Rants and raves about all the latest in video games and other forms of mindless entertainment.

June 23, 2005

Review: Forza VS Gran Turismo 4 - Who get's the checkered flag?

By Cesar Herrera

Forza vs GT4

So here am I making a comparison of two of the most current racing simulators on the market. Two strong reasons support the reasoning for a comparison. The first and most obvious (contrary to the racing fan’s mindset) is that each game almost represents one side rather than its own content and style. GT4 is commonly accepted as the console racer to own by PS2 users. Forza, on the other hand is MSG’s first attempt at a racing simulator, and therefore, it has been touted as the GT4 killer by Xbox fans. The second and most obvious reason as that both GT4 and Forza try to reclaim the title of the closest console adaptation to a racing simulator. Both have its flaws and strong points but this of course is going to be taken down by fanboys, and the decision it is going to be ultimately up on your hands.

So we begin with GT4, Polyphony Digital’s fourth iteration of the monster Gran Turismo series. All together, they have sold millions and made themselves a strong reputation on the console racing sim market. Being developed, shortly after GT3’s launch, Polyphony’s goal was to fix their past mistakes and without compromising the package, add some features that could improve the game. From now on, rather than naming the whole Polyphony Digital team; instead I will put this name: Kazunori Yamauchi. Don’t get me wrong, GT4 was not a single man’s job, but I feel the need to put his name here. After all, Kazunori has been the mastermind behind the GT series since the beginning on the PS1 era.

Flashback to 1998, The Gran Turismo series emerges on the Playstation as a racing game different from any other console racing game on the market. Kazunori’s goal? Try to imitate the sport and passion of motor sport racing. Gran Turismo was widely praised for its simulation style gameplay. Use of real world car licenses such as Toyota, Mercedes, Chevrolet (among others), altogether were implemented in a tight package with quality graphics and equally impressive sounds for their time. Seven years later, the Gran Turismo series still reign supreme on the console racing sim market, and consequently, Kazunori’s latest work comes in the form of GT4.

Speaking about the game now, GT4 seems to truly have improved in some areas, but at the same time leave others unattended. This comes not as the developer’s fault but rather due to the PS2’s inferior technology. Still GT4 is a work to marvel and admire especially running on PS2 hardware. So let’s get to the things that GT4 does excellently, which are that connection of the driver and the road, the true to life handling physics, the impressive garage of cars and the lengthy Gran Turismo mode (a more in-depth career mode).

Gran Turismo 4

Unlike other racing games, GT4 makes the connection of “driver and the road” perfectly, such that you can almost feel every bump, and hear the wind whistling through your ears as you hit the double and triple digits on the speedometer. This is possible due to the very believable physics engine that runs the handling of the car. Take a turn too late and you will feel the need of griping to that small piece of road left; brake at the last minute and you will feel all the weight transfer as your view tilts to the front; hit a bump and watch how your view changes drastically as you try to correct your driving path. GT4 lets you feel this with over 650 hundred racing machines which vary from company and year. You can either opt to drive concept cars such as the Cadillac Cien or go back in time with the Ford TT. Of course, you won’t get your hands on all these classics and concepts right away, as you are going to have to make your way into the expansive Gran Turismo mode, which could easily take more than a hundred hours to complete. Sink your way into the GT mode and mess with your car settings, this in part to the wide-ranging amounts of tuning parts which can be bought either from real-life automotive dealers or from popularly known tuning companies such as Opera, HK, Spoon, etc. All these extensive features come at a price though, as the common gamer will feel overwhelmed or worse, become lost in the complex system. Every GT fan knows that the Gran Turismo games have always been about spending time, comparing cars and prices, upgrading and downgrading, winning/losing and of course, tearing your way into any of the 100 tracks offered on this game.

Unfortunately, not everything is good news. GT4 is definitely an improvement over GT3, but on features rather than substance. The handling physics have been enhanced along with a new - rather unnecessary - Photomode feature. They could have spent some of that time to fine tune the AI, because frankly it is the worst part of the game. The computer still adheres to its racing line no matter what, and that often means taking you out of the road. This makes GT4 more like a driving simulator than a racing simulator. Another thing that for others was disappointing (not for myself however) was the lack of damage. Despite being on its fourth iteration, the Gran Turismo series remains “damage less”. Damage made its appearance on GT2 but it seemed to be an “arcade-like” thing, as you could damage the crap out of your car, but still have it running. Sure, it sounds interesting, but it’s also artificial for a racing simulator. We’re talking about real damage physics, which would make your car completely inoperable at any point thereafter. That is realistic, but of course would take the fun out of the game. Finally, another expected feature that didn’t make it up to the retail version was the online mode. I’d say a good portion of the newcomer fans were disappointed with this. I can’t say the same about the old time GT fans. Still Kazunori expects an online version to come sometime during fall 2005. It is not known if this version will come as a patch disc or as a completely different version.

Forza Motorsport

So now it’s Forza’s turn. There is nothing much to say in the way of background information about Forza, as this is MSG’s first foray into the console racing market. In terms of a racing game, it is a sure bet that Forza surpasses GT4, but as a driving simulator, it falls flat. For some reason, I had a very hard time playing this game with the Controller S. Honestly, it’s too sensitive and is completely uncomfortable for the very demanding turns this game inflicts on the gamer.

