There is no better showcase for a system’s graphics power than a racing game.
When there is no real necessity to show anything organic in a game’s landscape, the game can focus on the pure algorithmic beauty of machinery. Instead of showing us the pores on a human face, it can show the shine of the sun off a smooth, reflective surface. Instead of showing us the hair on the head of an animal, it can show us the rough grind of asphalt beneath spinning tires.
The best racing games make their respective systems look good, and for a long time now, “Gran Turismo” and “Forza” have been the best of the best.
“Gran Turismo 6” (PS3; $59.99; Rated E) may well go down as the most beautiful game the PlayStation 3 ever housed. It’s the sort of game in which the little touches make the experience. In the first two hours of the game, there are so many little things that surprise and delight the player that it’s nearly impossible to put down.
Slow start, big payoff
At first, “Gran Turismo 6” comes off as extremely limited, as a gently guided series of tutorial messages pushes you to buy a wimpy little car, and run a series of boring, short races. Push your way through these, however, and a variety of activities open up very, very quickly.
“Coffee Break Challenges” are short mini-games that force you to do things like knock over a certain number of cones in a set time, or see how far you can get on one tank of gas. There are special events that put you in fancy cars at prestigious locales. And, of course, there are plenty of ways to play online, including “seasonal” events that pit players against one another in one-lap time trials and more traditional races.
‘Forza Motorsport 5’
Where “Gran Turismo 6” has all the bells and whistles, “Forza Motorsport 5” (Xbox One; $59.99; Rated E) has utterly pure, customizable next-generation racing. It’s the sort of game that you just sit and stare at awhile. Everything “Forza” throws at you is for the love of fancy cars and speed, and they’ve brought the knowledgeable fellows from “Top Gear” along to tell you all about it.
It’s difficult to quantify what makes “Forza Motorsport 5” such an engrossing experience, especially when you put it next to a game with so many options like “Gran Turismo 6.” There’s the necessary career mode, there are online modes, and there are practice modes, and ... well, that’s about it. Different types of races include “pass x number of cars,” “one on one” and traditional races against at least eight other races – so there’s some variety to be found, but it’s nothing compared with the selection of “Gran Turismo.”
‘Turismo’ has the edge
Add to that a microtransaction system that almost ensures that you’ll spend real money if you want the best virtual cars, and it’s no wonder a number of players are soured on the first racing experience of the new console generation.
Still, when you’re actually playing, the feel of it sucks you in. The near-chaos of the “Top Gear” test track and the wonder of driving through Prague are two of the many breathtaking experiences that “Forza Motorsport 5” has to offer. You play through these scenarios over and over, and somehow “Forza” makes you want to perfect them.
For most players, “Gran Turismo 6” is probably the preferred option of the two. It’s the only one of the two available for the current generation of systems, for one, and it’s also the only one that’ll let you drive on the moon. It’s the kitchen sink racing game. There’s a certain breed of racing player who’ll be sucked in by “Forza Motorsport 5,” though, and it could be an awful long time before “Forza” lets go.
New This Week: “Halo: Spartan Assault” ($14.99) arrives as a download for the Xbox One this week, ensuring that kids who open up a brand new Xbox this holiday season can put something with the name “Halo” on it.