Gran Turismo 6 hands on: rebalanced & remade. “We have a PS4 version in mind” says Polyphony’s Kazunori Yamauchi

When Sony Europe president and CEO Jim Ryan first played Gran Turismo on PS1, it was as a diehard fan of Polyphony Digital‘s Motor Toon Grand Prix 2. Its new ultra-realistic tone did little for him: “I remember saying, ‘Well, it’s alright. But it’s a bit dry. I think [Kazunori Yamauchi]’s making a big mistake.’” Fast forward five games to Silverstone, where we’re in a room filled with exotic cars made legendary by their appearance in GT games, and press from around the world gathered to celebrate 15 years of the franchise. “You can see,” continues Ryan, “what a big mistake it was.”

Gran Turismo 6 preview

Of course, we’re only pretending to gather in celebration of GT’s 15th birthday. Momentous as that occasion is, what we’re all really here to see is another slice of automotive obsession from Yamauchi that’ll keep the series relevant and exciting. And so it comes to pass, as that game emerges complete with holiday 2013 release date – and without the theatrics and ceremony of Driveclub. Hello, Gran Turismo 6.

“We actually do have a PS4 version in mind,” Polyphony Digital president Yamauchi assures us, but the first we see of GT6 is its current-gen iteration. And it’s clear the reveal’s geared towards those who never stopped playing GT5.

“We actually do have
a PS4 version in mind”

That’s the crowd who’ll really appreciate the list of 1,200 cars. That’s 200 more than its predecessor – and no, they’re not all just modified Skylines. But after fans reacted so strongly against the ‘standard’ cars in GT5 (upscaled ports of motors from previous games), you can bet all 1,200 will be built with as much love as their source material received on the assembly floor.

Not that this is a game trying to win people over with numbers. Quite the opposite, in fact: on paper, GT6 is a hard sell. Yes, there are more cars. Of course there are. More tracks, too. More online functionality, more customisation, more lounge jazz playing in the cleaned-up UI. But that’s not why GT6 exists. Kaz Yamauchi’s become something of an experienced race driver in real life since GT5, competing in pro-level events while overseeing the good ship Polyphony. That insight, together with the telemetry data that comes with it, sparked the game into existence.

“Driving a racing car, you control it with a lot of different sensors mounted on the car,” explains the down-to-earth GT boss. “We’re able to collect a lot of different data: how the ride height of the car changes when you’re driving, how that changes in relation to the aerodynamics, and how your steering balance changes.

Gran Turismo 5: Academy Edition coming 26th September: start your engines!“Two weeks ago I drove the Nissan GTR GT3 on the Nürburgring, and we collected the data from that car as well – and when we returned to Japan we fed all this data into Gran Turismo. I drove the same [car and track] in Gran Turismo, and started to realise what was different.”

That might not come across in a screenshot, but it deals out a solid gut-punch of lateral G-forces during our hands-on. Granted, we’re using a steering wheel and pedals, so it’s yet to be seen how all that extra real-world data will affect your DualShock experience, but as we take to the newly added Silverstone International Circuit in a Nismo 350Z and later an Audi Quattro Group B S1, the revamped aerodynamics, tyre and suspension physics burst into action.

Downshifting too early – while your revs are too high – locks up the rear much more realistically than in GT5, which was accommodating by comparison. We discover this by almost binning the Nismo through the Priory and Brooklands corners. Then, as we wrestle with the wheel to rebalance the nippy 350Z’s weight, we feel a much more convincing sensation of balance. Most people aren’t going to play GT6 in manual mode, or with a wheel – which makes these details all the more impressive. They’re in the game simply because they happen in real life.

The difference in fidelity to GT5’s cars isn’t huge, but it’s noticeable. The white coats at Polyphony have somehow managed to get adaptive tessellation working on PS3, a mad feat of tech prowess that enables the designers to break polygons down into smaller triangles to make smoother final models. The lighting engine’s been under the scalpel, too: GT6 has 50 times the dynamic lighting range of its predecessor. This means more realistic day/night transitions than ever before, and hints towards changeable weather for the first time in the series.

There are 33 individual locations, “thousands of aero parts” (read: spoilers) to deface your ride with, and 71 different course layouts. The track builder is expanded, and it allows longer circuits that cut through picturesque towns (we’re shown an Andalucían village we’d gladly retire to). There are improved online features that encourage persistent communities, too.

These are all fan-focused additions and expansions, no doubt informed largely by community feedback over the course of GT5’s tumultuous lifespan. But they’re side notes, really, to the relentless pursuit of the game’s 15-year-old mantra: the real driving simulator.