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Gran Turismo 6 vs Forza 5: Comparison Test

The two biggest racing franchises in gaming go head-to-head in a definitive 16-point comparison test. Which one takes the checkered flag?

By Jaz Rignall. Published 4 months ago

At this year’s E3 in June, I got the chance to play Forza 5, Gran Turismo 6 and Driveclub back-to-back. It was great fun, and I compared my experiences behind the wheel of each game in this feature. The biggest surprise for me was Driveclub. Despite being the newcomer to the racing scene, I enjoyed playing it more than I did the demos of Forza 5 and Gran Turismo 6.

However, as we all know, Sony’s upstart racer didn’t make it out of pit lane in time for the launch of PlayStation 4, and currently sits up on blocks in the developer’s garage, waiting to be finished. As of now, there’s no firm release date other than a speculative “early 2014,” so we’ll just have to be patient and await its arrival.

Until then, we have the usual suspects slugging it out for the title of king of the racing games, as they have done for many years. So which is best? Well, this is going to be an interesting one. For the first time ever, one franchise has the advantage of being a generation ahead of the other. But just how much of an advantage is it?

To find out, I’m conducting a 16-point comparison test of each game in a straight head to head battle. I’ve put about the same amount of track time into each game, and am comparing them both as objectively as possible. At the end of the review I’ll simply add up the points scored on each comparison, and the winner will be the one with the highest score.

So let’s get on with it.

Forza has the advantage graphically, thanks to next generation hardware. But Gran Turismo sometimes runs it surprisingly close. As this screenshot shows.

Graphics

Straight out of the gate, Forza 5’s next gen advantage helps it win this category – though not by as big a margin as you might expect. At its best, GT6 almost looks next generation, and it’s a frankly astonishing achievement for PS3. Its new cars are beautifully rendered, and many of its tracks are uncannily realistic. But unfortunately the game also features some legacy car models that date back to the PS2. While they’ve been upscaled for this release, wheel arches comprised of straight lines and fuzzy car decals are a clear reminder of their origins. The overall quality is therefore somewhat patchy – something Polyphony really needs to address when its franchise transitions to the new generation.

Turn Ten’s racer, on the other hand, looks mint. It’s consistently brilliant, with gleaming, meticulously detailed cars, gorgeous lighting and sumptuous landscaping.

Winner: Forza 5

Sound

Gran Turismo’s sound is decent, but occasionally falls flat with comedic consequences: some cars sound like sewing machines, blenders, and even vacuum cleaners. It’s almost like the game is missing some of the mechanical engine noises that combine to create that exciting, snarling, mechanical cacophony you normally associate with driving at high speed. Some cars have a more rorty exhaust note and sound more like racing machines, but for much of the game, the engine “soundtrack” sounds somewhat detached from the racing experience. GT6’s muffled whump of a crashing noise is just terrible – sounding like someone thumping a garage door with a sofa cushion.

Forza gets it right. Engine sounds, tire squeals and crashing noises are sophisticated and have depth. The sound surrounds you and gives the impression that you really are racing. And that’s enough to make it a worthy winner in this category.

Winner: Forza 5

Presentation

Both games are neck and neck in terms of having clear, easy-to-use menus that let you get around quickly. Both games also let you look at car models close-up – but in GT6’s case, only select newer ones. Forza lets you look at everything in quite exquisite detail, making it a far sexier automotive experience.

That’s enough to give it the edge.

Winner: Forza 5

Forza 5 is all about racing. Gran Turismo offers plenty of racing too - but also includes many other kinds of driving challenges.

Racing and Driving Challenges

With Forza already spooling out a considerable lead, it’s time for Gran Turismo to fight back. Forza is a pure racing game that focuses solely on the excitement of competitive driving – either against other drivers or the clock. But while its racing experience is absolutely fantastic, it does lack variety. If you are only interested in track racing, Forza delivers the goods. If you want the greatest driving game, then Gran Turismo is what you need.

Polyphony’s game delivers an incredible variety of challenges, from hillclimbing and rally racing to mini-games and driving on the moon. Its racing isn’t quite as good as Forza, but as an overall package, Gran Turismo is an amazing automotive theme park that’s brimming with fun things to do - and also includes a full arcade mode!

Winner: Gran Turismo 6

Both games offer an incredible driving experience, and choosing between them is tough.

Driving Feel

This category is really open for debate, since it’s very much down to personal preference and driving style. I’ve always loved Gran Turimso’s handling feel more than Forza's. If you feel differently, let’s debate this in the column over to the right!

