the end of the corner. I'm well aware that I do not make any friends in the racing world with that statement or strategy, but sometimes the truth has to come out. The driver's license-tests from prior games, that was missing in GT Sport, are back and as per usual in this series they are forced upon me to be able to advance inside the career mode. Something that I to some extent need since my racing and car knowledge is limited, but it's not very fun - regardless.
For the already car-crazy racing fanatic, however, there is a lot to pick up in Gran Turismo 7. As I mentioned earlier, the game is largely a tribute to the history of motorsport and it is noticeable that the developers have had the ambition to give the true car fans a lot to get into. The focus is on the car collection that the game revolves around in many ways. At the time of the release, there are 240 unique cars to collect, tune, style and show off in their full splendour, and it is not uncommon for me before the acquisition of a new car to also take part in a shorter history lesson about the model/maker, which means that I actually learn one thing and another about the industry at the same time as my garage is growing bigger and bigger. It also means that I am constantly invited to share the joy and community that many car enthusiasts share with each other and for those who do not know much about the subject but who are still willing to learn, there are plenty of lessons here to take part in. I like the way Polyphony teaches me stuff all the time without dumbing it down.
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When I have managed to qualify for the podium a number of times, I am introduced to the car workshop where I am asked to buy and install upgrades to my cars. When I feel that I can no longer squeeze more horses into my little Mazda, however, I aim for higher ambitions and turn to something called "Brand Central" where I get the opportunity to throw my money at high-quality super cars at really juicy prices. I quickly decide to scrape together to buy a Lamborghini and quickly take it out on a test run in one of the races that previously eluded my driving ability and of course I took home the win but at the expense of all possible dignity when I probably slammed into every single wall on the track at least twice.
I suddenly understand why Gran Turismo 7 so far has mainly allowed me to drive slower cars for hours - simply because I have not been worthy to get behind the wheel of the real monsters yet. It is so with newfound respect for the art of driving that I therefore put my newly bought Lamborghini on the shelf for a while and return to the driving school to work on my skills and finally become worthy of the beast I have acquired.
Gran Turismo 7 is an easily accessible tribute to everything "car racing" and invites both new drivers and old veterans to a racing experience that feels both sharpened and credible. Each race is a measurement of my ability to concentrate, as the slightest distraction in thought can lead to a lost race and I really enjoy the challenge that Polyphony presents here. The understeery driving feel may be a fact that is difficult to ignore at first, but as I get through the challenges that the developers generously provide me with, I learn to handle my cars and their shortcomings.
Graphics then... The game looks great with superb car models that are ray traced and the frame rate on the PS5 is superbly solid and smooth. Loading times are super-short, and the menus are tastefully designed. Sound is not as great, and some cars really give off noises like vacuum cleaners but still, the overall package together with the haptic feedback in the DualSense controller is very good. It feels great.
When I finally give up control and reflect on what it is I have experienced, it is clear how much love for the genre has gone into the development of Gran Turismo 7. There is a story behind every car I acquire for my collection and Polyphony Digital has done a brilliant job of compressing small pieces of motor trivia into every corner of the experience. As an outsider, through these flashes of light I have been able to partake of the love and enthusiasm that the racing community feels for the genre and Gran Turismo 7 is therefore a perfect introduction for those who are curious about the fast-paced world of car racing.
8 / 10
Very accessible. Looks brilliant. Performance is top-notch. Weaves interesting motoring trivia into a bunch of aspects of the game.
Driving suffers from understeering physics. Sound isn't great. Driver's license tests are still dull.