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Gran Turismo 6

Gran Turismo 6: One Game, Two Verdicts

Two of Gamereactor's biggest racing fans - Petter Hegevall and Thomas Blichfeldt - have spent the last week playing Polyphony's latest.

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Given their impressions and verdicts, we've decided to run both reviews - two different opinions and scores - on Gran Turismo 6. You can read both reviews over the next few pages.

Gran Turismo 6 Review
Petter Hegevall

Gran Turismo 6

By now everyone knows already that Sony's popular, genre-defining racing series is "The real driving simulator". Because that's what we've been fed for fifteen years.

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But somewhere along the way, amidst all those cleverly-designed marketing tricks and all those initiated talks on how a real racing car behaves - the game has been forgotten. And when the game provides neither sufficient entertainment nor a sufficiently realistic driving feel, well, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that the game series lost all of its original appeal.

It hurts to write the following, but it has to be done; Gran Turismo 6 is a mediocre racing game and one of the year's biggest disappointments.

Just as in Need for Speed, Grid or Forza Motorsport, Gran Turismo 6 begins with a race where I'm thrown into a tuned race car and asked to "show what I can do" right after the intro movie. A positive improvement that, just like in the games mentioned, provides a picture of what the racing will be like later in the game.

Although these initial minutes are different compared to the last five games, it takes only 120 seconds before I have to choose between a Volkswagen Polo, Ford Fiesta, Honda Jazz and Suzuki Swift. I choose the Honda. It has a 1.1-liter engine and sports 87 horsepowers. Spicy. The next four hours are, as usual, an incredibly slow and boring process where I torture myself through extremely slow contests to win money in order to tune my Honda Jazz.

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Gran Turismo 6

I understand the difficulty in trying to make drastic changes in the concept that made Gran Turismo a genre-changer fifteen years ago. I understand that Kazunori Yamauchi does not want to compromise on the basic recipe, but after the first five hours of GT6, I find it difficult to agree with the conservative approach.

My orange Honda and I drive around at 88 km/h, shuffling ourselves through wide asphalt curves like a concrete refrigerator on wheels and I am forced to spend all the money that I earn in competitions to tune up what looks, and acts, like a very slow mini-van. As far as racing goes, it's as bad as it gets.

The Career, as I said, is nothing new. It hardly comes as a shock, rather the opposite, but I had hoped that Polyphony would have bettered it this time round. Licence tests have also been incorporated into a mandatory trial in this sixth installation, which makes progression through the game's career mode one of the most tired and least entertaining gaming experiences of the whole year for me.

To gain access to the various racing classes I need to obtain a license for each of the six divisions. Each licence contains six separate tests. 36 driver's licence tests all told. The strange thing is how these have been distributed in the game.

For even if the driver's licence system was a good idea in the series' beginning, it is also counterproductive and an ill-advised design choice. It isn't a case of driving one short race before I'm hauled into driving school to learn the basics. No. I race nine times before Polyphony forces me to step into a driving school car and ask me to show that I've understood where the brake pedal is located. It's weird considering that the first race - before a drivers licence has even entered the picture - is packed with tutorial-texts and tips.

After nine races, loads of mandatory tips on braking points and gears and how to use the car's acceleration force, I'm going into the driver's licence phase, which takes a long time to complete - despite being significantly less severe than in previous games.

This makes Gran Turismo 6, just like its predecessor, feel like two different games with two different teams working on different parts that are ultimately just clamped together with no real thought put into it.

And I curse. I curse and grind my teeth during those miserable, wretched driving licence tests. Because even if they can be done in fifteen minutes before I can jump on to the next racing division, I know that I will have to redo everything again in about half an hour when it's time to unlock the next stage.

This feels like a big middle finger to those who just paid full price for a racing game where the content is marketed as pumped with adrenaline and action-packed. Everything is locked. As as player I'm continually punished with slow moments that prey on my patience and makes Gran Turismo 6 feel like one big annoyance for extended periods of time.

Gran Turismo 6

The presentation doesn't help. The loading times and the amount of button presses needed to get where you're going leaves a lot to be desired.

In the predecessor there were serious problems with how content had been structured and placed in the menus, and many of these have been solved in Gran Turismo 6. But new problems arise and even though the main menu is easier to navigate, this game is a fiasco in terms of presentation in several ways. Just the fact that it takes nine button pushes for me to step out from one won race and into the next contest speaks volumes.

