When it comes to next-gen racing games, I’ll admit that I generally reach for Forza Horizon 5’s accessible open-world wheel for a second, which is a more rigorous rendering of Gran Turismo 7’s realism. But the shiny new PlayStation VR2 headset is like a nitrous oxide explosion in the engine of this game. last, barely pushing the GT7 ahead of the competition, finally putting money where it always has been. The headset’s immersive haptic experience, HDR and 3D sound come together so believably to create a one-of-a-kind experience that any car junkie or racing fan should want to dive into, even if you don’t usually follow strict discipline and the slow progression of GT7 sets you up. And if you If already an avid Gran Turismo fan, PS VR2 offers such a visual and experiential feast that it’s hard not to call GT7’s VR mode an essential upgrade.
The realistic graphics and cabin physics in Gran Turismo 7 VR often feel like I’m taking a real sports car for a spin around Deep Forest Raceway or Tokyo’s Central Circuit, usually at speeds that would get me into serious trouble in real life. Trust me when I say that when you’ve raced a Ferrari Vision GT at 300 mph in the rain – with dirt and water splashing all over the virtual windshield just inches in front of your face – you’ll probably be just as motivated as I was supposed to see everything a Gran Turismo campaign can offer.
While the menus are still disappointingly composed on the flat screen inside the headset, your entire 110-degree field of view brightens up with detail and color once you enter a race or one of several VR-specific modes. Turning your head left and right gives you a true view of your surroundings, and as you’d expect, competently playing GT7 in VR mode requires a similar level of spatial awareness to driving a real car. The rear-view mirrors and other reference points provide a strong sense of how your vehicle is handling, and I imagine it’s even more grounding if you have a fancy steering wheel setup.
Thankfully, the PS5’s bundled DualSense controller works great on its own. It provides a nice mix of tactile bumps and jerks to replicate the movement of the steering wheel in my hands, and uses adaptive triggers to mirror pedal resistance to my index fingers as the motors roar in all directions. If you crash into a wall or other vehicle, the haptic vibrators in the PS VR2 headset will generate a satisfying jolt. All these details quickly add up in my mind, making me feel like I’m really in the cockpit in a way that’s pretty rare for VR games. It’s a much better example of what virtual reality does than many other games that – for example – may ask you to simulate walking by waving your arms left and right.
It sucks that you can never see yourself physically enter the cabin, and it’s similarly disappointing that there are no special animations or VR scenes to represent what happens between menu choices. None of the vehicle’s console or buttons are interactive, except for the backlighting when the headlights are on, which happens automatically in darker road conditions. But it’s not like Gran Turismo 7 focused specifically on glamor or excess from the start, and even simple menus can be forgiven if they’re still a pretty comfortable way to get around. Once in the cab of the vehicle, I never focus on anything but the road itself anyway, so the lack of virtual interactivity is a slight downside given the transcendental racing experience.
Bringing Gran Turismo 7 to virtual reality did something I didn’t expect: it made me more interested in its rules. While I was so physically ingrained in the virtual simulation, I took the time to really learn how to navigate its optional systems. The intuitive racing HUD maps seamlessly to my vehicle’s physical dashboard, but fine-tuning my ride is no longer just a matter of changing a number on the screen; affects the way the car drives, and in virtual reality I can feel these subtle changes in my body. This includes TCL, fuel mapping, brake positioning, tuning and other adjustments. This nuance can be a lot harder to spot when playing in third person with less audiovisual and tactile feedback, but in VR I was able to really get to know the ins and outs of my vehicles. This makes aspects of the GT7 simulation that might scare some people much more important – and immersive – in VR.
With PS5’s many cylinders running at their peak, GT7 VR positively radiates sweetness, pushing huge draw distances and rendering plenty of action at once. The best example of this is when you’re driving head to head behind a car – and then out of the corner of your eye you see several other cars chasing you in your rear-view mirror against a sunrise shimmering over the French countryside. There’s nothing like it anywhere else, and that really speaks volumes about how good the PS VR2’s tech specs are. The immersion is only interrupted by a few animation glitches here and there, like your avatar’s hand occasionally jumping over the gear stick, but you really have to look for them. Some minor missing details, such as the lack of handbrake animation, may also annoy detail lovers, but they don’t ruin the experience when so much attention has been paid to everything else.
Buying vehicles in GT7 has a shiny new layer as you can now activate the incredibly gorgeous VR lounge. This allows you to spend as much time as you want with a full-size replica of every car in Gran Turismo 7’s vast fleet. It’s nice to hear the roar of the new Jaguar F-Type R’s V-8 engine up close, both inside and outside the vehicle. Entering the garage allows you to enter a more elaborate version of the same VR Showroom mode, allowing you to travel to more places. Here you can play around with the lighting options to get all sorts of close-ups of each of your vehicles, which is a great way to revel in Gran Turismo 7’s photorealistic lighting system in full 4K HDR OLED PS VR2 glory. It’s impossible to describe how cool it feels to physically stand next to one of my own custom liveries, especially when it might have started as a silly prank between friends.
VR replays provide a novel approach to experiencing the best racing moments, although I can’t say that they are the most comfortable. You basically stand as a replay camera while the GT7 itself moves you in front of the fastest car on the track every few seconds. It’s a bit annoying, but it gives you the ability to view (and record) the track from unique angles as drivers pass by. It also lets you hear the cars screech as their engines and tires echo off the track geometry, and GT7’s use of Doppler shows just how good its 3D sound design and spatiality of sound is.