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Review

Gran Turismo 7 VR Review

VRoom VRoom

PlayStation VR2 (PSVR2) appears to be in a good place with its launch day line-up. While much of the library is boosted by VR classics that are available elsewhere (including the original PlayStation VR), there is a small, curated selection of AAA blockbusters leading the charge and delivering a convincing pitch to sell the dream of the headset, showcasing its power, unique features and trademark PlayStation seal of quality. Between Horizon: Call of the Mountain, Resident Evil Village, and Gran Turismo 7, PSVR2 players have a trio of beautiful, varied, and content-rich experiences across a wide palette of genres. In this review, I will be taking you on a joyride through Gran Turismo 7’s VR update and explaining what it brings to the table and why it may be on the precipice of becoming a system seller for PSVR2. As someone who has fallen out of the series and the genre for decades, Gran Turismo 7’s VR update has made me a believer, and like the experienced car salesman I am, I may just convince you to pick up a headset and drive straight out of the showroom.

It’s no secret that Gran Turismo has had somewhat of a troubled history with VR, with Gran Turismo Sport originally promised to get VR support for PlayStation VR before the headset came along. Initially, it was believed that the whole game would be supported in VR, and Gran Turismo Sport was scheduled to originally release a month after the headset launched in 2016 to take advantage of the launch window momentum. However, each time news about the VR support started to creep out, it continuously disappointed, right up to a few months before the game launched. Gran Turismo Sport was also delayed a whole year out of its 2016 window, leaving VR owners waiting a hot minute to get a blockbuster Sony franchise playable on their new shiny toy.

About to make my dad jealous

In an interview with VideoGamer in May 2016, Polyphony Digital CEO Kazunori Yamauchi said that he aimed to have Gran Turismo Sport compatible to allow “all aspects of the game to be experienced with VR.”. In a later interview with Eurogamer in November 2016, Yamauchi went on to say that the VR mode will be limited to “one part of the game,” which was in contention with the earlier statement. Fast forward to 2017 when the game launched, and players were only left with a 1v1 race mode against an AI. Disappointment and missed opportunities were at the top of everyone’s mind who went on to experience Gran Turismo Sport’s VR integration and were looking forward to it. I think it’s important to go over this history in detail because Gran Turismo 7’s VR implementation appears to be a direct response to that disappointment. The only compromise Gran Turismo 7’s VR mode makes (other than visual concessions) is the lack of a split-screen, which is far from a deal breaker and a significant improvement over what was sacrificed for Gran Turismo Sport’s VR mode. Additionally, it is available from the day PSVR2 launched no less. So even on paper, it’s already starting to look good.

I also wanted to add another bit of context before we dig deep into the quality of the update itself –I typically don’t like racing games. I play Mario Kart with friends on social occasions or do a couple of donuts in Forza Horizon to check out the environment, but ultimately I haven’t been hooked on the genre since Need for Speed Underground 2 in the PlayStation 2 era. I haven’t had any interest in Gran Turismo as a series since Gran Turismo 2 on the original PlayStation console. It was a time when the series was revolutionising racers and defining the genre for generations to come, making the franchise itself genuinely exciting. However, the novelty of VR and being in a virtual space was enough for me to attempt to rediscover the genre. Like GT2, GT7 VR in my mind revolutionises the genre again, at a time where the prestigious franchise was starting to feel fresh out of ideas. VR is the exact thing the franchise needed to make it feel fresh and new again, offering VR players one of the best experiences they can get on the headset. And yes, it even convinced me to buy a steering wheel, but we will get into that juicy tidbit later.

First and foremost, GT7’s VR integration comes by way of a free update for existing users of the PlayStation 5 iteration of the game, which was released back in March 2022. I highly recommend checking out our review of the launch version of the game to get all the ins and outs of the title and what it has to offer at its core. This review then will focus specifically on the VR component of the game that is brought with this free update. Did I mention it was free? Thrice now, I believe. That is because the VR mode for GT7, a game that is barely a year old, that won best sports/racing game at the 2022 Game Awards and has an OpenCritic score of 87 is now being offered to PSVR2 owners fully packaged with all content, modes and functionality on launch day at no additional cost. The combination of the game’s stellar reputation and the multitude of modes and content being offered as a free update creates a compelling value proposition to those of us early adopters who chose to invest in a very expensive piece of kit. This is important, because the price to get the most out of this game in VR is considerable, which I will outline later in the review.