Polyphony has once again refused to listen to criticism from the most diehard fans and for the sixth time, the cursor automatically places itself on "Retry" after each race instead of adding a button for "Next Race". If you want to skip to the next race in a particular division, you have to finish the race, finish the replay and then move the cursor six steps to the left and then click the button that takes you back to the main menu. A trifle too many that repeats over and over for those who intend to spend 30+ hours with Gran Turismo 6. The fact that they also failed with a cohesive graphical presentation this time as well hardly makes things much better.

Music is a disparate blend of college hardcore, midi hard rock and elevator jazz, while menus are all cool classy fonts against semi-transparent backgrounds. Again it feels as if there's been multiple teams working on both parts of the game - and there's been no communication between them. The interface during actual driving can thankfully be turned off.

Before release, Sony had talked a lot about how they completely renovated the physics engine in Gran Turismo. The GT Academy demo from this summer hinted at slightly improved tire physics which is included in the finished game.

But the improvements are minimal and mostly insignificant. Cars have a little bit more lateral grip than in the previous game, but it's also the only change that really matters relating to tire physics. How the rubber responds to heat and wear is supposedly taken into account now as well: it's not noticeable at all.

Regarding the car physics, my opinion over the last couple of years still stands. It feels dead. The driving sensation is mechanical, lifeless and feels more like being in a railcar than in a 600 horsepower super strong FIA GT car.

Gran Turismo 6 does not contain a hint of the dynamics, event richness, unpredictability and, above all, speed that real racing does, and in that regard Polyphony is several steps behind Turn 10 who with Forza Motorsport 4, found quite the right balance between torque and peak power.

Gran Turismo 6

Even if I turn off all of the aids and set down the traction control function to "0", it's nearly impossible to spin from a standstill with a 662 horse-power strong Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500, which of course is as lifelike as an episode of Power Rangers.

Polyphony has failed in creating momentum of tire grip and thus killed the excitement of all the racing that this game contains. The vital racing rule - not to force the tires to do two things at the same time - does not apply to anything other than my Honda Jazz, which slides straight along the road no matter how much I turn.

Moving the center of gravity too hastily in a Nissan GT-R GT3 in reality causes you to lose grip in either the front or rear. In this game, it never feels dangerous or risky to throw around cars like bowling balls, as it's almost impossible to lose traction completely.

Trying to simulate the experience behind the wheel of a race car is obviously very difficult. We're talking about a highly subjective experience that ultimately you can't measure. Not entirely. For although it is possible to measure exactly where the center of gravity of the car is dependent on how much brake/gas the driver uses , it is impossible to accurately measure the feeling behind the wheel. Something that the developers behind games like GTR 2, rFactor, Netkar, iRacing and Live for Speed have talked a lot about over the years.

Polyphony, for the sixth time, pays absolutely no attention whatsoever to this, to work out how they think it feels like to sit behind the wheel of a track car with a dry weight of 1200 kg and over 600 horsepower under the hood. The result is a lifeless, sterile racing experience that does not remind me very much about how it actually is to run the car on the track in real life. My own car a Nissan GT-R (R35) is included in the game and even if they've captured the look both out and inside, the sense of driving it is completely wrong.

Gran Turismo 6

The same applies, for example, to the Mitsubishi Evolution IX that behaves like a 40 ton steam iron that just shuffles straight ahead in corners. The Evo IX is, in reality, just the opposite to the Polyphony variant, an incredibly playful, light and easy to drive car. Provoke it hard and step into the curves and it's very easy to force out the car's rear end. In Gran Turismo 6, it is impossible to even try to get the car to do just that. Instead, it behaves just like a fully loaded Nissan Primera 1.8 L (of which there are five different models in the game).

While asphalt physics contain weaknesses, gravel and snow are even worse. The rally parts in Gran Turismo 6 remain one of the worst that can be found in the whole sub-genre. The amount of horizontal traction on gravel is completely non-existent and they slide about 4 inches above the ground like wet soap.

The snow physics are a bit better, but it's still not even close to how it really feels on packed, hard snow. This comes with the fact that the rally circuits (in whatever form) feels thrown together and are as short as they are pointless. I like variety, but once again including a rally part which does not measure up feels unacceptable.

