On the Skids
The venerable “Gran Turismo” series is due for a tune-upon December 12, 2013 at 8:00 am
I like cars. It’s not a fact many people know about me. It probably comes off as out of character to some, but there it is.
I like the way they look. I like the way they sound. I like the engineering it takes to push their limits. I like small, underpowered economy cars with skinny tires that rev for days and slide around at 30 mph. I like mid-engined two-seaters with V12s that bellow with the ferocity of a yeti’s climax. And, of course, I like driving them – quite spiritedly at times – if the situation presents itself.
Cars are awesome. However, I wouldn’t consider myself obsessed, a nerd, or an expert.
I can not tell you the BHP (Brake Horsepower) figures for a Koenigsegg Agera R. I can not tell you how many foot pounds of torque the engine in a Mercedes AMG SLK55 Black produces. I don’t watch motorsport, though I respect it. I have no desire to get grease under my fingernails fixing a classic British sports car that has broken down… again. I don’t cry out about how wrong people are for ignoring manual transmissions with clutches in favor of simple automatic or DSG gearboxes. I am no gear or petrol head.
I am, however, the type of person that gets excited by the sight of a rare or expensive car. I am the guy who will try to chase down a supercar on the highway, just to catch a better glimpse. Sometimes I’ll even try to break out my phone, so I can show people the blurry picture I caught of that Aston Martin DB9 belting its way through traffic. I will always annoy people I’m with whenever we come across an amazing car sighting, even though they never care.
I’m an appreciator of the world of cars, just not an active participant in it. Video games are my one true passion, that will never go away. Good thing I have racing games to play. They let me continue to be an observer of the car world, while staying within the realm of MY expertise.
“Gran Turismo” has always been the ultimate car fantasy for me. A game I could always put in and drive almost anything and anywhere I desired. There are people who play some types of games to get immersed and lost in their worlds. Very common with people and RPGs, which often have very good world-building, but I get lost in the real world that “Gran Turismo” strives to emulate, down to the tiniest detail.
The fantasy realms I reside in are the desert landscapes of Laguna Seca or the sloping hills of Brands Hatch. The portly bloke that waves the checkered flag is your standard NPC. The tuning shops are where I go to purchase new equipment. The other cars on the track are the fodder for me to cut through while I make my way to that Ascari A10, at the head of the pack. That’s the dragon I have to slay, and I’m going to stab it through that snarling V8 it calls a heart.
On the console scene, “Gran Turismo” didn’t have any competition when it came to realism. It was THE game you wanted. At least, not until “Forza” came along. At first, “Forza” was good, but not great. It didn’t take long, though, because while “Forza” was pumping out games at a faster clip than “Gran Turismo” it was also improving at a blistering rate. By the time “Gran Turismo 5” came out, only the third game released in the series in nine years, “Forza” had come and won over many of racing game’s fans.
“Forza” was flashier and glitzier. It didn’t bog itself down with fifty-five versions of the Nissan Skyline; and, no, that’s not an exaggeration. It may have a leaner selection of cars (not by much), but it has all the cars most people want to drive. Its interface seemed more exciting and graphics more colorful. It was no slouch in driving physics, either. “Forza” wasn’t just competing with “Gran Turismo”, it was doing a lot of things better than it.
So, you would think “Gran Turismo” would be in a bit of a tough spot right now, even losing, but it isn’t. While sales are down, they’re still blowing “Forza” out of the water. “GT3” sold almost 15 million, “GT4” 11.5 million, and “GT5” only 10 million. Those are declining numbers, yes, but “Forza 4”, by comparison, only sold 4 million and the vast majority of those sales were from the US and UK. “Forza” is popular, just not with the entire world, something “Gran Turismo” can claim with certainty.
However, “Gran Turismo’s” Metacritic ratings have been dropping drastically, with “GT6” being the lowest score yet. It may be the best in the series, and I can attest to that, but it’s something critics and fans are getting tired of. I can admit, sometimes “GT6” feels out of place in this current gaming climate.
I admire Kazunori Yamauchi’s desire to achieve perfection, and his effort bleeds out from nearly every pore of “GT6”, but I think he has tunnel vision. His path has blinded him to some amazing things the genre has started to achieve. It’s not that the work Polyphony Digital does is bad, it’s just I think their vision of perfection is outdated.