Home / Editorial / Polyphony Digital and Gran Turismo’s Fall from Grace

Polyphony Digital and Gran Turismo’s Fall from Grace

Polyphony_Digital_logo

Disclaimer: As of this writing, I have not played Gran Turismo 6 but I did order it a couple of days ago and it’s on the way. Everything written from here on is based on the impression I have gotten from reviewers and people who have played the game. So, grain of salt and all that.

UPDATE: It’s here.

The fall of Polyphony Digital and its Gran Turismo franchise, one beloved by a huge community of racing fans the world over, hasn’t been an easy one to watch. To look at their efforts this generation, compared to those past, it’s hard to imagine what went wrong. Gran Turismo, a household name, a name held by many as the king of racing franchises has seen its crown snatched from it by an upstart in Turn 10.

One argument I see hurled around far too often in Gran Turismo’s defense is that Gran Turismo is all about exacting simulation of the subtleties of driving, something Forza Motorsport can’t match because it’s “arcadey”. Nonsense.

Gran Turismo fans, please stop trying to perpetuate this myth. Forza Motorsport is not at all arcadey. It never has been. Now, complaints were rightfully levied at Turn 10 for including a hidden active steering assist that couldn’t be disabled in Forza Motorsport 3, but the hidden aid has since been made an option in subsequent Forza titles, allowing sim fans to disable it by simply selecting “simulation” steering from the difficulty menu. But even with the hidden aid, Forza Motorsport 3 is still far from the type of “simcade” handling seen in games like GRID and Project Gotham Racing.

Now sim racing fans are right to say that neither Forza nor Gran Turismo are “true” simulators in comparison to PC simulation luminaries like iRacing, rFactor and NetKar Pro. But when I see Gran Turismo fans dismissing Forza Motorsport as an arcade racer while holding Gran Turismo up as a bastion of realism and simulation excellence, I’m truly baffled.

There are a lot of things I will give the Gran Turismo series credit for when it comes to its physics model. Gran Turismo 5 does a great job of communicating the feeling of weight transfer in vehicles and cars have an appropriately weighty feel about them but there are many areas of Gran Turismo’s physics model that, from what I’ve heard, haven’t been fixed in Gran Turismo 6.

For example, its tire physics are still lacking. Grip progression, the way tires lose grip gradually under stress just doesn’t exist in Gran Turismo. This leads to its simulation of tire mechanics and grip being more of a binary switch in that you either have grip or you don’t, which isn’t realistic at all.

GT6-Screenshot-02

The lacking tire physics contribute to another deficiency in Gran Turismo’s physics model in its near total inability to properly simulate torque steer. This is an easy problem to recreate for anyone with copies of Gran Turismo 5 and 6. Take a Ford Focus or one of many other FWD cars onto a level track and gun it from a standstill without touching the wheel.  In both of those games, the car will launch perfectly straight, with no effect of the torque on the steering wheel, which is wildly unrealistic. In real life (and Forza for that matter), the steering wheel will jerk to one side due to the torque generated at the front wheels.

But I understand that there are plenty of people who will disagree for whatever reason and I’ve seen solid arguments for both sides of the Forza versus Gran Turismo debate. This is just my opinion on the matter based on my experience with the series up to Gran Turismo 5. If this all turns out to be unfounded in relation to Gran Turismo 6, I’ll be sure to note as much in my upcoming review.

I have no doubt that Gran Turismo 6 will go on to sell millions, despite early reports that its opening weekend in the UK saw it move only a fifth of the amount of copies as its predecessor. Gran Turismo has long been a huge seller and a big name in the racing community and is one of the highest selling videogame franchises of all time. Its pedigree will continue to make it a high seller and it will sell, if nothing else, on name alone.

And that’s the problem.