Both games let you adjust their steering sensitivities to a reasonable degree, but out of the box Forza’s steering map to the controller feels tighter than Gran Turismo's. Going from “lock to lock” feels quicker than its rival, and also feels less damped. This results in a more immediate and direct steering feel that’s very responsive – but also feels slightly more “twitchy” and can make cars feel a little lighter.

Gran Turismo has a slightly looser and more progressive driving feel that’s more damped down. Inputs feel less immediate, and therefore response to control input is slower. This means it’s slightly easier to catch a slide or correct an over-correction (perhaps the most common cause for a spin in both games). It also results in the cars feeling a little heavier, and turning in a little slower.

On the limit, Forza’s driving model aggressively turns in, creating a little more situational understeer and losing grip faster if you power into a corner to fast. GT doesn’t turn in quite so fast, doesn’t loose grip quite so quickly, but wants to run wide. The end result is powering out of corners is a tad more effective in Forza, while braking into corners and maintaining grip is marginally better in GT.

In this case I’m talking ridiculously small degrees, and your experience might vary. As I said, this is all about personal feel, and also very much depends on how you actually drive the game.

When it comes to a winner, Gran Turismo gets the nod from me. Where it breaks what would otherwise be a tie is that it delivers a more notable difference between car types and handling characteristics in a way that is quite remarkable. Forza is fantastic too, but GT takes this category by a few hundredths of a second.

Winner: Gran Turismo 6

Assists

Both games offer drivers very similar tools to help them stay in control of their vehicles, but what Forza does is give the player an earnings bonus for every assist that is turned off. This encourages Forza players to learn how to drive without the need for assistance, and essentially delivers a skill-based reward for those who don’t need help. For me, that small, but critical difference is all that’s needed to put Forza past the finish line first.

Winner: Forza 5

Forza 5 showcases the new Xbox One controllers in stunning fashion. The feedback delivered through the triggers makes the game feel almost alive.

Controller Feedback

Forza’s generational advantage is unfortunately very apparent here. The way the game works with Xbox One’s controller is just phenomenal – and quite a revelation. Subtle feedback is delivered through each trigger so you can feel the ABS going on, wheels locking or spinning, and even gauge grip under acceleration. This really enhances the driving experience, and enables you to drive with a high degree of finesse. It took me a little while to “read” the controller, but now I can, it really does elevate the driving experience to that clichéd whole new level. The controller feedback is one of my favorite things in Forza 5.

Switching to Gran Turismo after a few laps in Forza is like night and day. The controller feels almost inert: the Dual Shock 3’s bumps and jiggles just don’t match up to the latest joypad tech. It feels almost unfair to compare the two, but we are, and it’s a win for Forza.

Winner: Forza 5

Views and Replays

Some players love their racing experience viewed from behind the wheel of a realistically rendered cockpit, while others love the sensation of speed delivered by a low-slung bumper cam. And there are players who even like to drive their car arcade-style, looking at it from behind.

What’s clear is that choice is important, and to that end, both games are fairly good. Gran Turismo does a slightly better job when it comes to external viewpoints, whereas Forza's superbly realistic, beautifully lit cockpit views make GT's look flat.

There are similar tradeoffs when it comes to replays. Forza 5 is more polished and crisp, but Gran Turismo fights back with more organic and exciting camerawork. Side by side, Forza looks better, but Gran Turismo is just a little more dynamic.

It's almost too close to call, but taking everything into consideration, Gran Turismo wins by a few thousandths of a second.

Winner: Gran Turismo 6

Want to smash into things and take shortcuts with no consequences? Gran Turismo 6 is the game for you.

Collisions/Damage/Accidents

Let’s just announce Forza as the winner up front. The way it deals with crashes is simply superb. Car-to-car impacts are meaningful, and sliding off the track into a wall can result in race-ending damage to your car. In Forza, driving into something you shouldn’t has consequences – and the way damage is articulated, while not fully realistic, is nevertheless terrific.

Gran Turismo, on the other hand, is in dire need of some attention. Stuffing your car into a wall at 180 mph? No problem! Just carry on. T-boning a rival off the track to gain a position? Sure! Using a barrier so you can ricochet around a corner at top speed? Go ahead and make your lap time quicker! Even cutting corners and driving off track is a breeze in Gran Turismo’s indestructible, Teflon-coated bumper cars.

