Gran Turismo, a name that is synonymous with exotic cars as well as the PlayStation brand. Polyphony Digital celebrates the 15 year anniversary of this acclaimed franchise with the release of their newest title; Gran Turismo 6.
If you are unfamiliar with the Gran Turismo franchise, the only thing that you need to know is that it is not an arcade racing game but a racing simulator, which means that the series is less about racing your opponent and more about learning how your car operates in every possible minute detail, and this is true for the latest iteration of the series as well.
After the enormously long period of development time taken by GT5, it seems a bit surprising that Polyphony was able to churn out GT6 in just three years.
Although the game features a staggering number of above 1200 cars and 37 locations and 100 map configurations, are these additions enough? Does the game suffer due to faster release or do the changes included really elevate the game from its prior iterations?
Let’s answer that question by tackling the big elephant in the room, called Micro-transactions, right off the bat.
Yes, the game does include a way for players to buy their way out of earning credits and cars. However, that does not mean that the progression system is geared towards making it tough for regular players to enjoy the game.
The feature is not even available in the off-the-self game disk and is far from the focus of the game’s progression system.
The game occasionally gifts you cars for your efforts but mostly players have to rely of credits earned through completing races and challenges to get to the cars they desire. This becomes more apparent as the credits earned dry up compared to the requirements for high level cars, thus mandating repeated goings of the races that reward higher credits.
The progression system in Gran Turismo games has always involved grinding races for credits, and this is no more or no less pronounced in GT6.
While some things remain the similar to GT5, the overall gameplay progression is also structured a bit differently than the previous game.
In the early stages of the game, the career mode is more linear than what players have seen in the past.
GT6 starts with extended tutorial that guides players through the game mechanics as well as process of buying cars and racing.
After one has proven one’s competence behind the wheel and gone to next license, the game stop holding the player’s hands and will open up into the more traditional open-ended, choose-your-own-adventure format that fans have enjoyed in previous Gran Turismo games.
Which leads us to the topic of the absurd return of mandatory license tests. While in GT5, players could essentially ignore the license test as the progression was based on level requirements, GT6 reverts to the old GT trope of limiting the player to a specific sector until he or she has cleared the license tests at the end of each section.
Why would Polyphony return to this form of limitation is beyond me. The mandatory license tests add nothing more to the plate and only serve as a forced limitation to progress in its main singleplayer mode.
Aside from the main races, the game also features coffee break challenges, mission races, one-make races and special events.
Most of these are merely side-attractions that are unlocked as you progress through the game, however, Special Events offer unique experiences like driving the LRV along the Apollo 15 expedition route on the Moon and r invitations to the prestigious Goodwood Festival of Speed.
In addition to that there is also the return of Arcade mode where one can experience singleplayer and split-screen offline multiplayer races as well as an online component containing quick match, community lobby and seasonal events.
As ever, the game’s main attraction is not its modes, not its locations but the cars. Gran Turismo 6 features above 1200 cars, many of which are unbelievably beautiful to behold; however, there is a sizable bunch that are just better ports of the PS2 versions seen in GT4.
Yes, the standard and premium car differentiation returns, however, this time the standard cars have received a better polish than GT5 but there is still a marked difference when a standard car is placed along with a premium one.
Along with the number of cars, Polyphony has also improved the purchasing mechanism as the players do not have to scour a randomly generated used car market to hunt for certain cars, and can find all cars at one place.
The game has also included a recommended cars section which suggests different cars for different sections of the single player career mode.
Though not readily apparent from the get go, GT6 does feature improved weight balancing dynamics from the previous game while is a minute detail that might catch the eye of serious car aficionados and Gran Turismo fans.
Cars no longer stick to the track like glue, but bounce and shake mimicking reality. Hitting different surfaces leads to noticeable bobble and pitch, all thanks to improvements in suspension simulation developed for the game.
The driving A.I. for GT6 does not seem to have been the focus of marked improvement as well. The computer opponents still seem to religiously follow the designated driving line, often ignoring your presence and clumsily bumping into the player during overtaking and braking close by.
Another major gripe towards the game is that while Polyphony has marketed improved course maker as one of Gran Turismo 6’s highlights, the mode along with B-spec, data logger and 3D support are missing from the finished product and are expected to be added via updates in the future.
While I doubt many would miss B-spec or 3D support, however, keeping a much touted feature from a game does not seem like a wise choice for a developer to make.
However, even with all those misses, Polyphony Digital has managed to replace GT5’s unintuitive and hard to navigate the menu system with many refined and simpler user interface systems, which makes it easier to browse options, select races, change car configurations and buy cars.
What’s more, this navigation experience is made even better due to hugely reduced loading times.
