Gran Turismo has surpassed being just a game to me. I’ve been playing since the first GT came out on the original PlayStation when I was a freshman in high school. Gran Turismo was the sole reason I bought a PlayStation in the first place. My passion for things Gran Turismo has become more than just a love but an institution. Gran Turismo’s pedigree of excellence established a benchmark for realism and handling as well as graphical presentation. Polyphony Digital has been one of the most successful PlayStation developers ever and has created the marquee racing video game series in the console market. That’s not to say they haven’t hit any road bumps. GT6 had a number of challenges to overcome if it was going to push the series forward and beyond its predecessor. To its credit, it does in almost every aspect.
So What’s Good?
In Gran Turismo 6’s opening moments it is clear that Polyphony Digital heard the cries of agony from gamers and completely overhauled their menus and user interface. While keeping a lot of the core concepts from Gran Turismo 5, Polyphony are presenting it in a brand new, and significantly cleaner, dashboard. The garage is a hub to manage vehicles, racing gear, and test drives. Cars can be switched and tuned by simply pressing start while navigating through the new dashboard and events. Everything is presented in a much more logical and accessible manner. The garage is available from any event which means finding the right car for the right race takes significantly less time.
As events are completed, stars are earned that will eventually unlock higher tiered and more difficult events as well as award a prize car for obtaining 50% and 100% of the available stars in each event category which are broken up into: B Class, A class, International B, International A, etc. There are also side events like the coffee breaks which range from annoying challenges requiring you to knock over a bunch of cones as quickly as possible to fun ones that test driving efficiency to see how far you can get on one liter of fuel and how fast you can get there. They’ve also included the historic Goodwood Festival Hill Climb which is a nice touch.
Graphically, GT6 looks very similar to GT5 but there are some subtle differences. By using new rendering techniques, screen tearing has been reduced but not eliminated. Overall the level of detail has been improved with better textures on surfaces and a reduction in jagged lines. Lighting effects in GT6 are even better with each object casting two shadows. Many tracks really showcase the dynamic lighting with variable weather conditions and lighting that will transition from day to night and vice versa.
The number of race tracks available has been increased and GT6 offers some of the best real world locales to race on. The true cathedrals of motorsport are fantastically represented in the forms of Monza, La Sarthe, the Nurburgring Nordschleife, Spa Francorchamps, Suzuka, Silverstone and now Bathurst. Apricot Hill is also back and complementing what is already the best line up of fantasy tracks in any racing game available.
So What isn’t as Good?
I was pretty vocal about the sound quality, or lack thereof, in Gran Turismo 5. Measures have been taken to help address the buzzy, diesel-like sound of the vehicles but it still isn’t anywhere near the quality and fidelity in GT6’s competitors.
To go along with the mildly improved sound is the list of available cars to choose from. Gran Turismo 6 does offer over one thousand cars to choose from; however, to be frank, the list of vehicles feels a bit dated at this point. The number of newer sports cars and super cars is disappointing to say the least. For example, the offerings of Pagani include very old and low detailed Zonda’s to go along with the Huarya and Zonda R (the only two Premium detailed vehicles). The Jaguar F-Type is nowhere to be found and the Aston Martin DB-S and Virage are curiously absent. Overall the number of Premium quality cars has been increased and while those cars are painstakingly detailed and beautifully rendered, the same cannot be said about the Standard cars which look slightly better than they did in GT5 but are still upscaled GT4 models.
So What’s Great?
Gran Turismo 6 is by no means perfect but the effort to improve and fix mistakes made in previous games is obvious and should be commended. The biggest improvements have actually been made in the areas of the game that you cannot see but feel. It’s a curious thing to describe but the amount of feedback delivered to the driver is uncanny. It’s easier than ever before to understand the information and feedback provided by the car at all three stages of a corner (entry, apex, and exit). Go into the corner too hot and fast and the sensation of understeer, the car ploughing through its turned front tires, is obvious. Get a little over zealous at the apex or exit and the rear will break away in a rear wheel drive car. The feedback from the vehicle is essential to find the correct set up for each circuit. It’s a result of the phenomenal retooling of their physics engine that makes it all possible and it is here where Polyphony Digital puts all other developers to shame.
You only need look to at the real world results with graduates from the GT Academy which has produced real race car drivers out of Gran Turismo players. It isn’t very often that this can be said about a video game but the skills required to be fast in Gran Turismo directly translate to being fast in the real world. These GT Academy graduates aren’t just quick, they’re finishing on the podium and winning races.
Last but not least, the the true impact of the Gran Turismo legacy on the automotive industry can be seen in the Red Bull Racing challenges and Vision GT. The Red Bull events unlock fascinating and fantastical race cars designed by the Technical Director of the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team, Adrian Newey. The grand prize of these events is the Red Bull X2014 Fan Car which is rocket ship fast and tests the limits of human reaction time. The Vision GT project is a collaboration between Polyphony Digital and some of the premier sports car manufacturers in the world to develop what they feel is their ultimate Gran Turismo sports car. Some of these cars may eventually transition from your television screen to the showroom floor.
So do I Need to Buy it?
If you’re looking for a true to life driving simulator you can’t do any better than Gran Turismo 6 on consoles. As a game it falls short in a few places, including driver AI. Single player races, in typical Gran Turismo fashion, are a race against the cars rather than the AI drivers as they robotically follow the same driving line and appear almost oblivious to the player at times.
As a simulator, it shines brighter than anything you’ll find on any console and if you’re looking to race against more savvy competition, simply trek online to test your mettle against some pretty stiff competition. The Seasonal Events will also allow you to race against the clock, your friends and the world in special time trials set up by Polyphony Digital with leaderboards and ghost lines so you can see where your friends are fast as you drive the course. If you enjoy racing games I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t give Gran Turismo 6 a spin.