Gran Turismo 6 launched for PlayStation 3 at quite a strange time, a week after the PlayStation 4. With so many people looking to play on the new hardware, does Gran Turismo 6 do enough to justify booting up the older machine?
At its very best, Gran Turismo 6 is absolutely sublime. In many regards, it has taken what was flawed and incomplete in Gran Turismo 5, and polished it to a mirror-like finish.
The new cars and tracks reignite that sense of discovery and excitement, as you get to experience the gruelling twists and turns at the top of Mt. Panorama, cling on for dear life as the first corner at Brands Hatch simply falls away from you, or revisit a classic original track, with the incessant left-right-left turns of Apricot Raceway. All of the new tracks come in addition to all those returning from GT5 and its DLC packs, resulting in an impressive variety of locations.
Then there’s the array of cars to choose from, which is almost mind-boggling. It’s true that the Standard vehicles are still in the game, but it’s good to see that many of the worst offenders have been improved, if not turned into full Premium models. While there are plenty that are still noticeably poorer than the Premium vehicles, the game no longer makes the distinction between them and the gap is often not as noticeable in the thick of the action.
Regardless of the car you’re driving, the handling model has definitely been improved substantially. The changes to the suspension are the most visually arresting part of this, with the weight and load shifting around the car in a more pronounced fashion under braking and through corners. It can be subtle, depending on the car, but it helps to better inform the player of what the car’s weight is doing.
The new tyre model also adds to this, so that controlling your car on the very edge is more manageable. The tyre squeal returns, as a much improved and more nuanced audio cue, helping you to compensate for the lack of actually sitting in a car and being able to feel the way it’s shifting around you.
Cars are more likely to lose grip when pushed hard, but when they do it is much more progressive than in GT5. Controlling the car when at or over the limit is easier, and especially when driving with a wheel as opposed to a DualShock 3, I felt more surety in what I could ask of the cars.
A much larger proportion of the tracks available now make full use of the day-night cycle, which made the racing around Nurburgring and La Sarthe such wondrous experiences in GT5. With the new lighting engine in place, and combining this with the dynamic weather system and the ability to race at varying points in the day, GT6 can create some of the most beautiful moments available on the PS3.
This added variety is something which the career delights in making use of. You might be returning to a track, but it rarely feels the same. You’ll be in a different car or racing on a different layout, while the time of day has changed and the shadows are scattered differently. Much later on in the career, you’ll find yourself racing at night, with the stars now twinkling more noticeably in the sky, or struggling with the wet conditions as the rain pours down.
Returning as a more integral part of the career are the License tests, now acting as the gateway to successive tiers of racing. They push you to learn certain types of corner and how to handle the various types of car, from the very basics onwards. They are also more lenient than they were in GT5, where the tests that feature you overtaking an opponent have been split off as Mission Races, that live alongside the quirky Coffee Break levels and One Make races.
They’re optional little distractions from the main career, stepping up the difficulty slightly ahead of the curve, and providing a different challenge. Special Events branch this out further, with the excellent Goodwood Festival of Speed hill climb and the hilariously tangential Lunar Exploration, though this is a surprising paucity compared to the breadth of different disciplines featured in GT5.
However, behind these improvements lurk some of the existing problems of GT5. The Standard cars can still disappoint, visible car damage is reduced, if anything, while improvements to engine noises are only going to be addressed in a substantial way through patching. For me, though, the most disappointing aspects come from the career’s AI and difficulty.
The AI sees few changes since GT5, just cruising around the tracks at well below a car’s pace and playing at overtaking like lorry drivers on a motorway. Their braking points are still far too early and hard, with low cornering speed that makes them too easy to beat. Though I can understand this is done to help newer drivers, the increase in difficulty is very gradual, and is never challenging enough to experienced drivers – though thankfully avoids some of the horrendous difficulty spikes of GT5.
I found myself taking hugely underpowered cars to races, in order to give myself even a modicum of challenge, but I get no reward for this. I got no satisfaction from passing these moving road blocks, and there’s no recognition or boost to my race earnings for doing so. Even much later on, the AI wasn’t made more challenging, but simply put into faster cars and placed further away from me, with rolling starts used to disguise this excessively stage managed system.
It makes up for this by taking you to each and every style of driving the game can possibly manage. Tracks like Ascari and Willow Springs appear, and are truly challenging places to visit, while NASCAR and rallying see you shift to completely different disciplines. Racing around Spa-Francorchamps in an LMP1 car, trying to figure out whether or not to react to the latest rain shower. The scope of what this game is able to deliver is still truly astonishing, and it’s only going to expand over time.
It’s also easy to dismiss the AI when you take into account the online racing. There really is nothing to compare with racing against real human beings, and GT5 turned into one of the strongest and most-played online games on the PS3. With this latest release, Polyphony have done much to improve this experience.
As part of the general menu overhaul, many of the online quirks have been extinguished, with lobbies much easier to set up and host as a consequence. Nestled inside this cleaner interface, you can also now set up qualifying sessions, enforce mandatory pit stops and tyre compound changes and so on.
There is still a lot more to be added to this, but even on day one, it’s an improvement on what GT5 has to offer. Community Clubs won’t appear until next year though, and the ability to create championships within the game is also missing at this time. Then there are the other elements that aren’t in the game at launch, with B-Spec – whether you love it or hate it – coming next year, more Special Events, more cars, more of the Vision GT initiative, and always the ability for Polyphony to take on board ideas and suggestions from their fans.
Gran Turismo 6, at its simplest, takes the foundations of GT5 and improves upon them. Some areas have seen bigger shifts than others, with the AI and career difficulty the main sticking points for me. However, when there is so much content on offer, with a host of new cars and tracks, see major changes to the physics and graphics, and only promises more, it easily outweighs the existing flaws.
It makes me think of what Luca di Montezemolo said, as he rated Fernando Alonso’s season in Formula 1. “My eight is worth a ten because it’s a score I give as an incentive.”
He was speaking of brilliance when handed imperfection, and GT6 deals with aging hardware and limited time, when trying to deliver on near limitless ambition. So I give it an eight, as an incentive to push on from here and deliver on the promised potential.