Gran Turismo 6
|Developer: Polyphony Digital
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: December 6, 2013
Platform: PlayStation 3
Also Available For: N/A
Written By: Phillip Nelson
December 26, 2016
Alright, this review is rather late. It's three years late, in fact. The reason being that this is Gran Turismo, and that's a bad thing. The inescapable fact is that Gran Turismo enjoyed phenomenal sales and commanded a great deal of respect once upon a time, but the series is a washed-up has-been like its developers. It suffers from being Japanese, and the Japanese gaming industry is terrible about being archaic. They cling to the past and are slow and reluctant to evolve long after everyone else has moved so far forward that Japanese developers don't even show up in rear-view mirrors at all. Gran Turismo used to be the standard by which console racing games were judged, and then came Forza Motorsport which was viewed as the immitator, as the Pepsi to Gran Turismo as Coca Cola, but by the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 generation Forza replaced Gran Turismo as the gold standard and GT was left aging in the past clinging to memories of old glories. Turn 10 continued developing Forza into a better and better product and added features that GT continued to lack many years later, and Polyphony Digitial dragged their feet taking forever to squeeze out turds that were too little too late. When Gran Turismo 5 finally arrived, it was a mixed bag of some good and plenty of sub-par mediocrity that turned away millions of long-time fans. This contributed to the catasrophic fall of Gran Turismo 6, which sold half as well as the least-successful GT to date before it. To be perfectly honest, I gave the GT6 demo a fair chance, was underwhelmed to death by it, and wrote the entire franchise off altogether with utterly no interest in GT6 at all. The single, solitary reason for ever eventually giving in and buying it was to piddle with the eventually-released Track Path Editor, with which players can make their own tracks.
I feel that it's unfair to rate games based on what they eventually will or eventually may become, but rather that the right thing to do is to review it based on what is available when it appears for sale upon its initial release. People can't be expected to wait a year or two down the road for a series of patches to fix what's broken and add content that should have been there on day one. They experience what is there upon initial arrival, not what it might eventually become in the future. This is being written three years after release, which is both good and bad for the game were I to be unfair, but I will hold it against what it was and what was available at the end of 2013, not at the end of 2016. To its benefit, that means not comparing it against Forza games that followed, but unfortunately for GT6 that means denying it credit for Track Path Editor, which was absent at launch and failed to appear until two years down the road, when virtually all GT6 players had long since moved on as well as two years into a new generation that left PlayStation 3, the home of GT6, in the past.
In the early days of PlayStation (1), Sony was desperate for a mascot. At that time, Nintendo had plenty, and they were huge, wildly successful, and iconic. Sony had no identity in the gaming world and had no familiar faces. They adopted the terrible cartoon animal Crash Bandicoot to play the role of their marketing face, although his games were inferior to those of Nintendo's Mario, and he eventually appeared on other platforms. Eventually, Crash Bandicoot no longer served as Sony's mascot and nobody cared anyway. Gran Turismo was a key flagship for the original PlayStation, and it carried that torch with it to PlayStation 2. The GT franchise sold amazingly well, enjoyed a massive and devout fan base, and commanded great respect as a top-notch product. Because of its importance to Sony and the PlayStation brand, it seems odd that all involved failed to build a Gran Turismo for the new PlayStation 4 that launched at the end of 2013. There's absolutely no way that Polyphony Digital was taken by surprise by PS4, and with GT as such an iconic flagship for the PlayStation brand you'd figure they'd get plenty of information, resources, and assistance from Sony in building for PS4 as soon as game development for the new hardware was underway. Instead, however, GT6 appeared on PlayStation 3 in December of 2013, a couple weeks after the launch of the newer, better PlayStation 4. GT's biggest rival, Forza Motorsport, saw the release of Forza Motorsport 5 as a day-one launch title for the new Xbox One on November 22, 2013. Newer, better consoles were already on the market when GT6 finally arrived, and their top rival was already there with an iteration for the newer, superior hardware. This meant that GT6 was no longer being measured by competition on similar hardware, and still falling short of Xbox 360's Forza Motorsport 4 by a massive margine, but also Forza Motorsport 5 for superior architecture.
