As you’re telling your friends about how great Battlefield 4 and Assassin’s Creed 4 look on the PS4 (that’s a lot of 4’s), Sony and Polyphony would like to remind you that the last generation ain’t dead yet.
Last week we received a copy of Gran Turismo 6 from SCEA and we dug right into it. Six days later, we’re still digging. Outside of Prologue, the GT series has always been one of those games that seems a bit endless. You could always pop the game in, race, acquire some cash to acquire some cars and just adjust your vehicles until you have them the way you want them. That’s the beef and beauty of this series and GT6 doesn’t stray from that path at all.
So, in the words of that one guy in the Home Depot commercials… Let’s do this.
The first thing you will notice about this game is that the menu system has been revamped and restructured. It no longer looks like the Xbox One OS, which is all over the place and has no sense of direction. The new GUI for GT6 is amazingly simple to navigate through. It works from left to right and is sectioned off in pieces. You have all your user items on the far left (garage, gallery, stats, etc.), then online options, arcade mode, career mode (all those wonderful licenses), a cars section, tuning and maintenance section and then special events and tools. There’s no freaky font that makes it hard to read, no weird symbols that you have to call your local university archeology professor in to translate; nothing of the sort; just easy flowing elements in the GUI.
Laugh if you want for me bringing this up, but the GT5 GUI was terror on the eyes.
Moving on to the actual game, what you get with Gran Turismo 6 is a wonderful goodbye to what will surely (though not definitely) be the last GT that we’ll see on the PlayStation 3. Polyphony seems to have put a lot of effort and time (don’t they always?) into this one to deliver something memorable for the gamer.
One of the big additions to GT6 is the inclusion of 120 new vehicles, including the Lunar Rover (yep, the one that was on the moon years ago). Gran Turismo has always been known for its bevy of cars, as Polyphony has signed the best of the best to the series. That’s one big reason people flock to the title because there are a lot of dream cars to test drive and tweak. Getting back to the Lunar Rover, you get to drive this baby in one of the ‘special events’ that GT6 allows, which is moon based. What’s fun and unique about this is that the sucker only goes up to 24mph (as fast as I could get it before crashing), if you’re lucky and don’t get stuck on a hill. What’s also unique about the LR is that there is basically no track set for you, so you have to watch the HUD very closely to figure out if you’re on target for the finish line or not. Having played it this morning for the first time, I can safely say that I should never be allowed to go to the moon and drive the Lunar Rover. Why? I received a trophy for flipping it up in the air multiple times. I would say it was breathtaking, as the physics looked particularly accurate, but it wasn’t. Anyway, it’s a fun addition to the vehicle line-up and the replays of it are worthy of your time.
Staying with cars, one cool addition to GT6 is something they call Vision Gran Turismo. Periodically over the next year, actual car manufacturers are going to release a special edition GT car for the game, which will be added and uploaded to your actual gaming session — although you will have to purchase it with in-game credits to acquire it. Mercedes struck first with their AMG Vision GT Project, which looks like something that could reside in TRON: Legacy. It’s slick, it glows bright in a streamlined way and the vehicle is something you will be excited about when you actually drive it. I’m dying to see what the other companies are going to unveil, especially Ford (laugh now, but that’s a helluva car manufacturer — and they, like Ricky Bobby, know something about racing and speed).
Shifting a bit from vehicles, let’s talk about the career mode. This edition of GT seems to have taken a note from its GUI streamlining, as it’s incredibly easy to navigate and progress quickly through. That’s not to say that you’re not going to have to go through your licenses — nay, nay. It’s the presentation and the understanding of what you must accomplish that has been laid out pretty well for the gamer. In each license, you’ll find the usual with certain challenges that you have to meet to progress to the next race. The gold/silver/bronze measuring stick is still intact with the actual licenses. Once you obtain the license, it opens up races where you can earn sweet cash over and over again, which leads to even sweeter vehicles. To unlock the next set of races, you have to earn a certain amount of stars, which are earned by completing races. It’s an easy system to understand and I’m very impressed with the variety of races and tracks that are thrown at you while you’re racing in particular licensed events.
One neat addition to this year’s game is the inclusion of mini-missions, if you will. You actually have things like one-make races, mission races and a fun small event called the ‘Coffee Break Challenge’. The CBC is neat because it kind of goes the Drift route and gives you certain obstacles and small challenges to accomplish in a limited amount of time. For example, the first CBC you’ll run into in GT6 is where you have to knock down 300 cones in an arena in a small amount of time. The rewards are still the gold/silver/bronze cups, but it’s off-beat fun that puts some flavor into GT6. It’s a great ‘coffee break’ from the norm (see what I did there?).
Anyway, the career mode for GT6 is easier to get through and even easier to enjoy. There’s nothing quite like being straightforward with your game design.
There is a particular part of this that I have to criticize, which is the ability to purchase in-game credits through the PS Store to unlock additional content faster. I’m not a fan of DLC or Free-to-Play design. I think that the DLC has to be really something of substance to warrant additional money for a game that already costs $60 up front. The Free-to-Play system, which asks you (though not required) to buy additional content, or wait a long time, is something that will hurt the industry in the near future. While I get that it’s optional to purchase in-game credits, not required, I still don’t like that it exists. Polyphony and SCEA should not go that route with any of their games, as it seems more Facebook App-like than AAA gaming. It might be lucrative, but it’s a bit cheap way to do things.
You never want to cheapen the experience of the game.
Shifting gears, the presentation of GT6 is pretty darn nice. You get a lot of dynamic effects with time and weather, which is a big deal with the current (next) generation that we just started. The limitations of the PS3 hardware don’t hold this promise back much, but it does make it far less noticeable than what you would find in a game like Driveclub (the demos look absolutely breathtaking).
Outside of dynamic day/night shift and weather, the tracks are built very well in GT6, as they’re very expansive, detailed and gorgeous. As all Gran Turismo games have done, the simulation of the speed and the way the environment warps to your racing progression is pretty impressive to watch. When you’re heading down a narrow street in Rome with a souped-up Mustang, it feels dangerously fast and it looks that way as well. Gran Turismo has always been one of the best when it comes to ‘feeling’ that in-game speed through its visuals.
I would go into the car models, but you know what to expect. Polyphony loves getting the cars visually perfect, so there’s no reason to doubt that with Gran Turismo 6. Although it should be noted that the handling of the cars has been improved dramatically from GT5. The game controls feel a lot tighter and more responsive than in previous years.
Now, one additional knock I have to make on the game, even though it has improved, is the loading time. The loading time is measured by the size of the track and how many cars are in the race. The bigger the track and amount of cars, the more time it takes to load. Loading was somewhere between 20-30 seconds after hitting the ‘start’ button on the race. It doesn’t seem like a lot until you count that in your head. Granted, Polyphony should be commended for improving that loading time in comparison to GT5, but still the limitations of RAM and aging hardware really can’t be completely worked around. It’s better, but not nearly as good as it should be. I’m not sure that it’s Polyphony’s fault and I’m sure they’re going to go gangbusters on the PS4 version of the next GT.