[Edit: We updated the controller section as there are two $399 Xbox One steering wheels for Forza 5.]
There's a racing simulation showdown taking place on gaming consoles this holiday season between PS3 racer Gran Turismo 6 and Xbox One launch title Forza Motorsport 5. If you ask me, I think you should buy both if you can. Both games are great.
But I've dared to compare the two as a long-time fan of both franchises. Read on to see if you agree with me.
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Cars: Gran Turismo 6
I picked cars as the first entry for this comparison so I can rant a bit. People were loud and mad at Forza 5's 200 or so available cars. Yes, GT6 has 1,200 cars, but I'm willing to bet that most gamers won't touch many of the cars in the bottom ranks. I mean, a Daihatsu hatch isn't something you'd brag about. And Gran Turismo games offer several variations on one model. Cut the ones you'd never drive and the variations and the number would go down quite a bit.
Forza 5's cars look incredible. Given the next-gen advantage, I'm sure GT6's cars would look just as nice. But, right now, Polyphony Digital's work can't touch Turn 10's. They're eye poppers. Wowzers. And Forza has all the cars you'd like to drive (or own), with none of the duds or duplicates.
Still, GT6 has the number advantage, so it wins for me. It's so nice to be able to flip through all of the offerings and drool over virtual vehicles -- it's like a game in itself. And there are some strange offerings to keep things fun, like the moon rover. The fun of experiencing so many different types of vehicle types is what really keeps me coming back to GT6's career mode -- Forza 5 doesn't have that for me.
At the end of the day, we play these games because we like cars. More cars wins.
Tracks: Gran Turismo 6
My biggest complaint with Forza 5 is that there are not enough tracks to keep me entertained. The tracks are both beautiful and ridiculously detailed, but I would have rather had less shine on these tracks if I could trade that for more places to race. Again, the 14 tracks that are included are great, but you see them so often in career mode that you start to tire of them. The lack of variety is bothersome, but the lack of fan-favorite tracks really stinks.
GT6's tracks may not have the photorealism and high detail of Forza 5's tracks, but the number of tracks makes up for this many times over. GT6 has 37 locations and 100 layouts. Add in the variable weather and environmental changes and there's more than enough variety to keep things fresh for hours on end. They're all so impeccably crafted that I think tracks feel better on Polyphony Digital's side.
Graphics: Forza Motorsport 5
Man. No contest. The graphical leap between current-generation and next-generation visuals is huge. A side-by-side test is painful.
It seems like there's just enough power under the hood of the PS3 to make for a fine racing videogame. But you can't help but think that they ran out of power when you look at GT6's static scenery, pop up book trees, and jaggy edges. The cars look great, as do many of the tracks, but you don't have to look hard to find rough edges.
There's so much more headroom with the Xbox One that Forza 5 gets 1080p 60fps visuals with some of the best lighting and detail work I've ever seen in a videogame. Polygon counts are much higher, and everything from car damage to shadows looks much more detailed.
Again, no contest.
Control: Gran Turismo 6
The same difference in processing power between the two systems should point to Forza 5 coming out on top when it comes to control, right?
In my mind, the Gran Turismo franchise has always won out on driving physics. GT6 has new physics that dig down deeper into its already great feel. Handling feels better than ever now, and that's why I enjoy playing GT6 just slightly more than Forza 5.
I wouldn't be surprised to hear that there's much more going on under the hood of Forza 5 -- It certainly feels like there's a lot more going on. Forza 5 feels more dynamic, and there's certainly more visual feedback for what's going on in its simulations, but all the calculations in the world won't matter if they don't feel good. To be clear, Forza 5's driving feels great. But GT6's driving feels fantastic.
Career Mode: Gran Turismo 6
Gran Turismo 6 sticks to its guns, once again putting players of its career mode through a progression that has them working up from a little turd of a car to the fastest cars in the world. While I've never loved the license tests, I do enjoy the slow burn of the GT career modes, and I always appreciate having to earn my way into the best cars. There's also the joy of experiencing so many different types of cars along the way. GT6 keeps that spirit, so know that its career mode will take you a long while to work through.
On the other hand, Forza 5 lets you hop into whatever you'd like and tackle any race that interests you. Pure freedom. You can just stay in one car if you'd like.
If you're a casual racing fan, you may not enjoy the two laps at 75 MPH in a budget hatchback that you have to get through early on in GT6. But, for me, I want to work through it all. And there's so much more to do in GT6 with its weather races, endurance tests, mini challenges, coffee breaks and more.
AI: Forza Motorsport 5
GT6's AI is better than ever, but there's better out there. I'm glad to say that gone are the days where you'd find that the second- and third-place drivers would magically appear behind you when one tire touches even the smallest patch of dirt or grass. It seems less about cars following scripted paths this time around, though I can't help but think that the heat is artificially turned up near the end of the last lap. GT6's AI is good, but it still needs work.
Forza 5's Drivatar system has the worst name ever, but it's a game changer when it comes to AI. By taking real players' driving tendencies up into the cloud and then down into your AI opponents' cars, single-player racing has never felt more real.
Online: Gran Turismo 6
Flat out, there are simply more cars, courses, and race options to play with in Gran Turismo 6. Polyphony Digital has set the stage for online that should keep you entertained for years.
Controller support: Gran Turismo 6
[Edit: There are two $399 Xbox One steering wheels for Forza 5. This still doesn't beat GT6's back support, though.]
Forza 5 only supports the Xbox One controller. That's it.
GT6 has back support for several of the Thrustmaster, Driving Force, and G series of wheels. That's all great news. It's too bad that GT6 does not support the DualShock 4 controller, though.
Microtransactions: Gran Turismo 6
Since this comparison is coming from me specifically, I'm picking the game that doesn't seem to be built around making more money later. I love Forza Motorsport 5, but I could never shake the feeling that it was designed around a DLC strategy. From the lack of fan-favorite tracks to the ever-present reminders that you can buy credits to level up faster, an underlying feeling of being asked to pay more weighed on me a bit. I can't claim to know Turn 10's intent, but if I ever found out that they held tracks back to be sold later, I'd be very disappointed.
Gran Turismo 6 does give you the option to buy game credits to let you skip over having to earn them through races. It's simply a shortcut to fast cars. While I think that skipping over GT6's wealth of vehicle and race types to get the fastest car defeats the purpose, I can appreciate that not everyone has the time required to work through its career mode. Furthermore, car pricing seems to be in line with what it was in Gran Turismo 5, so nothing seems shady so far.
While I'd rather that Polyphony Digital skipped the microtransaction option altogether, it's not intrusive, and you're never prompted or reminded. More importantly, nothing seems like it's missing from Gran Turismo 6. It's a full game that you can play for years on end without feeling like you need to buy something.
Load Times: Neither
OH MY GOD. Both are terrible. Polyphony Digital has improved load times over their last release, but pre-match loads sometimes take 30 seconds or more.
GT6 has a slow Blu-ray drive. What's your excuse, Forza 5?
Again, you can't go wrong with either. I'm really glad I have both. I think of Forza 5 when I want to race, while I think of GT6 when I want to drive. That's what it really comes down to for me. I go to Forza for the flash and spectacle, I go to Gran Turismo when I want to play in an automotive toy box. Hopefully that makes sense to you.
But, if I had to pick one racing game to take to a desert island to play for the rest of my life, it would be Gran Turismo 6.