How Can Gran Turismo Ever Take Back The Crown From Forza Motorsport?

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Gran Turismo 5 and Forza Motorsport 4 are now both finally out at the same time, allowing the internet to squabble over physics, graphics and just about anything else they can get their hands on – and trust me, they are.

The truth of the matter though, is that when it comes down to critical acclaim, Forza 4 has Gran Turismo 5 completely beat.

Now… because of all of the recent hype surrounding Forza Motorsport 4, (as well as the giant scores and constant barrage of comments saying things like “Gran Turismo can kiss my ass, Forza FTW”) don’t be fooled into thinking that Gran Turismo isn’t a damn fine driving game, because it really is.

The problem, as I mentioned earlier is that while it did get good review scores, it didn’t get what everyone was expecting, which was flying colors. People may argue that it doesn’t matter because the game sold well but let’s just be clear on something; Gran Turismo 5 sold really well for two reasons: Marketing through videos and screenshots is one… and the brand power brought through by the success of the franchise, is the other. That’s why the scores of this Gran Turismo will affect the sales of the next one possibly even more than the sales of its own.

That’s why when it came down to the review scores, it didn’t quite match up with either Forza 3 or Forza 4, despite being the better racing sim according to purist.

The reason for that, is that game reviewers are just that… they are video game reviewers, not simulator reviewers, or professional drivers, they are gamers who are spending money in exchange for a fun experience and they make up the same demographic as the majority of people who will eventually end up buying the game.

After spending some time with both GT5 Spec 2.0 and Forza 4 this past week, I began realizing what I think Gran Turismo will need to once again come out on top.

Don’t get me wrong and mistake me for someone who thinks that Gran Turismo 5 isn’t good though. It’s a damn fine piece of video game when it’s at its best and even though my review for GT5 was lower than my review for Forza 4, I’m nothing but overjoyed that I get to have both in my gaming library.

I have also previously written about my feelings that Gran Turismo 5 is a magnificent driving game, but not so much as a racing game in an article titled Gran Turismo 5: Best driving game ever, worst racing game ever. The ’Spec’ updates are making some changes and improving the game and the recent Spec 2.0 update is proof of that, as well as a step in the right direction with the magnificent upcoming DLC of the Spa Franchorchamps track that is a big favorite with the petrol-head crowds.

So let me get down to the essential issues I have found with Gran Turismo and what I think needs to be done to get it back on top.

The major problem with Gran Turismo 5 is that it’s a very inconsistent experience. When the game is at its best, it looks phenomenal, when the game isn’t… it’s really quite the opposite.

Just the other day I was racing in an all-Lamborghini event around the new Rome circuit, and it was sublime at the very least. The cars looked fantastic, the track looked fantastic and the driving felt great. I was struggling to get out in front and had to go back multiple times to perfect my lines, get faster and do what was required of me to get ahead of the pack. I had no issues going back over and over again, because I was wrapped up in this phenomenal setting of Italian sportscars in a beautiful Italian city.

On the complete flip-side, I also once put up a post showing that Gran Turismo 5 looks pretty darn awful at times. Take one of the standard cars offered in the game and select an unpolished track that wasn’t given the same love as the newer ones, and I could easily fool someone into thinking that I’m playing an HD remake of a Playstation 2 game with blocky car models, low res textures and trees that look like two cardboard cutouts stapled together , and that’s the truth.

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You can’t believe that a game as good looking as this one above, could be the same terrible looking game as seen below.

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You see, franchises as big as Gran Turismo (not to mention system selling exclusives) aren’t supposed to have to explain themselves or make excuses. People don’t want to hear it, and you wouldn’t believe the level of disinterest on friends’ faces when I explained to them that the car they are driving doesn’t have an interior because it’s not a premium car. People don’t want to know this stuff, they just want to play and enjoy their games – and they want a consistent experience and they don’t care about what goes on behind-the-scenes.

That’s where Forza comes in and swoops them off of their feet. They pitch up, look at the cars to see what they can drive. “Oh, I love the old iconic Mk1 Golf GTi!” they might say, and then sit with a smile on their faces as they screech around some track marveling at the cool old looking interior and effects on the gorgeously rendered track. This is of course, only one small element overall.

My suggestion for the franchise is a pretty drastic one, but one that would work.

Gran Turismo needs to look at releasing a new version, something fresh… not just a Spec update. Just like how Ferrari released the Ferrari 430 Scuderia or how Porsche releases RS or GT versions of their cars, Polyphony need to cut the fat and focus on the experience.

