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Forza Motorsport vs. Gran Turismo: The Race is On
It wasn't long ago that Forza Motorsport was the new guy on the block. The first Gran Turismo game came out in 1997, while the first Forza did not release until 2005. Eight years is a big lead for a game series, and at first Gran Turismo had a pretty clear lead over the newcomer.
But things change. The last full Gran Turismo, Gran Turismo 4, was released in late 2004. Since that Forza Motorsport 1, 2 and 3 have been released, each of which has introduced significant improvements over the last. In response, Gran Turismo has only been able to release Gran Turismo Prologue, a sort of mini-release meant to stem the growing anxiety of Gran Turismo fans eager for Gran Turismo 5, which seems to be perpetually without a release date.
So, which series is the best? That's a tough question, but one which this article will try to answer.
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Much of the excitement of a racing game comes from the ability to drive a vehicle which you would never be able to drive in real life - or to drive in a way you'd never be able to drive it in real life. Although counting the number of cars in a game may seem silly, adding more cars does add a certain amount of fun to a game. It is always frustrating to find that a car that you'd like to try out simply isn't modeled in the game.
This is an area where the Gran Turismo series has been consistently better than Forza Motorsport. Gran Turismo 4 had over 700 cars (the exact number differs from region to region) while Forza Motorsport 3 includes over 400. The claim is that Gran Turismo 5 will have over 1000 cars in total. It is arguable that some of the cars in Gran Turismo are silly to include, such as the Daimler Motor Carriage. Even so, Forza Motorsport has some catching up to do in this area.
Win: Gran Turismo
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However, the last full Gran Turismo game was released in 2004, and Gran Turismo 5: Prologue was also released almost three years ago. Forza Motorsport has been very aggressive while Gran Turismo has made very small strides. Damage modeling is one example. Forza Motorsport 3 models damage very well, including not only external damage but also damage to the transmission, engine, suspension and brakes. Cars can also roll, a feature just added in Forza Motorsport 3. Gran Turismo 5 promises to have these features, but they were not included in Prologue, so it remains to be seen if Gran Turismo will be able to catch up in this area.
Another area where Forza Motorsport leads is the controls. Forza Motorsport 3 was highly praised, and rightly so, for how realistic the controls felt. A large problem with racing games has been the lack of weight in the feel of the cars. Because the player is using a controller or mock racing wheel, not the actual wheel of the car, it is difficult to convey the road feel which a real race car driver receives from the vehicle he or she is in. Forza Motorsport 3 was the first game to make significant strides in this area. Cars in Gran Turismo 5: Prologue feel disconnected from the road in comparison.
Win: Forza Motorsport
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Forza Motorsport 3 is very realistic, but it also attempts to make the realism easy for new players to digest. Forza Motorsport 3 has, in the years since Gran Turismo 4, pioneered some very important gameplay features which are now becoming standard in racing games. These include features like the racing line and a detailed list of driving assists including stability control and anti-lock brakes. New players can play with these assists on, then take them off as their skill increases. This provides gameplay which is much more accessible and enjoyable.
Gran Turismo is not without its high points, however. Gran Turismo 5: Prologue allowed for 16 car races, while Forza Motorsport 3 is limited to a grid of eight cars. The AI also feels better in Gran Turismo 5: Prologue, as it seems to be capable of aggressive moves without being a total jerk. The AI in Forza Motorsport 3, on the other hand, will wreck you happily if you give it the chance. But despite these wins in Gran Turismo's favor, Forza Motorsport 3's driver assists gives it the win overall.
Win: Forza Motorsport
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Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport take very different approaches to graphics. Gran Turismo's philosophy is to pack in as much detail as possible, and while Gran Turismo 5: Prologue claims an average framerate of 60 FPS, this doesn't appear to be accurate on a subjective level. Forza Motorsport, on the other hand, refuses to allow the game to dip below 60 FPS, which means that less detail can be added to the cars and, most noticeably, the tracks.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. Gran Turismo 5: Prologue actually does have very rare instances where a momentary framerate dip becomes obvious. However, Gran Turismo 5: Prologue is much better looking than Forza Motorsport 3.
Win: Gran Turismo
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Both Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport have made significant strides in multi-player. A decade ago racing online in a console racing simulator was just an idea, but now it is a full-fledged reality and an important feature of every racing game which hits store shelves.
This is another area where Forza Motorsport's experience is paying off. Mutli-player has been a focus of the Forza Motorsport team, and each new version of Forza Motorsport has added features. Forza Motorsport 3 approaches multi-player from a community perspective, giving players numerous ways to connect when they're not on the racetrack. Trading paint jobs and tuning cars are just as much a part of multi-player as the time on the track. Gran Turismo 5: Prologue has multi-player, but the features available don't even begin to touch those of Forza Motorsport 3. Gran Turismo 5 will have a difficult time beating Forza Motorsport in this area.
Win: Forza Motorsport
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The winner, with a 3-2 record, is Forza Motorsport.
Ultimately, this victory can all be traced back to the fact that the entire Forza Motorsport series has evolved in the time since Gran Turismo 4 was released. While Gran Turismo 5 has been worked on behind the scenes Forza Motorsport has been releasing actual, full-featured products which have been tested by consumers, allowing the Forza Motorsport 3 to respond with improvements and additions.
That's not to say that Gran Turismo 5 can't reclaim the throne, but at this point the Gran Turismo series is undoubtedly playing catch-up. Forza Motorsport has stolen the crowd, and they won't give it up easily. The Gran Turismo team will have to work very hard in order to steal it back.