Gran Turismo 7 Spec II is the most significant update since the game’s launch in March 2022. With GT7 facing stiff competition from Forza Motorsport, the timing of this mammoth update couldn't be better.
Update 1.40 brings seven new cars and a new track to race them on, which only scratches the surface.
Gran Turismo veterans will be familiar with the Spec II name. These updates usually bring substantial new features, breathing new life into GT games long after their initial release. GT5 Prologue, GT5, and GT Sport relaunched with gigantic Spec II updates. Now, GT7 has had the Spec II treatment. But does the Spec II update give GT7 the boost start it urgently needs?
Seven sensational cars
Booting up the game greets you with a new opening movie featuring alternative shots showcasing many new cars added in updates since launch. Regarding new cars, Spec II brings seven highly requested vehicles – the most of any GT7 update.
Each is special in its own right, but the star car is undoubtedly the 2010 Lexus LFA, the Japanese manufacturer’s halo car. Its naturally aspirated, high-revving V10 sounds sublime in GT7 – especially if you drive through a tunnel.
Joining the LFA are the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon, 2022 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 992 (which makes its video game debut in GT7), and 2023 Tesla Model S Performance. Notably, this marks the racing game debut of Porsche's new and improved 911 GT3 track monster. These cars can be bought in their respective Brand Central manufacturer dealerships.
Three revered classics also join the Legend Car Dealership: the 1991 Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II, 1968 Dodge Charger R/T 426 Hemi, and 1995 NISMO 400R. It’s a well-curated selection with something for everyone, whether you love American muscle cars, EVs, or supercars. However, none of these choices is surprising – we’d like to see Polyphony bring more obscure vehicles that resonate with petrolheads to the roster.
Mercifully, no cars are locked behind a paid DLC pack or season pass costing you real-world money, although you still need to buy them with in-game credits. The Lexus LFA, for example, will set you back 1.5 million.
Thankfully, earning money to buy your dream car is easier than before. Payouts are now based on your Collector level and Circuit Experience completion rate, meaning you can get payout increases up to 400% in events. We must credit Polyphony for adjusting the in-game economy to reward long-time players.
Lake Louise brings snow racing to GT7
GT7 players have been clamouring for new circuits to race on but were disappointed in recent updates. Month after month, no new tracks were added to GT7 since Grand Valley Speedway returned in February this year. Grand Valley's return should have been celebrated, but the layout changes were not well received by the community.
Nine months later, Spec II brings a new original circuit in the form of Lake Louise, a snow track set in a Canadian ski resort. It's not only GT7's first original circuit, but also the first snow track in a GT game since GT6 ten years ago.
You get three variations, including a tri-oval circuit where you’ll drive flat out almost constantly. Naturally, you’ll need to buy and equip the newly added snow tyres from the Race Shop when tackling this track. At least they’re affordable, costing only 5,000 credits for each set.
GT7’s off-road driving physics left much to be desired at launch but has improved since. Driving on snow and ice feels natural in GT7, with lower grip levels than the gravel tracks, making it fun to slide around corners.
With challenging elevation changes and a mix of camber corners, Lake Louise is a fine addition to the track roster. It’s unlikely to become a future classic, however.
We were hoping for some classic tracks to return. From Midfield Raceway to Apricot Hill, Gran Turismo is known for its iconic fictional tracks, yet many still need to be added in GT7.
Weekly Challenges fall flat
Spec II completely revamps World Circuits - mainly for the better. Like Forza Horizon 5’s festival playlists, Spec II introduces Weekly Challenges with rotating events and rewards. Every week, you can enter five race challenges featuring different locations, cars, and conditions.
Weekly Challenges are an easy way to rack up credits. Completing one event earns you a 100,000-credit ticket, while ticking three off the list rewards you a 150,000-credit ticket. You don’t need to finish first to win credit tickets, either.
Weekly Challenges are designed to keep players returning to GT7, much like Forza Horizon 5's festival playlists. Unfortunately, they fall flat. Most challenges are based on existing World Circuit events, lazily recycled without interesting twists.
Week one treated us to a unique Special Event starring the Porsche 911 GT3 RS 992. After that, there were none in week two and three. If this trend continues, the Weekly Challenges won't give players a reason to keep coming. Another issue is that you can only access them after completing GT Cafe Menu 39 and watching the end movie, so casual players who haven’t finished the GT Cafe are left out.
Unlike Forza Horizon 5, there are no limited-time prize cars either. That means earning credits is the only incentive to play the Weekly Challenges, but there are better ways to grind credits.
World Circuits has seen some welcome improvements, however. A new dashboard screen highlighting the number of cars in your garage and events left to complete in one place makes tracking your progress much easier.
Master License tests provide another reason to revisit GT7’s single-player campaign. Unlocked after clearing the Normal License tests, the 50 extra tests are noticeably more challenging to beat. They’re worth the effort, though, with unique prize cars to unlock if you complete all 50.
Moreover, there are 20 new GT Café Menus and World Circuit races events. GT7’s monthly updates are often criticised for lacking new events, but Spec II gives longtime players plenty to do.
Sophy AI is a game changer
One of the headline additions in Gran Turismo 7 Spec II is the return of Sophy, an AI that uses machine learning to replicate human drivers. Spec II makes Sophy a permanent fixture after a limited trial earlier this year.
Sophy AI can only be activated in Quick Race (the renamed Arcade Mode) and is limited to nine tracks at the time of writing, each highlighted with a heart icon. After selecting a track, you can race with the standard AI or Sophy.
Gran Turismo is known for its robotic AI opponents who stick to the racing line like glue, resulting in dull races. Sophy isn’t as difficult to beat as Polyphony previously suggested, but it behaves more convincingly like a human than standard AI. You’ll see opponents battle with each other and drive defensively if you attempt a late overtake, making races far more engaging in GT7.
It’s a shame you can’t race with Sophy AI in World Circuit career races. We’re also not fans of the cartoonish emojis that hover over opponents, indicating their mood. Nevertheless, Sophy AI is a game changer - not just for GT7, but racing games in general. Hopefully, Sophy AI will be fully implemented into GT7 in the coming months, unless Polyphony saves it for Gran Turismo 8.
A major advantage over Forza Motorsport
Another surprising addition is the four-player split-screen multiplayer. GT7 launched with two-player local multiplayer, but now up to four players can race together on the same screen. This gives GT7 a major advantage over Forza Motorsport, which still doesn’t support two-player split-screen multiplayer, let alone four.
Spec II doesn’t fix GT7’s fundamental issues. There are still no endurance races, the linear GT Café is a pale imitation of a GT campaign, and not enough cars have dedicated World Circuit events encouraging you to race them.
Overall, Spec II may not be the giant leap it should be, but it's a great step forward, bringing meaningful improvements that make GT7 more enjoyable to play. If you’ve been neglecting GT7, now is the perfect time to pick it back up. If Polyphony can build on these improvements, there’s hope that GT7 will reach its full potential.
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