The lord of all racing simulators is back with another edition of their storied franchise that gets gear-head gamers hot under their manifold. Gran Turismo 6 represents the pinnacle of the franchise and it has a lot to live up to. Its predecessor was a gargantuan game beloved by car geeks and racing fans. I had the chance to check under the hood and see if Gran Turismo 6 has enough power and agility to drift its way into gamer's hearts once again.
The Gran Turismo series is very close to my heart. My friends and I spend many late nights arguing over wheel camber adjustments while trying to squeeze out a few more seconds from the Nissan Skyline on Trial Mountain. We cheered together after finishing one of the 500 lap endurance races where we swapped drivers every hour like a real race. Gran Turismo does what all of the greatest video games do and brought my friends and I together for late nights for a bit of fun.
Since my introduction to the series with Gran Turismo 3, I've been in love with all the minutea that Polyphony Digital puts into every aspect of the title. They're relentlessly obsessed with providing the most enjoyable and accurate racing experience in gaming and it really does show.
Gran Turismo 6 is the distilled essence of the series into a fine spirit. If you stripped all the unnecessary details from Gran Turismo 5, organized the menu system, and optimized the loading, you'll have an idea of how Gran Turismo 6 feels. It fixes all the problems with the previous iteration and adds a wealth of new tracks, cars, and options. If Gran Turismo 5 was a Porsche 911, Gran Turismo 6 is a Porsche GT3 RS. It is the stripped out and faster version of the previous version and feels brilliant.
As is with all Gran Turismo games, the graphics are stellar, so let's not waste time with me waxing on about skyboxes, shiny car paint, and level of detail on the steering wheel stitching. We're at the tail end of the PS3 generation, so there are some obvious limitations. I'm sure I'll have my doors blown off when I get a look at what they have lined up for the next installment in the series for the PS4.
The real improvement is in the way each of the hundreds of cars feel. The physics in Gran Turismo 6 are accurate while still being forgiving. Somehow Polyphony has been able to capture the details of a car's handling and digitize it so you can go belting around some of the world's most famous racing circuits without fear of stuffing yourself into the wall at Laguna Seca.
The sheer number of vehicles and tracks you have to choose from are astounding. The dealership is filled to the brim with cars of every make and model you can dream of. Everything from Caterham to Lotus, Suzuki, and Ferrari are on full display here and available for you to drive if you've earned enough credits. There are even a few special cars to keep your racing experience interesting.
The cars have a new rating system that uses points to help you keep track of your car's rating and which races they will be appropriate for. It is an easy way to know if you're car is up to scratch for the upcoming championship series.
The tracks included in Gran Turismo 6 are a plethora of real world circuits and old classics that were created just for the franchise. It was nice seeing some old favorites come back into the mix that I hadn't seen since Gran Turismo 3. One thing is for sure, you won't be at a loss for selection when trying to figure out why type of track you'd like when you take your Laborghini out for a spin.
As I mentioned before, Gran Turismo 6 is a taught version of its predecessor and this really shows in how you navigate from race to race. Everything loads quickly and efficiently. Before, you used to be able to make a cup of tea while a track loaded up, but now, you're thrust into the driver seat within 20 seconds. It keeps the gameplay flowing rather than endless loading and menu navigation punctuated by a few minutes of racing.
One new blessing is the ability to purchase upgrades for your vehicles just before diving into a race. You can now pop over to vehicle settings and purchase a new flywheel to turbo so you can get the edge over your competition. You no longer have to start a race, fail because you're woefully underpowered, back out through the menus, and go to the garage to upgrade.
A new addition to the gameplay are the Coffee Break Challenges. If you're sick of racing business as usual, you can hop behind the wheel and take part in challenges like knocking over 300 road cones in under a minute. It's a welcome injection of silliness to a game that can be quite serious about shaving off that extra few seconds off your lap times.
Karting is back and the tracks are crazier than ever before. They handle vastly different from the full-sized vehicles and fill out gameplay nicely with a new angle on racing that can be a lot of fun. The karts are skittish and require you to adjust your driving accordingly, lest you spin out wildly going around a hairpin turn.
As with any Gran Turismo game, it comes with the usual drawbacks. Fans of arcade racing games will find Gran Turismo 6 utterly frustrating with its realistic controls and physics. If you're looking for epic crashing, then you'll be sorely disappointed at the dull thunks between cars and minimal amount of car damage. The A.I. is still as thick as ever and hasn't really improved since the PS2 versions in the franchise. They're simply placeholder robots that make their way around the track and don't adjust much to your style of driving or car you're using. They end up being obstacles rather than competition.
Gran Turismo used to mean a lot of low level grinding to build up credits, but with the addition of micro-transactions, you can convert real life dollars into game credits. Thankfully though, this is an option that isn't thrust into your face. It is simply there for the people who prefer not to hone their skills and persevere through the occasional bit of grinding.
Overall, Gran Turismo 6 is the best racing simulator I've ever played. It is sleek, slim, fast, and fun like the most exciting cars in its inventory. It has so many features that it will certainly keep even the most keen of racing gamer busy for hundreds of hours. Honestly, I'm over the moon for this new addition to one of my favorite franchises. Quite literally over the moon.
A retail copy of Gran Turismo 6 for the PS3 was purchased for the purposes of this review.