As far as next-gen racing games go, I’ll admit that I generally grab the wheel of Forza Horizon 5’s approachable open world in the split second that’s Gran Turismo 7’s more rigid commitment to realism. But the shiny new PlayStation VR2 headset is like a blast of nitrous oxide in the latter’s engine, pushing the GT7 ahead of the competition, finally putting its money where its always been. The immersive haptics, HDR and 3D sound combine so believably to create a unique experience that any die-hard car fan or racing fan should want to dive into, even if you’re not usually into GT7’s strict constitution and slow-burn progression. lies down And if you is already a bona fide Gran Turismo fan, PS VR2 offers such a visual and experiential feast that it’s hard not to call GT7’s VR mode a substantial upgrade.
Gran Turismo 7 VR’s realistic graphics and physical cabin often feel like I’m taking a real sports car for a ride around Deep Forest Raceway or through Tokyo’s Central Circuit, generally at speeds that would get me into big trouble in real life. Trust me when I say that once you’ve driven a Ferrari Vision GT at 300 mph in the rain – with dirt and water splashing everywhere on your virtual windshield, just a few inches in front of your face – you’ll probably be just as motivated as I wanted to see everything the Gran Turismo campaign can throw you.
While the menus are still frustratingly organized on a flat screen inside your headset, the entire 110-degree field of view lights up with detail and color once you enter a match or one of several VR-specific modes. Turning your head left and right gives you a real sense of your surroundings and, unsurprisingly, playing GT7 perfectly in VR mode requires you to have a similar level of spatial awareness as if you were driving a real car. Rearview mirrors and other reference points provide a strong sense of how your vehicle handles, and I imagine it’s even more grounded if you have a fancy steering setup.
Fortunately, the PS5’s full DualSense controller works great on its own. It provides a nice mix of tactile bumps and jolts to replicate the motion of the steering wheel in my hands, and uses its adaptive triggers to mirror pedaling resistance to my index fingers as the motors roar in all directions. In the event of a collision with a wall or another vehicle, the PS VR2’s haptic vibrators on the headset give satisfying feedback. All of these details come to mind quickly, making me feel like I’m actually in the cockpit in a way that’s really rare for a VR game. It’s a much better example of what VR does well than many other games that – for example – can ask you to simulate walking by moving your arms left and right.
It’s a bummer that you never get to watch yourself physically enter the cabin, and it’s equally disappointing that there aren’t any special animations or VR scenes to illustrate what’s going on between the menu options. None of your vehicle’s consoles or buttons are interactive other than lighting up when your headlights are on, which happens automatically in darker driving conditions. But it’s not like Gran Turismo 7 was ever particularly focused on feel or extravagance, and even simple menus are forgivable when they’re still a very convenient way to get around. While inside the cabin of a vehicle, I’m not focused on anything other than the road itself anyway, so the lack of virtual interactivity is a minor drawback considering the otherwise transcendent racing experience.
Bringing Gran Turismo 7 into VR did something I didn’t expect: it made me care more deeply about its rules. When I was so naturally entrenched in its virtual simulation, I took the time to really learn how to navigate its optional systems. The intuitive in-race HUD maps seamlessly over my vehicle’s physical dashboard, but fine-tuning my route no longer just changes a number on the screen. it affects the way the car handles and in VR, I can feel these subtle changes in my body. This includes TCL, fuel mapping, brake placement, tuning and more tuning. This nuance can be much harder to pick out when playing in third-person mode with less audio-visual and haptic feedback to guide you, but in VR I could really learn the ins and outs of my vehicles. This makes aspects of GT7’s simulation that may be intimidating to some that much more important – and exciting – in VR.
When the PS5’s many reels are all working during peak moments, the GT7 VR oozes positive eye candy, pushing huge draw distances and delivering a ton of action at the same time. This is best demonstrated when you think of a car in the neck – and then out of the corner of your eye, you catch several other cars chasing you in your rear view mirror against the backdrop of a sunrise sparkling over the French countryside. There’s nothing like it anywhere else, and it’s really a testament to how good the PS VR2’s specs are. Immersion is only interrupted by a few animation glitches here and there, like your avatar’s hand occasionally going over the gear shifter, but you really have to look for them. Some small missing details, such as the lack of handbrake animations, may also annoy detail sticklers, but they don’t ruin the experience when so much attention has been paid to everything else.
Shopping for vehicles in GT7 has taken a new level of glamor as you can now activate the gorgeous VR showroom. This allows you to spend as much time as you want with a full-scale replica of every car in Gran Turismo 7’s extensive fleet. It’s nice to hear the growl of a new Jaguar F-Type R V-8 engine up close, both inside and outside the vehicle. Entering your garage allows you to enter a more expansive version of the same VR showroom mode, allowing you to travel to a wider variety of locations. Here, you can play with the lighting options to get all kinds of close-up angles for each of your vehicles, which is a delightful way to drink in Gran Turismo 7’s photorealistic lighting system in full PS VR2 4K HDR OLED glory. It’s impossible to describe how nice it is to physically stand next to one of my own custom liveries, especially when they may have started as a silly joke between friends.
VR replays provide a new approach to reliving your best racing moments, though I can’t say they’re the most comfortable either. You basically stand as the replay camera while the GT7 itself moves you every few seconds in front of the fastest car on the track. This is somewhat annoying, but it gives you opportunities to watch (and record) the track from unique angles as the racers zoom by. It also lets you hear the cars screeching as their engines and tires echo around the track geometry, and GT7’s use of Doppler shows just how good the 3D sound design and sound spatiality is.