Gran Turismo 7’s music mode might finally convince me to play a racing game

A Jaguar racing around a track in Gran Turismo 7
(Image credit: Polyphony Digital)

Gran Turismo 7 looks like a car fanatic’s dream. It’s a love letter to the growling engines, sleek chassis, and rugged tread of automobiles. Every inch of car and every meter of track will be meticulously recreated in the name of immersive simulation. You might not own a Porsche Taycan, but you can discover what it feels like on the road by hopping in the virtual driving seat and taking it for a spin.

That’s my impression, at least. I’m no racing game savant and certainly no car fanatic. While I have fond memories of tearing up streets in Need for Speed: Underground 2 and exploding motorcycles and monster trucks in Motorstorm back in the heyday of the PS3, I’ve steered clear of most racing releases. The sillier titles of the genre might grab my attention, but serious racing sims usually get a pass from me.

The promise of driving exorbitantly expensive cars around a virtual race track, or gradually learning the intricate handling techniques of a McLaren, don’t whet my appetite. I need something other than the car, beautiful environments, or the thrill of the race to draw me in. I want some novelty to grab the brunt of my attention, leaving the actual game to sit quietly in the passenger seat.

A fitting distraction

PlayStation Showcase

(Image credit: Sony)

It’s a big ask, and one that few developers would, quite rightly, bother catering towards. But GT7 might fit the bill. Revealed during Sony’s recent State of Play event, the game will sport a new Music Rally mode that seems specifically tailored for people like me - those who aren’t content to race around a track unless there’s another seemingly irrelevant, but actually more interesting, feature to occupy their impatient mind.

Music Rally looks to be a sort of musical time trial. You’ll race around a track against a timer while a banging tune plays in the background. Let the timer tick to zero before you reach the next checkpoint, and it’ll be race over, so you’ll need to pass through specific gates to replenish your time and keep in the race. So far, so standard. What shakes things up, however, is the connection between the countdown timer and the music. Time ticks down at the same rate as the song’s tempo, so you don’t have seconds to count but the BPM (beats per minute) of whatever song you’re racing to.

"Music Rally lets you appreciate sweet grooves and sick riffs as you drift around corners at breakneck speeds."

The idea is that you not only drive alongside the music but race against it, trying to match your speed on the asphalt with the song that’s blasting in your ears. Faster songs will be more challenging, as the timer ticks down at a higher rate, while slower songs are more forgiving, as their slow tempo gives you longer to reach the next checkpoint. Style and genre will determine the countdown timer’s starting position and track length comes into play, too; you’re not racing to get over the finish line but trying to stay in the race by the time the song ends.

From what Polyphony Digital has shown so far, Music Rally sounds like it will supplement GT7 without interfering with its core gameplay loop. It lets you crack on with a competitive race as usual, but gives you something extra to focus on. The specific hum of your car’s engine or the particulars of its handling will no longer be the only novelty to enjoy during a race. Instead, non-car-aficionados can appreciate some sweet grooves and sick riffs as they drift around corners at breakneck speeds.

Musical fusion 

What really makes the mode special, is its integration. Although it’s easy enough to stick on a Spotify playlist when playing Gran Turismo, that leaves the music disconnected from the game; nothing more than background sound that’s completely separated from what you're doing on-screen. GT7’s Music Rally mode bridges that gap, and while it might not meet the wild levels of interaction of Audiosurf and other music rhythm games, it certainly goes a step further than mere musical accompaniment. 

Without the mode’s competitive time trial component, I’d be worried the whole thing would feel pointless. As much as I enjoy listening to tunes while driving, I need an objective to focus on when playing racing games; something to direct my attention back to the screen. What better way for GT7 to do that than by connecting the music going into my ears with the movement going on with my thumbs.

There are a few questions Polyphony has left hanging in the air. It’s not yet clear whether every one of GT7’s over 300 songs can be used in the new mode, or whether you’ll be able to import your own music to use. That last one is probably too large an ask, so don’t be expecting to upload a math rock piece or some prog epic just to see how the tempo changes play out mid-race.

Will Music Rally convince me to buy GT7? Well, not at launch, certainly. But I imagine a couple of years down the line when I’m craving beautifully ray-traced cars and want to give my ears a treat, it’ll be top of the pile. Even though I might not be part of GT7’s primary target audience, Polyphony has made me excited for a genre I forgot years ago. That’s no mean feat.

Callum Bains
Gaming News Writer

Callum is TechRadar Gaming’s News Writer. You’ll find him whipping up stories about all the latest happenings in the gaming world, as well as penning the odd feature and review. Before coming to TechRadar, he wrote freelance for various sites, including Clash, The Telegraph, and, and worked as a Staff Writer at Wargamer. Strategy games and RPGs are his bread and butter, but he’ll eat anything that spins a captivating narrative. He also loves tabletop games, and will happily chew your ear off about TTRPGs and board games.