Thursday, 12 December 2013

Guest Article: The Thing with Gran Turismo 6..

A guest article? Indeed. With the recruitment at a dead end lately, I had the idea for it when reading this very article Ive put up today. There's no doubt people out there that like to write but don't necessarily want to be affiliated with anyone, or they just have something they want to get off their chest etc With this 'Guest Article' subset of posts, those people will have a platform to gain more readers of their work.

So we launch it with a superb read (I read through the post twice myself) from Scollurio a user on PushSquare, of how most of the mainstream press just don't 'get' the games they review most of the time (Something we can relate to on that) using Gran Turismo 6 and its current state of reviews that seem all over the place as an example.
What follows is a pretty lengthy post, an analysis, kind of review about Gran Turismo 6, how it compares to Forza Motorsport, what it does for the average, advanced and even the non-racing game fan. If you've ever thought about giving it a try and are on the verge, you should read this, as I think that the commercial reviews out there are all over the place and focusing on the wrong things.
Let me start by introducing myself. 31 years of age, male gamer from Austria, I didn't have any real interest in cars until my early 20ies. That interest was sparked by playing Forza Motorsport 1 and 2 with my pal. He's a real car nut and I was open minded enough to get myself infected with the "racing game virus". Since then my expectations have been refined and altered with each and every racing game I have tried - and I have tried plenty - and I want to share that experience with you and maybe get you hooked on racing games as well.

I never played a Gran Turismo game (except a bit of 3 at a friends house) before now Gran Turismo 6, as I was playing racing games on the PC and on Xbox360. So now that I got my Ps3 I was ready to take the leap, after reading the reviews being all over the place, I took the plunge and didn't regret it. I actually read so many reviews about it it made me think: Are those people even "getting" racing games?
There are plenty of examples of things that Gran Turismo 6 doesn't do overly well and people point them out. But for me and my agenda of things I want to have in a racing game, those points are moot for the most part. Let me start by telling you straight out what Gran Turismo 6 does particulary well:

  • The physics simulation: I know people do talk a lot about it but honestly, I have never ever played a racing game where the cars have that much personality and come that close to their real life counterparts. It definitely is well beyond Forza (and Forza isn't bad to begin with) and what Gran Turismo 6 does particularly well is the simulation of mechanical grip. When you're riding your car on the edge, you can feel that the tires are planted on the road, you can feel how they did into the asphalt as your car accelerates out of a long sweeper (always assuming you're doing it right). Love it. This is the biggest plus.
  • The graphics: Obviously this looks stunning for a PS3 games, and some reviewers did complain about dips in the framerate here and there. Well, I tell you, when you're eyes are peeled on the next Apex when you're riding down the Nordschleife with about 220 km/h coming out of a corner, heading for the next, you will not notice any dip in framerate whatsoever. If you have time to notice a disparity between 30 fps and 28 fps you're playing the game wrong.
  • The track selection: Nürburgring, Brands Hatch, Bathurst, Monza, Spa, La Sarthe, Laguna Seca… and many other real life locations in many different layouts, recreated in staggering detail are already a treat but even the „original" homebrew tracks Gran Turismo 6 offers are excellent. When you're racing on the limit through many of their locations, like Rome (which feels a bit like Adelaide racetrack in Australia, which is awesome) or Matterhorn location, you'll often ride closely to the barriers, let gravity pull you out of a corner, dive into a deep dipper and think „Wow that almost went wrong - almost" - but it didn't go wrong because there is some thought behind the layout of the tracks. The selection is massive and of top quality. Some tracks in the Forza franchise for example were particularly "dull" or "clunky" to race on, meaning that it is hard to impossible to find a certain "flow" that lets you weave in and out of corners. Gran Turismo does does things way better. 
  • The tuning: While for a top racing, motorsport simulation it isn't an integral part for me to have it, its nice to have it in Gran Turismo 6 and it's well realised. You can only fit your machines with fitting upgrades within a frame of sense and realism. Unlike Forza where everyone would end up with some 4WD double turbocharged monster regardless of car brand it makes a lot more sense here. If you want to take your Miata and pump it up by 400 bhp to let it race with le mans cars, you probably do it in Forza as in Gran Turismo are some common sense limits in place. That said though the upgrades themselves, like new shocks, tires, weight reduction etc. have an immediate and realistic, believable effect on the handling of your cars. You don't need to be an engineer to reap the benefits of slightly upping the game for your cars by fitting it with advanced custom parts. 
  • Advanced simulation: This here is the absolute dealmaker for me. This game has advanced tyre-wear and fuel-consumption physics. Depending on the car and the way you drive, you push it, your tyres will deteriorate and the fuel will deplete. You will require to refit and fuel up at the pits, when the weather changes you need to fit yourself some new tyres and to make matters worse you gotta time it nicely to gain some advantage over your opponents, just like in the real world. And this is the single most biggest advantage Gran Turismo 6 has above current competing products. Of course this only means anything to you if you're into the thrill of real life racing, especially endurance races. Forza has a ridiculous way of working those things. Still present somewhat in Forza 2 it was absent or completely botched later on. Dent your aerodynamics, can't be repaired, fuel and tyres won't deteriorate at all or have little effect on your driving. No thanks. If you reach a level of personal interest in a racing game, this will provide you with countless hours of thrills. If you're just the „hit gas and drive" type of guy you might want to get another game than Gran Turismo 6 anyways (nothing wrong about that).
  • The online: This game has the online we we're screaming for in Forza 3. No stupid hoppers that put you into 2-3 lap races all over the place with strangers. No. Public custom lobbies. An awesome system lets you create and join rooms (that can even have a title, sounds simple but Forza was never able to do this) where you can set up your races, complete with practice and qualifying, hang out in a lobby, chat and talk, watch a race in progress, set up your car and tune it from within the lobby without having to leave it (big advantage if you're serious about racing online, Forza never had this) and you can even set a multiple-track race and on most tracks a change of weather, mandatory pit stops, how quickly fuel and tyres will be used up (to simulate a 24 hour endurance race in just half an hour race for example). All of this for up to 16 players and it shows you before you join such a room how good the connection is expected to be during the race. Awesome. I'm wildly in love. If you played Gran Turismo forever and things like this are not new to you, fine, but I came from Forza and can appreciate those things to the fullest. Also the community and the people you meet online seems to be far more mature than the "showing off my naked manga paintjob on my car while crashing you sideways"-crowd thats wreaking havoc on Forza's online.

