After all the buzz about micro-transactions and the absolutely filthy excuse for a game that was Forza 5, I was hesitant to support Gran Turismo 6 after hearing that same word, “micro-transaction”. I took the plunge and bought the game last month because the allure of racing at Bathurst was too strong and I was keen to check out the new car handling physics. I’ve been playing it since it came out and I owe the developers at Polyphony Digital a giant apology for my assumptions. Gran Turismo 6 is not the devil’s next DLC scheme and the experience has been surprisingly fun and refreshing.
GT6 has taken almost the complete opposite approach to Forza 5, it has micro-transactions but I have never seen them in the actual game after 40 hours play-time and fully completing career mode. The only way to access them is through the PlayStation Store which makes me think it was Sony’s half-arsed idea to tack them in. Furthermore, the game goes out of its way to throw credits at you and I’ve never even had to grind for a car I want. I’ve currently got 7 million credits sitting there that I don’t even need. Not only does this correct Forza 5’s approach of making credits harder to obtain (and putting reminders to spend money in loading screens), but it’s a huge improvement on Gran Turismo 5 as well. Polyphony have finally got their shit together after 6 games and realised that they do in fact, make videogames and not career simulators. The open nature of this game is a huge, huge surprise to me and I’m even more surprised nobody is talking about it.
A huge strength of videogames is that you can do ridiculous stuff like drive on the moon, and GT6 takes full advantage of that. It feels extremely awkward and slow, but I’m willing to believe the real moon wouldn’t be the most comfortable place to drive. It’s fun to experiment with and that’s what games are all about. Unique events like the Goodwood Hill Climb also provide a challenge that’s hard to replicate in the real world and it’s refreshing to tackle such a challenging tight course with dozens of different cars. Unlike previous GT’s, this game doesn’t have a billion license tests either. It still has a lot but they’re more fun, more lenient and don’t get in the way. Career mode also has a lot of events you can skip, but they’re all short anyway so I did them all. There’s also some really cool kart tracks, including one that looks like a mini rainbow road.
I love the silly videogame approach, but realism certainly adds a lot of nice feelings to this game too. Full 24 hour weather is recreated on some of the tracks and I find it really cool to drive in the morning… in the morning. Living near Bathurst myself, the way they’ve recreated the background and the sky is extremely accurate, and I find it comforting to sit down and experience what the actual track looks like at the present moment. The “Xbox One” logos on the side are mysteriously absent though. I guess they missed that detail when scanning the track, I haven’t seen any kangaroos either. Night racing is also a great experience, and I’ve gathered a new appreciation for the 8 minute Nordschleife track after driving through its deep lonely forest at 2am. Every corner is a challenge when you can’t see what’s ahead, especially when a bit of rain starts falling. It’s hard not to let your imagination run a bit wild during a long lap and see Slender Man pop out from the trees with a Nurburgrin. Stay cool, he’s not real. Eyes forward!
The physics are by far the biggest improvement in GT6, because the stiffness of GT5 is completely gone. They’ve re-modeled the suspension from scratch and it shows even in the slow crappy soccer vans you start off with in the opening events. The result is significantly more control mid-corner and a more active rear-end in hard braking zones. It improves the experience so much because you can correct small mistakes and learn new cars and tracks a lot faster. Just make sure you switch driving aids off though, because the game has a bad habit of switching them back on every time you hop in a new car.
The game has had about 20 different online seasonal events so far in just over a month, and they’ve all been free. Brand new cars and entire championships with the Red Bull Junior and the new Red Bull X2014 Prototype have been great fun to participate in and these are some of the best cars in the game, with a huge amount of grip and acceleration. I have not spent a single cent on extra content for this game, and this approach existing in 2013 / 2014 has blown me away. I’m extremely excited about the future of this game, and it’s nice to have something new almost every week. There really is no limit to the content when brand new cars that have only just been unveiled in the concept stage (like the Toyota FT-1) are already playable.
A lot of people have argued that the game should have been on PS4 but as a fan of racing sims I disagree for a few reasons. Firstly, PS4 doesn’t even have a racing wheel and does not support the G27 which is the best one out there. I’ve been playing the game exclusively with that and it handles like a dream; when I picked up the controller for a race it felt like a different game on a different planet. Still playable but very different, and almost pointless if you have a wheel. Secondly, the game is an extremely focused and polished experience in terms of gameplay, and delaying it further for PS4 might have interfered with their priorities. I’m glad they got it out now on the hardware it was meant for, because now they have a very solid game to build upon after the disappointing GT5. I also think PS3-level graphics are enough, the game is gorgeous while driving and I might be in the minority, but I don’t care how many polygons it has or whether some background trees are sprites or not. In fact I think cars are starting to look too shiny and perfect.
The game still has a few problems and AI is a big one. The opponents drive magical cars that are somehow just as fast, despite being either 3 times your weight or having magnetic strips on the bottom of their cars. The slightest bit of contact can send you flying off the track into spins and flips while they march on at 90% throttle like a fly hit their windscreen. It can be frustrating but I’ve come to accept that AI in racing games will never, ever be good and it’s a nice challenge to overcome their hilarious inadequacies sometimes. Except in the NASCAR races, those are just awful.
Loading is another thing that’s pretty bad, I’ve read comments from people who think it’s an improvement but it feels just as long as GT5 to me, about 30 seconds to load most races. I’ve also had the game crash and fail to boot up a few times, usually after downloading a patch.
While it’s not perfect I’m extremely happy and surprised with Gran Turismo 6, and feel it deserved a review based on its approach and how little praise this is getting compared to Forza 5. It’s significant that this game does well just to set a positive example for other racing developers out there. I never thought such an accurate and accessible racing simulator would ever be made, and all it took were a few small adjustments in Polyphony’s development priorities. I’ve written too many articles about what’s wrong with modern racing games, but Gran Turismo 6 has put everything right and I’m grateful Polyphony have let their passion for racing rise above the temptations of an alternate “market based” structure or a career grind-fest. Gran Turismo 6 is a highly enjoyable game I recommend to any fans of motorsport or simply anyone who enjoys a pure and engaging driving experience. It’s the pinnacle of console racing simulators, and there’s no catch.