I figured instead of writing a reply in the comments section to Ben's Gran
Turismo op-ed, I'd piece an article of my own. As someone who is an absolute
gearhead, and who's favorite genre is non other than the one in question, I'd
also like to see the collective bunch behind Forza (this includes MS, and
developer Turn 10) stop with the finger wagging, too. I've owned the original
Forza, and thought it was rubbish. It's tire-model felt like every car had no
weight; in other words, the feedback between the gamer and game was poor.

Forza 2 was the first Xbox 360 game that made me consider an Xbox 360, despite
the absurd amount of problems the console was experiencing two years ago. I
convinced a friend of mine to let me borrow his X360 while he was away and spent
a good amount of time with a rented copy of Forza 2. Once again, I walked away
extremely unimpressed. Yet again, the tire-model felt numb and lacked any
feedback between you and the game. I had also rented Project Gotham 3 and found
myself having a lot more fun with it than Forza 2.

So to see the folks behind Forza say that GT dropped the ball is beyond me. What
ball did Polyphony drop? The ball that professional racers actually use to
practice with? The ball that professional drivers have replicated their
real-life lap times with? The ball that professional drivers repeatedly claim to
be the most accurate console simulator? And when did Turn 10 pick up this
proverbial ball? Last I checked, Forza has yet to make a dent in the automotive
industry as a whole, like Kazunori Yamauchi and Polyphony have with GT. They've
made no impact.

And you know what? Even if you take Gran Turismo out of the equation, Forza
still fails and is still without that so called "ball." Because there's still
the PC's GTR2, which, up until GT5 Prologue, was unparalleled. Having sampled
GTR2 numerous times, I can attest that it trumped GT4 wildly back in 2006.
Granted GTR2 is a different beast than GT4 was, but when you compare the nutty
high-powered machines of GT4 to the offerings of GTR2, you'll find that the Gran
Turismo cars were far too easy too control in contrast to GTR2. Polyphony has
admitted as much, and with GT5 Prologue, the professional physics pretty much
replicate the same madness that could be found in GTR2. I mean really, keeping a
Ferrari F1 car under control is downright painful in GT5 Prologue, where as in GT3, for example, driving an F1 was like eating cake.

Having spoken to a few folk who've gone hands-on with Forza 3, it looks like
Forza isn't picking up any balls, and with Need for Speed: SHIFT already looking
and playing as superbly as it does, Forza's 400 cars doesn't mean much to me if
it's tire-model still feels like driving a Mercedes Benz E-Class…numb. And did
I mention that NFS: SHIFT is actually developed by the gang who brought us GTR2?
And that it utilizes much of the technology that made their past racers so
utterly fantastic, but enhanced for the next-gen world? Well, if you didn't
know, now you do. I'll also be getting the chance to play a nearly finished
version of NFS: SHIFT in about a month just to see the progress of it.

As some of you may know, I've already played NFS: SHIFT months ago, and even in
its very early stage, the game was extremely satisfying. It's the best damn Need
for Speed I've ever played, and what I played was merely an incomplete build
that only had a small sampling of cars and tracks. The physics engine was down
tight, the feedback was absolutely superb, and the visceral feel was there
thanks to the visuals and the menacing audio. So quite frankly, Turn 10 needs to
keep it to themselves, because there's a good chance that it's not Gran Turismo
that'll embarrass their sim, but also Need for Speed, the competitor they'd
never expect.

Then of course, we can get down to another aspect of Forza that I've always
hated – the visuals. Everything in Forza games is over saturated with color.
People claim, "well, GT looks dull." Well, realism is simply dull, what can I
say? The colors are always too rich in the game, and from what we've seen, Forza
3 is no different. The lighting continues to suffer too, once again, a trait
that Gran Turismo has historically been known to nail. And a trait that has
widely been associated with the realistic look of the Gran Turismo series. And
sure, visuals may not be the most important thing, but in racing games that are
aiming – or claiming – to depict the highest realism possible, they sure as hell
are.

A couple of days ago in a Neo-GAF thread, somebody was making the same old and
tired "no damage = not realism" claim that GT-haters often do. Well, I figured,
perhaps I'd include my tongue-in-cheek response to that general audience, with
the profanity mildly censored:

I think the above is pretty apt to the topic at hand, because most people who
claim that GT has "dropped the ball" are largely poking at the series' lack of a
damage model. We know now that there will be damage in some form, but Yamauchi
has repeatedly stated that if he were to do a damage model, he'd like to do one
as realistic as possible, and not a half-assed one that every other racer
employs. Hell, a love tap in NYC can bend a hood, damage fenders, and crack a
bumper…and you mean to tell me that it takes a 40MPH hit in a realistic racing
"sim" for half of that to happen?

Furthermore, in that VideoGamer piece Dan Greenawalt (the man who made the
"dropped the ball" statement) said "We watched the Sony press conference and we
were like, OK so we just brought what we believe firmly is the best racing game
ever made, and our competition didn’t show up. So now you can see why I’m fairly
bullish. I hate to sound so cocky but the truth is the stars have aligned. I
don’t know how else to say it."

