Gran Turismo 6 struggles to find the line between quantity and quality
Polyphony Digital's latest excels in familiar ways, but critics lament the lack of new ideas
By the time Gran Turismo 5 finally released on PlayStation 3, it was difficult to know whether to applaud or sigh. Launching more than five years after its reveal at E3 in 2005, Polyphony Digital's sprawling, intricate game was justly praised by the critics, but there was a creeping sense that it wasn't quite worth the wait. Like Blizzard's Diablo 3 or Remedy's Alan Wake, Gran Turismo 5's development surpassed the point where the finished product can satisfy the expectation, no matter how polished or entertaining it proves to be.
"There's an age old argument that simulation racing games are 'just cars going around in circles' - Gran Turismo 6 has no retort"
Fans of the series have not been forced to suffer such a protracted development again. Gran Turismo 6 is here after a mere three years, ready to breathe fresh life into a console now very much in the shadow of the new generation. Most reviewers seem to agree that, at times, Polyphony Digital's visual work looks like it belongs on a PlayStation 4, but just as many note a striking inconsistency in the standard of execution.
Chief among them is EGM, which gives the game 7 out of 10 for excelling in all of the familiar ways, and falling short with equivalent predictability. Polyphony Digital seems hesitant to ring in the changes in its flagship series, and the result is a game that feels like an update rather than a, "true sequel.
"[The] aspects that serve as cornerstones for a good racing sim remain, [but] the flaws of the past linger in the experience as well-most markedly the awful visuals. Some minor improvements have been made, such as the convoluted user interface of past games being overhauled. Once you get into a race, however, the photorealistic backgrounds in the distance may look nice, but everything on or around the immediate track area looks like something from the start of the PS3 generation-not the end of it.
"And the screen tearing! Dear god the screen tearing! My head started to hurt after about an hour, due to the out-of-sync refresh and framerate drops, especially when hitting higher speeds or in stormy weather. Flaws like this feel amplified in a racing game because of the split-second decisions players have to make. I had to call in a couple of the other EGM editors to confirm that this was what I was seeing, since these problems - prevalent in GT5 - still clearly plague the series three years later."
IGN seems similarly baffled by Polyphony's desire to take a confident step forwards, then another two in retreat. Gran Turismo 6 is, it claims, "a remarkable racing game," and improvement on its predecessor that sets new standards for handling and choice of both cars and tracks. But an absence of progress in several areas of lingering concern - both damage modelling and sound are criticised in a number of reviews - is difficult to justify in the series' sixth entry, and so the game is awarded a measured 8 out of 10.
"Familiar old series gripes... partially undermine everything developer Polyphony does so right, and they're gripes that are persistently nibbling away at the foundations of this genre titan.
"Familiar old series gripes partially undermine everything developer Polyphony does so right"
"It definitely does feel like GT6 focuses on car quantity over quality in other departments. While it's a huge roster, it's a list that remains heavily weighted towards cars from the '90s and early 2000s that appeared in GT3 and GT4... There are many, many amazing cars here and the 1,200-car milestone is a neat bullet point, but there are also plenty of inclusions that are gratuitous padding at best. Do you know the difference between a 2002 Daihatsu Copen Active Top and a 2002 Daihatsu Copen Detachable Top? Because I don't know that I do. Do we really continue to need both? And just because Nissan painted a Skyline Midnight Purple doesn't mean you get to count it twice, Polyphony."
The sense that Gran Turismo 6 is attempting to coast on the strength of its exhaustive list of cars and tracks - a legitimate benefit, to be fair - crops up in a number of reviews. Videogamer seems the most aggrieved, awarding it a 6 out of 10, one of the lowest scores published at the time of writing. There are, the bemused reviewer notes, 101 different Mazdas in the game, and this opulence of choice disguises a host of glaring flaws.
"The numbers have phased into insignificance at this point, but Gran Turismo 6 is unparalleled in its number of cars, tracks and intricate options for customisation. With over 1200 vehicles and 100 courses, there's no denying the sheer level of content here, but Gran Turismo 6 is merely an expansion, not an evolution.
"From the very start, Gran Turismo 6 feels dated. Its menus are convoluted and make little sense. For example, the button that means 'continue' is actually called 'exit', and is hidden past lots of needless options. When buying cars for events, you have to manually check what type of vehicle you need, then head to the dealership - there's no way to simply view and buy eligible vehicles for particular championships. With 101 Mazdas to sort through, it's nonsensical and frustrating.
"There's an age old argument that simulation racing games are 'just cars going around in circles' - Gran Turismo 6 has no retort."
But Polygon does, opening its 9 out of 10 review on the exact sentiment with which Videogamer's closes. Presumably, there was no contact between the two critics , but the coincidence underlines a very important point. When it comes to a series like Gran Turismo - a paragon of excellence in its genre for more than 15 years - a certain amount of quality is assumed, and goes largely unremarked upon in reviews. Gran Turismo remains an excellent product in almost all of the things that really matter to a simulation racing game, and, more importantly, to the series' fiercely loyal base of fans. To one person, the enormous effort applied to car models while other areas lag behind can seem foolhardy, to another it is evidence that Polyphony Digital understands its priorities.
"Before going into the game, those cars meant nothing to me; Gran Turismo 6 was able to forge a relationship and make me understand them"
"If you're not into racing games, it can be easy to dismiss them as repetitive - 'You're just driving in circles.'
"Gran Turismo's passion for that connection between man and machine has never been more obvious than in this latest iteration. It comes across in the huge number of locales you can race at, the variety of event types and the unbelievably lengthy list of vehicles available in the game. But developer Polyphony Digital doesn't just use those intimidating numbers as a crutch or a mere back-of-the-box bullet point. It actively celebrates how many things can be done with cars and how different they can all feel.
"Even as someone who doesn't own a car and barely drives, I found myself deeply interested in the performance of each vehicle and how it related to my own play style. I discovered that I loved the handling and acceleration offered by the Camaro SS '10, while it took me hours to perfect cornering without flying off of the track in a powerful Nissan GT-R '12.
"Before going into the game, those cars meant nothing to me; Gran Turismo 6 was able to forge a relationship and make me understand them."
As noted in Polygon's review, Gran Turismo 6's online functions will only be available following a day-one patch. As such, reviewers were not able to properly assess the game's implementation of micro-transactions, which have the potential to create a similar controversy to that which greeted Turn 10's Forza 5.