Gran Turismo 6 PS3 Review

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It seems I was one of the few people who were happy that Gran Turismo 6 was coming to the PlayStation 3 instead of the recently released PlayStation 4. The idea of a game with such a large scope as Gran Turismo coming around launch time for Sony’s fastest selling system is one that fills me with nightmares. We’ve already seen what that has done to the once mighty Forza Motorsport, and that slipping into Gran Turismo is one thing I never want to happen. I’d like Polyphony Digital to spend quality time with their products to constantly keep bringing great driving experiences with each entry, rather than remove features and have a game that looks better, but feels a step back.

Gran Turismo 6 follows in the footsteps of sequels in the franchise that arrived second on PlayStation and PlayStation 2 – taking what they developed from the last game and building on it. Although, in the case of Gran Turismo 6, there are some areas that have changed, but it’s mostly the same fantastic and not so great features and implementations that we saw in Gran Turismo 5.

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Career is the main reason why I play Gran Turismo, and the Career mode in Gran Turismo 6 has had a revamp over the limiting experience-driven take on it in Gran Turismo 5. After the introduction course to get the player up to scratch in how to drive a racing car around a track, the game dumps you with a small amount of money and are required to purchase a slow hatchback, the Honda Fit RS’10, for over half of your starting credits to begin taking part in the first event.  This is typical starting syndrome for Gran Turismo – everyone needs a poor opening car before you can begin building up your garage with over 1,200 cars, with over 120 new cars being modelled and added to the already stellar list in Gran Turismo 5.

One thing that did annoy me was that the premium and legacy models still exist, but this time the game doesn’t clearly label them in the store.  If you don’t know the difference – premium cars are the high-detailed car models that feature cockpit cameras and the entire interior rendered, while legacy models are the ones that have been imported from Gran Turismo 4 and are distinctively less detailed then the premium models. To be fair, the legacy models don’t look as bad as they did in Gran Turismo 5, thanks to the developers smoothing over those very awful textures, but they are still easily distinguishable from the gorgeous looking premium cars. The only way you can tell if a car is a premium model before buying it is by clicking on it and seeing if it displays a gallery option, which allows the user to take a closer look at the car model. The used car market is completely removed, since everything falls under the Dealership menu.

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As soon as you begin to browse the main screen, it’s clear that Polyphony Digital have worked on the criticism that the series has been getting for convoluted menus. Everything is now more streamlined and categorised better. For example, entering the Dealership from the main menu leads to one massive screen with the names of companies and their logos split into three sections that are based on regions. The game’s menus are no longer a rabbit hole where players were constantly clicking to access menus within menus.

The bulk of Career has been divided into six licence categories that include familiar names, such as National A and International B. A variety of events litter this area, with each one coming with some sort of restriction or rule that could include things like only driving classic cars, muscle cars, go karts, rally cars, or limiting the PP (performance points) to weaker cars, to racing at night, driving in the rain or having a race based on saving the environment by using electric cars. Quite a few of these events are ones you will have played in previous games, but it’s exciting to have each licence category split up like this to have the player participating in a variety of racing vehicles, even if some are more exciting than others.

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A big improvement to Gran Turismo 6 is how the player progresses through the game’s career. A new reward system is in place that awards the player stars by accomplishing a position in a race. There are three stars in total to gain – one for finishing the race, one for coming third and one for coming first. Stars are used to unlock more events, with the game offering a generous low barrier to allow the player to progress to the next licence category with a minimal of 20 stars from the previous category. 20 stars can normally be accumulated after taking part in three events. After, the player has to take part in the game’s legendary licence tests, such as learning how to take corners better, brake correctly or do a perfect lap, to get at least bronze in each test before proceeding on to the next licence group. Licence tests are nowhere near as big of a factor this time, often having five tests to pass before being granted the licence. Due to this, players can get to the highest category and unlock additional content in no time.

This progression also demonstrates just how much diversity is available in Gran Turismo 6. Extra events unlock that are spun-off from the main list in a licence category, such as coffee breaks that challenge the player to knock down cones or score enough points from drifting around a track. On top of this, there are also “one-type races,” which is self-explanatory, and “mission races,” which is an extension of the franchise’s previous licence tests that have been given their own category. Fans will have already done tasks like overtaking a car in the night as fast as possible or reaching a destination on the track in a certain amount of time in other Gran Turismo titles.

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Even if those side events weren’t included, the range of vehicles that the player is asked to drive is still vastly superior to anything else on the market. Gran Turismo likes to uphold its love for the motor vehicle industry, and in by doing so, it means the player takes part in F1, Rally Events, NASCAR, GT3, the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and even drive on the moon in a lunar vehicle. Yes, you read that right, the FRICKIN MOON! It’s like there are no limits to what car types are in Gran Turismo 6. I fully expect tank racing in Gran Turismo 7.

Having such a vast selection of race tracks also helps keep the career fresh. Even when I was 40% throughout the game, I was still seeing new layouts, thanks to Gran Turismo 6 containing 37 locations that combine to make for over a 100 layouts.  Forza Motorsport 5 suffered badly for having 14 locations, as I always felt that I was seeing the same thing over and over again, with no new surprises hidden away. I never felt like this while playing Gran Turismo 6. Building on top of the existing tracks from Gran Turismo 5 comes seven new tracks that include Mount Panorama (Bathurst), Brands Hatch, the dusty Willow Springs International Raceway and a fantastic original track set high up in the mountainous area of Matterhorn.

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Even more impressive is that a lot of the tracks have various day or night settings, or even a 24 hour system that can have the player begin racing as the sun sets and then finish as the sun rises. Not to forget the weather system, too, which means players have to adapt to the variables that alter how you should approach the track.  For rally fans, I can sadly confirm that there aren’t any new dirt tracks, which is a bit of a bummer. Even one new track with a few layouts would have been nice to have.