2367570-2207001258-Gran-

I’ve seen Polyphony Digital referred to by its head, Kazunori Yamauchi, as “perfectionists” and much of the reviewing and gaming community has allowed to ride on that self-imposed reputation of assumed “perfectionism”.  In the PS2 era, I would’ve agreed with Gran Turismo fans that Polyphony Digital is comprised of exacting perfectionists, passionate both about cars and racing. But this generation, they’ve done nothing but half-ass the Gran Turismo series at nearly every turn. They seem to believe that simply throwing as many features as they can at us will make us overlook the inconsistent quality across the board. To me, this seems a pure marketing move on their part, to have more boxes to check on the back of the package, for its fanbase to hold up in its defense. Yes, Gran Turismo has rally racing, day and night cycles and variable weather but none of those are executed particularly well, save for the day and night cycles, which are absolutely stunning on the right tracks.

Content for content’s sake is not always a good thing. On one hand, we have around 400 vehicles that have seen slavish attention to detail in their recreation within Gran Turismo and on the other, we have a slew of more than eight hundred cars that have literally been pulled from Gran Turismo 4, a title from nearly a decade and an entire generation ago. In some respects, I understand that having the cars in the game may be better than not but given the gulf in quality between the “Standard” and “Premium” cars (which has admittedly been lessened in Gran Turismo 6), one has to imagine how a company that prides itself on a reputation for “perfectionism” could allow such a thing to be present in their game. A true perfectionist would not have the two tiers of quality. A true perfectionist would strive to ensure that every car has the same level of detail and attention put into it to keep a consistent standard of quality across its entire stable of vehicles.

Turn 10 is passionate about cars. They are the ones who take the time to meticulously model each and every one of their cars inside and out, rather than settling for 800+ slightly versions of cars from a nearly decade old game. They’re the ones who have taken the time to record proper engine and tire squeal sounds rather than relying on audio from the PS1 era. They’re the ones who realize that quality is more important than quantity, which is why all of Forza’s tracks are so beautifully detailed whereas many tracks in Gran Turismo seem so stale and bland by comparison.

It is Turn 10’s own standard of quality that resulted in Forza Motorsport 5 featuring literally half the cars and tracks as its predecessor. They saw that some tracks and cars were not up to the standard they wanted to deliver with the Xbox One launch title and cut them until they could bring them up to the new standard. Turn 10 realized that some of their real world circuits were inaccurately rendered in previous games and were forced to cut them because they simply didn’t have the time to laser scan them and add them to Forza Motorsport 5 in order for it to be ready for the Xbox One’s launch.

It may sound like I’m making excuses for Turn 10 and Forza Motorsport 5’s lack of content. I’m not. The game should’ve been delayed until all of the content was ready to go and it was rightfully penalized for lacking it by many reviewers.

But here’s the point. Turn 10 delivered a consistent level of quality throughout the game nonetheless. Forza Motorsport 5 lacks content, but what is there is apparently excellent. From the exacting detail in all of the game’s 200+ cars to the high level of detail and accuracy in the tracks, Turn 10 has chosen to put quality ahead of quantity, for better or worse. As I said, I wish this game had been delayed in order to incorporate more content but seeing that the passion for the series hasn’t waned is reassuring.

Kazunori Yamauchi, CEO of Polyphony Digital

This level of passion and attention to detail has been missing from Gran Turismo since Gran Turismo 4 on the PlayStation 2. For years, Polyphony Digital has been given a free pass for essentially sitting on their hands for an entire generation, content to just cram as much “stuff” into its games as possible rather than listen to its critics and attempt to address its flaws.

I’ll make no attempts to obfuscate the fact that Forza is my preferred racing simulator franchise on consoles but that, by no means, precludes Gran Turismo from ever taking that crown. We’ll see how Gran Turismo 6 does when I get it in the coming days but I will say that it will be hard pressed to beat Forza Motorsport 4 as my favorite racing game of all time.

As I said, my copy of Gran Turismo 6 is in the mail, on its way to my doorstep as I type this. I knew I’d eventually succumb to its Siren song eventually and since it was on sale, I figured I might as well give in sooner than later. I like the Gran Turismo series. I’ve liked it since my first taste in the form of Gran Turismo 3 and I’ve bought every entry since, including Gran Turismo 5: Prologue. But just because I like it, doesn’t mean I’m going to go easy on it. It does Polyphony Digital no favors for anyone to make excuses for them, especially with the inevitable Gran Turismo 7 on the horizon. I thought having a rival in Turn 10 and the Forza Motorsport series would’ve been enough to get them to bring it but I was wrong. The motivation is going to have to come from elsewhere. Whether it is through criticism from the fanbase or within, wherever it has to come from, it has to come from somewhere.