Winner: Forza 5

AI Drivers

Decent AI is critical for making a racing game challenging and fun. Gran Turismo has been criticized heavily in the past for its rather limited AI, which felt like it was driving cars around a track on rails, seemingly oblivious to anything that was going on around them. In this latest edition, GT’s AI has been upgraded and definitely drives much more intelligently, so that if a car gets knocked off course, it no longer idiotically bashes into whatever is in its way as it tries to get back on its hard-coded racing line. It’s clear that cars still follow a preset course, but now they improvise and react more realistically to what’s going on around them. Because of that, they now deliver a decent challenge and make racing fun – as long as you can resist the temptation to smash them out of the way because you can.

Forza’s “Drivatar” system allegedly uses human data to construct AI opponents, and that doesn’t seem far-fetched judging by the kind of idiotic mistakes I’ve seen rival cars sometimes make. I’ve been sideswiped, brake-checked and jostled off course – just like what happens when I’m racing real people. It can be immensely frustrating when you’re trying to run a clean lap and a Drivatar nails you for no apparent reason, but overall the AI offers a decent level of challenge and some great – and sometimes infuriating – moments.

Turn Ten’s racer wins it.

Winner: Forza 5

Forza's cars look better than Gran Turismo's, but Gran Turismo offers six times as many.

Cars

There’s simply no contest here, even if you try to make an argument for quality over quantity. Gran Turismo offers six times more cars than Forza does. And sure, while its vast selection of near-identical models of Miatas, Lancers and S2000’s sometimes makes it feel like it’s cheating, Gran Turismo’s mind-boggling volume and variety of cars leaves Forza standing.

Winner: Gran Turismo 6

Tracks

Gran Turismo also excels in the track department, featuring 37 different courses with multiple configurations. From real-life locations to its famous fantasy tracks, Polyphony’s racer offers a sensational roster of racing opportunities – almost three times more than Forza’s selection.

Winner: Gran Turismo 6

Pacing and Structure

Microtransactions have wormed their way into both these games, but while Gran Turismo feels like business of usual, Forza has had its pacing and structure compromised in the name of generating revenue. Compared to previous games, earnings from racing have been reduced, and cars are comparatively more expensive, making the game feel more of a grind. Especially when you consider that most races require you to buy specific cars. That’s also true of Gran Turismo, but since money is easier to come by, you get more cars for your effort and earning cash feels less like a chore.

Gran Turismo’s tiered race-to-unlock format, increasingly difficult challenges and occasional gameplay surprises result in an experience that feels more progressive than Forza’s rather flat and unimaginative design. Because of that, GT simply feels more fun and rewarding to work through.

Winner: Gran Turismo 6

Gran Turismo lets you tweak your car in a myriad of ways, as does Forza. But wouldn't it be great if you could fully customize the look of its cars like you can in Forza, rather than only have the option of changing their colors?

Car Customization

Both games let you fettle, tweak and tinker with your cars to your heart’s content. If mechanical tuning options were the only thing under consideration, Gran Turismo’s marginally broader options would enable it to win this category by a hair.

But factor in Forza’s phenomenal visual customization that enables users to create everything from crazy custom livery to replica racing regalia, and the American racer surges forward to take the flag.

Winner: Forza 5

Online racing is excellent in both games - but Gran Turismo has more options.

Online Racing

This is a tough one.

When it comes down to choice, Gran Turismo has the edge. Wherever, however and whatever you want to race, you can do it. You can even set limits on things like assists. That makes racing incredibly fun, because you can set things up however you like, from open racing to identical model face-offs.

Forza’s multiplayer format is much more rigid, offering certain types of races that you can pick and choose. But when it comes its online single-player racing, the way it keeps records and challenges you with new rivals delivers an experience that feels really meaningful, and can push you to the limits of your skill as you see just how good you are against everyone else.

Gran Turismo offers a similar sort of thing with its Seasonal challenges, but it’s just not as robust or exciting. But thanks to its broader online racing options, GT has the edge.

Winner: Gran Turismo 6

Both games feature microtransactions, but Forza seems to have been tweaked to encourage players to use them, whereas Gran Turismo does not.

Microtransactions and Additional Content

In terms of additional no-cost, post-purchase content, both games have “seasonal” races that are regularly updated. But only Gran Turismo has a program of bonus cars. Its Vision Gran Turismo feature will deliver specially designed cars throughout next year – and they’re free. It also recently rolled out a seasonal race that enabled participants to win a new BMW M4. That’s really cool.

Gran Turismo and Forza both offer DLC in the form car backs that users will be able to buy over the coming months. Both games also feature microtransactions that enable players to buy in-game currency to speed up the acquisition of cars, and, in Forza’s case, boost earnings for a limited period.