For Gran Turismo fans, it was bad enough that GT6 had no chance at stacking up against Forza Motorsport 5, but even worse was that it failed to even stack up against what was already on the market on Xbox 360 two years before that. Polyphony Digital had no chance of making GT6 look as pretty as what was possible on Xbox One, but they failed to improve on what was already broken and perfectly fixable on PlayStation 3. While it remains a mistery how such a key developer was unable to climb onboard the next-gen train to have a flagship ready or at least well into development for PS4, the fact that they continued to take longer to create a lesser product and failed to meet what was already perfectly possible on that generation stands as evidence to the incompetence of the developers and that they no longer belong in the modern industry.
After more than three years of not running my PS3, I had to download the massive system update, and then I got to begin the game updates; all twenty-one of them. It took most of the night. Then it started installing the updates, which took a couple hours even though the screen kept saying stuff like "eighteen minutes" for far longer than eighteen minutes. It's not terribly fair to hold that against the game, as it has been three years since it came out, and I'm sure wouldn't have been so bad if I bought it three years ago and got the updates over time as they came out. I'm just describing what I experienced just to play the game and what anybody picking it up now would experience. It's not a strike against the game because that would be unfair, considering the circumstances. It is what it is.
Then I booted the game and, just as expected, was met with the same stale, clinical presentation that is Polyphony Digital's signature. There's text boxes that pop up giving you information but absolutely no voices of any kind for any of it. I don't expect every message to be read to me by a voice actor, but I couldn't help but notice that no voices were utilized for anything, not even during the introduction. That isn't atrocious, as this is just a driving game, but it's something that could have been there but was not. Forza tends to use at least a bit of voice work but GT6 did not. While typical racing games try to throw exciting or visually-pleasing cut scenes at the player when they start playing, Gran Turismo 6 instead went with a dry, dull, stuffy, boring video showing some behind-the-scenes stuff in the automotive and motorsports worlds but that failed to move me as a player. I like educational and documentary stuff when it presents interesting stuff to me, but GT6 just presented stuff; not interesting stuff, but just stuff. Everything comes with boring, uninspired elevator music. There's a few seconds before going into a race where I'm presented with race information and a fluttering flag waving across the screen and the music there is exciting, up-beat, and belongs in a racing game, but the other 99% of the time I'm treated to musical tofu. The menus are still laid out in a way that looks as though it was meant for a mouse and keyboard on a computer rather than a controller or racing wheel on a PlayStation, and it feels a bit cluttered.
One of players' big complaints has been about the audio. Honestly, Gran Turismo sounds terrible. The road and tire noise feels like generic screeching almost like someone dragged the needle across a record, but the biggest complaint has been and remains with the cars, which still sound less like they're powered by Ford, Chevy, Ferrari, or Mitsubishi, and more like they're powered by Hoover or Bissell. The cars aren't just unremarkable and lame, but borderline annoying. There's nothing that sounds satisfying anywhere in the game, except for that brief music before I go into a "race". I'll get to why that is in quotation marks later.
Not only do car collisions sound underwhelming, like two bumper cars coming together, but they behave like it, too. Another ongoing complaint with the antiquated GT franchise is the utter lack of any sort of vehicle damage. Forza may not be accurate, but at least it makes an effort to represent vehicle damage, and not just cosmetic but mechanical. In Forza you can see scrapes and dents on the outside of your car when there's collisions, but it can also impact your car's performce in a range of ways, from throwing your steering way off to loss of power, from uneven or inability to brake to a faulty transmission failing to shift gears or missing gears. In Gran Turismo, on the other hand, you can speed along at 200 MPH straight into a concrete wall without even lifting off the throttle and your car will carelessly bounce off with no consequences of any kind save for being slowed down. Not only will your car suffer no performance loss of any kind, but it won't even show dents or even scuffed paint. It's like the whole world is built by Nerf or Playskool. It's not very convincing and difficult taking this seriously as a "real driving simulator" when your car doesn't notice even the worst of impacts and can't even knick its paint. We might just as well be racing bumper cars.