Pretty long read eh? If you're still sticking around I suppose you have some general interest in Gran Turismo 6, too much time at your hands and possibly a wider interest in racing games. If you're still on the verge of diving into racing games in general - and by that I mean racing games that focus on the simulation side of things - I urge you to do it, if you have the willingness to spend some time learning how to drive correctly, you'll rap great rewards and "get" why racing games are so awesome. Even if you never were much of a car-person. Let me explain.

This is not Forza Horizon, Need for Speed, Blur, Burnout and not even Driveclub. While all those games provide you with cars, speed and some sense of quick motion from a to b and even "racing" to some extent, they do not really capture what - in my opinion - makes a racing game addicting.
By practice and paying attention to details such as apexes, "slow in/fast out" principle, understanding the difference in handling between a FWD, 4WD and RWD car and developing a feel for the minute controls you'll be able to start playing for example Gran Turismo 6 without any driving aids, without any ABS, TCS or what have you. You will start „feeling" the car as it smoothly corners a bend seemingly flying towards the next straight as you're riding that very thin line between perfect steering angle, throttle applied and entrypoint of a corner. You will feel that you just shaved off a few .10's of a second over the last lap because you're focused. You will instantly notice that your car, in a certain situation behaves differently than you'd like to behave it, you'll put a stiffer suspension into the car, tweak it a bit and you'll be able to tackle that particular corner with higher speeds with less braking required, enhancing your time. This is instant gratification. While all other racers that focus on the fun and arcadey side are well and good and I play them as well occasionally (big Blur fan here) you're driving "messy" in them. More paying attention about bumping, roughing, shooting your opponent than really "feeling the track". I know this might sound a bit swollen and inflated to most of you, but it can be compared to a perfect run in a Mario game, where every jump hits its mark, it can be compared to that "god"-feeling you get after playing a first person shooter to a point where you're really good, you know the map, you know where to expect a hiding enemy and this gives you just that little edge, you're on your trigger a fraction of a second earlier, you have your target in sight just that little bit quicker thus you dominate. This is the thrill of racing games right there. They take time to be learned, they take time to be appreciated and thus arguments I've read like "Gran Turismo 6 has a crap damage model that's why it sucks and I won't play it" are moot. You're not going to want to crash and while it would be nice seeing things fly around, it won't add too much to your experience, or that certain kind of experience that makes a racing game's magic do its tricks. Think Need for Speed and you need flying parts and gross damage, when I think about racing I think about fuel consumption, camber and tyre deformation, hitting a blind apex and braking zones.

If you have only the slightest interest in cars or motorsport and want to "up your game" beyond the quick thrills of Need for Speed, give Gran Turismo 6 a chance. Yes, some cars don't sound their best (even though most of the 500 premiums I've heard so far do) and yes there are things that could be better, like in any game nowadays. But by all means don't let yourself loads of fun, probably a whole new world of videogames and the delicate thrills of smooth racing be spoiled by a few biased reviews or reviews that focus on the wrong parts. While all still opinion, I do feel and believe that Gran Turismo 6 is a far better "motorsport simulation" than Forza, it all of course depends on the experience you are expecting and want to have. But for me, after years of Forza, Gran Turismo took the crown.

Now the only thing left to do is wait and see how Gran Turismo 7 will evolve on PS4 and how Project Cars is going to shape up.

Oh by the way, one more thing. IF you are into racing games, if you're at a point where you're willing to spend some money to further enhance your gameplay experience, then by all means, get a proper force feedback racing wheel. I play Gran Turismo 6 with my G27 and it's an absolute game changer compared to the controller. It's a whole different beast. It's fabulous and also compared to iRacing, GTR, RaceOn, Forza and Toca Racedriver Gran Turismo 6 has by far the best, easiest to „read" (with your body) force feedback sensation of them all. Im stunned and right now, Im going back riding my SLS around the Nordschleife a bit more!

PS: If you wanna race, add me on PSN: Scollurio.
Happy racing. If you have any more questions about Gran Turismo 6, feel free to ask! Thanks for reading.

Author: Scollurio
Original Post:  The Thing with Gran Turismo 6, and racing games

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