About Justin McBride

My name is Justin McBride and I’m a guy who enjoys writing, playing games and writing about playing games. Sound lame enough yet? Well, I have other interests as well such as hanging out with friends, watching TV, going to the movies from time to time, surfing the internet, listen to good music, drive at speeds I shouldn’t be driving at and so on. The problem is, that’s all stuff everyone likes to do, so why write about it? Oh wait, seems I just did. Oops.

Check Also

America the Xenophobic

As I watched the utter annihilation of the Denver Broncos that was Super Bowl XLVIII, …

  • “the always-on assists I STILL felt in Forza 4”

    Which doesn’t exist. Play the game with a wheel with simulation steering enabled and it doesn’t exist. Period. The fact that you want to manufacture a hidden assist in your head or that you’re judging Forza’s realism while playing on a controller doesn’t change anything. Forza 4 does not have a hidden driving aid. Period.

    The seasonal events, as of patch 1.02 added on the 18th of December and beyond pay in the hundreds of thousands. You’ve got me. I didn’t research that fully. All of the others give out chump change.

    At least I’m willing to admit I’m wrong here, unlike you who continues to talk about an issue regarding countersteer in Forza 4 that was patched two years ago.

    And yeah, Greenawalt has indeed talked a lot of smack about Polyphony Digital and Gran Turismo. I never denied that. But you know what? He backed up his talk with each and every Forza game released last generation. Forza 5? Eh. It’s still a fantastic game in and of itself but falls apart under the weight of its predecessors having so much content that it simply didn’t have. I don’t excuse that. It was rightfully penalized and I hope they get their act together for Forza 6.

    And if Sony hadn’t been as massively arrogant as they were prior to the PS3’s launch (Xbox 1.5 ring any bells? How about “the playstation 3 will sell without games”?) maybe the media would’ve been kinder to them when they were soundly knocked from their pedestal.

    And seriously? After all this time you’re still going on about some “conspiracy” to rate Playstation games lower? I thought Sony fanboys had grown past that stage. What with The Last of Us winning so many awards this year, Journey last year and Demon’s Souls before that. All Sony exclusives. Geez, it’s like no one can NOT praise anything Sony related to high heaven without being accused of being a Sony hater.

    But yes dude, everyone who thinks Forza is a better simulator than Gran Turismo is part of some grand conspiracy to spread misinformation. There’s absolutely no way Forza could ACTUALLY be the better simulator. No, that’s just crazy talk.

    See, you keep saying I’d think Forza is better than Gran Turismo before it released. But you don’t even ENTERTAIN the idea that Forza could actually be the better simulator. To you, even to think such a thing is blasphemous.

    But I’m the fanboy. Dude, look in the mirror before you start throwing around words like that.

    And you’re right, Gran Turismo 5 had 800+ standard cars but not all of them were from the PS2 Gran Turismo. GT4 had 721 cars and the vast majority of them were included in GT5 as standard cars. It doesn’t matter. These are 800+ cars that don’t have full interiors. And nice strawman. I never said or implied they all drove the same. My argument is for the terribly inconsistent quality resulting from the 230+ premium cars which look great and have interiors and the 800 standards, which don’t.

    Call me a fanboy all you like for supporting a view you clearly don’t agree with. I’m not here to convince you. But if I’m a fanboy for thinking Forza is the better game AND better simulator, you’re just as big a fanboy as I am for not even considering that to be a possibility.

  • Manoj Varughese

    PERIOD.

  • Manoj Varughese

    Prologue and 5 did the job for PS3 era. 6 was overkill but fans needed something. Looks forward to kicking it back to grace with 7 and next for PS4. Forza can keep doing it’s usual job on One. Reviews and perceptions are respected but Polyphony Digital needs no certificate.

  • Manoj Varughese

    “I like Forza better, so I’m gonna make GT look bad”

    Alternative title for article.

  • What part of “The only area Forza hasn’t beaten Gran Turismo is sales and name recognition.” did you not understand? I just agreed that Gran Turismo had Forza beat in the sales category.

