Gran Turismo 6 offers more than 1200 playable cars, 37 track locations, 100 circuit layouts and an array of ambient light and weather condition settings.
It is, according to the game’s maker, Sony, ‘the most realistic driving experience available without actually getting into a car.’ We’ll be the judge of that…
What’s new in Gran Turismo 6?
Not all of the cars. Most are updated versions of GT’s existing models, improved with even sharper, photorealistic graphics and more life-like handling, thanks to the game’s totally new physics engine – ‘even better handling was the biggest request from gamers’, says Sony. There are 120 brand new cars for GT6, though headline new poster cars like the McLaren P1, LaFerrari and all Porsches are conspicuous by their absence.
More cars will be available to download at a later date, but unlike archrival Forza Motorsport 5, Sony’s GT6 isn’t going after the lucrative but controversial buy-in-game model in earnest. There’s a real mix of new metal, though, right from the classic Alpine A110 and Ferrari 250 GT of the 1960s, up to the 2013-model year Pagani Huayra, with its updated aero package, and last season’s GT3 endurance racers.
New tracks include Australia’s Mount Panorama (Bathurst) circuit, Spa Francorchamps, as well as the revised Silverstone complex. All 12.4miles of the Nurburgring Nordeschliefe (absent from Forza 5) is present, and you can vary anything from time of day to wind direction and the chance of rain. In real-time 24-hour endurance races, the game will automatically simulate changes in ambient and track temperature, and sun height.
After dark, the sky above Le Mans accurately replicates the starts visible on the night of 22-23 June 2013. With attention to detail like that, it’s no wonder GT6 also goes to town on tyre wear and degradation simulation, and a baffling array of car set-up personalisation. Forget new wheels and turbo upgrades – there are 952 choices of helmet style alone for your driver avatar, and 1300 race suits. You sense that with GT6, Sony is actively showing off. Whether it's flexing its investment and idea muscle in the right area is open for debate.
Is it more user-friendly?
Yes. The menus are cleaner looking and simpler to navigate, streamlining the set-up process and turning the creation of a race and choosing of a car from a chore into a kid-in-sweet-shop joy. It’s a clear representation of where GT has learnt from Forza: Sony admits: ‘We’ve learned to know and respect our enemy’.
Where the user interface falls down is in setting up the car to your own tastes. Say you’re at a track day, or racing in real life. If the conditions change (rain, tyres going off) you might dial the traction or stability control back up, or if you’re in something really serious, adjust your brake balance. In GT6, you still can’t make these changes from the pause menu during a race. In fact, once you’ve set up your preferences at the main menu, they’re locked in until you go back and change them – shunning the option to fiddle in the race.
That’d add some real play value – why not turn off your safety net if you’ve built up a big lead over the field? Loading times are par for the course – GT6 runs on PlayStation 3 only, rather than the more powerful, sleek new PS4, with its remodelled touchpad controller.
Is the handling noticeably better?
Get a car out of shape and hands down, GT6 is the most realistic virtual driving experience ever. The car will not just settle back onto its line: it’ll pitch and shimmy, exaggerate over cambers, and if you over-correct, you’re in the barrier (where damage still looks like a poorly-rendered afterthought). That said, for deliberately misbehaving, GT6 still doesn’t feel entirely comfortable.
Even in the dedicated drift mode, the Jaguar XKR-S we selected preferred to understeer, despite full 542bhp and handbrake provocation. GT6 encourages you to drive neatly, and achieve the perfect lap time, rather than play the game simply for a laugh. For a particular type of gamer (of which there are plenty), that’s a massive source of appeal. If not, Forza indulges the oversteer freaks.
The online interface has been reworked for shorter waiting times in loading lobbies and a greater choice of challenges. Plus, there will soon be 20 ‘Vision Gran Turismo’ concept cars playable exclusively in GT6, including mid-engined supercars from Tesla and Aston Martin, plus a wild BMW M4. The first ‘VGT’ concept is the AMG Vision Gran Turismo, revealed in November 2013.
GT6 is more realistic than ever, but also miles more intuitive (and attractive) to navigate. Its dizzying array of playable content may also see it trump the decidedly smaller Forza Motorsport 5.
There are still flaws – it can feel clinical and unwilling to indulge exuberant driving, like a badly judged traction control nanny in real life – but that doesn’t stop us recommending GT6 if you’re serious about your on-track gaming.