Review: Gran Turismo 6 Is A Cold-Hearted Machine
Gran Turismo has been chasing perfection since its inception and to its credit has been edging closer towards it ever since. This year might represent the best GT title yet but is it a worthy upgrade from its predecessor?
- Worth The Time?Yes, at least for some parts
- Things LovedGorgeous vehicle models, great performance upgrade system, no shortage of things to do. The strangest thing is that after a few hours the game really grips you and engages the player. Goodwood Festival of Speed and karting are a treat. Driving mechanics are very realistic and just feel right. There's an absolutely gargantuan roster of cars...
- Things Hated... but there's a lot of bloat and needless repetition. Engine sounds are muted, menu music is awful, the damage system may as well not exist and there is far too much loading for the game's own good. The visual upgrade system is token at best and races are a lifeless affair that even take the fun out of exciting starts with each race having a rolling start.
- RecommendationAnybody with a passion for cars, driving and racing simulators will find something in this game to get stuck into. At the very least, ogle the pretty cars.
- Name: Gran Turismo 6
- Genre: Racing Sim
- Players: 1-16
- Multiplayer: Split-screen, co-op, online
- Platforms: PS3
- Developer: Polyphony Digital
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Price: R665
- Reviewed On: PS3
*Note: At the time of review PSN was down and due to the fact that the game was reviewed on a borrowed console, online features could not be explored.
Back when I reviewed Gran Turismo 5, I was 17 and had essentially no inkling of what it was like to drive a car. Three years on I pretty much still have no inkling but do have a driver’s license so legally I know all about driving. The first thing I noticed was that Gran Turismo 6 really gets its driving mechanics right. Then I opened my eyes and realised the first thing I should have noticed was just how darn pretty the game is.
Some cars still look marginally jagged and rough since the models are clearly carried over from Gran Turismo 4 but the majority of cars look absolute stunning. Perfectly detailed and exquisite models that are enhanced by some lovely lighting effects. Tracks on the other hand are numerous and inconsistent. Half look absolutely dull and uninspiring, poorly modelled and flat. On the other hand the rest look interesting, lively and have real depth to them. Regardless of the track though, big stadium crowds look like cardboard cutouts and behave as such. Best of all is that it isn’t just the premium cars which look great but cars across all tiers and classes.
While we’re on the topic of sensory experiences, the audio in this game is awful. The soundtrack consists of tracks varying from annoying trash to sleep-inducing elevator music. On the track, cars sound muted and asthmatic.
That’s nothing compared to the joke of a damage system. It would make bumper cars blush with the absolute lack of regard for physics or realistic collisions. Slam into a barrier at 200 km/h and your car will bounce off like a rubber ball with little more than a hilarious “bop” to be heard. Shift 2 released a few years ago and had a vastly superior damage system. It’s as if GT6 is too in love with the way its cars look to do any damage to them.
There’s no shortage of things to do in the game with activities quite literally flying at you. There’s your standard arcade mode where you can opt to do a single race or time trial with any car of your choosing on any track. It’s pretty limited but a nice distraction when you want to just race without consequences.
Then we have the meat of the game, the Career. There are six classes with players starting out at Novice. Each class has a number of events, each with multiple races and requiring specific classes or types of vehicles. Winning races earns you stars which go towards unlocking side activities and license tests to unlock the next class. License tests are mandatory but far less intensive than previously. There are a number of side activities but they chiefly come in the form of Coffee Breaks and Missions. The former are typically little fun challenges such as knocking over 300 cones in an allotted time with a Mazda MX-5 and the latter comprises a few situational races with modifiers and specific handicaps to test your mettle.
There are also some novel Lunar Missions which allow you to race around the moon in the lunar buggy. Interesting as the concept is, these are preposterous and joyless encounters as they are simply typical circuit races on terrible terrain with a buggy that handles like a boat. It was the furthest thing from fun. This in itself is indicative of a much bigger problem at the core of GT6 but more on that later.
