Gran Turismo 6 was dealt the unfortunate hand of being released in the immediate wake of the Xbox One launch title Forza Motorsport 5, pitting it against a glossy racing game that had a helping of spiffy new technology on its side. While it’s true that, at least in the mind of longtime driving-simulator enthusiasts, Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo will always reign supreme as the A-1 wholesome racer of choice, the series’s inability to shed the lion’s share of its antiquated conceptual customs results in a sixth entry that feels structurally sound yet aesthetically dated—akin to cruising around in last year’s car model alongside a fleet of factory-fresh roadsters.
Visually, what Gran Turismo 6 manages to pull of is somewhat commendable. An ample portion of the PlayStation 3’s horsepower is implemented to produce a wide variety of well-designed courses made even more enjoyable by the fact that hardly any slowdown ever occurs throughout the entire, highly replayable simulation experience. However, where Polyphany comes up short is in their refusal to thoroughly refurbish the legion of autos ported over from Gran Turismo 4 and 5; these vehicles stick out like sore thumbs among the finely polished rides and environments introduced in this latest installment. Rough edges, unintentionally off-hue colors, and strange lighting reflections plague what could have otherwise been a nostalgia-inducing lineup of four-wheeled pleasantry. Additionally, the game’s overall menu architecture is replete with PlayStation 2-era drabness; one could very nearly fall asleep while navigating their monochromatic ranks. Customizing is as much a chore as it was in GT5; engines still can’t be switched out and applying a crisp coat of varnish is accomplished via the same prosaic paint chips that bogged down the previous installment.
Audio and collision damage issues add to the frustration. Sound cues are grainy and unsuitable for the type of corresponding action (revving resembles a small group of drone bees circling a honeyed hive, running into walls emits nothing more than a depressed thump), and realistic mechanical deterioration upon impact is essentially a no-show in single-player mode. Thankfully, GT6 makes a staunch effort to counterbalance its shortcomings with terrific online multiplayer elements in combination with uniformly responsive drive-time handling in the majority of its remarkable 1,200-car catalogue and a collection of tracks (76 routes across 37 geographical locales) that is, quite simply, the most consistently serviceable batch of terrains ever featured in a racing game. Handsome weather and day/night effects also aid in eliminating diminishing returns for frequently visited areas, though I could do without the poorly executed LRV (Lunar Roving Vehicle)-operated scenario.
GT6 is a bit old fashioned in its execution, to be sure, but what Polyphany has done better than any other developer since the late ’90s, much like a master mechanic, is routinely apply oil to the squeakiest of gears. Optimistically, when Gran Turismo 7 makes its debut on the PlayStation 4 in the not-too-distant future, the exterior body work will be able to match the robust capability of what’s beneath the hood.