I think the big news from the past week was the realisation of just how weak the Wii U has been performing at retail. Nintendo slashed the sales forecast of the machine drastically from 9 million to 2.8 million for this financial year. It is a sad turn of events, but not one that should be all that surprising. Not many people outside of the core gaming base fully understood what the Wii U offered, and the release of superlative titles like Super Mario 3D World seem to have done little to convince people to invest in the machine. In truth, I only purchased mine because I was able to get it for pennies after trading in my massive back catalogue of console games. At full price I was never going to realistically buy it.
Enough doom and gloom from Nintendo, what have we been up to this past week? …
I was a massive fan of Gran Turismo during the PlayStation One and Two eras, came into the series with the second game and found myself playing it for countless hours along with the later versions. Come Gran Turismo 5 on the PlayStation 3 and I was put off, the menus were unwieldy and I tired of a progression system which started you off in duff cars for race after race.
I’ll hold my hands up and say that I had found a home with the main Forza games, but ultimately my favourite console only racer of recent years has been Forza Horizon, a quite radically different take on the racing game compared to its bigger brother and Sony’s behemoth. It was with slight trepidation that I slotted Gran Turismo 6 into my PlayStation 3 and sat through a install and update process. Thankfully it wasn’t quite as painfully long as it was when I first tried number 5 before eventually passing that one on to my sister.
I booted up the game and found myself launched straight into a race around Brands Hatch, an iconic race track if ever there was one. After quickly buying the recommended starter car, something which wasn’t a seriously underpowered Suzuki Alto like I feared, I got stuck into the Novice category quickly picking up the victories.
And now I get to compare the game to Mario, something I never in a lifetime thought I would be doing. Progress through the various categories requires you to complete a series of Licence tests or a Championship. You can’t just jump into these once you enter a category, you need to earn a certain number of stars with each race providing you with a maximum of three. Collect stars, complete the boss battle (Licence) and unlock a new world (category). You see the Mario connection? It is simple, and it works.
What was also a joy was that I completed the Novice category in a couple of hours earning every star (and a prize car to boot) along with the Licence (and another car) to allow me to move to the B category. All in all I very much approve of the new progression system and, despite fears over the micro-transactions ruining the economy, I have been able to quite readily build up my garage through purchases, prize cars and the GT Vision aspect where you gain access to fancy concept cars, the first being a gorgeous Mercedes complete with fancy video package. I also managed to park in my garage a new BMW M4 Coupe after completing one of the returning Seasonal Events. If I had taken part in some wheeling dealing of selling some of my machines, or had avoided unnecessary upgrades to my Lancia I would have been able to buy a fully tuned 300,000 credit rally car already. I won’t deny that some of the more extravagantly priced cars might take some degree of grind to afford, but I haven’t seen what the prize funds are at the top end of categories just yet.
It is worth keeping in mind that the boast of 1200 cars is very impressive, but when looking at the Subaru dealership I saw about a dozen versions of the Imprezza and that wasn’t counting the top-end GT versions. A bit of slimming down with the duplicate cars wouldn’t go amiss.
If you don’t want to spend fortunes on buying new cars, you can always get a taste for some exotic machinery through the Coffee Break challenges and the Goodward Festival mode. Coffee Break challenges are unlocked at various star points in each category and include traditional cone destroying missions to move innovative fuel management missions. How far can you get around the Green Hell of the classic Nurburgring in a super-GT machine on two litres of fuel and can you complete a lap of Suzuka in a more humble town car on just one litre of fuel before you run out of time. Combined with head-to-head battles against a sole AI opponent, these modes offer a pleasant break from the rigours of the day to day races.
There is real fun to be had with the Goodward Festival, as you progress through the game, a message from Lord March will appear informing you of a new batch of cars to take around the legendary hill climb. You will find some beautiful cars to drive here along a stunning course. At times GT6 really feels like it is pushing the PlayStation 3 to the limit. Another amusing distraction comes with the Lunar Rover missions on the Moon. These aren’t something you’ll head back to like Goodwood, but they are a fun diversion.
Some of the long-standing Gran Turismo issues are still present with damage being limited to a few minor bumps and dents and AI drivers still all too often following the same driving patterns as ever before. I will say that the AI is improved over past entries in the series, but when you compare it to a game like Shift or Forza Horizon, they are still too automated. The constant rolling starts are another frustration and only serve to highlight how lacking the AI can be. If the AI was able to provide you with a proper race then standard starts from the grid would be feasible.
Despite these niggles, I have already experienced some wonderful moments of racing action, especially in the races which take you from daylight into the dark of night. The experience of barrelling down a narrow strip of tarmac as you come down the hill at Bathurst with only your headlights to guide you is a fearsome, yet amazing experience. Knowing that you have to keep the car on the road just a little bit longer until you get to the main straight where there are some more lights is an exhilarating experience. At the end of the day, that is what you come to play Gran Turismo 6 for.
So while it might have a bloated garage and maintain some foibles that have long plagued the series, this is still an amazing driving experience. It might not have the serenity of Euro Truck Simulator 2, but it packs in some thrills along the way.
Verdict – Headshot
Platforms Available/Reviewed – PlayStation 3
Review based on review copy supplied by Sony. Please check this post for more on our scoring policy.