Moving to the track, the driving feels as robust as it always has, and with the added suspension physics, each vehicle sways and shifts on turns and under braking as the central weight is thrown off. Tyres grip to the road with aggressive behaviour – tyre squealing is overpowering on the ears until you adjust to it – that when one tyre slips off the tarmac on Willow Springs and hits the dirt, you feel the car loose grip and begin to struggle for a hold on the remaining contact with the ground. It feels great, and it makes driving a new car exciting as you prepare to see how it handles. I can tell you now, taking part in the muscle race was a crazy experience, as my Mustang, with a supercharger implanted, was a beast to control, to the point I slipped off the track and hit a ditch that launched me into the air. An issue that I can laugh off in the game, but if that was in real life, then I don’t think I want to drive such a monstrous car, as I am scared for my own safety, and this feeling comes across with the powerful cars in Gran Turismo 6.

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Your rivals, on the other hand, haven’t had much of an increase in realism, as the AI still remains lifeless. This is certainly more visible after coming from Forza Motorsport 5, and while that wasn’t perfect with its implementation of Driveatars – the AI can end up being a mess of collisions, just like how online players race – but when it worked, it did bring a more believable atmosphere to track racing. The AI in Gran Turismo 6 is still stuck driving the racing line and hardly makes way for a human opponent on the track. The AI doesn’t seem to hit you from behind as much, but they will still ram into the side of you when you’re fighting for that best position on the next bend. AI is something that has to be improved in the next instalment, especially with all that power available to them with the PlayStation 4.

For some bizarre reason, Polyphony Digital has decided that races (excluding go karts) should begin with rolling starts rather than grid positioning. This means that the car in front starts well ahead of you, offering up a sense of false difficulty, as the game is rather easy for the most of it. By the time you’re on the final lap, you’ve probably already overtaken the car that was in first, and it’s down to keeping calm and not spinning out to win, as the AI doesn’t pose much of an threat unless you’re racing in the same car. About 80% of my time spent with Gran Turismo 6 resulted in me having zero problems winning a race. There are ways to make it harder, such as removing every assist and having the player fight with the car rather than the competition, but not everyone can handle some of these machines with no assists on. These assists are similar to what was included in Gran Turismo 5 – braking, traction, steering, racing line, etc.

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As I finished this review, patch 1.02 just hit the game that increased payout rewards, added new seasonal events (special monthly or weekly challenges making a return from Gran Turismo 5) and added loyalty bonuses (a percentage increase on top of the rewards from events) for people that login daily. Before this hit, I never really had a problem with money. Sure, more money is always nice, but I didn’t feel that the game was handicapping me because of the inclusions of the dreaded microtransactions. Unlike Forza Motorsport 5, which its entire progression system seems based around microtransactions (and it loves to show you them at any chance it has), Gran Turismo 6 never shows you that the game has them. The only way you would know is by going to the GT Store on the main menu and seeing the options to use real money in exchange for credits. Not only that, the game doesn’t feel like it’s been designed to push people towards doing microtransactions, because money is still dished out fairly and you still earn rewards cars, though not after every event. Cars are now given out based on how many stars you have earned and passing licence tests with the best results.

Online play has improved over the past instalment, making it easier to find existing lobbies or crafting your own. People can set race types, tyre restrictions, the courses, region restrictions and mess with time and weather settings. A nice feature is being able to drive around the track while the host is waiting. This allows people to practice or change setups before the real event kicks off. A quick access to a menu means that you don’t have to panic about jumping out of games to change car set-ups to fit with a restriction set by the host. There’s no quickplay or ranked races, as there is no matchmaking. This makes the online feel very similar to the days of PCs, in which you picked a server and played. Lag didn’t seem to be an issue while I played online, so I can say that the netcode seems to be solid.

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Gran Turismo 6 has highs and lows when it comes to its presentation. Sound is still an issue in a lot of the vehicles, coming across more like vacuums when cars are high-revving compared to the raw noise produced by the real vehicle. At least the soundtrack is great, featuring a variety of tunes across many genres. Even the menu isn’t constantly filled with jazzy elevator music anymore.

Graphics can look fantastic at times, especially in the replays and photo mode, where some post-processing is going on to smooth away jaggies that appear in the gameplay. I’ve already mentioned the legacy and premium car problem. I mainly tried to stick to the premium models, since they look much better to see on the track. A strange omission seems to be damage, as cars don’t lose doors and bonnets anymore, simply having dints and splashes of mud where cars made contact with each other. The returning tracks look worse than the new additions, as it seems they haven’t done anything to spice up the lack of detail on tracks that came from Gran Turismo 4. When at its best, the game shows signs of amazing graphics for a seven year old system, which makes me excited to see what the studio can do when it gets deep into the architecture of the PlayStation 4.

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Gran Turismo 6 is a great driving game, and none of its inconsistencies with its presentation stops it from being that. It supplies a huge amount of content and variety, thanks to its vast range of vehicles and tracks, along with a fantastic driving physics model that isn’t touched by any other game on the PlayStation 3. The problem is that Polyphony Digital doesn’t seem to be addressing all the problems that people have issues with, such as the sound design, which pops a hole in the game’s overall quality. Even so, you’re still left with a game that showers you with love for automobiles; becoming a game that one can easily get immersed in with like-minded developers, who obviously love to take a car out for a spin. Gran Turismo 6 is a nice farewell for Sony’s ageing hardware, as the company begins to move to the new generation of console gaming.

8/10

by

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Version tested: PS3

Developer: Polyphony Digital

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Genre: Racing