Gran Turismo 6 – First Impressions

I picked up a used copy of Gran Turismo 6 last Wednesday because I wanted to try it before committing to buying it.  This sounded like a radical idea to me because I was one of the few gamers I knew who anxiously awaited Gran Turismo 5’s debut.  Not to mention, I didn’t even know Gran Turismo 6 was released until after the fact.  What happened there, I’m still not sure.  I had gotten bored with Gran Turismo 5 years ago because I reached a point where I lost the only race car I needed to proceed in the high level races (I had lent it to a friend to borrow it for similar races and he couldn’t trade it back or something).  No hard feelings, but I just didn’t want to commit the time to farm money and buy high end race cars for… more car prizes.  It just doesn’t really have an “end game” if you will, other than the online special events which were pretty cool.  I tried racing online for a little bit but all of the races were so car specific or just free-drifting.  I didn’t really have friends who played, so I put the game away like tucking an old collection of baseball cards under the bed to be forgotten.

Between that time and today, when I played Gran Turismo 6 for the first time, I had the opportunity to play Forza 4, but I’ll bring that up later.  First I want to talk about my first impressions with Gran Turismo 6 and why I felt a bit underwhelmed and disappointed.  I was hoping they would have observed their competitors’ products, the Forza franchise from Turn10, and change a thing or two to send the series into a fresh new direction.  Well, I guess those were misplaced hopes, because after watching the long, strange intro that involved teachers, children, and the company creating non-functioning replica of the new corvette–a much less compelling opening than that of Gran Turismo 5 which was a beautiful short film about how cars are made–I was dumped right into an “introduction” race.  No option, no narration or anything… just, welcome.  You’re in a Renault.  Okay, drive it now and we’ll interrupt you every now and then with pointers on how to play the game and drive a car.  They could have at least ASKED if I was a Gran Turismo veteran or tried to identify an old save file on my system or something.

Anyway, the introduction is the least of my gripes.  After finishing it and being told that I had a “promising future as a driver”, I was given 30,000 credits but forced to buy a Honda Fit instead of being given a choice of cars in my price range, much less allowed to even browse the dealerships whatsoever.  I also noticed the menu had no real re-design whatsoever.  It was divided the same way but was much less attractive, in my opinion, than the Gran Turismo 5 menu.

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Gran Turismo 5 menu: customizable, pretty, and icons sized by their importance.

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Welp, there are the race categories I’m painfully familiar with. Oh look and there’s the stuff pertaining to my car. And a few other icons. I’m so excited to dive into the same thing.

After buying the Honda Fit they wanted me to and destroying the amateur race AI, I received my credits unceremoniously and was thrown back to the menu after a few more pop-ups telling me how great I would surely be.  I did a few more amateur races to complete the “cups”, which will have 2, 3, or n number of races in them that you need to win before winning the cup.  I noticed however that in this new Gran Turismo, there was no celebratory pop up that you won a cup at all.  In fact, nothing happened.  When you win a race, some confetti will shoot out from both sides of the screen as it shows your name above the other drivers before it dispenses your earned credits, but that’s it.  Maybe that’s just how it is for the novice races, I don’t know.  But as someone who has played several previous GT installments in the past, this just felt painfully dull to me.  There was no narration, no flavor cut-scenes or anything.  It was just straight-up, “Okay you’re done with that.  Moving on…”

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Which race will I do first? I guess it doesn’t really matter. Man, I want a new car.

After having beaten the first two cups in the novice category, I bought myself a new car; a 1990 Mazda GT of some sort (I forgot the exact model).  I was excited to drive it and also found out I could buy new “gear” for my racer to make him look different.  In GT5 the outfits could be earned when you logged in multiple days in a row as a reward.  I guess now it was just another thing to spend money on.  Neat.  I did a few races and put the AI into the ground with my apparently much faster vintage ’90s Mazda with a sports exhaust slapped on it.  My girlfriend had asked me before I started playing if I was just going to return it and buy the game new for keeps, but at this point I just knew what I was going to be getting myself into: the same thing, but a less good version.

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I don’t know if it’s just the limitations of the PS3 hardware, but it didn’t even look much better than GT5. The interior was extremely dark and I had to adjust brightness in the game and on my television to feel like the lighting was bearable.

After about 45 minutes or an hour with the game, I said to my girlfriend, “you know, I’m just going to take this back after all.”

“Why’s that,” she asked.

“It’s just… boring.  And the same”.

After having played Forza 4 on the Xbox 360 several months ago, before she sold the 360 (cries), my standards had been raised.  I realized racing games could be more.  Forza wasn’t labeled a “driving simulator” like Gran Turismo is, but it had stunning graphics, convincing physics that made the cars fun to drive, and a narrative system that led you from race to race.  It was really nice having that.  In Forza, you would “go on tour” as a racer and have a charming British narrator tell you the next location you were heading to, some information about it, and what kind of race it would be.  Sure, it didn’t have the sheer number of cars that Gran Turismo boasts, but you could sit in the driver’s seat of every single one.

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There were a number of courses in the US, Europe, and Japan that you would eventually unlock and be introduced to as you progressed.

I suppose you could say that Forza 4 changed my mind about what I want in a racing game.  Being a beautiful, perfect simulator in terms of graphics, physics, and the number of cars is a good goal, but why couldn’t Polyphony work harder to include more elements or re-work the gaming system to be more fun?  When I played Forza, I didn’t care that it didn’t have every single car, but I loved what it did have.  It even had great collision effects and at the end of each race, the money you made wasn’t a flat 1st, 2nd, and 3rd monetary amounts like in Gran Turismo.  Instead, they would factor in how skillfully you drove, how much damage your car took if you decided to ram people, and the difficulty level you had the game set on.

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It made you feel good about yourself when you got bonuses for being a badass and didn’t even scratch the paint!

This is where my review really ends.  I don’t plan on playing Gran Turismo 6 anymore, but I do plan on buying an Xbox One sometime in the far future just to play Forza 5 to see what they have done with it.  I enjoyed Forza 4 so much that I can imagine Forza 5 is an outstanding sequel on the next-gen.  If any of you have been debating whether or not to invest in GT6 or if you want to grab an XB1 for Forza, I hope you take my advice to heart.  If you want a pretty car-collector that you will have to motivate yourself to play, get Gran Turismo.  However, if you want a racing game that is still realistic, but strikes what I found to be the perfect balance between simulation and a fun game to play, get Forza.

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