FIRST, a confession. Gran Turismo has never been my favourite racing game. Long before the troika, GT was a series gripped by austerity.
Call it coldness, sterility or dogged pursuit of purity. Everything is subordinate to the racing to the point where it lacks the sheer fun of competitors such as Forza or Need For Speed.
But if you crave the distilled essence of pushing a car to its limits, GT6 has no peer. Peel away all the usual GT crap – the cringey jazz soundtrack, the interminable loading times, the tiresome progression structure – and the game’s commitment to automotive authenticity is even more apparent.
The numbers convey a sense of it – 1,200 cars, 37 tracks with 100 layouts, 82 types of wheel, 952 colours for your helmet. The latter two may be meaningless but the expanded roster of locations and motors offers the most compelling package and variety of any racer (are you listening, Forza?).
The subtlety of the cars’ handling forms the bedrock of GT’s appeal, with every undulation in the road, every shift in the cars’ weight conveyed by the physics model. GT6 shows marked improvement even here, each tweak of the car’s set-up producing appreciable difference.
There’s a nervous thrill on every corner as you push the tyres to the edge of grip and just beyond while (hopefully) keeping control.
If only GT6 could nail everything else so well. Its visual beauty is often undermined by trackside blandness while the introduction of microtransactions will unbalance online multiplayer for those daunted by the alternative grinding required to level up.
Tight deadlines have also left several features on the cutting-room floor, to be restored in the coming months – including the virtual drivers of B-Spec mode and a course-maker.
Finally, the rank stupidity of the driver AI and the lack of true damage modelling are frankly appalling after 15 years of Gran Turismo.
It feels churlish to complain about a game stuffed with such a breadth of content – including ventures into karts, NASCAR, Super GT, rally, ice and drift – but GT6 can’t maintain its high standards throughout the game.
It shoots for the stars but reaches the moon (how ironic - you can drive a buggy on the moon in GT6).
FROM a serious simulation to a fantasy fiesta of petrol fumes, the contrast with Rivals is immense. It also features a (much more compressed) collection of real-life cars but the open-world structure pitting cops against racers makes for a seamless succession of speed challenges.
Like its spiritual predecessors NFS Hot Pursuit and Burnout, Rivals throws away reality and focuses instead on non-stop action, with the cityscape filled by distractions as you choose the role of either cop or rogue racer.
It looks terrific, particularly on next-gen systems, and the incorporation of online players in your world produces a lively road network – frequently you’ll happen on a chase scene with a dozen cops pursuing another player. You’re free to intervene or ignore.
The scoring system introduces a compelling risk-and-reward temptation, urging you to build your multiplier as long as possible before banking the points at a safe house.
For all that, there’s a nagging sense that Rivals won’t last you too long. The variety of race modes is narrow and once you’ve explored the countryside you’ll be reluctant to come back for more.
OCTOBER’S update to the long-running football champ brought precious little new to the party – more of a respray than a rethink. Thankfully, this next-gen version moves the goalposts in the right direction, even though some modes have been cut in the process. Win some, lose some, eh?
Unquestionably, the graphical and animation enhancements deliver a better game, while EA has taken the opportunity to plug some of the exploits that bedevilled the earlier versions (chiefly, the ease of headed goals from corners).
Closer control while dribbling and a wider range of shots make for more satisfying matches. But the loss of tournaments and the full Be a Pro mode will annoy some fans, who will have to plough their time into the frighteningly addictive Ultimate Team instead.
Kudos, though, for the little extras in the XOne version, which makes smart use of Kinect to automate team tactics and substitutions and offers the possibility of acquiring legendary players including Pele.