It's a clash of two high-profile, big-budget racing games this holiday season, spanning two console generations.
In the green corner, Microsoft's Xbox One launch offering Forza Motorsport 5 purrs quietly, waiting for it's opportunity to streak ahead. And in the, err, sort of bluey-blackish corner sits Polyphony Digital's upcoming PlayStation 3 racer Gran Turismo 6, the latest in the long-running series of deep racing sims exclusive to Sony platforms.
Both games look pretty great, but both are going to have to work hard to distinguish themselves from one another. One might argue that Polyphony's offering is at a distinct disadvantage, being based on seven-year old hardware, but Gran Turismo certainly isn't going down without a fight, choosing to make up for its technological shortcomings with a wealth of interesting new features, many of which will be patched in after launch.
Two of the most intriguing new features, recently announced on the game's official website, relate to GPS and mobile connectivity, effectively allowing you to transfer real-world data into the game using just your smartphone and/or a fancy car.
The first of the two features relates to the game's course maker functionality, which allows players to create their own tracks and compete on them. This system won't be available at the game's launch, unfortunately, but will be patched in later. And in a subsequent update, an additional feature will be added in which you can drive a real-life course with a GPS-tracking mobile app active in your car, capture the co-ordinate data and then upload it into the game to create your own custom tracks based on real-world drives. Finally, you'll be able to make those fantasies of turning your tedious daily commute into a white-knuckle race a reality.
The second GPS-related feature, again to be added post-launch, will allow you to import Controller Area Network and GPS data from a real-life car into Gran Turismo 6, and then visualize your drive as a replay in the game. So far this aspect is confirmed as being compatible with Toyota's CAN-Gateway ECU, a device set for launch at the end of this year which can be fitted to the Toyota 86 rear-wheel drive compact sports car. Is this the first example of an actual car being an optional peripheral for a video game?
Other features to be patched in post-launch will include the B-Spec mode, where you take on the role of race director and issue instructions to a driver; an in-depth data logger allowing you to analyze every detail of both your car's and your own driving performance during replays; community apps for smartphones; and support for 3D televisions. Don't worry about all these updates, though; the game will ship at launch with over 1,200 cars, 100 different track layouts, full career and arcade modes, a "coffee break" series of minigames, online racing and community features, so it's more a case of the game improving significantly over time rather than being cut down in order to be ready for launch.
Gran Turismo 6 launches on December 6.