Saturday, 25 August 2012

Vive la Différence: How GT5 and Forza 4 Prove the Industry Wrong

We gamers, and this site not least, often lament how modern games have ever less variety- how modern action games are clones of one of Call of Duty, Uncharted or Gears of War. We often complain that seeing something different is far more unusual than it should be, and we get perhaps over-excited when we see something that is- see Watch_Dogs. On the face of it, one might think that racing games would be the most guilty of this- the premise of driving a car around a track is identical for damn near every one of them, right?

Well, maybe. As a car fan without money for cars, I’ve been spending a lot of time with the two biggest names in console race sims- Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo 5 and Turn 10’s Forza Motorsport 4, and it turns out that the variation between two outwardly similar games is greater than it appears; it seems to me that there is a fundamental difference in design philosophy, pervading every aspect of the games, that sets them apart from one another to attentive eyes.

GT5 presents a simulation experience, pure almost to the point of harshness, but deep too, with multiple disciplines, a huge range of cars and meticulous attention to detail. Over a thousand painstakingly recreated vehicles make up the roster, and each one drives differently. Real world and virtual tracks are included, all with their own subtle nuances, and the player can race at night, in the rain, or on snow or dirt tracks to their heart’s content. Career progression and menus, however, can be very clunky at times, and AI opponents often seem oblivious to the player’s car- it’s clear that this is a game that is all about the driving simulation, with no room for compromise.

Forza, on the other hand, is a far more player-focused experience, offering a more structured campaign and the polish for the smoothest possible player experience. The career mode is smooth and well-designed, menus slick and car customisation intuitive. The online suite offers the ready usability of a Call of Duty game, and carefully planned DLC offers new cars and tracks that add to an already complete experience. For all its polish, though, it lacks GT’s range and depth of cars and experience, not to mention a little of its character.

Everything from menus (slick in Forza and intimidating in GT) to race physics (with GT’s lending each car more personality but Forza’s superior feedback) to my mind illustrates that these games, supposedly interchangeable, are in fact two very different creations born of very different but equally worthy visions. Which is better? I couldn’t possibly say; Forza seems to represent the console ideal of challenging gameplay accessible to all, while Gran Turismo’s unwavering focus and clear passion are admirable. As a car fan and a game fan, I like both very much; both sold well and received praise from critics, despite taking very different approaches to the same basic formula. Neither game releases annually, either, and both are receiving impressive post release support in the form of patches, DLC and community events.

Why, then, do so many developers seek to follow trends and copy the competition? Here, surely, is proof positive that visionary and talented game creation yields a truly worthwhile (not to mention marketable) product, distinct from the competition. Forza and GT are franchises with unique identity and vision; trends come and trends go, but I believe that a game with that identity can stick around for a very long time.

This article was originally posted on www.invalidopinions.com - check it out- it's great and actually gets updates unlike my stupid goddamn blog.

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