REVIEW: Gran Turismo 6 [PS3]

There was a time, way back in the distant past of 1998, when arcade racing games ruled supreme. It was a crazy time of bright colours and insane power slides, and where your only true opponent was a diminishing checkpoint timer, threatening you with a brick wall of a game over screen! That was until Gran Turismo rolled onto the starting grid and blew my tiny child mind. It was amazing. That first GT introduced me to a preposterous and alien concept called braking, driving apexes, and the magical win-inducing upgrade called turbocharging! It changed everything!

Problem is, as time passed by, the world changed and GT, well, GT did not. After the wonderfully mediocre and overhyped release of GT5, this little soapbox racer lost faith in Polyphony Digital’s ability to make GT truly Gran(d) again. Alas, much like a 1976 diesel Gemini, this franchise refuses to die. And so with that, let us hop in the driver’s seat and see if GT6 is worth taking for a spin.

The fundamentals of GT have never really changed since its inception on the PS1. You buy some clapped out hooptie (in my case the AE86), race that bad boy until you’re eligible to go up a tier, take a standardised test (which is more frustration than entertainment) and then rinse and repeat the process with a less clapped out hooptie, until you’re sitting in a million dollar supercar!

Like any good racing sim worth its salted bitumen, Gran Turismo has always been about so much more than just owning the best cars. Whether you have a shiny, new Corvette C7 is irrelevant compared to the constant drive to shave milliseconds seconds off your lap times, to master every apex thrown at you, hell, even just avoiding dipping a single tire in the dirt on the Laguna Seca chicane! But to do this requires a real sense of control, something GT6 struggles with immensely.

Racing a light, rear-wheeled sports car around a track should be exhilarating! However, GT6 somehow manages to make it nothing more than an exercise in futility. The cars lack a real sense of weight and momentum while driving, with each one being plagued by this horrible sense of stiffness and understeer. GT6’s biggest issue is (still) its struggle with the basic concept that cars CAN slide and whilst sliding (or drifting as the cool kids say) be readily controlled. Breaking traction is equivalent of having the game riding shotgun and every time you start to slide, punching you in the head, full locking your steering wheel and telling you to cut out all that fun you’re trying to have and drive professionally!

Unfortunately the unnaturalness and rigidity isn’t contained only to the driving mechanics, with the AI opponents having all the personality and racing gusto as your grandma’s Mazda 121! They race, sorry I’ll rephrase that, roll around the track as if on invisible rails, never breaking from the perfect racing line. Ultimately, the AI opponents are nothing but moving obstacles that offer no competition, are devoid of a desire to win and completely unaware of your presence, even if you ram them unrelentingly (which results in a comedic bumper car sound every time you do!).

[img_big]center,11173,2013-07-05/_bmUploads_2013-07-04_4695__bmUploads_2013-06-11_4434_DeltaWing_RouteX_01.jpg,Gran Turismo 6[/img_big]

GT6’s presentation is a mixed bag, with a few standout car models and some genuine moments of beauty, peppered between what overall is an abysmal effort. One minute it can look great and then BAM! You get hit by a laundry list of eyesores including pixelated rain effects, ridiculous texture pop and shadows that dance like the world is lit by a single flickering candle! Unfortunately the cars fare no better, with GT6 splitting its roster of vehicles into “standard” and “premium” categories. A good two thirds of the available cars fall into the “standard” category, which sport blacked out, untextured cockpits, chunky PS2 looking exteriors and engines that sound like muffled 2-strokes! (Blasphemy: A 357 Hemi should never sound like a 2-stroke!)

To GT6’s credit though, one of the biggest improvements from its last outing is in its flexibility and variety in gameplay. The garage has grown to house over 1200 car models, ranging from that 70’s Corolla you did your first McDonalds run in to that Lamborghini you wish you’d done it in! There’s something there to cover almost any discipline of racing (unless you like going sideways) but it does fall into the fabled GT trap of having about 35 slightly different Skylines and being considerably skewed to favour the domestic Japanese market.

Tinkering under the hood is easy and intuitive, with powerbands being displayed at every opportunity and the results feeling rather apparent as soon as your tires hit the blacktop. Customisation is still solely a mechanical affair though, with visual upgrades revolving around the choice from a pitiful amount of rims and whether or not you want a garish GT wing.

GT6 also gives you plenty of tarmac to burn rubber on with 37 tracks and even off road events on snow and dirt to keep things fresh. Tackling the career mode is far more enjoyable this time around too, allowing you gain progression stars in the events you actually want to take part in. Hate exotic Ferrari racing? That’s cool, jump in a go-kart instead and follow it up with a drag in a V8 powerhouse! GT6 seems happy for you to do things at your own pace, giving you pretty sweet incentives to progress like gymkhana events and even re-enacting Armageddon’s moon scene in the Lunar Rover (although it sounds way cooler than it is, trust me).

[img_big]center,11173,2013-12-04/Yokohama_01_1385993776.jpg,Gran Turismo 6[/img_big]

When all is said and done, GT6 can’t help but seem like a confused and unfinished mess. Sure, its variety in events and cars is unprecedented but as racing sim its core driving mechanics are horrendous, which effectively sucks out all the fun and freedom you should experience from driving these beautiful machines. This, teamed with the inconsistent visuals and muted sounds, makes GT6 a very hard sell. In this humble soapbox racers opinion, there comes a time when it’s just not worth fixing that perpetually failing motor anymore and GT, much like my analogy car, is about overdue for the scrapyard.

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