Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Gran Turismo 6: Preview

Words & pictures: Cian Hanrahan

As of today, the Gran Turismo 6 demo is coming to a Playstation 3 near you. Technically, it's not a demo, it's the client for the 2013 GT Academy, Gran Turismo's "couch to cockpit" competition to find a racing driver. Our early guess was a choice of three cars from competition sponsor Nissan, and a single track; my money was on Silverstone’s GP layout, host of the GT6 launch event in May.

Given my top 20,000 leaderboard times from the previous game, I can rule myself out of contention. I’m too old, too slow and I haven’t got the rest of the summer holidays to dedicate to the perfect lap. I'd rather be driving.

It’s as a technical taster for GT6 that the package appeals to me. I want to see how it feels and drives, compared to the current GT5, and the competition from Turn 10, iRacing and Simraceway.

The three or four trailer videos I’ve seen look wonderful, as trailers always do. Beautifully rendered, slow motion snapshots captured in glorious high definition. Ronda, perched on top of the gorge as the sun sets, like a David Lean opening sequence. Mmm, cinematic!

A far cry from the blocky, but just-about-recognisable cars of the original. When I connected my shiny new (in ‘98 or ‘99) Playstation to my 14" portable TV, and lost weeks to the Deep Forest track, I didn’t think I’d still be chasing lap times today. I didn’t think it would influence my future car buying choices either, as I pored over the little stories that came with each car. It wasn’t just a game, it was an encyclopedia of car culture and motorsport. It taught me about drifting before I ever heard of Keiichi Tsuchiya or Best Motoring. It taught me, about high speed challenges and drag racing and ice racing and DTM championships, in a time before the Internet made everything so accessible.

Fast forward fourteen years to GT6, the second installment for the PS3. Graphically, we can expect incremental improvements from the best of GT5, rather than quantum leaps. The rendering engine is all new, featuring Adaptive Tesselation (which I think means "the closer you are, the more detailed the model becomes") and the HDR and lighting have been tweaked.

Since the team was able to develop for the same resolution as the previous game (1080p and 60FPS are the targets), we should now have a GT game is capable of portraying shadows and dust clouds that haven't been drawn with an Etch-a-Sketch. Unless Sony change their mind (again) and demand 8k resolution or 4D, or unicorns, when the game is 80% complete.

As before, it’s the cars that are the stars. From Group B Audi Quattros, to trackday specials from LCC and KTM X-Bows, to the latest GT class racers from BMW, Mercedes Benz and Nissan. I’d like to think that these demonstrate a shift in the type of car we’ll see in the final release. It still doesn't explain the presence of the Tesla. Every GT episode has its oddballs, it's all part of the charm.

Speaking of oddballs, the redigitized Renault Alpine A110, which appeared in GT4, and again in GT5 as a less detailed “Standard” model, now looks as pretty as the rest of the cars. We don’t know if this tells us that all the Standard cars have been improved, or just this model. The head of Polyphony Digital has already said that there will still be a variation in the level of detail of different models. This is understandable, depending on the quality of the “master” scan of the real car, or the availablity of the car in the real world for rescanning.

There are lots of new goodies promised under the hood too, with real world tie-ins from KW Automotive and Yokohama assisting in the development of the tyre and suspension models. And when Schultze Racing competed in the Nurburgring 24hr race, they were using data gained from virtual laps, and feeding real world information back into the GT6 model. This interplay beween the real world and the virtual is part of what PD are calling the “Edge Effect”.

I really want to get my hands on the new Silverstone track in a stock R32 Nissan Skyline, my go-to car for as long as I can remember. I want to run laps for so long that the muscle memory kicks and I stop remembering the last three corners I’ve done. I want to click with the car’s handling nuances in a way I never managed to in Forza or the PC sims.

I won’t start a wishlist for GT6, I’m sure you've already got your own, and the internet forums are full of them. I can tell you what we won’t see. We won’t see a livery editor, a tyre pressure gauge, nor Racing Modifications for every cars. You won’t see a level of detail in Engine Tuning beyond the familiar Stage 1,2,3. There will not be a significant change to the tyre selection. There will not be a streamlined, flowing user interface. There will still be baffling RPG elements and events you have to grind to proceed through the game. There will still be sections of the game that you will ignore entirely,some you will complete once and forget, and one section that you return to over and over again. GT6 offers something different for all its fans, from the photographers to the hardcore racers, the drifters and the tuners, and the fans of the old and the strange, like me.

I recommend keeping an eye on GTPlanet.net’s front page for updates as they happen, it’s a great resource, run by a small team of enthusiasts, just like SSBB…

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