Gran Turismo 6

EDGE - - PLAY - Pub­lisher SCE De­vel­oper Polyphony For­mat PS3 Re­lease Out now

Boot­ing up Gran Turismo 6 for the first time is an un­com­fort­able ex­pe­ri­ence. Af­ter the painfully slow day-one up­date down­load and melo­dra­matic in­tro se­quence, you’re im­me­di­ately forced to spend 17,000 cred­its on a Ja­panese hatch­back that you al­most cer­tainly don’t want and then thrust onto a track that, in the wake of Forza 5, looks de­cid­edly un­der­whelm­ing. But then you reach the first cor­ner and Polyphony’s re­worked sus­pen­sion physics re­veals it­self. No rac­ing game has ever felt like this.

Cars lean dra­mat­i­cally away from apexes; wheels in­de­pen­dently re­treat into their arches when they hit rum­ble strips. You can feel your ve­hi­cle’s weight shift­ing over the front wheels as you brake. Damp­ing, anti-roll bars and cen­tre of grav­ity are more than just ab­stract num­bers be­ing crunched be­hind the scenes: now you can see the ef­fects of any ad­just­ments. The re­sult is trans­for­ma­tive, bring­ing GT5’ s al­ready ex­cep­tional han­dling alive in a way that makes re­vis­it­ing old favourites, whether it’s the In­te­grale, NSX or Sky­line, a con­sis­tent plea­sure, while mak­ing ev­ery other car game – Forza 5 in­cluded – feel flat in com­par­i­son.

GT6’ s han­dling is so good, in fact, that you won’t mind be­ing forced to start out with noth­ing to your name again, de­spite hav­ing amassed five con­sid­er­able car col­lec­tions over the course of the se­ries’ 16-year life­span. But the re­freshed physics model can’t take all the credit for dis­si­pat­ing a lit­tle of that grow­ing Gran Turismo fa­tigue; Polyphony has shaken up the game’s struc­ture, too. GT5’ s con­trived, RPG-in­spired lev­el­ling sys­tem has been cast aside in favour of a more gen­er­ous, and more open, setup that show­ers play­ers in amus­ing dis­trac­tions and new ve­hi­cles.

The ca­reer mode is split into six se­ries, from Novice through to Su­per, and makes su­perb use of the gen­er­ous se­lec­tion of tracks as you progress. Kart, dirt and oval rac­ing are mixed in with city and cir­cuit events across real-world tar­mac and Polyphony’s own cre­ations. The main events are bol­stered by Cof­fee Break Chal­lenges, Mis­sion Races, One-Make and Spe­cial Events.

The quick-fix Cof­fee Break Chal­lenges task you with such feats as knock­ing down as many cones as pos­si­ble within a time limit, or trav­el­ling as far as you can on one litre of petrol. Mis­sion Races ask you to over­take one or more op­po­nents over the course of a sin­gle lap or seg­ment of a track, while Spe­cial Events in­clude a trip to the moon in the Lu­nar Rover and in­vites from Lord March to drive ex­ot­ica at the Good­wood Fes­ti­val Of Speed. One-Make tri­als re­quire you to own a spe­cific car to par­tic­i­pate, but all of the other events pro­vide a wel­come op­por­tu­nity to sam­ple ma­chines far be­yond your fi­nan­cial means early on, even if driv­ing on the Moon is some­how even less en­joy­able than driv­ing your Prius in the Hy­brid Cup. Awk­ward filler aside, the sheer range of driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ences on of­fer is daz­zling.

Bizarrely, pro­gres­sion through them seems to have been in­spired by An­gry Birds, with a three-star scor­ing sys­tem for ev­ery ca­reer event. One is awarded for mere com­ple­tion, ir­re­spec­tive of your fi­nal po­si­tion; a sec­ond is earned with a podium fin­ish; and the third is re­served for cross­ing the line first. Earn­ing half of the avail­able stars in a se­ries will win you a car, with an­other one given when you mop up the rest, while additional events and the li­cence tests are opened af­ter only ten or 20 stars (the tests are ren­dered even more pa­tro­n­is­ing by mak­ing an ap­pear­ance well af­ter you’ve put a few races un­der your belt). The sys­tem is sim­ple, but it works per­fectly in a game whose chief plea­sure is driv­ing. Be­ing able to progress re­gard­less of your per­for­mance means you can fo­cus on GT6’ s re­mark­able han­dling model, and re­moves the pre­vi­ous games’ onus on fight­ing your way through a life­less grid. Gran Turismo is sud­denly sig­nif­i­cantly less daunt­ing, and you’ll rel­ish the prospect of al­most ev­ery new race. If only your op­po­nents ex­hib­ited such enthusiasm. GT6’ s AI driv­ers suf­fer from the se­ries’ peren­nial lack of per­son­al­ity, loop­ing the cir­cuits in a pre­dictable line and func­tion­ing more like mo­bile chi­canes than com­pe­ti­tion. Oc­ca­sion­ally, a puff of dust will erupt ahead of you as one puts a wheel in the dirt, but they’ll never do any­thing as dra­matic as spin out, fight over a cor­ner or roll over. Even so, they re­main hypnotic to watch thanks to that spec­tac­u­lar physics model, func­tion­ing as a shop win­dow for pur­chases as you imag­ine how their ve­hi­cles cor­ner, ac­cel­er­ate and brake.

Un­for­tu­nately, knowl­edge of a par­tic­u­lar model’s han­dling won’t help you to pre­dict the best mo­ment to over­take. While cars might look like they’re gov­erned by the same rules as you at first, pro­ceed­ings are re­ally con­trolled by con­spic­u­ous rub­ber­band­ing. Front run­ners zip off dur­ing the first lap only to be found crawl­ing around the third, di­min­ish­ing any sense that your driv­ing abil­i­ties are what de­ter­mine your fin­ish­ing po­si­tion, not just your lap time. As ever, you can sim­ply buy your way to suc­cess, too, by en­sur­ing your car is as close to the top of each PP (Per­for­mance Points) band – which group to­gether mod­i­fied and clean cars with sim­i­lar power out­puts – as pos­si­ble.

Ex­cept now you can in­vest real money into that en­deav­our. Com­ing so soon af­ter Forza 5, the very ex­is­tence of GT6’ s mi­cro­trans­ac­tions caused a stir, but Polyphony lives up to its prom­ise that they pro­vide an en­tirely op­tional route for cash-rich, time-poor play­ers. GT6 is much less of a grind than GT5, and you’ll find yourself earn­ing cred­its and prize cars quickly. The most ex­otic ma­chin­ery still re­quires con­certed sav­ing, but you’ll spend a great deal less time feel­ing neutered along the way. And that wait is fur­ther mit­i­gated by Vi­sion GT, a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Polyphony and the

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