Polyphony Digital is one of the most respected studios in the industry, having built their reputation over the past 15 years by crafting and redefining the so-called ‘real driving simulator’. Director Kazunori Yamauchi, likewise, deserves praise for his contribution to gamers and gearheads alike, a passion seemingly only hampered by the limits of current technology. Unfortunately, this obsession with perfection came at a price with Gran Turismo 5, a decent effort that certainly wasn’t the best in the series. And while the developers toiled away for seven long years, contenders have emerged out of the darkness in an attempt to dethrone the dormant giant.
To many, it looked like the world had passed Yamauchi’s vision by, which could be a fair assessment for all the promises left unfulfilled and the technical issues abound. For these reasons, Gran Turismo 6 feels like something of a triumph as far as getting things back to basics and this show back on the road.
To the faithful legions that have stood by the franchise since its original PlayStation days, many of you will be content knowing that this is another thoughtful evolution in terms of gameplay. The core physics are further improved upon and feature a less static feel for a truer, though occasionally spontaneous sense of realism. Unsurprisingly the subtle dynamics of each car you drive, whether it’s a Toyota Prius (which I’ve actually driven if that’s any credible testimonial to go by), Subaru BRZ, Chevrolet Corvette (C7), to the cerebral Pagani Huayra, it all feels darn-near exact (or at least what you’d think) to what these vehicles would handle like on the road. During races as you cut the apexes, the connection between you and the machine is unbelievably direct, regardless of whether you’re using a DualShock 3 or a Thrustmaster Steering Wheel.
Needless to say, Polyphony has gotten the elements of speed and handling down to an absolute science, but there are other alterations to the formula to keep things interesting. To encourage progression, the days of constant grinding have been remedied somewhat and the perilous license tests have been heavily downsized. A three-point star system offers a relaxed approach from the more rigid structure, and it doesn’t take long until you get to experience events like reliving the Apollo 15 missions in a Lunar Rover or taking part in the prestigious Goodwood Festival of Speed. It might be easier to breeze through the career mode, but the higher difficulties are still gated off from all but the most invested racers, fortunately it’s still much less of an repetitive inconvenience.
However GT6 takes a few steps backward to in order accommodate the streamlined approach. Gift cars are farther and fewer this time around, and you can no longer buy used cars, making that right purchase all the more critical. The revised performance points (PP) restrictions may keep your favorite vehicle from competing, and potential micro transactions feature here may impact long-term playability. When all is said and done though, you can get around these shortcomings – it will just take you much longer to get to your potential dream car, which there are currently 1197 varieties (124 are new) to choose from (and most likely more on the way via DLC).
Even before you engage in your first serious race, you realize that many of the improvements involved cutting much of the fat from the previous iteration while carrying over the better portions. It’s fair to say that GT5 was the ultimate motoring lifestyle game, and for Polyphony’s ambitions the game was literally bogged down with and inconsistently long loading times and screen tearing. Presentation-wise it’s leaner, smoother, and most of the downtime waiting for everything has been reduced or nearly eliminated thanks largely to a simpler interface and menu system that gradually installs cache data in the background.
The visuals are also moderately improved, despite the obvious and still-present standard/premium hierarchy between recently included and existing vehicles. Still, the lack of damage detail, bare cockpit views for regular cars, and mostly lackluster engine noises are still present and could (and probably should) have been addressed here. But it’s a small nitpick that most will overlook in the larger scheme of things.
For a game that’s now running on last-generation hardware, Gran Turismo 6 proves that Polyphony Digital is still a forerunner in the pursuit of a truly realistic racing game. For all the misgivings with the fifth installment, it appears the developers has lovingly corrected most of the glaring wrongs, producing another passionate and technically crafted simulator – and one of many fine swan songs for the PlayStation 3. It may not sway the Forza crowd, but this game is what the previous entry should have been, and essentially the racing spirit is still enduring as ever here.