I won’t beat around the bush – for me, Forza takes the prize. “Horizon” aside, Forza wins this debate in my book from the release of Forza 2 onward to Forza 4.
That’s not to say I’m not a Gran Turismo fan, I am…in fact, I’ll wager I was one of the first. The original Gran Turismo was released in late 1997 in Japan and wasn’t available in North America until mid 1998. I jumped in early just after release with a Japanese import that I paid about $80.00 for at a privately owned local game store (remember those?). I went into the store one day and saw a few employees crowded around the manager who was playing in arcade mode. At the time, the graphics were impressive and the tuning system was pretty revolutionary as was the wide selection of cars. And the replays were killer…It looked like the Japanese Best Motoring videos I’d seen playing in loops at the local tuning shops. Even then, games were region coded but this wasn’t a problem for me…
Thankfully, my early SCPH-1001 Playstation 1 was able to play imported games using a little trick…as it was explained to me long ago, the region coding was the first track of the CD that the machine read. With early Playstations, people were able to load up the Playstation logo of a USA game with the console cover open and a piece of tape on the button that normally tells the machine the lid is closed. This would effectively load the region coding of the USA game…then when the disc stopped spinning, you could swap in an imported game, close the lid and play.
It took one night for me to get simply HOOKED on Gran Turismo. A few hours into gameplay and I already had a few cars in my garage. I remember very specifically building a powerful late model Supra Turbo (a car I’d only dreamed of stock let alone upgraded). GT1 was just about the only game I played until the sequel came out in late 1999. I was in college then and it took some phone calls before I found a store on release day that had unreserved stock. Luckily, I spoke to a KB toys employee who was equally obsessed with the first game and he held onto a copy for me until I made my way to the store. I skipped classes that day and played GT2 ALL day and well into the night. The one thing I loved about GT2 was the boost gauge…I know it’s silly, but it was pretty neat.
It was the same story with GT3 and GT4…they were my “go-to” games for years. At that point, I’d played the original Forza game and wasn’t terribly impressed. I was SO hardcore for Gran Turismo, I probably didn’t give Forza the time it deserved. However, once I got an Xbox 360 and Forza 2 I fell in love. I found Forza easy to navigate…the game just made sense. The graphics blew GT4 out of the water and the sound of each engine was spot on as opposed to Gran Turismo’s typical “buzz.” I found each successor in the Forza series to improve on the previous game. In fact, I was always so impressed that Forza could put out new and improved titles so quickly while all we heard from the Gran Turismo camp is “we’re working on it.”
The Gran Turismo PSP release in 2009 was the first sign that things weren’t going well in the series. It was a bland game that I regret getting. The entire appeal of Gran Turismo was building a garage of custom cars in career mode and racing in various events. Unfortunately, GT PSP was basically Gran Turismo 4’s arcade mode and not much else. My theory is that they had to pay Jay Leno so much to use his voice in the License test portion that little was left in the budget for actual gameplay improvements. Again, that’s just a theory from some idiot on the internet (me) so take it with a grain of salt.
When GT5 was finally released I was READY! I got myself a PS3 and pre-ordered the game and was prepared to be amazed. Afterall, Polyphony Digital had years to perfect their title and revolutionize the genre once again. Unfortunately, GT5 was a let down for me. I can’t understand why evey car doesn’t get the same level of detail in the graphics department (some cars have full interiors, others just silhouettes). The sound is just as buzzy as ever and while the driving physics may be the most accurate, that doesn’t make for a perfect video game.
Again and again, I go back to my Forza games to chase lap times, race online or just build a car and go for a quick blast. Maybe things will change with the next cycle of games because I really want Gran Turismo to OWN the series again.