Drew Pontikis and Oli Smith took a look back at Xbox’s Forza and Playstation’s Gran Turismo franchises before turning to the future to see what sits on the horizon for their respective series as the new generation approaches.
Oli on Gran Turismo
The smell of burning rubber is a blessing that has been offered up in plentiful supply this console generation. With few distinct features solitary to one title, how can a single racing game distinguish itself from the hoards of potential challengers? Well it’s quite simple really, for there was never any contention.
Since the dawn of the console era, there has been only one racing champion. The purest thoroughbred of them all, the Ferrari F40, the Michael Schumacher of racing games; Gran Turismo.
Throughout the history of console gaming Polyphony Digital have been present and at the top of the pile. Boasting an unprecedented catalogue of vehicles and tracks, this racing behemoth has always been the disc of choice for the automotive connoisseur.
It’s the little things that make the difference. And for all of its mass of statistics, GT has always been about the little things. A meticulous attention to detail is what sets Gran Turismo from the pack. Ranging from the absurd level of accurate tracks, to the metallic-perfection of the crafted vehicles.
GT is a labour of love. From the humble original to the outrageously complex fifth, every iteration of the iconic series always feels like the product of automotive obsession. Each and every title has stepped up and set the benchmark for what a Sony console can deliver. Whether that is GT2 on PS1, GT4 on PS2 or even the Playstation 3’s GT5, the titles have always helped push the devices to their technical limits.
The latest and arguably greatest addition to the royal family, Gran Turismo 5, is a master class in digitised racing. Not merely settling for the level of customisation its counterparts hold, GT’s level of depth has the potential to make even the most experienced of mechanics blush. Shaving milliseconds off the top of lap times can be achieved by any manner of precise customisations. From changes as obvious as a switch of tyres or the addition of a turbo-charger, to shifts as subtle as aerodynamic-body work and torque sensing differential tuning.
If all of this intricacy sounds more like a mechanic’s wet dream than a pick-up-and-play game, that’s likely because it is. Consequently, with GT5 and those before it, a certain level of commitment is required to access the dizzying heights of its 4-wheeled elite. When all is said and done, what you will reap from Gran Turismo depends on your racing inclination, for Gran Turismo is a racing simulator. Its recreation of motor sport is completely uncompromised in every way. This is the ethos that carries the series forward into its next iteration and is what has established the series’ dominance within the market thus far.
Taking the Scarface approach to racing, Gran Turismo 5 ensures that to begin with, vehicular options are limited. However, put in the necessary hours and a full-scale assault can be made on the racing gods in their swanky Italian supercars. Grinding through countless hours of sub-100BHP Japanese hatchbacks might seem an oddly dissatisfying proposition, but the most gratifying gaming achievements are those that have to be worked for, which is exactly what GT offers.
Precision is a fundamental part of what makes motor sport so unique and fascinating. When a race can be won and lost by a matter of milliseconds, an attention to detail is important, which is something that Gran Turismo has by the bucket-load. And with an increasingly expansive, painstakingly intricate big brother soon to hit shelves, the racing grandfather looks set to retain pole-position. Not that there was ever any doubt.
Drew on Forza
Forza, alongside Halo, is one of Microsoft’s longest enduring game franchises. First power sliding its way onto the original Xbox, the series built a solid fan base before hitting the big time when the next generation arrived and, like me, many received the sequel as part of the console bundle. Forza 3 was a big step forward, and number four was an absolute masterpiece as I wrote about here, then a fleeting dalliance into the more Need For Speed arcadey marketplace has brought us here, where the Xbox One peers its beady Kinect 2.0 eye at us and says “psst, take a look at this”. Boys and girls, Forza 5 is coming.
The Forza franchise emerged as the main rival to the mighty Gran Turismo series, and arguably with Forza 4 overtook GT5 as the number one racing sim (trollolol etc). I wont lie, I wasn’t all that taken with Forza Horizon, so I was braced for disappointment at E3. Fears suitably relieved, it was with a pang of disappointment that after the hash Microsoft had made of things at E3 that I was planning a move away from Xbox (trollolol etc), but their backtracking has almost won me back and I can begin getting excited about my new favourite game. I don’t need to tell you that it looks amazing. Of course it does. That’s what Forza is for. But what substance have we got to go with it? For me the feature I am looking forward to is the opponent AI modelling or, to be more specific, the lack of it. The talk is that the next generations extra power will let the game take your driving style and lap times and upload it to the ether, communicating it out to other gamers in a far and distant land, whilst theirs will find their way into your races. As someone who sits comfortably cruising round ahead of the professional AI settings enjoying the admittedly beautiful scenery, this fills me with joy. Competitive and realistic offline races are the be all and end all of games like this, and its good to know that Turn 10 are taking advantage of it.
Secondly, the track list. There’s little point in me telling you about the car lists, as for a kick off I need to leave space for Oli to talk about the enemy, and you and I both know it’s going to be amazing regardless. Tracks however, are what define a game like this, and whilst Forza already boasts the greatest racetrack of them all (Circuit De La Sarthe), I’m delighted to see that Spa is making its debut in the game. With the attention to detail that goes into every bump and kerb in the road that’s become the calling card for the franchise, the thought of clinging on for dear life through Eau Rouge in some of the R1 cars sends shivers down my spine.
Ultimately, and somewhat surprisingly, Forza 5 isn’t going up against the old enemy. At the time of writing Sony are listing GT6 as a PS3 title, and whilst that’s laudable of them to continue the support of older consoles (FIFA 14 is coming out on the PS2 in case you missed that one), it seems like the trick has been missed here. No, Forza 5 is taking the next generation fight to Driveclub which whilst I’ve heard good things about, doesn’t excite me in the way that a new, PROPER Forza title does.
Screw it – Here take my money Microsoft. All is forgiven, let’s never fight again.
Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and writer. A fan of racing sims and first person shooters, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes.He's usually found in front of his Xbox or his laptop, follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 Gamertag: drewski060609