If you asked me to describe the Gran Turismo series in one word, it would never be 'cool'. Vast? Yes. Detailed? Definitely, but cool? Not really. When I want to play a 'cool' racing game, I head to the latest Forza Horizon or maybe even an old copy of Need for Speed Underground (cheesy cool, OK?). I didn't go into Gran Turismo 7 expecting to be wowed like this.
But then Idris Elba came along.
Starting out in Gran Turismo 7 feels soulless. Waiting for the game to download, tapping a few options on various menus to adjust steering and how the game looks on your TV. All so necessary yet utterly flat. Imagine being a kid tasting Gran Turismo for the first time with...this?
A little way in, however, and you can play Music Rally while you wait for the rest to be ready. Much is made of the game's opening FMV that chronicles the history of cars (and it's tremendous) so it's easy to forget the first taste of racing comes from Music Rally. There's a choice of three racing tracks with accompanying music. Iconic tracks at that, but how could you not choose Tokyo Expressway? This is Gran Turismo after all! It just feels right to start somewhere in Japan. And there it is - the song listing underneath. It's called Vroom...really? I have no idea if I should know who The FanaTiX is (sorry, I'm getting old) but I do know Idris Elba. Featuring in the song is an inspired touch that adds an instantly likeable quality to the whole thing.
Simply called Vroom, you can guess the song's theme. Vroom has lyrics about driving Maseratis, Bugattis, Mustangs, you get the idea. Even before Elba starts rapping, it's catchy. A chorus of 'Vroom, vroom, vroom' may not be the smartest of lyrics but it sticks in your head. Then Elba's deep tones emerge, rapping away about seeing him in a variety of cool, high-end cars. On its own, you'll end up smiling at simply how charming it is (not unlike the actor himself) but when taking to the track for the first time? It's instantly wondrous.
There are relatively few moments in gaming where everything clicks perfectly and you feel a sheer sense of joy. This is one of those. With Idris Elba rapping away, you find yourself accelerating that little more keenly, trying to take that corner in a more rhythmic fashion than before, and simply losing yourself to the moment. Whatever you might think of the neediness of the game (which I love too), the people in the cafe constantly giving you new things to aim for, or the fairly cold exterior of the whole thing, the driving experience is stunning. Combined with this agreeable yet ridiculous track? It's a moment that's likely to stick with you for a while to come. It certainly has for me. A smile spreads across my face the moment I hear the track, and I immediately want to take to my PS5 all over again.