    And yeah, my subjective opinion is that Forza took Gran Turismo’s crown. You see the key word there? My OPINION. If you have a different one, fine. But I’m not wrong for expressing my opinion in an EDITORIAL form.

    It’s like you guys don’t understand what differences of opinions are.

  • Good job not actually reading the article and immediately going for the kneejerk reaction.

  • J.j. Barrington

    Your opinion is fine as yours. Where you fail is when you try to bring in “facts” that aren’t clean. You tried reviews, but reviewers aren’t all that credible in the first place, these days, and I think I made a strong enough case for that. To top it off, even if we WERE to use reviews, GT6 would have fared better than Forza 5… until you decided we weren’t comparing the two newest entries.

    Again, you shouted about Sony fans making claims and not having anything to back them up while saying you actually DO, but then you disregard anything that could back up their claims, just the same as they can, will, and DO do to your own.

    Your article spends entirely too much time setting the premise up to be “Forza is better, and this is where GT fails to live up to it.” You don’t have to say it in every paragraph; you set the tone at the start, so that what follows is a continuation.

    Forza gets marks, repeatedly, for being a great GAME. It makes sacrifices- modified track width, anyone?- to ensure it’s fun and accessible for anyone. And that’s perfectly fine.

    But the whole reason Forza exists is because of Gran Turismo. Greenwalt and co started a rivalry, saying they could be better than Polyphony at their own game… and yet they’ve strayed from that. It’s better reivewed? Great.

    The series still averages worse than GT. Forza saw four entries in one generation(plus a spinoff, but why count Horizon?). And at the end, the only big improvement they could claim was graphics.

    Hell, even Drivatar in 5 is based on something that’s been there for some time already.

    Well, I could argue my case all day, call out the hypocrisy in your argument and the things you use to support it, but it IS your opinion.

    But don’t forget: opinions aren’t facts, so they CAN be wrong.

  • Fine, Gran Turismo 6 is sitting on a one point higher metascore. Congratulations. I was doing a like for like comparison within the same generation, but fine. It is the series’ latest entry.

    I’ve not disregarded anything. I just fail to see sales as a judge of quality. I don’t view the Wii as the previous generation’s best console by a longshot because it was the best seller and I don’t view Call of Duty as the best shooter franchise because it sells in the tens of millions. Usually, the only time I see sales being brought up in the same conversation as quality is when there’s nothing else on the user’s side. But whatever. I already acknowledged that Forza loses to Gran Turismo in sales and name recognition.

    Forza Motorsport gets high marks for being a great simulator AND a great game. That’s what you constantly fail to understand. Again, it’s like you refuse to even entertain the idea that Forza could actually be the better simulator (and as far as I’m concerned based on the time I’ve spent with both, it is). Yeah, some its tracks weren’t 100% accurate but most were and all of the tracks in Forza 5 are accurate.

    And it doesn’t really matter if the tracks are inaccurate unless you subscribe to the antiquated view that comparable lap times equals simulation realism. The track may be accurate, but the driving physics are what are most important and that’s where Gran Turismo loses out. The tire physics are just wrong, Gran Turismo doesn’t properly simulate torque steer or wheelspin in high powered RWD vehicles, FWD cars understeer like mad and grip progression is severely lacking.

    Again, on GTPlanet, a Gran Turismo fan site of all places, there are a huge contingent of people there who have real world experience who will tell you everything I’m telling you.

    But, right, they’re just lying to make Forza look better.

    Dan Greenawalt set out to make the best console simulator, not the most hardcore one and they’ve succeeded. Forza was inspired by Gran Turismo and in many respects has surpassed it. It’s better reviewed because it’s the better game and the better simulator. It has better tire physics, better braking, more tuning options, more realistic aerodynamic simulation, less exaggerated and more realistic body roll and weight transfer, proper grip progression (a tire physics thing), a mechanical damage model, better visuals, a livery editor, better AI (it doesn’t matter if drivatar existed in some form before Forza 5, it’s still far better than Gran Turismo’s robotic AI), more authentic engine sounds so a big block V8 doesn’t sound like a vacuum cleaner, better collision dynamics, better multiplayer and much more that I just don’t feel like listing.

