Gran Turismo 6 review – Racing to the end of generation

For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a racing driver. Well, until one life-affirming evening in 1997 when I popped over to my mate’s house to play a new game called Gran Turismo, and decided that this’ll pretty much do (aim high, kids). Still, I had goals: since getting into the games writing biz I’ve yearned to slap a score on a GT, and fifteen years after that first barrier-bothering lap of the High Speed Ring, the day’s come. Gran Turismo 6 review? Here we go…

Gran Turismo 6 review

In ’97, the handling felt light years ahead of anything I’d played before – fifteen years later, the same’s true of Gran Turismo 6. The original’s PS1-rendered cars looked better than life, and there were loads of them – today… well, the vehicle count reaches four figures, but none have the shocking impact of the debut garage. Above all, the game’s detail and scope was unprecedented in the era of Spice Girls and bowl cuts; it was a genuinely peerless racer. Fifteen years later, it… aw, man. Do I have to review this Gran Turismo?

Let’s not beat around the bush: number six is a disappointment. There’s a difference between disappointment and disaster of course – all of what developers would refer to as its ‘core pillars’ are intact, which means you’ll still miss weddings and quit jobs for one more race. But it’s a game you’ve played in large part before – the last five iterations did all the hard work to produce such a deep and convincing driving sim, and there’s very little to enrich the last game’s experience here.

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The elephant in the room: yes, it’s a PS3 game so no, it doesn’t look all that different to Gran Turismo 5. Traditionally Polyphony releases one title at the start of a console generation and another in its twilight so there’s a notable ramp-up in loveliness levels, but as GT5 arrived in 2010 it hasn’t left the Tokyo studio the time to find new power in an old console that it’s accustomed to. It’s found some, mind you: although GT5 ran at 1080p in the first place this game finds some extra resolution from 1280 x1080 to 1440 x 1080, swathing that extra sharpness in advanced morphological anti-aliasing (smooth edges to you and me). There’s definitely more clarity to GT6’s look, but regrettably the effect is more like looking at an aging PS3 game through fancy spectacles than an appreciable detail increase.

There’s definitely more clarity to GT6’s look,
but regrettably the effect is more like looking at
an aging PS3 game through fancy spectacles
than an appreciable detail increase.

Trackside detail, such as the cross-hatched 2D tree sprites lining Curva Grande at Monza, is more noticeable for its anachronistic appearance thanks to the higher res. Throw some cars on the track and although they do the best to breathe some life into the scene with engine roars, glowing brake discs and suspension forks straining to distribute weight, they’re left high and dry by weak particle effects when someone clips the dirt or throws up smoke during a corner entry lock-up. Even the low-res tarmac looks in dire need of re-laying. It appears the site maintenance staff for all 37 tracks have declared a strike, and are hiding out in the tool shed smoking roll-ups and reading Ample Bosoms Monthly.

Gran turismo 6 reviewMost disappointing to your inner twelve year old and mine, who were left in a stupor by those PS1 graphics, is the lingering discrepancy between standard and premium cars. Yep, that’s still very much a thing, despite Polyphony boss Kaz Yamauchi’s assurances that the line between the two would be much more blurred in this game than the last. It’s instantly apparent when you’re browsing car dealerships whether you’re looking at a low-poly PS2 port or a thoroughbred, and if you were in any doubt before you hop behind the wheel, the retuning blacked-out letterbox cockpit cam of a standard motor leaves you under no illusion.

To an extent, I’m looking 124 premium gift horses in the mouth as I make that point. The new additions to the heaving GT garage are vastly diverse, hugely detailed, and only four of them are Nissan GT-Rs. It’s a list that includes four lustrous vintage Ferraris from the sixties and seventies, an actual bloody lunar rover, KTM’s wild X-Bow, and the Audi R18 TDI, a vehicle so perfectly engineered and visually sumptuous you’d elbow Jennifer Lawrence into a patch of nettles just to lick its exhaust pipe clean. If like me you refuse to drive the standard cars because your inner OCD would just never forgive you, there’s still a vast swathe of motoring history to save your credits for and make your own. There’s also the Vision GT program, which periodically adds brand new concept cars (for free!) to your garage to bolster up the cutting-edge contingent. Most importantly, the tremendous variation in GT6’s premium garage showcases its new, more detailed, and inarguably better handling model very well.

It’s clear from your game-mandated first drive around the undulating Brands Hatch circuit that Polyphony has focussed on building that handling model with such lunatic focus that almost every other element of the game has been left to fester. And the resulting driving model comes startlingly close to convincing you Kaz & co have their priorities straight. If you want to feel challenged by the vehicle, to believe that your abilities as a driver, rather than a gamer, are being tested, and if you want to know precisely how fast a Nissan Deltawing can nail a lap of Spa Francorchamps – Gran Turismo is still peerless on PlayStation.