Review: Gran Turismo 6 (PS3)

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Title: Gran Turismo 6
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (14.3 GB)
Release Date: December 6, 2013
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Polyphony Digital
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: E

*As of this writing, the Day 1 patch just became available, and 30 minutes before the review embargo lifts. all online functionality still does not function. Please check back later on Friday for any changes/additions needed for these new aspects of the game*

I’ve always loved the Gran Turismo series, but I’m definitely not an “expert”. As a few people on the Internet have gotten their hands on the game early, and since they don’t have to abide by the embargo restrictions that we do, I’ve been able to follow some threads that the true die-hards have been contributing to. Honestly, no matter how much I play, or how much I try to read, I probably still won’t answer all of the questions that people have. If you’ve ever played a Gran Turismo game, you’ll know how massive the entirety of this package is. Sony even sent us a PlayStation 3 loaded with a completely unlocked save file so that everything available in the game would be playable (yeah, that was a surprise visit from my local FedEx guy.)

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A couple of notes before we get into the review. First, there will be a day 1 patch, but as of this writing, I haven’t gotten it yet, so I can’t comment on the file size or what it includes. What I will say though, and what the video right below this paragraph will show, is that you’ll be able to start playing the game RIGHT AWAY! One of the huge gripes that many had with Gran Turismo 5 was the lengthy install when the disc was launched, and the additional install that was optional but almost required since it eliminated most of the load times. Gran Turismo 6 eliminates this issue in a way that I didn’t even think was possible on the PS3, it actually installs in the background while you play the game. There’s no indication that the process is happening, and honestly, I have no idea if the install has completed yet or not. It’s a weird feeling, but it was a pretty amazing notion to have been driving a car only minutes after I booted the game up (because I had to watch the opening movie of course).

What I am including though, is a bevy of screenshots, Photo Mode pictures, and gameplay videos, along with what I would assume will be one of my lengthiest reviews ever. I’ve been fortunate enough to have this game in my hands for about a week and a half before its release, and this is all I’ve been playing since it arrived. So, without further ado, let’s race!

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 348 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
For the first time in the series, Polyphony have put an emphasis on making Gran Turismo much more approachable to newcomers. As soon as the opening movie is done, the player is immediately put into a car and rolled-out onto the track. Information windows begin to appear, explaining everything from the basics of driving, to some of the aspects of gameplay from the series that can be confusing if you haven’t played the game before (or if you’re like me and just don’t understand a lot of the technical stuff offered.) The pacing may seem slow to veterans of the series, but it doesn’t last very long, and it’s a small price to pay to get more people into the game.

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If you played GT5, you’re going to notice the completely revamped interface immediately, all for the better. The layout is clean and easy to navigate, and you can get to the settings at any time by just hitting the Start button, instead of taking twenty steps to get there like in GT5. The settings screens will look very familiar, and you’ll also see that GT6 supports a much larger variety of steering wheel setups than GT5 did at launch. Also, custom soundtracks are still available, and the interface for that, even though much easier to find, is still a bit confusing to set up initially.

As of this writing, the Day 1 patch isn’t available yet, so I can’t tell you what it will add, but one thing that is missing is the B-Spec mode. Polyphony has said that it will be added, but I’m just not sure when. I personally don’t play B-Spec much, but it actually is a good way to earn in-game credits, and I know that a lot of the fans of the series really like it.

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Customization and pit options remain pretty similar to GT5, which is just fine. The area that really needed improvement in my opinion was just being able to access these different areas easier, and that they’ve definitely done. Garage management has been streamlined immensely as well. The interface is quicker and and much more approachable. You’re also able to setup three preset configurations for each car, which has already been a great thing to have with the limited amount of cars that I have in my garage in the early hours of playing through the licenses. I’m not even sure if those were available in GT5, because quite frankly, it had such a terrible interface that I never thought to look.

The biggest surprise was that there was seemingly no install when I booted the game up. Obviously, this was a refreshing change from the 45-minute initial install in GT5, then the additional 45 minutes for the optional install. I’ll admit, I was a bit confused, and it wasn’t until I happened across a specific option in the Settings menu that explained it all. By default, Gran Turismo 6 performs an install, but it all happens in the background while you play the game. One thing to be ready for then is that early-on, expect load times to be a tad longer than expected, but they seem to get better over time as the game installs. The experience is pretty similar to GT5 though, so don’t expect much of a difference than what you’re used to.

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Your progression, again, is pretty similar to the past games, as you work your way up through a wide assortment of different race types. One small addition that I love though is a menu item that will show you suggested vehicles for the overall race classes, making it a lot easier to be prepared before you start your next set of races. Also, the dealership menu itself has been streamlined nicely. Speaking of that, you’ll now be able to choose from over 1,200 cars, and to answer one of the most asked questions, there isn’t a differentiation between “Premium” and “Standard” cars any more. There is still a difference, but there’s nothing that signifies if a car is one or the other. According to Polyphony, the only difference is that “Standard” cars won’t have the true, modeled interiors, A “Standard” has an interior, but it’s pretty basic as they were in GT5. Externally though, the “Standard” cars have all been brought-up to speed, well, let me give you the official word on this.

