Back when PlayStation launched in 1995, it changed racing games beyond belief. Suddenly driving games had cars that resembled real cars, rather than red ones with mushroom decals and Mario in the driving seat. The rush for the ultimate in realistic racing games was won by Gran Turismo and its exhaust cackled with delight when any rivals tried to tailgate.
When Gran Turismo appeared, it’s fair to say I fell in love with the game. I couldn’t drive, didn’t have the money for a Dodge Viper and was working on a PlayStation magazine, spending hours of each day perfecting my lap times. The pay was terrible, the job was fun. If I had never left home, I would have probably ended up getting a civil partnership to the game disc and appeared in the local paper in a way that would have ashamed my parents.
During 2004, however, I started to see the the early cracks in my relationship with Gran Turismo. It had bizarre Japanese cars which looked like fridge freezers with silly names and far too much jazz music on the menu screens. And when the first PlayStation 3 edition arrived, it was a cut price Prologue version with 80% of the meat cut out, a frustrating teaser for any fan. And that fucking jazz was still centre stage. Whoever suggested that jazz goes with fast cars in those Sony marketing meetings must have been stoned to their tiny mainframes or the Japanese equivalent of Howard Moon.
During 2004, however, I started to see the the early cracks in my relationship with Gran Turismo. It had bizarre Japanese cars which looked like fridge freezers with silly names and far too much jazz music on the menu screens
The Forza racing franchise was gaining speed by now and felt more fun to be with. Forza wasn’t as pretty as Gran Turismo but I didn’t care because Forza was more fun to be around. It did things that Gran Turismo couldn’t but it didn’t look as nice. Forza was big, bold and American - it was like boarding a massive, leather seated Chrysler rather than a uncomfortable but fun Mazda MX5.
Since 2005, I’ve played both Gran Turismo and Forza for their unique and divided charms but with each instalment of Gran Turismo taking approximately several years to arrive, I’ve become restless and pissed off with two-timing the rival franchises. One is always there for me with an update every year, the other has become the equivalent of a transatlantic girlfriend, popping by every few years for a shag but offering nothing after the first exciting few hours of the reunion other than a distant feeling of alienation.
Trying to communicate with Gran Turismo is hard. It’s like navigating a Japanese Kwik Fit while drunk in a mess of hardcore differentials, custom spoilers and tyre treads. Sure, Forza now has all of this too, it’s just easier to decipher and enjoy and I don’t feel less of a man because I don’t know what TSD Tuning actually means. Gran Turismo now makes me feel like Tom Cruise must have felt during the filming of Days of Thunder.
Forza 4 has finally convinced me to leave Gran Turismo behind with immediate effect. No dear John letter, no apologies and no explanation. Forza 4 has stolen the best bits of Gran Turismo and chucked the eighties porno jazz out of the passenger window. When Forza 4 launched earlier this month, an army of deafening super cars shot past my office window as a press stunt. Colleagues thought it was a bomb, but for me it just meant the fun and exciting racing game was back in town.
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