One great side feature is the Goodwood Festival of Speed. If you’re not familiar with cars then all you need to know is that the Festival of Speed is a big deal and very, very cool. The one in-game is no different. At a certain point you receive an invitation to take part and then have a number of very special missions to choose from. They’re hill climbs or time trials, often in rare classics and it’s quite an experience to be doing racing down a narrow track in a Jag E-Type surrounded by gorgeous trees and fields.
The game has a vast number of tracks, 37 in total, with some of the fastest and most famous circuits from around the world on both snow, dirt and asphalt. In total there are something like 100 layouts of all the tracks. If you thought those numbers were impressive, consider the approximately 1200 cars the game boasts about. The trouble is that the list is a little stale, stuck largely in the 90’s. This is particularly apparent with the abundance of strange and needless Japanese vehicles. I couldn’t care less for some Daihatsu that is not from the Z series. The cars roster is filled with this sort of bloat – the kind of cars nobody much cares for and yet Ruf, the sports car company that repurposes Porsches, only has entries predating 2006. Worse still are all the repeated entries. There are needless variations of certain cars such as the Nissan GT-R Midnight Purple or whatever it’s called. That’s a paint job not a performance enhancer.
Another thing about paint jobs, the game borrows the same paint chip system implemented in GT5 which means it’s going to be an annoyingly long time before you unlock new paint finishes and colours. Worse still is the poor level of visual customisation. It’s token at best.
The performance upgrade system is far deeper and meaningful though. You can purchase any number of specific parts from manifolds to engine management chips and assuming you know what you’re doing can make a few small changes to make your ride much faster. If you’re strapped for cash then fine-tune your car for a specific track or environment with a great level of precision and choice. Everything from tyres to suspension, gear ratios and so much more. It’s mind-boggling but immensely useful if you’re really serious about racing and shaving a second off that lap-time. Users can save up to three settings on each car for different weather conditions and tracks.
On the track, each car feels noticeably different in the way it handles. Even cars that are not vastly different such as the Honda Jazz and Ford Focus. Sure, in real life there’s a huge difference but in-game it’s harder to generate that and Polyphony has somehow managed to create those differentiating nuances in steering, acceleration and overall handling.
Therein lays perhaps the greatest strength of GT6, the incredibly realistic way in which vehicles handle and behave. Wait too late to brake and you risk running wide but brake too hard and you’ll lose some traction. It just feels right and intuitive. Once you change the game’s outdated PS2-era control scheme that is. It’s filled with these design quirks and poor layouts decisions. The menu is a sometimes confusing and yet outdated piece of work whilst the menu screen upon completing a race has the first option being to restart while exiting to do another race requires some scrolling. I’ve won the race, I’m not that much of a perfectionist.
Races themselves are strange. At first they’re rather dull and soulless, in fact they’re still just that 7-8 hours in but at this point they become gripping. You gain this drive (pun!) that urges you to try harder and fight for first place. Despite this, races suffer from some big issues. They all begin with rolling starts which take the initial skill of starting the race out of the equation. Unlike Forza, there’s isn’t really any penalty for taking shortcuts, in fact you can take fairly massive shortcuts to cheat and get away with it. Opponent Ai is practically non-existent, it’s like driving through traffic rather than other cars trying to win the race. It’s more a case of a bunch of cars to weave between and a couple of cars that just somehow started ahead of you. Upping the AI aggression does nothing to remedy this.
This filters through to the rest of the game. It’s all a soulless, mechanical and dull affair. A joyless game made by people who may be passionate about cars but can’t translate that into an enjoyable game. The bizarre thing is that for 8 hours I was having so little fun that I found myself on the floor under a table however, after that period I suddenly found myself caring. I found myself caring a great deal. The game took hold of me and suddenly I needed to win races.
With the vacuous atmosphere the game maintains, it’s hard to tell how long this would’ve lasted before I was on the floor and under a table again but if the game could grip an attention deficit fool like me then there’s no telling what deathly embrace it’ll have true petrol heads and racing sim enthusiasts in. Racing itself is a flaccid affair. Gran Turismo 6 functions best as a driving sim, it’s driving mechanics and the look of the cars are unparalleled.