“With the exception of fully built interiors, all cars in GT6 are treated equally. There are no longer limitations on performance tuning or race modes. Exteriors of all classic GT vehicles have been converted to PS3 spec, creating a seamless racing and photo gallery experience with all 1,200 vehicles.”

I can confirm too that the “Standard” cars have definitely received a visual upgrade, and unless you’re a die-hard, you probably won’t even be able to identify if a car is “Premium” or not. Bumpers are chrome now instead of that flat gray, and the number of polygons used to craft each car is up to par with the Premium cars in GT5.

Also, many have been posting with fears that GT6 will “force” players to use real money to purchase cars, items, and tracks in the game. First, I haven’t seen any instances where I had the desire to purchase in-game credits on the PSN store, which is good since they’re not even available. Fact is, the way the game is setup, you have to make choices early, but I’ve never not had ample credits to upgrade my car.

Second, another fear is that in-game merchandise will be priced in a way to compel people to spend real money for credits because they’re much more expensive than what they’d be in GT5 and earlier. While there are some items that are expensive (like some of the Helmets/racing suits and some exotic cars,) to me, this is nothing new. If you want some of these more expensive items, spend the time to earn enough credits to get them. It’s not important to the way that I play the game, and there’s nothing in the game that forces you to spend any real money. It’s going to be interpreted by some as a ploy for them to charge real money for items, but at the same time, none of the overly expensive (in-game credits) items are actually needed to get through any of the races or events in the game. It’s going to probably be a debate no matter what Polyphony do in this area, but personally, I don’t have a problem with how everything is set up.

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It’s not all just going from event to event, there are also some added distractions along your journey, and they do a nice job at breaking the monotony up a bit. While making your way through the different classes, you’ll unlock Coffee Break Challenges, One-Make races, and Mission Races. They offer a more focused objective, and usually they take less time than a normal event. You’ll be challenged to knock over a bunch of cones within a specified time, or races that take place with every driver in the exact same car, or race against an AI opponent in a Time Trial over just a portion of a track. The way I play a game though, I usually try to burn though the main set of “missions” and skip any of the extra stuff. I even get a bit bothered by the license events because I just want to get through the next set of races. These side events though, are pretty fun. I haven’t caught all the way up with them yet, but I am actually paying attention to them, which is pretty rare for me.

You’ll also be able to compete in two pretty unique events, one of which has been a part of the series in the past. First is the Goodwood Festival of Speed which offers unique challenges with variations of cars used in the process. The first event is a hill climb in a beautiful countryside, but you’ll be required to use three very different cars to finish the entire challenge, the third being an insanely fast 2012 X-Bow Street, which you’ll win after completing the challenge. The X-BOW is like a bat out of hell on the roads, so it requires split-second reflexes to get through unscathed.

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The other is one of the most unique events that I’ve ever encountered in a racing game, Lunar Exploration. Yeah, you read that right, you get to pilot the Lunar Rover along the Apollo 15 Expedition Route, ON THE MOON! There are two other challenges in this event which are equally difficult (if not more) as you race downhill and even attempt to knock a bunch of cones over. You wouldn’t think that it would be a challenge with a top speed of 15MPH, but with low gravity, keeping the vehicle level requires a lot of skill, and even some luck.

So, after all of that, how does it actually play? The new physics engine, especially the new suspension and tire systems, make this play like a whole new game, and all for the better. In every Gran Turismo before this, I always felt that it was way too easy to lose control of the car, even at low speeds. Now, with the new physics in place, to me it feels like they’ve finally gotten it right. Sure, I still spin-out occasionally, but it’s my fault when I do. The cars just feel like I think they should now. Cornering feels natural now, and when you slide through sharper corners, you may even feel the tires skip across the pavement instead of simply slide. Watch the videos that I’ve posted throughout this review and you’ll definitely see some examples of this, especially with my 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T. The car produces so much ridiculous torque that it was almost impossible to control if you mashed the gas too much in GT5. Now, in Gran Turismo 6, it still gets squirrely, but I’m able to recover a lot more convincingly, which is something that I’ve always wished for in this series. I’ve had so much more fun driving in this game now, because I’m not constantly fighting the steering. The new physics engine makes a huge difference in GT6, even more than I had expected.

