Gran Turismo 7 Hands-On: Slow In, Fast Out – Roadshow

Gran Turismo 7 looks amazing when played on the PS5.

Sony/Polyphony Digital

Gran Turismo 7, the newest entrant in Sony and Polyphony Digital’s flagship racing series for PlayStation consoles, is finally here. In addition to the graphical and technical leaps made possible by the latest generation PS5 hardware, GT7 reintroduces some of the best parts of previous titles. The result feels like a modern version of my personal favorite GT title of all time, PlayStation 2’s Gran Turismo 4. For better and for worse, I’m absolutely loving it.

Slow in: Unlocking the GT World

The vast majority of the GT7 experience is organized on the GT World map with little buildings representing the various activities offered by the game. However, at the outset, players only have access to the Used Car Dealer, where cars older than model year 2001 are sold. After purchasing your first car — those who didn’t pay extra for the Deluxe Edition will only have enough to choose from the 2015 Mazda Demio XD Touring, the 2011 Toyota Aqua S and 2014 Honda Fit Hybrid — the Café unlocks and you’ll receive your first Menu Book mission. 

Menu Books are the backbone of the GT7 campaign, guiding players through the world as they unlock more cars and areas of the GT World Map. The first mission is to collect three specific Japanese compact cars, earned by finishing races. This unlocks a second Menu Book that sends players to the License Center where they’ll learn racing fundamentals like braking points and the racing line and, for the third Book, it’s back to collecting three more cars — this time, European compacts. Rinse and repeat. Each book unlocks new tracks, introduces the player to a new activity — such as championships, the Scapes photo mode, the upgrade and tuning shop or the GT Auto vehicle customization area — or teaches them about a new corner of the automotive world, from broad categories like French hot hatches to specific makes like the BMW M3 or Porsche 911.

However, progress in GT World is slow, which can be frustrating to returning players already familiar with the series or new players looking to just dive in and figure it out later. For example, it took me the better part of a weekend of racing and completing license tests to unlock the multiplayer hub and the GT Sport competitive mode somewhere around Menu Book 20. On one hand, this keeps inexperienced players from ruining Sport mode for serious races, but it also means that it could take hours of casual play to unlock the ability to set up an online lobby to goof off with your friends.

Fast Out: Upgrading You, the Driver

The purpose and benefit of the slow progress is that it makes the player a better virtual driver. The licensing system may sound boring or even daunting to some, but it doesn’t take much effort to hit the base requirements for a bronze trophy and just move on, especially with assists on, so they’re not much of a roadblock for casual racers. And being introduced first to slow cars helps to hone fundamentals that make faster, more potent rides unlocked later easier to handle.

Personally, I enjoy hitting the same corner over and over again to shave fractions of a second off of a segment and work towards gold rank for license challenges. For those like me, GT7 also features a Circuit Experience mode that helps players to learn and master each course segment-by-segment before putting together a single fast lap. There are also separate GT Mission Challenges where players will pass, draft and race certain cars. Together, they’re like optional extensions of license tests, but for specific tracks and situations.

Racers who put in the effort to peel back the assists and pursue gold are rewarded — not just with an extra car or two, but with actual skills that improve your lap times and make the rest of the game more enjoyable. Being faster means more winning and more winning is just plain fun, especially when you’ve earned it.

Behold, MY GOLD! Putting in the effort to master the License Center will make you a better racer.

Screenshot by Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Since my racing wheel of choice doesn’t work with PS consoles (and PlayStation 5s are still nigh-impossible to attain), I played using the PS4’s DualShock 4 controller and found the steering and throttle control offer to be near-perfectly tuned. There are three levels of race AI difficulty to choose from — with the mid-tier probably being the best fit for controller play — all of which race and behave quite realistically. 

GT7 also boasts an extensive selection of driver aids to help players learn the road, from driving line and braking zone indicators to traction and stability control you can adjust on the fly to full automatic braking and acceleration, if you need it. There is, however, no rewind feature like you’ll find in Forza, Grid or other racing series. So if you put it into a wall on the last corner of a hard fought race, you’ll have to pick yourself up and try again.

Over 424 Cars

GT7 launches with a roster of over 424 cars, though catching them all is — you guessed it — a slow process. In addition to the trio of rides that most Menu Books unlock, players can also unlock cars by completing license tests, Mission Challenges and, rarely, by earning gift tickets. You can, of course, also buy cars in at the Used Car Dealer, Brand Central and Legend Cars virtual stores with credits earned from racing (or purchased from the PlayStation Store.)

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GT7’s launch roster is comprised of over 424 cars, including the Tesla Model S.

Screenshot by Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

However you get them, GT7 doesn’t just dump dozens of cars into your virtual garage like Forza Horizon 5 does; and it puts much more effort into teaching players about each car, their capabilities and history. Each of the three dealers has a concierge that offers facts about a car before you buy it. You’ll find a few more paragraphs on the Garage’s Collection page explaining what makes the car special and why this particular year or spec was chosen for the game. And stopping by the Café while driving a car may also trigger a conversation with interesting facts about that car, sometimes from the vehicle’s real-world designer. 

Still, the slow progress can be frustrating for players who just want to drive a particular car and the game puts roadblocks in your way that sometimes prevents players from outright just buying certain cars. GT7 features rotating selections and fluctuating prices for its Used Car Dealer and Legend Car stores, so you might be stuck waiting for a particular car — like a used ’72 Alpine A110 or that 1.5M credit ’97 Toyota Supra GT500 race car — to come back in stock if you miss it. Some cars in the Brand Central and Legend Cars areas even require an invitation to buy, earned by raising your driver level or completing certain challenges.

GT7’s 424 car stable includes loveable, weird cars that you almost never see in other racing games, like the 17-horsepower ’68 Fiat 500 F, the Honda Beat or the Tesla Model S — though it’s 2012 Performance model, not the new Plaid hotness — which present much potential for fun and weird custom races. (One of my favorite things to do in GT4 was set up painfully long endurance races with only the first-gen Prius allowed.) That said, GT7’s roster can also feel a bit padded. For example, the six cars in Hyundai’s section of Brand Central include four versions of the 2013 Genesis Coupe and two versions of the Hyundai N 2025 Vision GT Concept. Of the 8 Lexus vehicles, there are 5 versions of the RC-F; and you’ll find just as many variations of the Mitsubishi Evo X and Nissan’s R35 GT-R counting as separate cars… and yet, there’s no representation for my beloved second-generation Miata. For shame.

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Progression in GT7 can be slow, especially for perfectionist, but the racing is fast, fun and well worth the effort.

Sony/Polyphony Digital

The World of Gran Turismo

After about 9 hours of real-time racing (and so many more tuning and exploring the photo mode and livery editors), 25 of who-knows-how-many Menu Books completed, 6 World Circuit Championships won, 16 of the 24 available tracks unlocked and 48 of the 424 cars in my garage (not counting a few dupes); I’m loving my time spent in GT7 and the deliberate and meaningful progress I’m making. The game looks fantastic and runs great even on the PS4 and I’m eager to dive back in, fine tune my cars and hit the track once the world of Gran Turismo 7 opens up to players on March 4 on PS4 for $60 and PS5 for $70. There’s also a 25th Anniversary Digital Deluxe Edition that includes 1.5 million in-game credits, 30 PSN avatars and the official GT7 Soundtrack for $90.

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