Speaking of paint, we still don't have a livery editor yet. Forza has had one for years and GT players have wanted one, but we still don't have it. It's still a chore to even just paint my cars what I want. I went into the paint shop to repaint my Mustang and virtually nothing was available to me. In Forza, even if you don't want to write words, draw pictures, or slap logos onto your car, you still have a broad range of paint options available at all times right from the start and don't have to leap through any hoops to get the colors or paints that you want. You can go with a matte black, a glossy red, a metallic blue, shiny gold, or wood panel if you wish. In GT, good luck with painting your car what you want. Maybe if you can do a favor for a mob boss or something...
The most important part of a racing game is the actual racing, though, and at least they get that right..., right? Well..., no..., not at all. It's pretty terrible, in fact. When you watch racing on television, in person at your local dirt oval, or play any other racing game, you get a pack of cars clustered close together when the race begins and action ensues from there. That's still not the case in Gran Turismo 6. Races still begin with rolling starts, which isn't catastrophic and some racing series do that in the real world, but a lot of racing series use standing starts, and standing starts are normal in racing games, but GT6 loves rolling starts. What's worse, though, is that you don't start with a close pack, but rather there's a parade of cars strung out ahead of you. Nobody begins side-by-side or even close to anyone, but rather each position is several car lengths ahead or behind the next, and this is through the entire field. That isn't a race. That's presenting me with a chore. "Here, here's some slower traffic. Now, go catch them and pass them." That's not exciting. It's not compelling. It doesn't feel like racing, and doesn't feel remotely authentic.
Further still, you don't even get proper fields of competitors early on. You can run dozens of races without ever seeing more than six cars total on track, including yourself. There's you and five other cars. Even in amateur, local-level motorsports there's more cars on the track than that, but in GT6 you're presented immediately with baren wastelands for race tracks. Even if you disregard Forza Motorsport 5 upping their game to a sixteen-car field in every single race, even though FM5 technically did arrive before GT6 did, and with us of course entirely disregarding FM6 and its twenty-four-car fields a couple years later, even FM4 on Xbox 360 still had twelve-car races standard, but GT6 presents new players with just six. They're capturing all the exciting thrills of... parking a car in a parking lot... It's not thrilling. They practically challenge you to enjoy it.
Another massive strike against the franchise in general, the developers, and GT6 are the outdated car models. I don't mean models that appeared in previous games but were updated for GT6, but rather they appeared in older games on older hardware and were copy-pasted as-is into the game without improving the models. GT5 boasted over a thousand cars, and that sounded like a lot, but eighty percent of those were lifted straight from older games on older hardware. Most of the game looked not like a PlayStation 3 game but rather like a PlayStation 2 game, mainly because most of it actually was a PlayStation 2 game. That didn't change for GT6.
Above is a photo that I took using the game's built-in photo mode. Please make sure to click on it to study it in full size. That unremarkable turd is the gift car that the game gave me on my birthday. It's not so bad that it's an old, ordinary car, as there's people that are into that, but what is more disappointing is that my birthday gift was copy-pasted directly from Gran Turismo 4 on PlayStation 2 back in December of 2004. That model was not only a generation old but nine years old when it was again recycled for Gran Turismo 6. The developers felt no shame about recycling something that looks so horrible. It's the same with that track, which again is similarly recycled from years earlier. If you're not quite convinced that this car model looks as terrible as I say, check out the next photo. It gets a closer look at the mediocrity.