Fans of the series may have an issue with what Polyphony has done to make the game more accessible though, as especially early on, the game is much more straightforward and linear. But once you get through the first couple of levels, things definitely start to feel more like the Gran Turismo that people expect. Honestly, just seeing comments on forums makes me believe that the Gran Turismo “Super Fans” aren’t going to be completely happy, but I do feel that there’s enough for those loyal fans to make this game worth it. At the same time, the attempt to make this game more accessible to newcomers is admirable, but I’m not sure that it goes deeply enough into the game for some. There’s always a balance that needs to be adhered to, and for me, GT6 seems to do a pretty good job.

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One last thing about the gameplay, I actually played a majority of the game so far using only the DualShock 3 (because I can’t use my wheel at my desk.) This is something that I would never imagine doing with GT4 or GT5 because I always seemed to overcompensate when I was in trouble. The controls have improved so much though that using the controller feels perfectly natural now, which is something that I didn’t expect at all.

Visuals:
Let’s get this out of the way immediately, overall, the visuals are going to seem very similar to Gran Turismo 5 at first, so if you’ve played that, don’t be surprised. When you start putting more time in though, you’ll start to recognize the changes made this time around, and those changes have a profound effect on the overall immersion in GT6. First up is the all new lighting system. because of the use of Adaptive Tessellation, something that no one thought was even possible on hardware like the PS3, the HDR (High Dynamic Range) has been increased by 50 times. Where I really noticed the lighting change the most was on one of the new tracks added to the game, Willow Springs, which has quickly become one of my favorite tracks. It’s out in the middle of the desert, and the effect of the sun on the track and everything else is truly outstanding.

So, Adaptive Tessellation, what the heck is it? First, how about an explanation from SCEA Product Manager Kenneth Chan:

“Improving the overall look of GT6 is Adaptive Tessellation, the next generation in 3D model rendering technology. Tessellation involves dividing a polygon into multiple geometric tiles; Adaptive Tessellation takes that science one step further by automatically dividing the polygons to become finer according to the viewing distance and position. And it’s not just the cars that will look sharper. Thanks to the HDR Rendering system, whose dynamic range has been increased by 50 times from GT5, the representation of the surrounding scenery is more accurately expressed, without the excess flare of highlights and blackouts caused by extreme differences in brightness. The result is better blurring effects and better light management of the environment, allowing the user to get a better, more realistic experience.”

So, it seems like this method has helped quite a bit in two key areas, with the actual car visuals while in motion, and by adding a softer effect to the shadows. On the cars, the closer you get to them, the detail adapts smoothly. So for example, the unique look of a carbon hood will be visible from just about any distance, and the closer you get, it smoothly transitions instead of popping-in at a certain point. Also, if you look at how the Standard Cars were rendered in GT5, the polygons weren’t smoothed on curved surfaces, which was quite evident on wheel wells. Now, not only have all of the Standard Cars been rendered at the same level as the Premium Cars (except for the fully built-out interiors), but all of the cars retain a better level of detail at any distance. Smoke and dust have also finally been improved, but unfortunately it still slows replays down a bit.

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Once again, the game runs at a pretty consistent 60FPS, and replays, because they apply some post-processing effects, still run at 30FPS. The visuals are still quite impressive even with the recent release of the “Next Generation”. Some textures look a bit dated during fly-by’s and replays, but during gameplay, you’ll never notice anything but beautiful.

There’s a lot that hasn’t changed though. The tracks and cars from GT5 are all here, but they’ve included seven new tracks, each with multiple variations, bringing the total number of available driving layouts to 100. Also, 120 cars have been added since GT5, bringing that number to over 1,200. As I said before, they really all do look fantastic. No more flat textures on the bumpers or low polygon counts, everything looks great now. So, for players that played GT5 before a lot will feel familiar, the parts that SHOULD feel familiar. What won’t are things like the completely rebuilt menu and interface, which is fantastic. Navigation is great no matter where you are, and now, there isn’t a separate Home menu to get to things like the manual and Settings. Everything is laid-out cleanly, and there are plenty of shortcuts to things like Car Settings right from the race menu. It’s so refreshing to be able to freely navigate around the interface now, and not be completely confused for a change.

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Weather effects have all been improved, and things are definitely less distracting. Also, as in GT5 to a certain extent, variable weather can be experienced, and day/night cycles are available with night driving much improved as your headlights actually work, instead of relying on street lights etc for illumination. Night driving on the Daytona track especially is actually pretty well done. I just wish they’d added more NASCAR tracks, but instead, we still only get Daytona and Indianapolis. Taking things a step further, they’ve actually recreated the environmental aspects of the real tracks in the game, with true simulations of the rising/setting of the sun and the night’s constellations based on the latitude/longitude of the actual tracks. It seems like overkill, but hey, they do call this a driving “simulator”.