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Let’s start with what’s on offer here. The first thing you will notice when you boot up the game is it’s not quite in VR at all. That’s because in this VR implementation, Polyphony Digital has decided to retain flat screens for its menu and navigation. I was almost confused at first thinking the game was not picking up my headset or the patch wasn’t correctly installed, but my confusion quickly dissipated as soon as I started a race when the whole screen started wrapping around my field of view. The menus being on a two-dimensional virtual screen may be disappointing for some, but isn’t an issue for me. I came here for the races, and if the menus are practical and functional (which they are), then it does not bother me whatsoever.

Does no one use their blinkers in 2023?

In addition to being able to compete in all races and tracks in every vehicle in all modes, you also have access to a VR-specific theatre mode and virtual showroom that will allow you to inspect the cars in significant detail. It’s neat that these options are present, but is clearly not the draw in a game where you want to drive forever. One thing I did really appreciate was the seamless transition between flat-screen and VR modes. Using the sensor hidden in the PSVR2 headset, the game will switch into a flat-screen mode when you remove the headset and hop back into VR mode when you put it back on. It’s a very convenient feature that I hope more dual-VR releases adopt as I may want to take a bit of a break from wearing the headset occasionally but not necessarily take a break from playing the game.

When you do place the headset on however, it’s hard not to be impressed every time you start up a race. VR elevates racing games in many fundamental ways but some of those ways may not be immediately obvious unless you have experienced VR. For example, having the ability to turn your head independently from the vehicle means you can drive straight while looking elsewhere, and that on its own is a game changer. It gives you a lot more flexibility, time and options to make critical decisions in real-time. By peering to your left you may be able to catch your opponent creeping up in your rear-view mirror, allowing you to adjust your positioning accordingly while preparing for a turn. Being in a virtual space also allows you to view and judge distance and direction better, meaning I felt like I was Peter Brock swerving in and out of those tracks. As you start to realise all these options you have in front of you, time starts to feel like it’s moving slower as you process and decide multiple things at once. It’s all incredibly natural and intuitive.

Me and the boys heading out for a late night joy ride

The visual fidelity on display for a VR game is through the roof. I want to be clear however, that it doesn’t look perfect, and that context is important. I have noticed a lot of early PSVR2 adopters feel disappointed by the image clarity of games in headsets (or lack thereof), after glowing reviews about the headset’s clarity and image quality. Obviously, a VR game will never look as good as its flat-screen counterpart, however speaking within the context of visuals in VR games (especially the prehistoric PlayStation VR) and setting that as the expectation, GT7 looks phenomenal and is without a doubt one of the best looking VR games on the market.

Compared to its PS5 version, I did notice some visual settings slightly dialled down, including resolution, textures, effects and reflections, but they were never reduced to the extent that made it look like a major step down and none of the obvious visual features were missing (which is rare in a VR conversion). Overall, it holds up surprisingly well in a side-by-side comparison to the flat-screen version, which is saying a lot because GT7 looks fantastic for a PS5 game. PSVR’s foveated rendering is in effect here as well, using the built-in eye-tracking capabilities to maximise resolution in the pinpoint areas your eyes are focused on to save on performance.

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Car detail is also great up close, maintaining the fidelity of the original game with very highly detailed realistic looking materials to help make this virtual world feel more tangible. This is something Polyphony has always excelled at and it’s something you can appreciate when you’re up close and personal inspecting vehicles in races or on the showroom floor. Objects in the distance though, such as signage or environmental detail can be hard to make out during races. However, unlike other racing games in VR, the draw distances of the track itself are impressive, allowing you to plan your turns and brakes in advance.

The real visual sweetheart on display here is the HDR implementation. HDR implementation has always been great in Gran Turismo since they introduced the technology in Sport. However, HDR is relatively new in the VR space, and it arguably makes more of a difference in the headset than on a flat screen. HDR plays with contrast, lighting and colours you see, and VR headsets have always felt limited in how they display darkness, light and colour. The HDR mixed with the OLED panels in PSVR2 makes Gran Turismo 7 shine. Light sources create an almost scarily realistic effect during races. The sun beaming down on me in one race started to feel heavy on my eyebrows and eyelids as I was squinting my way through that section of the track. Another example is in an urban city track set at night, where the headlights of the cars in my rear-view mirror were blinding me as they were coming up my arse (just like in real life). I have personally never experienced simulated lighting that behaves realistically in the way the HDR implementation in GT7 demonstrated to me, which adds to the already immersive experience of the game.