Note not only the car's basic geometry, crafted from a grossly low number of polygons for a 2013 PS3 release, but that most details aren't even modeled at all but rather are crudely painted on, in low resolution. Note the blocky windscreen wipers painted onto the windshield, the metal along the edge of the side window being painted in low resolution that looks like Lego blocks, and that the edge of the door is just a line painted onto the body rather than an actual, modelled edge of body work. Look at the wheel well that makes it look like the car is built from Lego bricks. What is this, Lego Gran Turismo? Polyphony Digital felt no shame recycling this trash. They dusted it off and dropped it into the game to pad the numbers and felt that quantity was more important than quality. Again, they did the same thing with the tracks, as locations like Tokyo or Madrid look nice but recycled junk like Trial Mountain are just plain awful.
What you can't tell from those particular images is the complete absence of interiors in most cars. In GT5 Polyphony Digital broke the car list down into "Premium" and "Standard", although really they should have called them "Standard" and "Sub-Standard", where the Premium cars were the beautiful models crafted for GT5 for the PS3 hardware, while the Standard cars were recycled garbage from PlayStation 2 and those models not only looked terrible on the outside but had nothing inside them at all. This is mainly because GT5 was the first title in the series to allow players to view the game from inside the cockpit, but because four out of five cars had no interior to speak of you didn't have the option to drive in cockpit view in the Standard models until a subsequent patch offered solid blackness inside the cars and allowed you to sit in that blackness. In GT6 they instead break them down into those cars with cockpits and those without, the latter being described as "simple" even though really it should say "non-existant". Once again, most cars you select don't have anything modeled inside them at all, and you sit in empty blackness. It's like a child carved up cardboard boxes and taped them together into a crude frame of a car, painted it black, and pretended they were driving a real car, except that's what the developers gave us to sit inside in Gran Turismo 6, as in GT5 before it.
Why are the default controller settings mapping throttle and brake to the face buttons? What is this, Super Nintendo? We've been using the analog triggers for throttle and brake for many years and through many games on many platforms but the antiquated developers of Gran Turismo still cling to using regular face buttons for things that are controlled by pedals in an actual car. Six full games into the series and I still have to remap all my buttons so that I can operate the throttle and brakes with triggers. That's not technically awful, but it is definitely stupid and demonstrates poor judgment from the developers.
The game isn't even all that pretty to look at, and that's even disregarding the hundreds of cars recycled from PlayStation 2 and the fact that new consoles were on the market by the time GT6 splashed into the toilet bowl. There's plenty of aliasing, pixel flickering, pop-in, and questionable behavior from shadows on surfaces, with shadows appearing and vanishing and then reappearing, which not only looks bad but is distracting. This poor performance might be a result of the one positive that I have to say of the game. While Forza Motorsport had went with locked, baked-in time of day and weather, the time of day and weather actually varies in Gran Turismo 6, and in GT5 before it. The same setting can feature different weather and be raced at different times of the day and night, unlike Forza Motorsport where you got one fixed time and didn't get weather at all until FM6, where it was still either on or off rather than dynamic. Rain looked and felt better in the much older F1 2010, but at least it's there in GT6.
In the end, it's difficult to recommend Gran Turismo 6. It's not horrible. It's just unremarkable and dull. It ticks the check boxes required to be a racing game, as there's cars, tracks, and races to run, but it's not any more than the sum of its parts and the parts are largely mediocre. It's sort of like building a new car with some nice new parts but also a lot of old, rusty, worn-out parts that just don't hold up today. You wouldn't want a car that's built mostly of rickety, rusty parts barely holding together, but that's basically what GT6 is. It gets the job done, but that's about it.
|If you want a more realistic racing game but don't own a new-gen console or any Xbox of any kind, you can settle for Gran Turismo 6, but if you have an Xbox 360 or Xbox One you're way better off going with Forza Motorsport because it is what GT used to be - the standard by which all console racing games are judged.|
|Like||Time of day and weather can vary rather than being one fixed time or weather condition.|
|Dislike||Shameless recycling of grossly inferior, outdated models, lifeless presentation, terrible audio everywhere, and dull races that don't even feel like races.|