Developer: Polyphony Digital | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment | Played On: PlayStation 3 | Price: $59.99 | ESRB: Everyone [Mild Lyrics]
Playing Gran Turismo 6 is like going to that fancy restaurant you afford once every so often. It comes along so rarely that it’s easy to forget how amazing it is, but once you’re in the middle of it, you wonder how you ever forgot. While we’ve seen a handful of damn fine racing games since 2010’s Gran Turismo 5, the champ has returned with its trademark dedication to realism and absurd amounts of content. This game represents immaculate reverence of everything automotive, the videogame interpretation of car porn. If that’s what you want, you’re set, but If you’re looking for that accessible, fun videogame there are issues to discuss.
As expected from the franchise, Gran Turismo 6 is both broad and deep. In terms of depth, GT6 is easily the most neurotically precise simulator you can play. The driving physics are unparalleled—every car in the game feels unique, whether it’s a 50HP hunk of crap from the 60s or a schizophrenic supercar that requires the finesse of a ballet dancer to keep it heading in a straight line. The list of included tiny details is exhaustive. You can manually adjust every gear ratio in your transmission. You can change the ballast and alter the distribution of weight in your car. You can drive until the sun goes down and see stars in the night sky that are accurate to where you’re racing. In an age where detail is so often traded away to hit pressing release dates, seeing this sort of precision run wild is a treat unto itself.
The amount and variety of content in GT6 is equally impressive. The numbers tell most of the story on their own: over 1,200 cars, 100 tracks in 37 locations, and a lengthy career mode spanning it all. I especially enjoyed the return of the Coffee Breaks from Gran Turismo 4. By earning stars in career mode (granted in increasing amounts per race for better performance), you can unlock less serious but still challenging activities. These range from simple tasks like knocking over a set amount of cones in a given time limit to seeing how far you can drive on one liter of gas. It’s a fantastic way to bust up the potential monotony of moving from one race to another.
That’s just scratching the surface of GT6’s variety. In fact, Gran Turismo 6 is so broad in content it starts to get silly. There are lists of body kit parts so long you wonder if the scrolling list has a bottom. You can not only buy the racing suits of famous drivers like Jeff Gordon, but suits from different years in his career. If you’re the sort that prefers Jeff Gordon ‘11 to Gordon ‘10, GT6 has you covered. Hell, you can drive on the damned moon with a realistically modeled lunar rover. That’s not a joke. There are moon missions. I feel like I need to keep restating this even though I’m sure you get the point.
For all that content, GT6 is also more accessible than the series has been in the past. While Gran Turismo traditionally opens with a series of license tests to teach you the basics of proper racing, GT6 gets you to the driving right away and meters out those lessons as you move up through classes of racing events. This approach is natural but still lacking. Complicated concepts emerge with nothing but a small text blurb to help. GT6 does touch on some intricate topics—like how to corner with an exceptionally heavy car or the best way to enter a corner with an FF drivetrain. As a result, I’d run the same section for twenty or thirty minutes at a time before trial and error would guide me to the right technique. I’ll admit, there’s a rewarding zen to perfecting that art through repetition, but there should be a more guided, effective approach on tap by now. In-engine demonstrations or even demo videos would help.
Gran Turismo 6 would benefit from a few other improvements that are oddly omitted. For starters, GT6 doesn’t include the now-ubiquitous ability to rewind during a race. GT veterans know all too well what this means—you can put down six minutes of racing perfection and blow a first-place finish with a single botched corner. I get that Gran Turismo is a simulator and there’s no rewind in real life, but that doesn’t make it sting any less.
The simulator title points to another odd omission; Gran Turismo 6 still doesn’t include realistically modeled damage. You can bang around all you like on the track and your car will suffer some minor aesthetic scratch decals slapped on the hood. It appears that Polyphony is so enamored with cars that it can’t bear to see them hurt, but it strikes me as an odd double-standard to look the other way on this issue when being otherwise dedicated to realism. Furthermore, if you’re willing to fudge the facts to keep cars pretty, why not allow that rewind idea? This isn’t about knocking Gran Turismo for not keeping up with popular racing trends, but questioning its willful ignorance of legitimately good ideas.
In a similar way, the game’s interface feels crude when compared to the slick augmented-reality trappings of modern racers. It’s all very PC—graphs, boxes, and gradients dominate the menus while you navigate with a triangular mouse cursor that snaps to elements. It’s efficient at presenting all the information required, and its surgical combo of colors and fonts is visually pleasing for sure, but it lacks the artistic punch of DiRT 2 or Forza 5.
A few holes in functionality make the menus more cumbersome than they need to be as well. My biggest gripe comes when I want to enter an event and don’t yet own a qualifying vehicle. It’d be nice to see a list of all available cars I can afford that meet the race criteria. Furthermore, there’s no way to get a view like that even when you back out to the car dealership. You can only see cars one manufacturer at a time, and even then the sorting options are nowhere near as robust as I’d like, especially considering how many cars are available. It’s the one bizarre oversight in a game otherwise dominated by attention to detail.
I also butted heads with the DualShock 3. I’ve never felt that PlayStation’s analogue buttons have the precision required for Gran Turismo, and thankfully you can re-bind any function to any input on the controller. Still, even when I move gas and brake to R2 and L2, the convex triggers just aren’t comfortable to hold for the extended time required when racing. GT6’s controller customization is wonderful, and DualShock 3 issues aren’t a failing of the game itself, but it’s worth noting since this is how most players will experience the game.
Still, there’s a Gran Turismo magic that makes it easy to forget about little annoyances like that. Maybe it’s the buttery-smooth visuals— the extremely high frame rates and crisp visuals are easy on the eyes, even if they are a step back from the extravagance of Forza 5. It could also be the classy, relaxing music that dominates the game’s menus. It’s the sort of music you expect to hear at a wine tasting or an art gallery, and is just one of the many ways this game oozes respect for all angles of racing.
Truth is, it’s all of it. The ludicrous stock of included vehicles, the surprisingly diverse collection of career mode events, the fact that you can tweak the F-stop of your camera in the game’s photo mode… there’s no end to the minutiae of automotive celebration crammed onto this disc. While some small flaws and occasionally dated features edge it closer to deposition, Gran Turismo is still the king of racing.