If there’s a video game equivalent of going to an opera after a five star meal, it’s Gran Turismo. This is a series that oozes class and not much has changed in its latest entry. Not many games are content to begin with live action clips of their creation set to classical music, but this is a series that revels in its opulence. But in a world where the latest Need for Speed has you ramming into cops at hundreds of miles per hour, it’s nice to have an experience on the other end of the spectrum that strives to give its players a taste of the automobile high life. A last-gen game released at quite possibly the worst time imaginable (December weeks after the current-gen console released), Gran Turismo 6 is both the series last hurrah on PS3 and a title trying to to hold its own with Xbox One’s Forza Motorsport 5.
Gran Turismo 6 is a simulation through and through, meaning that cars actually control like their real-life counterparts and won’t be able to blaze through corners at full speed or receive a boost of nitrous with the touch of a button. The right to go faster than a hundred miles per hour must be earned from the track and current ride on it. With 120 new cars, Gran Turismo 6 features a whopping 1,200 vehicles from makers like Scion, Ford, Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, Lotus, Maserati and Acura (hey, Acuras are really nice!). Unlike a lot of other racing games where the low end car is a Corvette, GT6’s rides run the spectrum from a Honda Fit to McLaren MP4-12C. By having so many cars, players can not only get a taste of what it feels like to be behind the wheel of a half a million dollar piece of engineering, but also something more akin to what they would drive in everyday life. Hypothetically, one could even use the game to test drive their next daily driver.
Cars are purchased by earning credits based on race performance. With over a thousand cars and a stingy system, however, don’t expect to have a Lotus on day one. It will be a struggle to even purchase a 2005 Mustang, but as there’s quite a bit to do with a steep learning curve, it’s just about where it needs to be. For those who aren’t instantly aware of the differences between two similar cars, a Performance Point rating is shown for each car that gives an idea on its overall capabilities. Helping the cars feel as real as ever is a revamped physics engine. Tires now take their structure into account, suspensions utilize vehicle analysis and aerodynamics include variables like vehicle orientation and shape. To put it simply, cars feel real.
Multiple modes are included, with the centerpiece being Career Mode. A career features six difficulties including Novice, National B, National A, International B, International A and Super. To progress to the next difficulty, a license test consisting of five objectives must be completed. Basically, the game wants to ensure you weren’t just barreling off the track on turns and actually mastering its mechanics. Each difficulty features multiple cups and championships to complete. Some cups (and always the license test) require a certain number of stars to unlock. One star is given for simply completing an event, two for placing in the top three and three for coming in first. This system makes you replay events multiple times to accrue enough stars, but it won’t be an issue once you have some experience under your belt. Breaking up the monotony of the events are Coffee Breaks. These are mini-games that feature a challenge like knocking down cones in a stadium or seeing how far you can get on a liter of gasoline. Although simple in nature, they’re surprisingly addictive and reminiscent of the Crazy Box in Crazy Taxi (the one time Crazy Taxi will ever be compared to Gran Turismo).
Of course, there’s plenty of “car porn” to be had with the help of excellent framed replays and other opportunities. One of the biggest is Photo Travel, which allows for any car to be photographed in a multitude of exotic locales like Ronda, Syracuse, Gemasolar and more. Unfortunately, this aspect of the series isn’t as exciting as it usually is and highlights the game’s biggest flaw: old hardware. When the latest entry in a series known for its realism is released on a seven year old console, it’s cause for concern. Many have been playing their next-gen consoles non-stop the past few weeks and going from PS4 to PS3 suddenly feels like going from PS3 to PS2. The game looks great for a PS3 racing simulator, but it’s hard to look at it and not remember the gorgeous visuals of next-gen Need for Speed Rivals and Forza Motorsport 5.
For fans of racing simulators, Gran Turismo 6 is as good as ever and arguably remains the gold standard of the genre. There’s over a thousand cars, thirty-seven tracks and tons of events. All of that combined with deep tuning results in an experience with huge lasting appeal. Unfortunately, it’s too long in the tooth for its own good. Playing it after experiencing Forza Motorsport 5 makes it feel like, well, going back a console generation. The mechanics and features are as impressive as ever, but now that we’ve seen what cars can look like on the current generation of consoles, it’s hard going back. Still, it’s hard to fault the game for being released too late and it remains another thoughtful, expertly crafted racing experience. It will be an exciting day when we get to experience the series on PS4, but for now, Gran Turismo 6 is a a fine stopgap for fans of realistic racing.
Platform: PlayStation 3