However, both treat them very differently. In Gran Turismo 6, the addition of this much-despised business model has been subtle, and barely impacts the game at all. It plays very much like prior Gran Turismo games, only this time around players who don’t want to put in the work to earn cars can simply buy them.

Forza, unfortunately, is heavy handed. As previously mentioned, the game’s traditional earning and cost structure has been changed seemingly to encourage users to buy credits and temporarily boost their earning levels back to a rate similar to prior Forza games. Add in the fact that oftentimes you’re recommended cars for races that you need to buy with real money, and it just feels like the game is constantly asking for cash.

Winner: Gran Turismo 6

The Result

Tally everything up, and the result is… dammit. I knew I should have chosen an odd number of comparative categories:

It’s a tie at 8-8.

However, perhaps that’s a good thing. What’s clear is that this is a highly subjective test, and to calculate your own personal winner, I’d suggest eliminating the three (or five) categories that are least important to you and then add the numbers up again to find the clear winner. Another way of looking at it is to pick the top seven (or nine) most important categories to you, and see which game takes the top podium spot.

Forza 5

  • Graphics
  • Sound
  • Presentation
  • Assists
  • Controller Feedback
  • Collisions/Damage/Accidents
  • AI Drivers
  • Car Customization

Gran Turismo 6

  • Racing and Driving Challenges
  • Driving Feel
  • Views and Replays
  • Cars
  • Tracks
  • Pacing and Structure
  • Online Racing
  • Microtransactions and Additional Content

My take

For what it’s worth, I’ve had both these games for weeks, but it’s Gran Turismo 6 that’s keeping me up late at night. Much as I like Forza 5, Gran Turismo just has more going for it. It’s not as technically polished as Turn Ten’s game, and has some pretty dreadful flaws, but I just love all its different driving challenges, cars, tracks and racing series. And I like the fact that I’m acquiring a far bigger and more interesting variety of cars.

Despite its racing being absolutely fantastic, Forza feels comparatively small. It doesn't take long before its smaller selection of tracks begin to feel repetitive. Its range of cars is decent, but feels artificially reduced due to the influence of its microtransactional model. Because you now earn less, you end up with a far smaller garage of cars. Unless, of course, you spend money to bolster your in-game earnings. That really does leave a sour taste in one’s mouth, which is a shame because Forza is otherwise gorgeous-looking, offers the most exciting racing experience by far, has terrific damage modeling, awesome record keeping, and generally feels really tight and buttoned-down.

Gran Turismo is technically inferior, but its content shines, despite having some glaring issues. The damage modeling is horrible, and the fact that you can cut corners (and indeed huge chunks of the track) while racing is just piss-poor design. But despite that, the way Gran Turismo articulates different car types and handling characteristics is phenomenal, and its sheer variety of cars, tracks, racing formats and minigame challenges makes it hugely entertaining to play.

One piece of good news is that Forza 5 is soon getting a patch to return in-game earnings to the kind of level normally associated with Forza games. That'll make a huge difference, and will certainly bring me back as a regular player again.

The best community comments so far 19 comments

  • d0x 4 months ago

    I don't think comparing cars and tracks is fair at this point. Polyphony doesn't seem to mind using old awful assets just to pad their numbers. The divide in quality is massive. Turn 10 started from scratch. Polyphony has models and tracks from gran turismo 3 still in use!

    Im amhowever gonna give gt6 props for its extra events and slightly more robust online...which is shocking. Turn10 needs to step it up in both areas.

    At the end of the day though forza is a better game with far more customization and its just more fun. I used to be a gt addict but Forza 3 was the game that turned me to the Xbox for racing and despite buying every gt even 6 I still can't see how polyphony is so far behind despite their massive head start.

  • sakicfan84 4 months ago

    I used to be a bigger Gran Turismo fan prior to Forza becoming a big player in the racing scene. While I will say that Gran Turismo does a great job at being the driving simulator that it wants to be, it doesn't live up to what I want out of a racing simulator. Everything about the collision system in Gran Turismo has always killed the racing aspect for me. A race devolves into cars using other cars or driving through the grass to get through turns the fastest. I'm just shocked that another version has come and gone without them making significant changes to address this longstanding issue.Edited 2 times. Last edited December 2013 by Unknown

  • adamscottprenger78 4 months ago

    I have never once, nor has any of my many friends with Forza 5 ever felt compelled to spend real money to buy tokens. Forza has is for me, by many car lengths.

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