What did Polyphony Digital accomplish in three years? That was how much time had passed since Gran Turismo 5 was released. With one of the top driving physics among racing game franchises, Gran Turismo 6 has the opportunity of addressing many of the major flaws that were found in the previous game. So how much did the development team progress in three years? The answer is proving rather mixed. This is the review of Gran Turismo 6 as of version 1.01.
First, we have to talk about the cars. There are some gorgeous new premium cars, and then there is the vast ocean of cars that came from GT5, standard and premium. However, in GT6, they have stopped distinguishing them as such. The people at Sony say that “with the exception of fully built interiors, all cars in GT6 are treated equally.” While some standard cars were remade into premium cars, for most this is not the case. While the standard cars look slightly better, you still notice the blocky modeling, and the low-resolution textures up-close are not photogenic. Their insistence that the “cars are treated equally” continues in the purchasing screens, where they do not tell you who has an interior. The best indicator is whether they can be viewed in the gallery or not. Finding a premium car is rather difficult. When one such car is found, it is rendered and lit about as perfectly as possible given the seven-year-old PlayStation 3. The detailing is immaculate, inside and out. It is right at the border of feeling like the car is on your driveway. There is a sense of desirability just looking at these vehicles, a feeling that is not found in most other racing games.
As for the car list, it is rather standard of Polyphony Digital. While the number of manufacturers seems nice and there are over 1200 cars, it is still skewed quite a lot to Japan. You also still have the problem of two pages of Honda S2000s, another two pages of Nissan Skyline R34s, but only three pages total for Ford vehicles. This problem seems to be limited to sports coupes, sport sedans, and just about every category under supercars. The good news is a lot of the ultra-desirable world vehicles are here and rendered with premium quality. You still have your Ferraris, Lamborghinis, McLarens, Chevrolet Corvettes, SRT Vipers, Nissan GT-Rs, Lexus LFAs, and many others.
It has been described that GT5 has a “perfect” driving experience. Well, Polyphony Digital still managed to find more ways of making driving even better. There is a new physics engine, with a new suspension model, and new tire physics model. How serious is Polyphony on this? They say that tires account for its structure, suspension based on real analysis, and aerodynamics that accounts for vehicle shape and orientation. That sounds incredibly intense. While this does not translate into a light-year leap for automotive enthusiasts, it manages to add just a little more to the driving experience. The biggest noticeable change is better perception of how the vehicle’s weight is shifting around as it accelerates, brakes, and flung around corners. This is definitely seen in suspension. The stock suspension of a basic hatchback is soft with very evident body roll. Add serious racing suspension and the car turns much more sharply, but the whole vehicle will shudder as it slams into uneven surfaces on the track. The overall driving fun, thrill, and authentic feel is still here, and the premium cars continue to have handling characteristics that seem very accurate to how automotive journalists describe real-life counterparts.
Car customization this time around is not as lousy as it was in GT5. It is merely okay, even though it still is not as impressive as its major competitor. Car tuning would have been much better if one does not have to exit the track every time to make small adjustments. But hey, you can now upgrade the brakes on your car and still do car washes and oil changes.
Like in Gran Turismo 5, there are quite a few activities to do outside of serious circuit racing. There are “coffee breaks”, small fun activities such as cone-knock-overs. There is the Goodwood Festival of Speed hillclimb, letting you drive some of the world’s rarest cars. The photo gallery is still here with nice locations, but, at time of this writing, there are only five locations. You can now take any car to the photo area though. While the features in GT6 are not as bloated as GT5, there are some things that still raise eyebrows as to how Polyphony has been managing priorities. There is the Lunar Exploration, where you can drive the Lunar Roving Vehicle. If you thought driving the Mass Effect Mako was bad, wait until you see what it’s like to drive the LRV on the moon flat-out at sixteen miles per hour without flipping over. Then there is Vision Gran Turismo, where Polyphony collaborates with design studios around the world to showcase unique concept cars and also to celebrate fifteen years of Gran Turismo. While these seem nice, it questions whether they actually went out to fix the major problems that plagued GT5 at its release. As of version 1.01, it may be considered that GT6 was shipped as an incomplete game. GT6 is expected to have B-spec racing and a course creator in its future, but as of right now, it feels a lot like GT5 with features taken out. In addition, the online features continue to feel primitive, with lobby rooms…and not much else. Likewise, it is expected to get community features in a future update.
What probably should be high on the list of improvements is the sound. It seems like nothing got changed from Gran Turismo 5, and that is not good. Vehicle exhaust notes may sound somewhat like their real-life counterparts, but they feel bland and limit the thrill of blasting down straights. Then there are the car crash sounds, which continue to sound like heavyweight plastic bins slamming into each other. The one very good sound effect is the tire squeals. As for the soundtrack, there are fewer tracks, and they do not have the same feel or specialty as in GT5. Thankfully, the graphical end is much better. Bad news first, the plastic bin crashing theme continues via scratched paint and slight body deformation. Aside from the crash effects and “standard car” gripes, the game looks wonderful. The kind of detail given to the premium cars is also given to the tracks of the game. The quality of the lighting is outright exceptional. You have day and night cycles on some tracks, but the lighting at night is a major highlight. Headlights light up the road and distant objects in ways that should not be possible for an old game system. Add weather and in-car night lighting, and it makes for one special racing challenge. Good things continue with the performance. The frame rate seems consistent from what was seen so far, and the menu layout is greatly improved. There is now one big main menu, which makes many features easily accessible. Loading times are also greatly improved once cars and tracks are cached to the hard drive.
Gran Turismo 6 is very much Gran Turismo 5 with better physics, a lot of fat cut out, and some same major problems. The physics is still undeniably impressive. Cutting out a lot of unnecessary complications is good. Having hardly (if any) improvements to sound and having noticeably lighter overall content than the predecessor is not good. Of course, some of these issues will be addressed in future updates, but it feels as though these updates could have been incorporated in the last couple years instead of an update weeks or months down the line. That being said, GT6 is still a very exceptional driver’s game. This game is not mainly played for the ability to customize cars or the online features. This game is played to get as close to the real-life experience of driving the car as possible. In that regard, Gran Turismo 6 still puts up a convincing argument in retaining “The Real Driving Simulator” slogan.
Final Score: 8.0/10