The game engine that they’ve spent so long perfecting is now done, they can focus on what’s needed now without having to build anything up. Now, I don’t know if a Gran Turismo 6 would be the best idea so soon, but what about a polished up, more focused re-branded game version of GT5, that will get a full retail release once more but be able to import all GT5 profiles and DLC. If Capcom can re-release a game a million times, Sony can handle one.

Take Gran Turismo 5 and strip it down. Remove all of the crappy slow cars and all of the standard cars. Decide which iconic or interesting cars are worth bringing back and recreate them as premium cars so that there is no such thing as standard or premium. Cut the amount of cars down to 500 or so and make sure that every one of them is interesting and as good looking as the rest.

Polish up the tracks and make sure that all of them are the same level of quality, from the old ones to the brand new ones. Re-think the career mode and take a page from games like Forza 4 which make the entire career a journey that seamlessly flows from even to event. On that note, polish up the menus as well, get everything more focused as well.

The graphics in Gran Turismo 5, just like everything else, are amazing in their best moments and really not so much in their worst. The problem once again being consistency. The cars may look more realistic than anything else out there right now, but the illusion is completely broken when you are driving though a magnificent looking storm only to see huge problems with pixelated water spray effects. Also, if you are going to have day/night and weather… same thing again… have it available for all tracks, not just some.

Everyone also needs to stop ignoring the fact that damage was most definitely an after thought. Something that was only integrated at the last minute due to public outcries on the internet. Once again, one might argue that the cars in Forza 4 don’t look quite as good as the ones in Gran Turismo 5, but it’s a huge win for Forza that the cars look that good, but are still capable of large amounts of damage, scrapes, lost bumpers etc and once again, across all vehicles not only just some.

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Forza 4 damage. If I ever do this to my real car, please shoot me.

People always rag other games for not having rally, but honestly, why should they have rally? No one ever jumped into my reviews for Dirt 3 asking why it doesn’t have touring cars, or why F1 2011 doesn’t have buggy racing. I’m sorry to break it to everyone, but Gran Turismo’s rally really isn’t that fantastic and seems like nothing but a distraction and waste of time and resources that could have gone to polishing everything else.

Gran Turismo needs to stop trying to be things that it isn’t and focus on what it is. You’ve got your engine now Polyphony, so make the best Gran Turismo that you can make and then if you really want to have rally, make a different GT: Rally game altogether and make it the best rally game that it can be.

So to cut a long story short… what has to happen here for Gran Turismo to truly stand out as the number one video game sim racer of this generation is that it needs to cut the fat and the distractions and stop trying to be more than it should be.

I love the Gran Turismo franchise, it was a core part of my first major console experiences and I’m sure many of you can relate. If you weren’t too busy playing a lot of Mario Kart or PC games at that point in history, there was a good chance that you, like me, were apart of the growing Playstation generation, pumping hours and hours into licenses, tuning upgrades and perfecting lines.

Gran Turismo 1 – 4 were everything I wanted and more, they were solid, consistent, fun games that kept me coming back for more. Time has changed though and it seems like in the struggle to finally release the game that everyone was waiting aeons for, Polyphony got to a point where they needed to release, but without having every aspect as polished as it should be.

I still go back and play Gran Turismo 5, because I love the franchise and have an old relationship with it… but the truth is, that if it was a brand new IP and it didn’t have the history that it did, many of us would never have been so kind to its flaws in the first place.

Face it. If Need for Speed: Shift had come out with Premium and Standard cars, everyone would have panned it to hell and back, and that’s the truth. Gran Turismo 5 was good, but it wasn’t truly great due to its shortcomings but we all know that it could be restored to its former glory, and for Pete’s sake… stop being so serious and have a bit of fun with it.

Fans of the series can shout and scream about biased reviewers all day long if they like, but they can’t deny that when someone is given a game to review and is met with things like standard cars, old looking tracks and cumbersome menus, he has no choice but to call it like he sees it.

Remove the Gran Turismo name from the title and they surely never would have been so kind.

Now, my hair-brained ideas of how to get Gran Turismo back to its former glory of near-perfect scores across the board may not completely gel with your ideas, so tell us in the comments below what you think and if you would change anything.

On the other hand, who is all for Gran Turismo: Supercharged Edition?

Last Updated: October 17, 2011

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