Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo series has always been without substitute. There are those that try, and some get close, but it’s hard to duplicate, let alone emulate, the amount of staggering detail that goes into the end product.
Nowhere is that sentiment more evident than in Gran Turismo 6, the latest entry in the series. Gran Turismo 6 is everything fans could hope for, offering a ton of content for the hardcore and the casual gamer, and proving that there is no replacement for Sony‘s racing franchise.
Across the board, Polyphony has streamlined the Gran Turismo experience. From the in-game menu layout to the helpful tutorial prompts, the developer has taken strides to deliver a racing game that is complex yet clear. The sheer amount of races, cars, and options that are at players’ fingertips is staggering, but it’s all laid out in a nice organized fashion with clear explanations of how each element of the game works.
At the same time, Polyphony hasn’t reinvented the wheel. Players still take part in six sets of class-based races, advancing only after they complete a license test. Those tests can be as simple as making a turn in a pre-determined time or beating a specific lap time, but they get more complex and unforgiving as players progress. What’s different this time around is players can earn enough stars to unlock a new license test by picking and choosing which races from the healthy selections to complete. There’s a lot of freedom to the progression, which is a nice addition to a franchise that used to be very restrictive.
For Gran Turismo fans this will sound familiar, and that’s true of the package as a whole. Players earn credits by completing races within each license class, and they can use those credits to purchase new cars. In turn, players can tune and improve those cars until they become a player’s own personal roadster, also using in-game credits. There’s somewhere in the vicinity of 1,200 cars available, and each has its own personality, advantages, and disadvantages. And trust us when we say players will feel the difference, especially when they start making the jump to high performance vehicles. [It should also be noted that although microtransactions are now a part of the GT business model, unlocking cars through the natural progression has not been affected.]
But what most fans are here to read about is the racing, the crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me of Gran Turismo 6. From the very first race, Gran Turismo 6 asserts itself as one of the most polished sim racers on the market, one that is deep but also willing to teach. The game offers no quarter when it comes to handling or speed, but rewards players who learn and evolve as they go. At the beginning, players might take each turn with gusto, but they will soon understand how to approach a variety of turns with a variety of vehicles. The first set of races are basically like appetizers, setting the stage for what is to come before the first license test breaks players of their bad habits. And with that solid foundation, and a shiny new “B” license, the game then starts to introduce more nuanced concepts. Some of these concepts take some patience to learn, but executing a race with minimal missteps is rewarding.
Gran Turismo 6 isn’t wholly focused on straight simulation racing either, it actually packs a surprising amount of variety. The coffee break challenges have returned, as have some one-off races with unique vehicles, but the real treat this time around are the moon rover events. These show that although Polyphony loves diving deep into car culture they also want to deliver a product with some personality. But what’s most important about these events is they are completely optional, meaning players who want the full sim experience can avoid them altogether.
While the racing is engaging and the race options are bountiful, the presentation in Gran Turismo 6 feels a little lacking. The car models are still incredible, but after seeing what next-gen consoles can deliver it’s hard not to wish Polyphony had waited, as hard as that might have been. However, if we’re comparing this to current-gen titles, which is the only fair way to approach things, Gran Turismo 6 still runs at a very high level with a silky smooth frame rate, beautiful reflections, and great weather and day/night effects. The only visual fail is with the crowds watching the races which look as if they were inserted from the earliest Gran Turismo titles. My only true gripe with the game’s presentation is the disconnect between the visuals and the audio. The cars look more realistic than they ever have, but their engines sound too much like one another and that sound isn’t very dynamic. The same goes for the goofy bumper car sounds when colliding with other vehicles or walls.
And while we’re on the topic of the game’s shortcomings, Gran Turismo 6 could still use some work in the A.I. department. Most race opponents simply go about their business; they never jockey for position or truly challenge the player. It’s almost as if the racers in Gran Turismo 6 are locked into their position and have little drive to improve let alone win. Sure, the harder license races offer a greater challenge, but that has little to do with the A.I.’s decisions on the track and more to do with the track layouts themselves and the competition’s selection of vehicle.
That doesn’t diminish the racing overall, though, as the true fun in Gran Turismo 6 comes from getting around the track in a precise, clean manner. And even then, once things transition into multiplayer Gran Turismo 6 starts to pick up. Races are more challenging because everyone has found their car of choice, but the victories are also more rewarding. There are also plenty of online options to choose from, with a wealth of parameters (drift, go-kart, etc.). It’s not perfect, but it keeps the experience going.
All in all, Gran Turismo 6 delivers sim racing at a peak level. From the visuals to the races to the car choices, Polyphony Digital has upped their game once again, showing why they are the name in the genre. Polyphony has also made a game that’s surprisingly accessible and less restrictive than past iterations. GT 6 also gives players a wealth of fun distractions that, while purely optional, help give the game some personality.
Still, even amidst all of the game’s standout qualities, there are places it could certainly improve, especially in with the way opponent A.I. reacts. Online multiplayer alleviates that issue, but this is a franchise built around the single player race, and we hope the PS4 will come in to make things even better. That being said, there is just so much content packed into this game that poor A.I. is tolerable, especially since the racing is so much fun even without opponents. Gran Turismo 6 is a fitting send-off to the PS3 and comes highly recommended.
Have you had a chance to play Gran Turismo 6? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.
Gran Turismo 6 is out now for the PS3.