1,200 cars to drive – Is that enough?
For the average petrol-headed gamer, the simple fact that Gran Turismo 6, the latest entry in the PlayStation exclusive series from developers Polyphony Digital, has 1,200 tasty carrots to dangle in front of their faces will be enough convince them of the games’ worth. But a massive library of gorgeous cars may not be enough when Gran Turismo’s main competitor has evolved massively over recent years and offers its latest installment on the shiny new Xbox One console. While the Forza titles have changed and improved over the years, offering serious competition to the Gran Turismo games amongst multi-console gamers, Gran Turismo has stubbornly held fast to the same formula that first appeared some 15 years ago. When Gran Turismo arrives on the PlayStation 4, some time in the distant future, gamers will be expecting big changes. However, in the twilight of the PlayStation 3, Gran Turismo 6 is happy to bring its now standard driving simulation formula to gamers, and that makes me happy.
The Gran Turismo games have always been about the driving experience, and here in Gran Turismo 6 that experience is the best to be found anywhere. Playing Gran Turismo 6 can be overwhelming for the first time player, but the similarities with the previous game will ensure that anyone who has played one of the previous games will hit their stride in no time.There have been improvements in the menu system, which will certainly make the game more welcoming for gamers, but the driving itself is where all of the joy can be found.
So much effort and detail has gone into the car handling and how they feel when they are being driven at high speed around a track, making many improvements over the last installment, especially in the way the suspension and tyres of your car affect the handling. Whichever of the 1,200 cars that you happen to be driving, the experience is pure bliss. But the level of detail really shines through when it comes to the various upgrades that can be applied to your cars, with each upgrade making a noticable difference to how the car feels on the track.
And of the tracks, there are some 37 different locations to enjoy, with 100 different track layouts. The majority of these tracks will be familiar to players of the previous games, but there are some new appearances with Silverstone being a very welcome addition. The variety is massive and it will take a long time in the career mode to actually see everything that is available track-wise.
Gran Turismo 6 provides some entertaining little time wasters to occupy your time and give a brief respite from the intense racing. These little events, along with the return of the dreaded license tests, are about improving your skills or just having some light-hearted fun, and include such simplicity as knocking down bollards in an arena, or driving round a corner in a time limit in the license tests. Of note is the Lunar Rover event that takes place on the moon – it’s a bit of fun but serves no purpose beyond entertainment.
The arcade mode is still available, offering some quick hit driving action. But the career mode is where all the action is. This time around, there is a star system that governs progression, which makes the game much more approachable. Things understandably begin slowly, both with progression and the cars that can be used. But it doesn’t take long to rise through the different licenses and get into the cars that everyone really wants to drive.
Part of the reason to play Gran Turismo 6 is to look at all of the beautiful cars, and in this respect the game is only partially successful. Many of the vehicles look sublime, easily the best looking on this particular generation of hardware. However, there are also more than a few that simply don’t look that great, almost as if older models have been used. The same can be said for the tracks and environments, some look incredible, while others are just adequate.
Weather effects and the new day/night cycle are great additions, if used a little sparsely in the career mode. When they are used, it makes a real difference to knowledge of the track and even handling of the car. But the fact that it is underused and only on certain tracks is a real shame.
And there are a few other issues with the game that prevent it from being the perfect driving game. Moving from one race onto the next takes an age, something which has been the case through all of the Gran Turismo games, and really breaks the immersion of a good racing session. The game still puts too much weight on havign a better car than other racers over actual driving skill. And the AI itself is, well, questionable. These have been problems that have plagued the Gran Turismo games from the start, and something that you would hope have been fixed by now. That being said, they are minor annoyances that don’t take too much from the game.
So, Gran Turismo 6 is not a far cry from the previous installment, and it still has the familiar problems that have followed the Gran Turismo series. However, when Gran Turismo 6 is at its best, it sits superior above all other driving games, which is no mean feat for what is now last gen hardware. Also, the sheer amount of content available is astounding, the level of detail amazing and the driving mechanic is just perfect. Despite its problems, Gran Turismo 6 is the best driving simulator to date.