Tag Archives: gran turismo

Two steps forward, one step back: A Forza 5 Review

I can safely say, at this point, I have a love/hate relationship with Forza 5.  After playing in career mode and free play mode for nearly two weeks, I think I have my finger on the pulse of the game so here are my thoughts…

It seems like Turn 10 Studios made big improvements to all of the polish in Forza 5.  Little details that heighten the enjoyment of playing are immediately noticed.  The dashboard reflections, blinding sunlight and various dirty effects such as dust/rubber that collect on the car throughout a race are impressive (particularly in photo mode where the dust effect is very subtle but realistic).

Also, Turn 10’s upgrades aren’t limited to what you can see on the screen as massive improvements have been made on the audio side.  Considering how authentic the sound was in Forza 4, I am pretty floored at the level they have achieved here.  Tires squeal and screech more gradually and this actually helps you find the grip limit in the corners.  On turbocharged cars, the spool is more noticeable and it’s different from car to car as are the blow off valve effects.  One other audio enhancement I noticed was how the environments effect what you here.  When you’re near a wall on a closed course, the exhaust noise echoes (especially on a home theater system with DTS processing).   On tuned naturally aspirated cars, valvetrain and intake noise are much more pronounced now, which heightens the impact of modifying cars in the game.

So, things look and sound better than before…great!  So how is the gameplay experience?  Well, I have no complaints about the actual racing experience (aside from the music which can be turned off).  Racing is as intense as ever, and tuning/hot lapping is about the same.  I do think that they changed how mods effect overall class rating, but I can compare that another time.

Unfortunately, what Turn 10 studios removed from Forza 4 is just as noticeable as what they added.  Several tracks are missing from previous games such as the famed Nurburgring, the Fujimi Kaido mountain pass and Maple Valley (my favorite).  I can’t understand why they think removing beloved tracks would sit well with the fans!  In addition, hundreds of cars are missing from Forza 5 entirely and cars that remain are not as tunable as they were in past iterations.  Plus, of the cars that made the cut, most of them can’t even be played in free play mode unless you own them!  Thankfully, there is a glitch around this that most people are aware of (for now).  Also, some body kits from Forza 4 have been removed are the Forza 5.  For example, only the “racing” front/rear wings are available for a 350z!  Moreover, the selection of wheels seem the same as Forza 3, 4 and Forza Horizon.  There are many other wheels on the market, even from the manufacturers they already have licensing agreements with.  I simply do not understand…

The final verdict is that it seems the focus on Forza 5 was to improve the details at the expense of the overall package.  At this point, I’d expect a next-gen title to be able to make marked improvements without sacrifices made to features people already loved about predecessor titles.  I am hopeful that they can rectify many of this with some downloadable car/track packs but I feel apprehensive about paying more to complete what, at times, feels like an unfinished game.  I am still enjoying myself, but I’m also hopeful that Gran Turismo 6 can return to its former glory.  GT6 will be in my hands tomorrow, as will Need for Speed Rivals for Xbox One.  For now, enjoy some pics.

image

image

 

Gran Turismo Vs. Forza – the debate.

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.

 

 

Rally ’round the family – Part 1

In the great family of racing games, the “Rally” sub-genre is kind of the black-sheep.  You can’t really find rallying on TV anymore these days and I’ll wager that few watched it years ago when the Speed channel was called Speedvision.  While I didn’t follow the seasons too closely, I did look forward to the New Years day special that would run the season in a marathon.  When my family held their annual new years day party, I was the anti-social of the bunch who spent more time glued to the TV with my plate of snacks.  It was glorious!

Back then, Rallying was at the peak of it’s popularity and developers made lots of Rally games.  In fact, there were 3 separate series like Colin McCrae Rally, Need for Speed V-Rally and World Rally Championship, each of which spawned a number of sequels.

Unfortunately, there is a real lack of Rallying in games for current generation consoles.  And don’t mention the Dirt series, please.  Yes, there is some rallying in that series but it’s an X-Games title if anything.  The genre is more popular in the UK as WRC2 and the newly released WRC3 is available across the pond, but they aren’t sold by retailers in the US.  What’s worse, if you only own an Xbox360, the WRC games are region locked.  The news is considerably better if you have a PS3 as there are no region locked games so you’ll have to import one.

So, if you want a real Rally fix in your gaming, you will have to go a generation back in terms of polish, but you can still have a LOT of fun. The other day, I spent a couple of hours with V-Rally 3 and I forgot how much they crammed into this game!  Ok, so the car models aren’t as detailed as Gran Turismo 4 or even Gran Turismo 3 and things can get a little pixelated at times when the camera is close to anything.  Regardless, this game is a joy to discover again.  EA games included a really nice damage system and there are plenty of tracks, cars and surfaces to race on.  The controls take a bit of getting use to, but you can tweak the sensitivity of the steering, throttle and brakes to suit your style.  The backgrounds are also large, colorful and have impressive scale.  You can select from a number of front wheel drive cars which are slow but nimber or step up to the all wheel drive cars which are faster and harder to master.

From time to time, we’ll revisit some old Rallying titles for the PS/PS2 and I’ll also get my hands on WRC2 and WRC3 for the PS3 and put them through the paces.

First post!

I love racing games of all kinds and I always have.  From a simulation series like Gran Turismo to Mario Kart, I’m a fan.  In this blog, I will attempt to share my thoughts, experiences and stories surrounding video games within the racing/driving genre.  Reviews (of both new, old, classic and rare games) and industry news will be here!

For the first post, I’ll review a modern classic…Sega’s F355 Challenge!  This game was quite an interesting departure for Sega.  Most racing titles by Sega are pure arcade games in that they aren’t very realistic and are very playable for the general public (think of Outrun, Sega GT and Sega Rally).  Ferrari F355 Challenge provided an entirely different experience…

Subscribe & enjoy!