Speaking about Forza’s handling, one of the most hyped features of this game, I can say it disappoints. The physics feel rigid but at the same time not on a simulation level. For example, all cars tend to over steer regardless of drive train, even FF cars. Another annoying thing is the braking. Without ABS, it’s very easy to lock your brakes. It doesn’t even happen when you are pressing the brakes at full, but it can happen even if you press the brakes at 50%. The game is completely unplayable with ABS off and the Controller S. The Controller S may do a decent job with arcade racing games but it fails with Forza. Then arises the problem that even maxing the brake pressure won’t solve the problem. I think it’s rather a problem of tire selection than brakes. Even buying the best tires (racing slicks) won’t solve the problem. It feels like finding the limits of your racing machine on economy tires. Every videogame racing fan and real racer knows that all that matters in a race is not how much power you have but how good does your car grip the road, and all of that falls under the condition of your tires.

Forza Motorsport

Now we get into Forza’s visual presentation which happens to be the best feature of the game. There are a lot of nice visual effects like the tire marks, natural lightning (something very noticeable in the New York track) and very smooth edges. The tracks look well lit and very smooth. Jaggies are almost non-existent in this game. Car models are a lot cleaner than GT4 counterparts, but they seem to be simpler. The color palette is a lot more vibrant and the car designs suffer for this reason. They look way too perfect. They almost shine on the tracks, even during nighttime. Shadow effects also happen to be better done than GT4. In Forza, you get the full model reflected on the pavement rather than the latter, in which you just get a blurry image. Damage models are another of Forza’s strong points, although they have their limit. Take a turn to wide, and you’ll kiss the wall, which would end on performance damage and a nice bumper dangling in the front of you car. Damage is not limited to the front but can happen on any side of the car. As I said, the damage is nice but it has it limits. There is not a lot of visual damage that you can do to the car. For some reason, no matter how many times I crashed in my “steam boat” Bentley, the bumper would always stay hanging there. Reflections are also another nice aspect, but they are not a pretty thing to see in action. They are pretty to look at but at a choppy rate. It doesn’t move as fluid as GT4’s. Xbox’s extra power makes up for awesome looking racing tracks, although I didn’t enjoy the blue and yellow rumble strips.

Next thing is Forza’s sound, which in my opinion also disappoints. Sure the car and environmental sounds are there but they sound way too muffled. Even in first person view, there is a chance that you are going to hear the audience yelling more than your own engine. The braking also sounds kind of ho hum. No matter how hard your tires are losing traction, the sound is the same. It makes up for a very deceiving thing (very important thing for racing). Sounds are good but they don’t resonate as well as GT4’s. For a clear example, take your Japanese Integra aka American RSX and you will notice the difference on GT4’s more vivid engine revs than Forza’s muffled “same-tune” sounds. The soundtrack is a very forgettable thing but fortunately there is the option for custom soundtracks, so you can trash the Nurburgring while listening to your favorite band.

Gran Turismo 4

Another much acclaimed feature from Forza, the AI… the only good thing going for Forza’s AI is that it is simply better than GT4’s bumper AI. In GT4, a car stopping on the middle of a turn becomes a crash fest; in Forza, the cars will actually brake and change racing lines accordingly. Don’t get me wrong, the AI still sticks to its racing lines, it’s just that it actually acknowledges your presence on the track. One very unpredictable and very annoying thing is Forza’s AI’s aggressiveness. No matter what you do, you will often find yourself restarting a race due to the AI spinning you out for one reason or another.

Then we get to Forza’s Drivatar vs GT4’s B-Spec. There isn’t much science going on in either, as they’re more like the ideal feature for lazy gamers. I prefer to actually play a game instead of the computer playing it for me (although B-Spec will become handy on GT4’s long, and I say very long endurances).

Speaking about extra features; it is obvious that Forza gets the upper hand. In the online aspect, you can do so many things; traditionally compete for first place on races classified by car class, make your own racing clans, and differentiate them by the design on your car (thanks to Forza’s unnecessary but amazing nonetheless visual customization feature). GT4 wins it on car selection, although Forza’s 200 car offering gives you some pretty good racing machines not offered in the first one. For instance, you get cars from such manufacturers as Porsche and Ferrari. I mean 700 cars can look like the better choice but not so when you get so many repetitions of a single car, *cough* Skyline *cough* and some other unnecessary machines like the Ford model-T.

So here I reach the end and still I haven’t reached a verdict. Well…it is not that easy to pick the winner as Forza does things better than GT4 does, and vice versa. All I can say is that for the racing fan that worries more about physics than presentation, GT4 would be the obvious winner, but for that fan who prefers fierce racing, Forza would be the obvious choice.

In my opinion, it all comes to a tie. In the end, if you are a real racing fan, and own both consoles, you will get Forza and GT4. One thing though, use the DFP and Fanatec wheels for each game, as the experience is obviously improved. In today’s age of very complex racing games such as Forza and GT4, a simple controller just won’t do.


Forza Motorsport


Gran Turismo 4



Blogger CPT PYRO said...

Great site! Tons of good gaming info.

June 28, 2005 4:09 PM


Post a Comment

<< Home