Gran Turismo's formula has proven successful for 25 years. The series has always focused on cars and car culture above anything else, really tapping into what makes fans of anything on four wheels so obsessive.
Even among the spectacle focused competiton - most notably Forza's leaning on the wonderful Horizon sub series - Gran Turismo has stuck to its guns for Gran Turismo 7, and that can only be commended. After all, it's not as if it's not worked before.
A Celebration of All Things Racing
More so than ever before, Gran Turismo 7 is a celebration of all things racing, the history of iconic brands, and famous tracks from around the world.
It's showcased in almost everything it does, from the meticulous design of every car and track to all of the ways you're provided to make and take pretty pictures.
The main career, which forms the bulk of GT7's content, is a series of 'Menu Books' which ask you to collect a small selection of cars or take part in certain events before claiming a reward and moving onto the next one.
They all have a focus, though, usually on a certain racing discipline or era of a famous manufacturer. However, it's not just about adding the cars to your garage, you'll be treated to a history lesson from Luca at the Cafe after you complete each one, running you through how each one garnered fame and earned it's place in Gran Turismo's story.
Not only does it teach you car history, but it does so with beautiful clips of the cars in stunning locations. The museum worthy clips go into a lot of detail and they'll be loved by the hardcore car fans out there.
The structure of the main career also does a great job of slowly running you through the history of racing and car production by starting out with slow hatchbacks and gradually moving through modern production cars and into hyper fast concept cars.
A Huge Amount of Content
There's a huge amount of content to dive into, each menu book lovingly created and presented. The progression will be too slow for many - especially considering the slower vehicles aren't all that fun - and fans of just racing will likely just skip the history lessons, but Gran Turismo 7 is catering to the petrol head above all else.
Stick with it and, once you get further and further into the career, you'll come to the realisation that what you've been doing and how fast you've been doing it is entirely intentional. You're not only learning about the cars themselves, but how to drive them and how to approach the tracks from around the world.
Slow progression and development gives you real appreciation of how tough some of the iconic racetracks are. I've driven around Monza countless times in racing games, but never have I fully appreciated the intricate design of it.
This celebration of car culture extends away from the menu book career too, maybe going even harder.
The Scapes feature, which has been shown off pre-launch, allows you to create custom screenshots by placing your cars in real locations from around the world.
There are back streets in Manhattan, Moroccan deserts, Danish seaside towns, and much more. Playing around with it is fun and you can really create some stunning pictures.
You can just about tell that the images feature pasted in cars, but they don't start out on the photo backgrounds, which proves how phenomenal the car deisgn is in Gran Turismo 7. It's a glorified photo mode, really, but who doesn't love a great photo mode?
The Showroom features also do every little thing possible to showcase not only what cars exist, but also Polyphony's attention to detail when it came to recreating them.
There's even Museum sections that run you through a detailed history of a company and a YouTube embed that showcases design videos for famous or concept cars.
It's incredible how much car content there is to see.
A Lack of Personality
My only complaint when it comes to Gran Turismo 7's laser focus on history of the car world is the lack of personality it shows.
I think it's unfair to compare Forza Horizon and Gran Turismo when it comes to design, structure, and racing mechanics, since they're entirely different experiences, but Turn 10's games put a smile on my face with their sense of fun unlike anything else.
They still celebrate racing too, albeit in a less intense way, but they do so with a greater sense of fun. Gran Turismo 7 is so straight faced. The series always has been, but the increased detail and scope really highlights the seriousness of it all.
It can feel like a monotonous history lesson at times. A beautiful and well structured history lesson, but a history lesson nonetheless.
There's a basic countdown to the start of races and each of them end with a wimper, shuffling you along to the replay and whatever event is next.
The really hardcore car fans out there, as well as the long time Gran Turismo fans, will likely vibe with that, but the less involved racing games fans among you may wish for a bit more excitement along the way. I certainly did at times.
Between the lights going out and the checkered flag waving, you'll forget about the lack of personality, though.
Unrivaled on the Track
As expected, Gran Turismo 7 is wonderful on the track. Aided by top notch sound and incredibly detailed Haptic Feedback when using a Dualsense controller, racing feels excellent.
Whether it be the slower, modern every day cars or the concept monsters, racing feels engaging. Every movement of correction you make has an impact on your lap, and coupled with the structure of the career you really develop as a driver over time.
Racing in the wet, with different types of tyre equipped, or over elevation changes alters how the car feels - Polyphony has mastered that detail.
The opponent AI is also the best I've faced in a long time. Not in terms of the challenge they provide - you can mould that to your own desired level - but in terms of awareness and positioning.
They don't just drive straight into you if you're out of position like they do in Codemasters' F1 games, nor do they drive unneccessarily slowly into tight corners, causing pileups.
There's an intelligence to them that's really noticable, and it makes the racing so much more enjoyable.
Prepare for a Grind
You'll have to do a lot of racing to grind through the Menu Books too. Each race has an entry requirement, whether that be nationality of your car's manafactuer or the PP (speed rating essentially) of it.
Therefore, you'll often need to head out to buy new cars or upgrade your existing ones. The Tuning Shop, where you buy and apply upgrades is a little simple, seeing you just spend credits on the next best item to boost a car's PP, but the visual customisation and pre-race set up options are much deeper.
To get the credits required to get the upgrades or cars that fit the requirements, you have to grind. Whether that be new events or ones you've played before, you need to get back out on the track to get involved until you have the balance you need.
Cars can cost anything from 20,000 credits to tens of millions, so the grind is real at times. Don't let the game pressure you into buying them with real money!
Can It Look Any Better?
The other thing that stands out on the track is the stunning visuals. I've mentioned how impressive the car models on display in Gran Turismo 7 are already. At the end of the day, they're the real things, there's nothing Polyphony could really do to make them look any better.
However, there are other aspects to Gran Turismo 7's visuals that are worth shouting about. The lighting is absolutely second to none throughout.
The sun bouncing off cars and the sky at any time of the day look incredible. Everything has been produced to make the cars stand out, and they really do.
The tracks are a little inconsistent visually, though. The tracks in more rural surroundings looks great, the sides of them lined with trees and the sunlight beaming through. Just wait until you come across the main straight in Croatia's Dragon Tail track - it's a sight to behold.
The more traditional race tracks underwhelm, though. They just feel a little lifeless, with nothing of note to look at around the track. Their horizon is bland, the crowd stand rigidly still, and there's nothing plastering the track to suggest that there's any kind of big racing event going on.
It comes back to that lack of personality. You race, look at the replay if you'd like, and move on. Nothing more. If there's nothing already in a setting to excite, Polyphony hasn't added anything.
Long term Gran Turismo fans may not care about that, with the actual racing being all that matters. But considering how much content there is in Gran Turismo 7, it would have been nice to see a little more flair thrown in.
Gran Turismo 7 sticks to the series' formula, for better or worse. It doubles down on the celebrations of all things motoring history with stunning visuals and a well structured career.
As a pure racing sim, Gran Turismo 7 is as good as it gets. I just wish there was a little more personality to it all, especially considering how much of a grind it can be at times.
RealSport Rating: 4 out of 5
We reviewed Gran Turismo 7 on PlayStation 5, with code provided by PlayStation.