The racing aspect that works best in Gran Turismo 6 is the drifting. Here Polyphony completely renovated the physics and manage to get close to how it feels to provoke a rear wheel drive sports car. The driving during drifts is the single best thing about the whole game and something I will continue to spend time with.

Graphically, time has caught up with Kazunori Yamauchi's series. Gran Turismo 6 is rendered at 60 frames per second, but it has also creates some problems. The fact that during several races the framerate fell from 60 to just over 15 feels like pure carelessness given that this is the studio's third PlayStation 3 game and based on the same graphics technology.

Gran Turismo 6

The game's lighting often comes across as far too flat. Crisp effects like "bloom" and HDR lighting have no place in a simulator, but Gran Turismo 6 looks a little too flat in direct comparison with Forza Motorsport 4 and the unstable screen refresh rate doesn't help matters.

Along with the pale presentation and long loading times, it really feels like it's time for Polyphony to dispose of this graphics engine, start over with new technology for the PlayStation 4 and get their priorities straight.

Why you'd choose to insert more mini-vans, weak cars and different variations of the Nissan Primera, and model the standard cars more or less directly from PS2's Gran Turismo 4 is beyond me.

The same applies to the inclusion of the moon buggy, the weak track editor, rally races and the karting section - which should have dropped in favour of more focus on the game's basic driving feel. Huge parts of this game suffer from the same problems as Gran Turismo 5, but for a number reasons it becomes even more evident here.

It does not help matters either that the sound is poor. The engines and sound effects are just as badly done as I had feared; a Corvette Stingray 2014 sounds like a sewing machine. Collisions sound as if two empty lunch boxes are being pounded against each other.

Given how incredibly capable PlayStation 3 is purely in terms of audio it's sad that Polyphony and Sony once again garb a lavish racing game with lousy sound.

The online portion has been quite heavily reworked. The presentation is better, it's smoother and there are more features. I like the fact that the studio really take online racing seriously when it comes to choice and set-up.

But no matter whether I can create my own race, teams and tournaments, it's still the same lifeless and dull driving experience at its core. Sure it's better to compete against human opposition rather than the stupid AI, but ultimately Gran Turismo 6's flawed driving feel, poor audio and unstable framerate cripples it.

I'd really hoped that Polyphony, with Kazunori Yamauchi at the helm would have succeeded in resolving the issues that the game series has had this past decade. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Gran Turismo 6 feels like a dull expansion that suffers from too many problems. Although many of the ingredients have great potential and even work well, the positives are heavily outweighed by the negatives.

Verdict: 5/10

Head over to the next page for Blichfeldt's review.

Gran Turismo 6 Review
Thomas Blichfeldt

Gran Turismo 6

Most of us have at one time or another witnessed a superstar who obviously did not realise that his time in the limelight was over several years ago, and that his recent performances could be mistaken for poor copies of the stuff he was once famous for.

Few manage to quit while at the top of their game. Or reinvent themselves into something new and equally great. That's when the calls for retirement grow louder and louder.

With so many virtual miles spent together, memories of several console generations and dozens of worn-out controllers and lots of good experiences when the series was still the king of the genre, it's almost hurtful to realise that the Gran Turismo series can no longer keep up with the competition.

Back in 2010 when Gran Turismo 5 was released, I had trouble understanding Polyphony Digital's reluctance to take inspiration from its competitors in order to move with the times. In GT6 it appears, at first, as if they have listened to the criticism. The game is quick to put you in a race so that it supposedly can learn what type of driver you are.

Gran Turismo 6

To my surprise I noted that it was not as violent a start to racing as with the Fiat 500 Abarth in Forza Motorsport 4, but rather something much more family friendly. Aboard my Honda Fit RS 10 family sled, I was asked to win races and earn enough to buy something better... and that takes time in a car as nippy as a brick.

With the first gold cups placed on the mantelpiece and cold hard cash in an account, you get the opportunity to progress to a new and more challenging class. As you know from the series already, that means first paying a visit to the DVLA to prove you have the skills to proceed.

Licences were fun back on PSOne, but have absolutely no right being in a modern title when the rest of the genre gives you the right to do whatever you want with your time. Even stupider is the fact that the lessons you have to learn to earn the licence are covering things you couldn't help but learn in all the previous races you've won to earn the opportunity to win a licence and advance.