The competition didn't show up? He makes it seem as if Polyphony is scared or
something. The reason why GT5 wasn't playable at the show, and everybody knows
this now, is because Yamauchi and Sony didn't want the game stealing the thunder
away from the PSP's Gran Turismo. Yamauchi later went on to say that GT5 is
basically complete and that they can release it anytime they wish, but are using
the time to polish the game some more. So, Mr. Greenawalt, don't flatter
yourself, the competition didn't show because they didn't need to. Just like how
the Chicago Bulls didn't need to practice all the time in the 90s and yet, they
continued to win championships.

I have little doubt that GT5 won't make it before the end of 2009, Sony is
simply giving the PSP version some limelight before letting it be known that GT5
is also a 2009 game. I also didn't write this to defend Gran Turismo, in fact,
there are a number of things I'm hoping to see in GT5 that were never present in
the past games, including GT5 Prologue.

For example, selecting between automatic and manual transmissions. In a lot of
cars, there are different gear ratios and even a different amount of gears
between transmissions. An easy example is a 350Z, which is a 5-speed automatic
and a 6-speed manual. In my opinion, if you choose an auto, you should face the
penalty of missing a speed, taller gears, and the adverse effect on top-speed.
Another example, again with the transmissions, is cars such as the Audi R8 boast
automatic transmissions that are extremely different than a conventional
automatic with a torque-converter, in that the R8 features a DSG gearbox that
has two clutches automatically engaging with every flick of your wrist. How
these Dual Clutch Transmissions work is one clutch operates gears 1-3-5, while
the other 2-4-6. So when you're in first gear, the second clutch is already
there with the second gear just waiting to be electronically activated,
basically.

So why is this important to me? Well, when I pick my R8, I want to drive the car
with the DSG transmission for its seamless and lighting fast shifts. After all,
every split second counts in a race, and a lot of time is lost in shifting as
the clutch engages, the shift is thrown, and the clutch disengages, and that
translates to a slower shift no matter what transmission setting you choose in
the game. The same applies to the E92 BMW M3, which is a manual transmission by
default in Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, and so cannot be driven with using its DCT
transmission. Oddly enough, the Nissan 370GT (America's Infiniti G37 Coupe)
comes only as a 5-speed automatic in Gran Turismo, despite having a 6-speed
variant in real life. Odd.

I've always thought of this as the one glaring error in the GT franchise. But
who knows, with 600 cars, perhaps some of those cars, like the Audi R8 and BMW
M3, will simply be the same two vehicles offered with different transmissions.
After all, once you buy a car, you buy a specific vehicle with a specific
transmission, so switching at any time you wish would make little sense.

Furthermore, the tuning aspect of GT5 needs to be overhauled over GT4, because
there are some really key components missing. For starters, a dyno, which to
date has only been featured in Need for Speed: Underground 2 (poorly, might I
add), is a must here. GT4 showed power graphs with a respective curve for both
horsepower and torque, but it never showed you how much power you were actually
putting down to the wheels – you got crank and brake figures only, which aren't
realistic or true. Other tuning aspects I'd like to see is dialing in spark
plugs, turning them hotter and colder, in addition to being able to toy around
with forced induction by increasing boost/PSI. And hey, when you buy an
ECU/engine management unit, include the ability to enable ECU maps that have the
car running on 100 octane and making power from it, as well. And make sure to
sell that 100 octane, since that stuff costs nearly $7 per gallon in real-life,
anyways. Also, fix the weight reduction inconsistencies – in GT4 a stage 1
weight reduction removed the backseat…but my Lotus and 350Z don't have
backseats.

Let's see, what else? Ah, tire-pressure. It's a pivotal aspect, and dammit, I
want to be able to set my own settings to control grip vs. longevity myself.
Changing tires and rims should also not be a purely cosmetic function, because
it isn't in real life. A lightweight tire and rim can go a long way in gaining
acceleration and braking power, at the expense of worse traction off the line.
And instead of just offering a type of tire, allow us to choose the width and
tire profile for grip and tire flex, and of course, have the gamer endure the
consequences for choosing, say, an extra wide 305mm tire.

It's 3AM, and I feel like I'm beginning to ramble here. And there are probably
tons of other aspects I can bitch about relating to Gran Turismo. The reason why
this article came out so long was because earlier on today, I had originally
only intended on writing a piece that only pointed out the faults with GT and
what the series needs. With Turn 10's statement, it turned into one mammoth
rant, one that I hope doesn't fall onto deaf ears (both you guys and Sony). The
point here was not to make Gran Turismo shine like a beauty queen, because as
you can see I have expressed a full list of disappointments with the series that
I've yet to see addressed, and I wasn't even done.

The point, rather, was to simply…rant, I guess. Hahahaha.

Okay, dammit, I came back to edit this article after closing it. I want to add
one more thing. When using the Logitech G25 or anything else with a clutch,
please Polyphony, give us proper clutch engagement, including stalling a car.
When you gradually release the clutch on a real car the torque will slowly begin
moving it forward, in some instances. GT5 Prologue doesn't do this. Also, when
you release the clutch sharply, the car doesn't lurch to let you know that
you've stalled. It's the little things that matter most.

Okay, now I'm really done.

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