Game Review: ‘Gran Turismo 6'

Platform: PlayStation 3

Style: 1 or 2-Player Racing (16-Player Online)

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Developer: Polyphony Digital

Release: December 6

Rating: E

The Bottom Line: 8/10

Concept: Stay true to the legacy of the franchise even though it’s in need of an update

Graphics: Still looks nice, but objects and textures sometimes pop in as you approach. Driving at night is cool, and so is the time of day transition for the longer races

Sound: Apart from the car sounds, I've never liked the background music for the series. The licensed songs get in the way of the audio experience

Playability: I really like the feel of using the right analog for both gas/brake (as opposed to the face buttons). This year introduces an optional onscreen indicator arrow when someone is in your vicinity

Entertainment: There’s nothing special about the series anymore. However, I still find a lot of enjoyment in the challenge

Replay Value: Moderately High

Searching for Gran Turismo

A number of current staples in the racing genre are features that Gran Turismo either pioneered or refined. As car and manufacturer licenses proliferated, sim-racing became an aim, and attention to detail increased, the series became scenery for the PlayStation brand and the poster child for the monotony of iteration. Gran Turismo 6 is the epitome of this series at its most base; it lacks any substantive new features, yet is more committed than ever to its original vision.

Similar to Gran Turismo 5, progression in the career mode is not hard to come by. Gone are the days of having to re-race early events just to progress. New races are gated by a star system, but it’s not long until you’ve earned enough of them to open a side event like bouncing in a NASA buggy on the moon or renting a hot car for a special time trial. As relatively open as the game is, I still don’t like having to hedge my bets and buy a car that allows me to enter the most races possible to maximize my purchase. Forza 4 (not the new Forza, ironically) was cool because it presented races based on whatever car you bought – a subtle but effective change from the norm.

In other restrictive moves, GT 6 doesn’t gift nearly as many cars for winning racing series like in previous entries, there are no used cars, and you can’t sell the vehicles in your garage that you don’t want. Perhaps this was done because you can buy in-game credits with real money for the first time in the series. Regardless, the move is not intrusive, and apart from some high-end, desirable cars, there were enough rides at affordable prices that I didn't feel hemmed in. Races and cars in the career mode are defined by the PP rating from the online portion of GT 5. It may sound restrictive, but it actually gives you latitude in the kinds of cars you can use and therefore options in your career. That being said, I did have fewer cars in my garage than usual.

The predictability of the career structure is mirrored by the spacing and routines of the AI cars in front of you, which makes the on-track racing more rote than dynamic. And yet, the game is certainly not without its challenges. The size of the field and the number of laps increase as you move up the ranks, and driving the cars requires more skill as their power grows. It’s here where I really started to enjoy the game.

I fault Gran Turismo 6 for not having a more inviting career mode, its trifling damage system (repairing is included but hardly ever necessary), missing course creator (it will be added after launch via an update), and the overall feeling that so much has not changed with the series, but if there’s a bright spot in that malaise, it’s that I rediscovered the joy of being in awe and afraid of the cars.

It’s easy to bolt on extra HP in the tuning shop, but knowing what to do with it, or with a finely tuned rear-wheel car, for instance, is a matter of skill that all these years later I am still trying to consistently muster. Making efficient turns and managing cars' acceleration, braking, and handling (the new suspension system feels really good) is a symmetry of gameplay that the franchise still excels at. When I was having to do everything in my limited power to keep up with the pack in some 20-minute endurance race or continually re-racing a side event at Nürburgring without going off the track or touching another car because I knew there was a gold-trophy performance within me somewhere (if only once), I enjoyed Gran Turismo 6. With no rewind mechanic to make my wrongs right, feeling this exposed was positively exhilarating.

The online offerings have made strides since GT 5, with race options like weather/time progression, qualifying, and the ability to save your favorite race settings. However, apart from the seasonal time trial events, it lacks leaderboards, any over-arching structure, or much of a connection to your single-player campaign (other than the money you win and the use of your garage). More content is on the way, like race clubs, but it isn’t available at launch, so it falls outside the scope of this review.

It’s fitting that GT 6 appears at the end of the PS3’s arc. This 15-year anniversary is an unironic celebration of the yoke of its legacy, but it doesn’t have to signal the end of the franchise itself. Thankfully, glimmers of Gran Turismo’s racing spirit still live.

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