Review: Gran Turismo 6 – The Franchise is Aging But Still Has Plenty of Fight Left

The Gran Turismo franchise was once king of realistic racing sims. However, in recent years its illustrious shine has since dimmed to a faint glimmer in comparison to even stronger competition–mainly the Forza series.

Can Gran Turismo 6 reclaim their number one spot with their latest outing into the genre on the aging PS3 hardware?

When you first start the game, you’re treated to an unskippable tutorial. While this was perfect for me since I’m a bit out of practice, the start of this game’s constant hand holding will soon wear thin on the more advanced players’ souls. What made me angry was being forced to buy a terrible Honda FIT RS ’10 that I had to upgrade to be remotely decent before I could afford another car.

Let me stress that. The game forces you to purchase a car. Not give. Purchase. For over 30,000 credits. Keep in mind that when you advance through the classes, the game bestows upon you free cars for winning so there’s no excuse for taking precious credits from you right at the beginning of the game.

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Moving along, 6‘s gameplay is surprisingly deep and addictive, with plenty of variety in the tracks and challenges. Not only is the game’s Career mode filled with many kinds of races (such as five-minute races, championships and even Kart racing) but there are also a large batch of separate and optional types of races. Between the Coffee Break challenges, One-Make Races races, seasonal events, special events and more, you’ll always have something interesting and fun to do.

The user interface has also been overhauled and made to be much more streamlined, making it far easier to navigate through the various modes here than in Gran Turismo 5.

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Now let’s break down the the gameplay during a race. Track loading times are faster than the previous installment but still lags a bit. Once you get into the actual racing the fun truly begins, with an improved physics engine and very smooth controls.

There’s a bunch of boring rock music playing in the background of each race but you won’t even notice, or rather won’t hear it because the roaring engines drown out everything. Honestly, the tracks playing in the menu screens are much better composed and you can actually listen to them.

The cars are gorgeous and being able to customize anything from the engine to the suspensions to the body weight, tires, brakes, transmission, clutch, flywheel, etc. can become a near obsession. 6 has plenty of car purchasing options as well, with over a thousand different models. Best of all, the game lets expert players dive right into these options unaided while newbies can use the recommended feature that gives you the best cars to choose from, depending on the racing class.

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From a distant the environments look as beautiful and well-detailed as the cars themselves. However, when paying close attention screen tearing, pop-ins and frame rate drops become readily apparent and, as this article points out (rather hilariously), the people look absolutely terrible, with gems such as this:

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To go even further, every single engine sounded exactly the same–that generic grumbling sound instead of an unique engine roar unique to the different types of vehicles. For instance, sports cars should sound distinct from compacts and convertibles from racing, among others.

Also, there’s suppose to be real-time damage to the cars at play as you race and crash–ahem–lightly tap other cars. I never noticed so much as a scratch. I use the word “lightly” because at the most you can only love-tap your opponents and stage barriers, causing crashes on the level of bumper cars.

In other words, the overall visuals and technical hiccups are compatible to an early PS3 game and are not what should have been an incredibly polished last go on PS3 before hitting what is now the the current gen.

You do have to keep up maintenance on your car, like changing the oil and upkeeping the engine, through the use of the Pit Stop, which I felt was a nice feature that really made you pay attention to the state of your vehicle. I also found myself enjoying the day/night time effects and the way such conditions affected the racing. Polyphony Digital really showed a lot of love in the level of detail they put into these effects and it paid off greatly.

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The online mode is simple yet deep and drives home the idea of a “racing community.” Anyone can create a room in the lobby or join an already made one. Each lobby has a certain category attached to it, which makes it extremely easy to discern which room would be best suited to your racing skills and preferences. And while your AI opponents in the single player are brain dead and blind fools that never react to your own driving, the real human beings you’ll race online are where veterans will get their challenge.

A warning: you’d better make sure you have a top class car Super Car or else racers will leave you in the dust. The only way to avoid this discrepancy is to join or make One-Make rooms which will ensure that every player uses the same kind of car.

This brings me to my next point–the micro-transactions. Gran Turismo 6 is the first in the series to use this feature–allowing racers to bypass the rather steep credit costs of the top cars by simply buying credit in the PSN store. This has the unfortunate effect of allowing racers a way to acquire the best cars without grinding them naturally and then use them online without consequence (Career Mode has limits depending on the race so this isn’t possible there until later on.)

It’s a shame that a franchise with such a great history must resort to this level of nickel and diming, but it does. Even though the game never explicitly talks about the purchasing of credits, it often has the feeling of being specifically designed to make the greatest rewards so unobtainable that players would rather resort to simply buying the credits instead.

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Gran Turismo 6 offers an amazing breath of features, modes, challenges, cars, customization options and more. With over 1,200 cars and more than 70 circuits, fans of the genre will always have new cars to acquires and new tracks to race on, each with their own challenge.

Make no mistake–this is a flawed but incredibly fun game. It definitely shows its age with Polyphony Digital’s refusal to address consistent issues hampering the franchise for years but their attention to detail, lovely cars, improved physics and extensive track variety make this game a solid, if not amazing, console racing game.

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