Hunting licences will also let you experience a repeat of a problem that fans of the series has asked the developer to correct for years. Instead of letting you jump from race to race through the revolutionary "Next Race" button like so many games today you're forced to go back to menus in between each race simply to select the next race. Quite a chore. That may sound like a small deficiency, and could potentially have been, if it not that so many other elements reinforce it.

I still point out Gran Turismo 5 as having one of the most cluttered and unfriendly menu systems I've ever seen in a game. Fortunately, they have been cleared up a bit.

The new system now guides the player roughly in the right direction - with fine descriptions to detail the next race, workshop or a trip to the garage. It cannot be labelled minimalistic, as the next step possibilities fill nearly half the screen. Nevertheless, the failings occur when you have to drive through a huge number of sub-menus, button presses and loading times just to arrive at a race.

A normal race will take between thirty seconds and one and a half minutes to load, and will also send you through five different menus (and five button presses), then ask you to press the controller nine times when the race finishes before you can surface at the start menu. The time spent outside of racing is enormous as frustration grows.

I could have ignored all of this if GT6 brought the series back to pole position in the genre it once so easily dominated thanks to it's driving.

Gran Turismo 6

With a truly huge number of cars there's something here for everyone. Whether you're here for GT race cars, super cars, SUVs, karting - you will likely be able to find something to suit your interests. That the tracks include Silverstone, Fuji Speedway, Suzuka, Nurburgring and even beautiful urban networks, suggest a lot of virtual asphalt to realise your dreams of motorsport.

When Kazunori Yamauchi finally opened up about Gran Turismo 6, one of the first things he mentioned was that the new title would include a brand new physics system, with far greater precision that'd better interpret horse-power battles with asphalt. That system seemingly never materialises, and we again have to settle with heavy vehicles, regardless of their described weight, handling like they're filled with cement.

The experience is made all the more frustrating by the fact that the game seems, at times, to abandon the rules of physics. Braking suddenly or colliding rewards you with the unexpected response of your car attempting a deranged techno dance as the car's front rapidly jumps from side to side. It looks strange, has nothing to do with reality, and makes the whole experience completely unpredictable.

Improvements are insanely well-hidden behind the game's automatic help systems which are enabled by default. If you want something that's remotely reminiscent of reality, you should start by turning the game traction control off completely and then gradually do the same with all the other options that make for such an underwhelming experience from the start.

It probably aounds a bit elitist, but unlike several of its competitors such choices are simply necessity in GT6 because the game, by default, is set up completely wrong and offers a sterile driving experience. If you don't tweak, you can use the tracks like a pinball machine without penalty, and gain faster lap times than would be possible if you followed the planned route. No matter what you're driving on - asphalt, gravel or snow - you'll feel no difference in the traction. It's crazy.

Gran Turismo 6

No matter what options you turn on or off, it'll do nothing about the opposition you encounter, unless you go online. The AI is simply some of the worst I've seen in the genre.

When the series originally took its first tentative drive on PSOne, the technology excused why opponents followed fixed routes on the tracks. Why is it the same fifteen years later? Overtaking does not require any tactics at all.

It amazes me that GT6 fails to address so many of the franchise's problems, filling the game with more content rather than fixing the more basic problems. It's as if the developers have no wish to be inspired by advancements in the rest of the genre.

Why is there still no system that recommends me a car for each race? Why is there not a more efficient way to trawl through the car database? Why can I still do not get the game to offer a car optimisation for upcoming races? Why does it feel as if all the cars are surrounded by force shields with rubber-like elasticity? And why oh why is it not possible for me to downgrade my cars again, taking off some of the bought tuning parts? Instead I am faced with a situation where I am forced to buy a new car every time I make the mistake of over-tuning one of my previous purchases and making it unsuitable for the next race.

Gran Turismo 5 raised the question as to whether the series was leading the racing genre anymore. Gran Turismo 6 offers a definite answer. Gran Turismo is no longer the superstar it once was. The world is a different place today, and so is the racing genre.

Verdict: 6/10

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REVIEW. Written by Thomas Blichfeldt

"It amazes me that GT6 fails to address so many of the franchise's problems, filling the game with more content rather than fixing the more basic problems."

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