Gran Turismo 6 Review (PS3)
Though you may buy it from a place that sells video games, and play it on a machine called a gaming console, I would hesitate to label Gran Turismo 6 as a game.
The word I find more accurately describes this title is simulation. When thought of in the same vein as flight and economic sims, it's a bit easier to overlook some of GT6’s flaws -- even if this is the best entry in the series to date.
Anyone familiar with the Gran Turismo titles will find themselves at home when firing up the latest iteration of the series. In fact, the series’ influence in other franchises, such as Forza, will provide newcomers with a familiar experience. GT6 takes all of what you know about the genre and streamlines it in ways that often just make sense.
If you've never played a title like this before, you essentially progress your way through a "career" by buying cars and unlocking races. I use career in quotes, because there’s a very small window dressing here: you buy a car, race, and earn stars. Don’t expect cut-scenes, characterization, or any other kind of narrative -- it’s all about stars and money. This leads to a pretty sterile environment (and the simulator categorization) which I’ll discuss a bit later.
I do like that GT6 opens up the vehicle selection from the beginning. If you have enough cash, you can buy whatever car you’d like. That’s not saying there are events you can race it in, but the elimination of unlockable cars is certainly freeing. In fact, the sheer number of cars is staggering, though the filtering options could be better.
In-car, the handling is stellar and there is definitely a distinct feel for each car. For fun, I bought a Honda Element, the car I’ve been driving in real life for the past 5 years. Cruising around a track in a giant box really felt different than a nimble roadster.
Speaking of the Element, I was disappointed (but not surprised) that some cars have fairly limited options. In-car, the Element was nothing but a black silhouette -- as opposed to the superb interiors of other more popular cars. There were also limited upgrade options for the car, reducing the actual playability of a percentage of the 1,000 or so vehicles. This isn’t a huge deal, as you’ll most likely gravitate (or be encouraged) to select performance vehicles, but it can limit the viability of totally suping up a stock vehicle into a true contender.
One other area of disappointment is the damage modeling and collision penalties. The AI drivers are pretty good, and generally do a great job of avoiding contact. I, on the other hand, did a fair share of drifting into and bumping opponents. I didn’t feel like the damage shown to my ride was severe enough, nor did I feel overly penalized (in terms of speed) for my contact. I suppose this may not be an issue for highly skilled drivers, but it didn’t necessarily encourage more accurate driving on my part.
For a PS3 game, Gran Turismo 6 certainly looks beautiful. From landscapes to vehicle modeling, this is one of the best looking games of the generation. The most noticeable issues are recurring “jaggies” on objects at a distance and crowds -- neither of which are important while your are driving, especially if you use the in-car view.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect, graphically, is the lighting. Changes in brightness, such as leaving a tunnel, or driving into the sun are superbly recreated onscreen. Racing at dusk or in the morning provides some noticeable differences -- though all of it looks great.
Simulation or Game?
I began by alluding to why GT6 is better defined as a simulation than a game, but let me elaborate. The driving genre has certainly developed since the Gran Turismo series debuted on the original PlayStation, and the line between arcade racer and driving simulation has been blurred. Perhaps no game better straddled that line than Forza: Horizons, with its story, free roam, and leveling system.
But GT6 stays "old-school", rewarding only completions and placement. Both will earn you stars and cash, but that’s about it. There’s no bonuses for clean driving or development of rivals; no skills to increase, sponsors to earn, or race types to specialize in. Vehicle editing is sparse, and for now, the track editor is MIA. This may be par for the course for the Gran Turismo series, but it really feels outdated compared to the innovations we’ve seen elsewhere.
The simulation label also brings with it some other aspects. First is a sense of sterility. This title is all about driving, so expect menus and pictures of cars. Smooth background jazz and Japanese rock don’t help energize things much. A few arcade-like challenges and weird races (go-karts? Moon buggies?) help add some humor, but generally, this game is as dry as it gets.
Simulations also denote a level of detail, and boy, does GT6 have it. Again, those cars with modeled interiors look great -- both when looking out the front and the back. You can flash your high beams, flip on the wipers, and tune nearly every aspect you’d expect. Center of gravity and detailed tire-wear are shown on-screen. There’s even a mode that lets you try out some unique and -- for me -- unheard of cars.
However, at the end of the day, these details don’t necessarily make you want to keep playing GT6 -- especially if you don’t have an inherent interest and deep knowledge in the genre to begin with. There’s great variety, but absolutely no context - -which, for some, like me, is a fatal combination. Sure, there’s a ton to do, but really no reason to do it.
If you are a Gran Turismo veteran, you’ll go in for the huge number of cars, stellar graphics, and outstanding handling, all which makes GT6 the best in the series. But if you are new to the racing genre, just know that this title is much more of a driving simulation than a racing game.
Learning Curve: The game feels so familiar, and starts so slowly that most will have no trouble getting started. I kept everything on default settings, but they can be adjusted for an easier or harder ride.
Control Scheme: Also pretty standard, and fully adjustable--though gas/brake defaults are oddly buttons, not triggers
Visuals: Outstanding, especially the lighting.
Audio: Engines could be punchier and the music less generic but overall not much to complain about.
Online: The online menus are a bit cumbersome, but my online experience was fine. A fully separate mode from the career mode.
Modes: Arcade mode, career modes, a variety of race types, Nascar, go-carts, etc. Tons of variety here.
Performance: Getting in and out of races is quick, except for the occasional long (30 seconds or so) loading time. I saw no slow down in-game, and updates were quick to download and patch.
Car Selection: TONS of cars, though there are certainly “filler” models that won’t be practical in-game.