Road Ready

As the series celebrates its 15th anniversary, Gran Turismo has had plenty of experience with both sequels and success. With just over 70 million combined copies sold (primary and secondary releases), it’s the single most lucrative exclusive brand under the PlayStation banner. But now, with all its success, it feels like Polyphony Digital is scared to change too much about a series that’s become such a massive institution—and it shows. Gran Turismo 6 feels more like a polished copy of Gran Turismo 5 than a true sequel.

This isn’t to say that GT6 is a bad game. It still wields the pedigree of one of the most applauded racing sims ever made, and in regards to the actual racing, it handles itself very well. Consistently smooth controls remain a highlight, now carried across the most cars ever in the series (1,200, over 100 more than in GT5), and 37 tracks that can be configured into 100 different layouts, including new ones like Silverstone and Willow Springs Raceway. The physics are also more realistic than before, since the game’s engine has been overhauled with an even greater focus on your car’s tires and suspension in mind. Of course, you can always take any one of your cars to the garage and tweak them yourself if you’re afraid of little extra tire burn when drifting or you want to loosen your shocks to really feel that “oomph” when you bump another car.

The career mode is also still a delight to work through as you move up through six different classes, each with their own set of special challenges unlocked in the middle and end of their respective gauntlets to keep things fresh. At the completion of each class, you’re also awarded a special car not normally attainable—such as a GT-themed go-kart—that you can then place in Photo mode (along with any other cars in your garage) and take pictures in digital re-creations of scenic locales.

But while these aspects that serve as cornerstones for a good racing sim remain, the flaws of the past linger in the experience as well—most markedly the awful visuals. Some minor improvements have been made, such as the convoluted user interface of past games being overhauled. Once you get into a race, however, the photorealistic backgrounds in the distance may look nice, but everything on or around the immediate track area looks like something from the start of the PS3 generation—not the end of it. You’d think that, by now, with the access and knowledge they have, Polyphony would produce better results than this. Maybe we can take a little solace in the fact they’ve already started work on GT7, so hopefully they’ll figure out the PS4 before this new generation is over.

And the screen tearing! Dear god the screen tearing! My head started to hurt after about an hour, due to the out-of-sync refresh and framerate drops, especially when hitting higher speeds or in stormy weather. Flaws like this feel amplified in a racing game because of the split-second decisions players have to make. I had to call in a couple of the other EGM editors to confirm that this was what I was seeing, since these problems–prevalent in GT5—still clearly plague the series three years later. What’s more, the real-time damage effects remain barely noticeable. I can’t believe a series that takes such pride in its attention to detail would allow these blemishes to remain in two straight games.

Gran Turismo 6 does offer a few new elements, though not many. Load times are much faster than what we saw in GT5, and the difference between Standard and Premium cars is a thing of the past, both welcome changes. The limitations on performance tuning or race mods have also been removed, with all 1,200 cars brought up to PS3 specs, unlike GT5’s PS2 imports comprising half of the car lineup.

Unfortunately, Polyphony also felt it necessary to include an obnoxious tutorial mode that forces players to take part in a race that teaches the controls. It can’t be skipped, and at the end, you’re forced to buy a crappy Honda Fit to play the first few races of your career. I’m an ill-tempered Italian from New Jersey. The only thing a Honda Fit is good for is burning it like the piece of garbage that it is.

I understand the need to cater to possible new players, but it’s highly unlikely GT6 will be the first racing game someone’s ever played—and, even if it is, I think gamers will be smart enough to figure out that X means “GO” and Square means “STOP.” By their very nature, racing games are supposed to be relatively easy to figure out but difficult to master, and a tutorial mode feels like the devs are blatantly talking down to us.

The bottom line is that Gran Turismo 6 feels like nothing more than a stopgap release to keep fans appeased until Polyphony’s new-gen offering is ready. Problems that persisted in GT5 remain, and the most noticeable difference—the mandatory tutorial mode—is an insult to anyone who’s ever played a racing title. Still, there is a solid racing game at GT6’s core, as the game does offer an unprecedented amount of cars compared to other racing sims, and the team keeps finding ways to make the physics better and better.

Developer: Polyphony Digital • Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 12.06.13

GT6 feels like a rushed effort, and many problems from GT5 remain unresolved. But the classic GT base remains intact, since the actual act of simulation driving remains very tight—and it’s coupled with a tremendous amount of choice when you consider the 1,200 cars that come on the disc.

The Good Solid career mode; plenty of cars and tracks to choose from; great controls.
The Bad Lackluster presentation; screen tearing; framerate drops.
The Ugly Most buildings in the foreground.
Gran Turismo 6 is a PS3 exclusive.