On the negative side, there is also an evident ‘Mura’ effect that causes a film-grain-like artefact on VR games common to OLED headsets. GT7 seems one of the biggest offenders of exhibiting the issue, but for me was not too noticeable in motion, but it is there. Some have suggested turning the brightness of the headset down helps alleviate the effect, but I haven’t found that changing the settings altered the effect too drastically.

The audio is as good as expected. Polyphony does an outstanding job of making each car sound unique and accurate which is perfectly complemented by a fantastic selection of banging tracks. 3D audio offered by the PSVR2 of course enhances the experience and fills the whole soundscape when you’re in the drivier’s seat. Cruising down the streets of a night-lit city pumping Idris Elba’s Vroom had me feeling like I actually was Idris Elba with a giant grin on his face. The music combined with the noise of the car engines, the tactile nature of the haptics and the immersive nature of being in a VR space all combine making each race a memorable, audio and visual roller coaster.

I’m fast, but I’m far from furious

Comfort and controls are always a big topic in VR and with GT7 you do have several options available. Strangely, Gran Turismo 7 is one of the only PSVR2 games that do not support the new Sense motion controllers that are included with every PSVR2 headset. However, all PSVR2 owners presumably own a PS5 and a DualSense controller, which GT7 does support, and it functions in the same way it does on the flat screen. In fact, a joint controller makes more sense simulating a driving wheel than two separate motion controllers do. Funnily enough, I prefer this option as the most familiar, comfortable, and cheapest option. With the DualSense controller, there is also an option to enable the built-in motion controls for steering for those who would like a little more immersion in their default setup.

However, many would try to convince you to upgrade to a driving wheel (preferably with forced feedback) for maximum immersion. I was one of those people that got one after playing GT7 on PSVR2. I don’t know if it was because I was not used to using a driving wheel but I felt queasy after a couple of races despite playing a plethora of VR titles for years without issue. It may be related to the fact that I’m physically turning a wheel but my body isn’t moving. Hopefully, this is just growing pains and I will persist to get through it because despite my nauseating experience, the immersion factor is mind blowing and it is very, very close to the real thing. Like all VR games and comfort, what works and does not work will differ person-by-person on a game-by-game basis, but I think a DualSense is a perfectly fine option to get a lot out of GT7 in VR.

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Final Thoughts

GT7’s VR mode for PSVR2 reinvigorated my love for the series and racers in VR. It’s a mind-blowing experience wearing the headset and cruising around tracks in cars with the high fidelity, the excellent implementation of HDR, the superb audio and the general immersive and gameplay benefits brought to the table. Within the context of other VR games, GT7 is one of the most beautiful looking games on the market and there are not that many games that can claim the amount of content and modes that GT7 offers for both solo and online players. After you do try it and you think you can see yourself investing a lot of time into this then I do highly recommend adding a driving wheel setup, but if not, the DualSense is a perfectly viable option. Oh yes, and I did say this was free didn’t I?

Reviewed on PS5 on a PSVR2

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Gran Turismo 7 VR Review
Drive away, no more to pay
With excellent visuals and loads of content, Gran Turismo 7 VR is an absolute triumph for PlayStation VR2 thanks to a free update that brings an already excellent driving experience to a new level in virtual reality.
The Good
Transforms and elevates the core experience
One of the best looking VR games to date
Tons of content day one for solo and multiplayer VR enthusiasts
It's a free update
The Bad
Some visual blemishes
Heavy investment to get the full experience
9.5
Bloody Ripper
  • Polyphony Digital
  • Sony Interactive Entertainment
  • PSVR2
  • February 22, 2023

Gran Turismo 7 VR Review
Drive away, no more to pay
With excellent visuals and loads of content, Gran Turismo 7 VR is an absolute triumph for PlayStation VR2 thanks to a free update that brings an already excellent driving experience to a new level in virtual reality.
The Good
Transforms and elevates the core experience
One of the best looking VR games to date
Tons of content day one for solo and multiplayer VR enthusiasts
It’s a free update
The Bad
Some visual blemishes
Heavy investment to get the full experience
9.5
Bloody Ripper
Written By Joshua Rizk

Mr Multiplatform just wants everyone to get along. Occasionally he gets called a Sony fanboy but then he spams haters with photos of his Halo, Gears of War, Super Mario and Zelda statues. When he is not gaming he is in legal courts thinking about video games or recording music thinking about games

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