Our car-loving pals at Jalopnik know their racing games. They also know cars. Who better to tell you what the deal is with Gran Turismo 6, the big new PS3 game out today?
The 1998 Subaru 22B STI is one of my favorite cars. I immediately went and bought it in GT6, expecting an amazing experience. It drives like it's in a game from 2013. It looks like it's in a game from 1998. This is the juxtaposition that is Gran Turismo 6.
On the surface, GT6 has everything that you'd want from a racing game. There are 1,207 cars and 29 circuits, which is 15 more tracks and a whopping 1,000 more cars than are featured in the just released Forza 5.
But like GT5, GT6 has premium cars and standard cars. Premium cars are unbelievably real in appearance. While they are less detailed than the cars in Forza 5, there is something about Polyphony's aesthetic that makes the cars look and feel warmer, more authentic. They look like real cars that would drive on real roads, not idealized, perfected visions of those cars.
Unfortunately, that can't be said for all of the cars in the game. The vast majority of cars in GT6 date back to its PS2 days, cars like the Subaru 22B. There is no interior, you can't flash your headlights, reverse lights don't work, edges are rough. It doesn't even look good for a PS2. That also means that even though there are 1,207 cars, a lot of them are derivatives, and some key cars are still missing. New Lotus Exige? Nope. Pagani Zonda F? Nope. Ferrari F12? No.
For someone like Kaz Yamauchi, a man with a pursuit of perfection so strong that his GT games are almost constantly delayed, it seems like car count has been forced on him by bean counters, and the cars he really loves get the full-on premium treatment.
All commercial products require choices, and one choice they made was to develop a lunar rover minigame... a minigame that looks gorgeous, takes forever to complete, and is infuriating. It's a puzzling inclusion, and time could have been spent building more premium cars instead of sending us to space. Thankfully, the new course models are gorgeous. Willow Springs looks like a live film of the track, and it must have taken ages to get this level of detail and beauty into the course. It's way better than anything I've ever seen on a PS3. But that's Gran Turismo, isn't it? A gorgeous game that can simultaneously excite and infuriate you.
With some questionable choices made in the development process, you'd expect that gameplay suffers. It doesn't. While the AI isn't as good as Forza's Drivatar system (can't speak for online, that goes live when the game launches), they aren't total robots anymore. Physics are distinctly different from car to car, with a different driving style required to get the best out of each one. Some work on audio means that every car finally doesn't sound like a vacuum cleaner. You can actually see the suspension pitch and roll, weight transfer feels real and accurate. As far as driving goes, GT6 is a big win whether you use a controller or a wheel. I've played Forza 5, and while that has improved massively in every quantifiable way, I still think GT is the better driving game. I am a lifetime GT fan, but it still feels more real to me.
The problem is that for all the developments that have been made to the driving experience, menus seem to have taken a step back. In license tests (yes, they still exist), you can't go from one event to another in that menu. You have to go back a layer and then select the next step. It's the same in other challenges too. Add in additional loading times (which aren't particularly fast), and a mistaken press of a button can make you mad enough to turn the game right off. Loading times do decrease as you play on, but at the beginning, when you're retrying things over and over, that's when it gets the most infuriating.
What you're getting with GT6 is a great playing game that feels both new and old in the graphics department, and frustrating events that some hate and others deem challenging. Is it worth the money? Sure. Would I rather see Polyphony start over from scratch and give me 200 cars like Forza 5 and totally redo every single aspect? Hell. Yes.
Hopefully that's the plan when the series moves to PS4.