We were about ten races in when it happened. A sharp right hand corner, we hugged the apex and pushed onto the track tread as we clipped the corner at high speed. A moment later, our little Clio was fighting gravity: the tyres lift, the car rocks, and suddenly the whole thing rolls over on its roof before crashing back onto its tyres with an almighty thud. This is definitely not GT5.
Nor should it be. Polyphony's first PS3 effort was rightly maligned for its bloat - starchy, dour races and dunderheaded AI - not to mention the grinding career and grating menus. Duly, then, Kazunori and his team have returned to the drawing board for one final punt on Sony's now officially-obsolete machine. The result is a much improved effort which wrings every last technical drop from the ageing box. What strikes first about GT6, though, is not its racing, but the revamped front end and career mode.
GT5's menu system was a sluggish mess of loading screens coupled with more menus than that drawer in your kitchen. This time, a butter-smooth interface loads instantly, and everything the game has to offer - from the garage, to online events, split-screen, career, dealerships and more - is laid out from left to right in neat tiles, split into columns.
What's more, the Start button instantly brings up a quick-menu for swapping cars, changing parts, tweaking game options or saving on the fly - and this can be accessed from anywhere in the game outside of races.
The used car dealership is gone (every car is in the main showrooms), and Recommended Cars points you quickly to the most helpful motors for each event. It feels like Polyphony has really sat down and listened to the widespread criticism of GT5's layout.
Career mode is a world away from the frustrating EXP system - that's made way for a star rating mechanic. After every race, you're handed between one and three stars depending on your performance (as well as credits), and these are used to unlock further events. Everything feels connected, and it's a much more open-ended approach.
In-race, physics have been overhauled. Though each car still feels very much weighted to the track, there's a lot more give - slam into a barrier, and the back end will pull high up off the ground and threaten to flip. Car bodies rock and twist through corners, pitching sideways as g-forces struggle against the panels.
AI is sharper and more unpredictable. Often computer racers would nip at our bumper, cut across the racing line and weave behind us like impatient toddlers. More than once, we were bumped into a spin by another AI car clipping our rear - and there's a noticeable sense of urgency from the pack which makes you feel more pressured when you're in the lead. They're still a bit dim compared to the likes of GRID 2 or Forza, but it's a leap over GT5.
"AI is still a bit dim compared to the likes of Forza, but it's a leap over GT5."
The best change by far is the power limit system. Every race has a max PP cut-off - gone are the days where you can spank the Sunday Cup in a souped-up Skyline. How it's taken six iterations to introduce this is baffling, but it instantly makes things feel more competitive and exciting as a result. But in-race, it's still unmistakeably GT: cold, tight and technical, albeit slightly tweaked, and that won't do much to lure in jaded gamers who want livelier, more Westernised racing fare.
That's not helped by the damage: it's still lousy. In GT5, collisions resulted in cars which warped hideously, as if made from wax. Here, every crash creates a litany of scratches, dents and scuffs, but that's the limit. No hanging bumpers, no smashed windscreens. Yes, damage will affect steering, cut top speeds and make cars very tough to drive, but it won't let them look like an obliterated mess, no matter how many times you drive into a wall at 150mph or bash your way through the pack (which is still an easy option to take).
In the race for realistic damage, GT6 is left at the back of the pack. It is gorgeous, mind - and nothing showcases that better than the dusk races. These see the race unfold against the setting sun - twilight casting warm shadows across the circuit, before night gradually sets in as the race progresses. The way the headlights permeate the inky blackness and bounce off walls and barriers around the circuit is phenomenal, some ugly, jaggy shadows notwithstanding.
Rain now falls during the race, bouncing off the road and building up on-track, adding another element of graphical flair as well as upping the tension during longer races as sudden weather changes flip the car's handling on its head.
As does The Moon. Easily the strangest inclusion in GT yet, you're handed the keys to a 1971 Lunar Rover over a series of time trials on the barren grey lump of rock. The physics are bouncier (we flipped over a lot), the music haunting and the experience bizarre. It proves this is not a racing game. Not really. It's a 1,200 vehicle automotive toybox - and the Moon buggy is its ultimate plaything. Racing is just a means to an end.
So why is it harder to collect these toys? We were surprised to find race events no longer result in prize cars. In fact, we got all the way to International B before we even had a third vehicle.
Credit supplies, too, seem stingier - Like The Wind gives 46,000cr here. In GT5, it's 70,000cr. Granted, this is a bigger game with more events (191 races in the career mode alone) so perhaps it's not surprising to earn slightly less per race when there are probably more credits overall. But if we were being cynical, we'd swear the lack of prize cars was an attempt by Polyphony to push players to the PSN store to buy credits for £40 a pop to fill garages.
New tracks like Matterhorn and Silverstone excite - although seven new circuits doesn't feel overly generous, even if there is enough content here for an RPG, let alone a racer.
"GT6 knows what it is - a technical, straight-laced racing sim tacked onto an obscenely shiny car showroom "
Online, it's much the same as its predecessor: hit the lobby button, and you can pick from a list of rooms with various event types and restrictions in place. Head inside to tweak settings, then jump to the track. It's quicker, but little different to GT5's most recently patched approach. Mercifully, the dull-as-dishwater B-Spec mode is gone. You can still enter races in B-spec, but there's no separate career strand, and you can quite easily avoid it entirely.
GT is a strange beast, then. It's a big leap over GT5, a true technical swansong for the PS3 and the largest, slickest entry in the series since the heady heights of GT4. But it feels like Gran Turismo 5: Second Attempt. It it knows what it is - a technical, straight-laced racing sim tacked onto an obscenely shiny and overlarge car showroom - and it merely delivers that differently - with polished graphics, better physics and a much improved career and UI.
This is a huge leap over GT5 and a glorious graphical showcase for PS3. And most importantly, for all the upgrades and additions, this is still very much a Gran Turismo game out on the track.
- Much improved interface & AI
- Tons of content
- Open-ended Career mode
- Lousy damage
- Slow progress without microtransactions