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'Gran Turismo 6' coming for PS3 this holiday season

Thu, 16 May 2013

Update: Preview video added below for your enjoyment.

When the sixth installment of "Gran Turismo" hits store shelves this holiday season for the PlayStation 3, it will include 1,200 cars, 33 tracks in 71 layouts, a new track editor with 10 square kilometers of scenery, and more ways to connect with friends and rivals.

The new installment will add to the franchise's current sales of 70 million copies, continuing its run as one of the biggest sellers on the PlayStation family of consoles. Polyphony Digital, Sony and 10 manufacturers brought journalists out to the Silverstone Circuit in England for some hands-on time with a prototype copy of the new game.

GT6 gets a new game engine and a new rendering program. Creator Kazunori Yamauchi says the title will have 50 times the dynamic range of the previous game. That means that the background and foreground images blur when they're supposed to -- at speed -- and clear up when you slow down. GT6 also uses a newer, more accurate physics engine including better programming for the suspension damping, tire deformation and aerodynamic parts. Polyphony Digital partnered with Yokohama tire and KW Automotive for a more accurate representation.

As for those parts -- including aero, suspension and tires -- there will be more of them. Lots more. In some screen shots we saw at least 20 different spoilers, and Yamauchi also said almost any wheel will be available along with thousands of other parts. The range will be updated almost monthly, as will the car selection.

Expandability is key, according to Yamauchi. GT6 will have tons of downloadable content, including the tracks, parts and cars. Players will also be able to customize their vehicles more than in the past. But don't expect a “Need for Speed” style free-for-all -- most of the allowable stuff sounded tasteful.

There's no word on how much memory the game and its downloadable content will take up, but we'd bet it'll be a good bit more than GT5.

Polyphony and Yamauchi also talked about the “edge effect,” meaning the cars in GT6 will realistically model the cars better, bringing virtual even closer to reality. Right now Polyphony has special ECUs in Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S cars, logging every turn, break and throttle move, checking in on what happens to the car. That means when you slam on the brakes in the virtual BRZ, it will act just like the real thing. Yamauchi says other cars will get the same treatment before the game's release, though he didn't elaborate which ones.

After 20 years of the franchise spanning back to the development of the first "Gran Turismo," Polyphony Digital has fantastic relationships with nearly every car company (Porsche, take note). Don't be surprised to see a few cars that aren't even on sale yet to make an appearance in the game later this year.

The online aspect of "Gran Turismo" will also grow. Yamauchi says there are currently players starting up their own racing series and creating entire online clubs of virtual cars and owners -- all of this with no support from Polyphony. GT6 will change that. The company will help set up local, national and regional clubs, one-make races and whole race series calendars for those who are so inclined.

We were allowed some time on the virtual Silverstone circuit with a few select cars. Besides being graphically smoother all the way around, GT6 seems broader and deeper in every aspect. Track facilities at Silverstone looked extremely realistic; the curbing felt suitably bumpy through the Thrustmaster wheel and pedal setup; the sounds were nearly perfect.

The experience was realistic enough to make us feel pretty comfortable when they turned us loose on Silverstone's pavement in real life from behind the wheel of a a ktM XBow Nissan 370z.

For the first time, a Gran Turismo game will hit small screens besides the PlayStation Portable. Company brass said you will be able to log on from your smartphone, tablet and personal computer. They didn't say the handhelds would have 100 percent playability, but we saw some of the menu screens and a car list from a virtual garage.

It may come as a surprise that GT6 isn't being released on the PlayStation 4, which also comes out this holiday season. Part of the reason is that the game has been in the works for PS3 for years, Yamauchi also said that by the time players got every virtual minute out of GT6, another game would be ready for the latest system.

He also said that he hoped the next 15 years of "Gran Turismo" would be as good as the first 15. Because those words come not only from a gamer, but also a dyed-in-the-wool car guy -- he was headed to the N

By Jake Lingeman