Wednesday, 26 February 2014

In Defence of Gran Turismo 6

Following the launch of Gran Turismo 6 last November I looked forward to receiving it at Christmas. When Gran Turismo 5 came out my pre-order was quickly snaffled away by my wife for Christmas, and so on this occasion I by-passed the pre-order and accepted it would be a Christmas present. Between the release and my receiving it, I was somewhat surprised by the criticism, but with the present purchased a few weeks prior to Christmas I didn't consider returning it.

Do I regret that at all? Not in the slightest. I really enjoyed Gran Turismo 5, and my enjoyment of Gran Turismo 6 has lasted for a solid two months, and I don't think it will stop at any point soon. For one thing, it has met my biggest need from Gran Turismo 5, namely more circuits. Having visited Brands Hatch, I love having both the Indy and Grand Prix circuits to drive around. Having watched countless races from Silverstone, I love having all manner of Silverstone configurations to drive round. Additionally, the sadly fictional Apricot Hill is a fabulous circuit, offering challenging fast turns, an opportunity to get into a nice rhthym, and lots of overtaking opportunities amid the rolling contours.

(Billionaire to-do list: Build the Apricot Hill circuit in real life. I won't ever have an opportunity to do so, but if someone could that would be awesome, thanks.)

So why the criticism? Because the game isn't very different to GT5? So driving on the moon and on a hillclimb aren't different? The licence tests are now required to progress throughout the game, and if you throw in the coffee break challenges there is plenty of new content there. Because you don't see every intimate detail inside every car? That's a criticism I have never understood, although I'm more of a race fan than a car fan, with a keener interest in the circuits and driving on them as well as possible instead of as beautifully as possible. Because sounds of collisions still sound, as one critic suggested, "like elbowing a fridge"? Well, to be fair I can't argue that last point.

My biggest bug-bears are the absence of the colossal rewards that some of the seasonal challenges offered in Gran Turismo 5, and complete disappearance of the Ferrari Formula 1 cars. While the F2007 was pretty challenging to drive, the rewards from setting it up perfectly and then driving it well rank as some of the most enjoyable moments I've had from any video game. I wish they would come back, although I suspect if the cars were not in the game at launch then there is no plan to add them later. Polyphony Digital, feel free to swap these in for the Ascari circuit, which looks pretty in an overhead plan but which is too twisty to really let loose and have fun on.

I have come to enjoy the opportunity to experience the longer races (i.e. ten, fifteen and twenty minute races), but an opportunity for further control over races would be welcome, as in fact would the opportunity to take part in the endurance races which although daunting where nice to take part in on days off from work. Opposition driver AI needs some work as well, for with the exception of occasional swerving from the racing line their refusal to fight overtaking sometimes takes the challenge away. Perhaps one day there will be the opportunity to change the challenges you face, whether that be in regard to AI aggression or to AI tactics in general. Want to run long on a set of hard tires? Why shouldn't an AI driver go to soft tires for a faster set of laps in a longer race?

I would suspect at this point that such resources and options may be saved for Gran Turismo 7, which will ultimately be the point that I will need to decide whether I'm a 40-something with a wife and two kids who is happy to "make do" with a PS3 or someone who feels younger than they actually are and who can't be without a PS4 and the opportunity to blast around Laguna Seca in Gran Turismo's latest incarnation. While I enjoy the present game the three year gap between GT5 and GT6 seems to set a precedent, along with a clock ticking. For the time being I will continue to enjoy GT6 on the PS3, and occasionally think ahead to what I might need to ask the family to put under the Christmas tree for me in 2016.