There are some presentation refinements done with respect to races in Gran Truismo 6 as well, which allows the game to operate without any noticeable screen tearing, which was definitely a prevalent issue in Gran Turismo 5.
Lighting and shadows were two of the biggest gripes players had about GT5’s presentation, which has led the developers to have gifted GT6 with a more dynamic range. The darker areas of the tracks look darker, and the bright lights look better with the incoming flash and with better motion blur to boot.
Furthermore, the game also features new dynamic weather and day cycles as well as an apparently accurate celestial sphere showing the accurate position of stars in the night time sky.
However, even with all the visual improvements, one can still readily observe persistent jagginess with car shadows as the aliasing issues still have not been resolved.
Moreover, the issue of inadequate collision damage also persists from GT5 to 6 and even with all the attention to the handling and movements of each vehicle, the cars in GT6 still react to major collisions as if they were minor scrapes.
Similarly, the cars in GT6 continue the tradition of signifying an on-track impact with a noise of a small cardboard box dropping from a single flight of stairs.
Furthermore, while there are rumors about improvements in car sounds being updated into the title via updates, as of this moment, the cars in the GT6 give off the same annoying sound as was the case with GT5.
Most of the cars create the vacuum cleaner sound rather than distinct sounds of their respective engines, which really detracts from the otherwise near immaculate feeling of realistic simulation that is painstakingly crafted in the game’s visual department.
In the end, while the improvements in load times and user interface are much appreciated, GT6 still retains the feeling that the game was created by an engineer who while mindful of the minutia of technical details does not seem to comprehend the human element of fun and ease of use.
If you don’t believe me, just take a minute to ponder why the game would necessitate the player to earn 2 licenses and go through 2 different singleplayer sections to just be able to access the game’s online competent?
It is such design decisions that make it clear that the developers of GT do not fully grasp the concept of play and the reason why GT as a series is more appealing to pure car enthusiasts than a person who casually appreciates driving cars and thus creating a huge barrier to entry.
So if you were content with what GT5 had to offer and are excited for a similar package with a couple of additions, then Gran Turismo 6 is the game for you. However, if you were looking for revolutionary improvements to the game systems presented to the world in GT5, then you should look elsewhere.
GT6 is another victim of the practice of first-day updates that add features missing to the game and try to improve certain aspects of the game.
The game comes with a big 1.2 GB update, which opens up the seasonal and special events options in the game, the patch fails to bring in the many touted features like the course maker, data logger and the B-spec mode.
Similarly, GT6 is untouched in the sound department as most of the car engines in the game manage to retain that distinct lawn mower quality which continues to undermine the game’s visual beauty.
The addition of Vision GT is appreciated, which promises to gradually unlock concept cars in lieu of the series’ 15th anniversary. Starting with a very Top Gear-ish look at Benz’s AMG efforts.
Interestingly the update does away with the quick race option that was previous present in the 1.00 version of the game. It is fairly difficult to comprehend the reasons why an update would try to limit player’s options but in the online department, Polyphony did not deem us worthy of having the ability to play both Seasonal Events and Quick races.
The update does, however, add the much debated, micro transactions to the realm of Gran Turismo.
Micro transactions allow the player to bypass the tedium of earning credits through accomplishing standings in various races and buy in game credits for real money to get the cars they want.
The feature is tucked away in GT Store. It is totally optional and non-intrusive and does not rear its head in and around gameplay, never prompting the player to buy their way out not is it presented as the core component or requirement for the game.
Essentially the same as what was there in GT5. While there are some improvements in handling as well as car and course selection however the game retains the A.I. issues that have perennially plagued the series and continue to hamper the experience of solid racing simulator.
Obviously GT6 cannot be compared to its next-gen rival in visual department, however for a PS3 game, Gran Turismo 6 looks incredible. While the game’s visuals look unbelievable in screen shots, its real strength is that it gives off an extreme sense of realism when seen in motion.
While the overall soundtrack of the game retains its charm, GT6 still suffers that age old problem where almost every car sounds like a vacuum cleaner and the collision effects sound less like a car accident and more like a falling cardboard box.
Improvements in loading times and ease of navigating user interface is a huge plus however the overall package is marred by the absence of more deep visual customization options for the cars as well as the token sake damage effects.
Thousands of cars, millions of configurations in balance and tuning, dozens of tracks, a slew of career races and online multiplayer to hold any racing fan for months on end, Gran Turismo 6 has a lot of material to keep its fans hooked.
Gran Turismo 6 is essentially a refined and expanded version of Gran Tursimo 5. The game does not feature any significant changes that would change minds of the detractors of series but it is still full of additions and refinements that would make it highly appealing for the longtime fans of the previous games.