    Yes, opinions can be wrong. And YOU should keep that in mind regarding your opinion on Gran Turismo’s supposed superiority in the simulation department.

  • rjo

    Meanwhile ^^ gt6 updated with seasonal events, payouts can be as much as 6 milion credits just thought a nice thing to mention right so no need for microtransactions which btw in gt6 your not bothered with ^^

  • John

    First off, between Forza 4 and GT5 I preferred Forza because a lot of what the author wrote above is true.

    Unfortunately Turn 10 got greedy with Forza and started going crazy with DLC cars. The author is wrong when they say the cars were cut in Forza 5 due to perfection; they were cut so they could sell them back in DLC. Turn 10 is getting terrible with their greed. The season pass with Forza 4 ended right before the Porsche release which was not in the original title because Turn 10 was too cheap to pay Porsche licensing fees. The season pass also included some garbage cars and Turn 10 decided to force people to buy car packs instead of individual cars for some of the best ones in the game. Car token prices went up from 80 cents to $1 after the season pass ended too.

    At least GT doesn’t shove garbage DLC down people’s throats.

    Turn 10 promised day/night/weather in Forza 5 and said it was not in Forza 4 because the Xbox was too underpowered. Well it looks like the Spybox One is underpowered too because still no weather and TRUE day/night in Forza 5.

    Less cars, more DLC to sell you is the Forza way. I get a lot of the GT cars suck and again I prefer to race in Forza over GT because it feels more realistic with all the crap arcade settings turned off.

    I was not impressed with GT5. However I am done with Xbox because I refuse to buy an underpowered system designed for spying, advertising, datamining, and selling media. The Xbox One will never have true 1080p (not upscaled) 60fps graphics and if they do it will only be for a small set of titles near the mid to end of the Xbox Ones life cycle. Xbox shoves advertising down your throat on the dashboard menus, while Sony only puts it in the Sony Store, not on the Dashboard. Xbox has stupid fat head avatars, Xbox created a patent that is designed to look in a room and charge you more for the number of people watching a download video, Xbox has a patent on turning on a camera and mic for any of its devices that are in a low power state on a network. Ever wonder why the Xbox One is always in low power and not off? Microsoft makes you pay extra electricity to spy on you, they charge you for xbox Live and then shove ads at you on the dashboard (for the US army, cars, and everything else!) which is insane. I refuse to pay for advertising, it’s why I canceled cable and only pay for shows on Netflix, Hulu, RedBox, etc. I am sick of paying for advertising.

    Everyone I know used to have an Xbox and now has or is getting a PS4. I have owned both systems every cycle and will not be getting an Xbox One, only a PS4. I will be looking for a controller for the PS4 that is more like the Xbox controller because I don’t like Sony’s and prefer the native Xbox 360 one but again, I refuse to buy another Microsoft product. Windows 8 blows too. Boycott Microsoft and let them fail. Serves the creepy spying greedy pricks right, I am so glad PS4 sales are destroying Microsoft and they are looking stupid having to back pedal on every evil move they tried to make. Just remember Microsoft has its evil plans and they have tried only failing because people didn’t buy into their crap. They can add all the bad stuff back in a software update and we already know they want it that way so expect it to happen in the future. Boycott Microsoft and don’t buy a Xbox One.

    Hopefully Turn 10 will stop getting greedy and also release on the PS too. They would make a killing.

  • Bryan

    I love the Granturismo series. It brings back a ton of memories with their make believe tracks that I have been racing on since 1997. They were the first to have economy cars which made it fun! I still like Granturismo’s racing career better than Forza. However, this year I had to part ways with Granturismo after waiting for almost the whole lifetime of PS3. It breaks my heart because I love Granturismo. But Forza has been really going into the direction that i have been waiting for for a long time. Using the graphics and physics of Forza and making an open world car game. Xbox One Controller works amazingly with Forza when driving a rear wheeled car around a corner. Still trying to get used to the controller when playing Madden.

    I look forward to Forza Horizon 2. Xbox One is the winner if you love cars like I do. I hope Granturismo can bounce back in the future. Still breaks my heart that I had to make the switch.