Photo Mode and Photo Travel also return, and everything feels exactly the same, which is a good thing. Two additional filters have been added, and the locales in Photo Travel have changed, but everything else remains unchanged. The photos are still outstanding, and the post-processing applied to them is top-notch. You’ll see some examples in the gallery below, so make sure to click on them to see everything in full resolution and detail. You’ll even be able to output 3D Photos, but I haven’t tried that yet. Photos and Replays are still managed by the in-game Gallery, but exporting to the XMB for photos is quite easy.

3D is not available at launch, but will be added later via a patch. I really loved using 3D in GT5, as it really helped with depth perception on the corners, so I’m hoping this patch doesn’t take long to implement.

Audio:
To answer the most asked question, Yes, GT6 still supports custom soundtracks, and this time you don’t have to dig through twenty layers of obscurity to set it up. The interface is still a tad weird, but the functionality is there. You can even set separate playlists for menus and gameplay. Personally, I love the included soundtrack, so I leave that on for everything except for actual races. Seeing as this is the 15th Anniversary of the series, fans will even recognize a few of the tracks from Gran Turismos of old.

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Engine sounds have also been updated, and it definitely seems like the engines for more of the cars have been faithfully sampled. With over 1,200 cars available though, I think that it’d be crazy to expect that every single one could be faithfully represented, but the overall audio design is definitely richer than in GT5, especially if you have a sound system that supports DTS audio. Bass is heavy but clean, and environmental sounds have a better presence than before. Man, I just love that Jazz music!

Online/Multiplayer:
Online play will be available at launch, but at the time of this writing, the servers aren’t up. Let’s just hope that the hopelessly terrible numbered lobby system is gone for good.

Conclusion:
I think that this review is longer than any paper that I ever wrote in school, and there’s still more that I’m sure that I didn’t cover. By the time this review hits, I’ll have pretty-much lived Gran Turismo 6 for nine straight days, and more than likely, there will still be aspects of the game that I haven’t touched yet. Many Gummi Bears have lost their lives in the process of reviewing this game, and it’s all been worth it. I love the upgrades included, especially the better physics and the all new menus.

According to Polyphony Digital, there’s even more on the way for Gran Turismo 6, which is pretty incredible seeing how much content is already here. Things aren’t perfect and probably never will be, but this is definitely a huge improvement over Gran Turismo 5. There’s a lot of speculation regarding micro-transactions in GT6, but the info that I’m hearing from Sony is that nothing in the game will require any real money, but in-game credits will be available for purchase for those that want to progress faster. Some people still speculate that a later patch will actually change in-game prices to essentially force someone to spend real money to attain some of the more exotic cars and items, but I highly doubt it (personal opinion). Pricing doesn’t really seem any different than what it was in GT5, and I’ve had no problems earning credits by simply progressing through my career and some of the extra race options. Sure, there are some cars that cost a couple million credits, but you don’t need these cars to progress through the game. In my opinion, this is more like real life, where you actually need to work harder to get an car that not many else have.

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What gets me the most about Gran Turismo 6 though, is how great the actual driving is now. I’m truly enjoying working my way up the ladder and earning new cars as I do. To me, that’s what I really look for, the gameplay. There are certain aspects of this game that I’ll probably never get involved with, and with the fact that B-Spec will be completely separate from A-Spec (especially since it’s not even available yet), it depends on what I’ll be able to get out of that mode before I decide if I’ll even mess with it.

Gran Turismo 6 took a very good game and made it great. I know that everyone wished this was on PS4 right away, but I have no problem with it coming to PS3, as they have been able to take advantage of a very mature system with 81+ million PS3 owners that I hope compete with online. There’s no way that I would still be playing the game if I didn’t truly enjoy it, and it’s all I’ve done when I’ve had any free-time. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely a huge upgrade from GT5, and many of the changes have improved the experience greatly.

*Please Note, this score is subject to change after the Day 1 Patch and Online Play are available
Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Blackmagic Intensity Pro screen capture feature and Gran Turismo 6 Photo Tour Mode.

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Written by Glenn Percival

Glenn Percival

Just a guy that loves games, movies, Golf, Football, and Baseball.

Podcast Co-Host, Editor-in-Chief, Video Producer, and whipping-boy

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  • Yea here is hoping that friends code game lobby is gone. Nice write up Glenn, picking this up tomorrow.

  • Keith Dunn

    Looks awesome! I don’t know why you always claim you don’t write well. I always think your reviews are well-written!

  • Les Beales

    Jus picked up 15th anniversay steelbook edition £59.99 but was a must av for me bin a fan since gt1

  • Russman

    Wow, this game sounds really good fun. I’m not usually someone who enjoys racing games, but i think I might have to give this a try. Thanks for the great review Glenn

  • Been addicted to this since I got it on Friday. Game runs so nice and has an awesome pace to it. Unlike GT5 which took forever to get a nice car.

  • Charles King

    GT6 needs a lot of online updates, upgrades.

    And Greater detail in to friends profiles. Ex. Progress… where to find a friend if they happen to be playing online.