For 15 years now, Polyphony's been continuing to refine its vision of a driving simulator - a genre it helped define when the first Gran Turismo launched late in 1997. It's a vision that's expanded with Gran Turismo 6 to explore driving in all its forms: from pinging a kart around a twisting indoor track or driving a prototype sportscar around Le Mans - and even, for the first time, piloting a lunar rover across the craters and crests of the moon.
It's a mad, broad and characterful celebration of everything to do with cars. Don't believe the well-worn line that Gran Turismo is a series that's sterile and soulless - in its exhaustive reflection of the automotive world there's humour, warmth and often poignancy in its car selection, and in the love with which they've been recreated.
It's not a love that's evenly spread out, sadly. Of the 1200 cars feature in Gran Turismo 6, around 800 are 'standard' models - older renderings that date back to the series' PlayStation 2 days. Likewise, while some tracks look astounding - newcomers Brands Hatch and Bathurst in particular shine - others boast dull, flat textures that seriously dates them.
But if it wasn't for those rough edges Gran Turimso 6 wouldn't be anyway near as comprehensive, and evenly distributed across the phenomenal wealth of content is a handling model that's the finest to ever have graced a console. Cars have a more perceptible weight, and it's a mass that's now shifted about with more accurately simulated suspension - making the art of cornering an endeavour that's now more nuanced, and much more convincing.
Racing itself isn't quite as convincing, with rival cars often erratic in their speed, but when it comes to driving, Gran Turismo 6 is without compare - and it's arguably a finer simulation now than those found on high-end PCs such as iRacing or rFactor. For what feels like the first time in an age, it's now driving that's spread out across a compelling single-player mode, which retains the traditional RPG-like grind while layering on new elements and new events.
You'll find yourself loaned a variety of cars and whisked off to one of the 100 tracks to pursue a perfect lap time, or to climb the Goodwood hill climb that's at the heart of the Festival of Speed. There are Mission Races, Special Events and seasonals, all of which help thread a line through the overwhelming amount of cars and tracks on offer here.
It's also a quite stunning looking game. Gran Turismo 6 is the measure, visually, of Forza Motorsport 5, and with its exquisite new lighting model it's arguably the better of Microsoft's game in parts. Not bad, really, when you consider it's all being done on a console that's now considered last-gen. It's a wonderful way to send off SONY's PlayStation 3, and a great tribute to the power and prowess of the departing console.
None of this is to say that Gran Turismo's not without its problems. Engine sounds still disappoint, and unlike Forza Motorsport there's no real in-road for players who aren't already obsessed with the automotive world. If you are, though, then Gran Turismo 6 is pretty much as good as it gets, and an excellent way for developer Polyphony to celebrate the series' 15 year anniversary. Here's hoping that the next 15 years sees Gran Turismo continuing to build on its epic vision even more.
GAME's Verdict - 9/10
- Looks as good as a PS4 game in parts
- Incredible handling
- Daunting amount of content
- Looks like a PS2 game in parts
- Awful audio
- Not for the non-car lovers