Examining the Historical Firmaments of Racing as a New Gaming Standard
- By: CM Boots-Faubert
- Posted 20th Jun 2012
If we were to focus upon a single feature of the game that makes it stand-out among other games in the auto-racing genre, it would be the car class system that was declared in the original game and that has featured in every game in the series that followed, a classification system that made it relatively easy to identify the basic power and capabilities for a car based solely upon the Alpha-numerica designation of its class. The original classification system, in order of level, was:
-- Class D: Standard production vehicles such as the Honda Civic and Mitsubishi Eclipse.
-- Class C: Sports cars such as the Impreza WRX STi and Lancer Evo VIII.
-- Class B: Performance cars such as the Porsche Boxster and Ford Mustang.
-- Class A: High performance cars such as the TVR Tuscan S and Dodge Viper.
-- Class S: Supercars such as the Enzo Ferrari, Koenigsegg CC8S and Porsche Carrera GT.
-- Class R: Purpose-built race cars (non-production vehicles) such as the #1 Audi R8, and Bentley Speed 8. Unlike the cars in the previous five classes which could be modified with different kit and parts, cars in the R-Class cannot be customized in any way, as they represent the professional class and are constructed for specific races in order to create a level playing field in which the skills of the driver are the controlling issue.
The R-Class is broken up into different subclasses, including "R-GT" which is "Grand Touring," the "R-GTS" which is a higher performance class, the "R-P1" which is a racing prototype class, and son on.
Cars in the first five classes appear in designation by their class letter and then a number that indicates which of the four subclasses in their class they fall under. Each class has four subclasses, indicated by the numbers 1 through 4, with 1 being higher in the subclass than 4, so for example a B1 would be better than a B3. The customization of each car generally is what sets it apart in the subclasses, and it is possible (actually very likely) that once a driver customizes more than two of the part classes on their car that the improvements will push the car into a new class and subclass, making the process of "tuning" for performance something of an art that requires a fair bit of knowledge to do correctly, and this effect nicely illustrates the real difference between the Forza series and the Gran Turismo series.
The recently announced spin-off called Forza Horizons that takes on the arena of street racing and this year's entry in the Gran Turismo Academy that offers PlayStation 3 gamers the opportunity to improve their racing skills free-of-charge via the GT Academy game client that can be downloaded from PSN gives us pause to wonder when we will be seeing the release of Gran Turismo Kart Racing, or Forza Monster Truck Racing? What about an iRacing 4x4 Offroad Circuit?
The Forza Series so far consists of the following games:
-- Forza Motorsport (2005) for the original Xbox featuring 17 tracks and over 230 cars.
-- Forza Motorsport 2 (2007) for the Xbox 360, featuring 15 tracks and over 350 cars.
-- Forza Motorsport 3 (2009) for the Xbox 360, featuring over 25 tracks and over 500 cars.
-- Forza Motorsport 4 (2011) for the Xbox 360, featuring over 32 tracks and over 600 cars.
When we step back and take a long-view of the Forza franchise it is possible to see a clear and fluid process of evolution, with an emphasis upon a more personalized racing experience taking the form of the in-game livery and decal editing capabilities combined with an obvious move towards group and team focus, which is represented by the capabilities to not only create racing teams within the game that players can then belong to and race with, but a clear focus upon organized team-based racing that is very similar to the emphasis towards competition that began to assert itself in Forza Motorsport 2 and has since increased with each new offering in the series.
The Forza games are first and foremost a simulation of high-performance auto-racing that utilize cars from the top-end of the racing spectrum, as Forza seeks to emulate the performance and handling characteristics of these real-life racing cars that are largely drawn from the standard production models for high-end car makers and then modified for racing.
While most gamers consider Forza and Gran Turismo to be mostly the same, with the key differences being the platform for which they are created and on which they are played, a closer examination of the two games reveals considerable differences -- for example unlike Gran Turismo, Forza features a much tighter emphasis upon car modification and customisation, in which the primary efforts of committed gamers is to eek out better performance and optimize each car to provide the maximum measure of speed and reliability for which it is potentially capable.
In spite of the perceived similarities it is evident upon closer examination that the Forza series is not simply Microsoft's answer to Gran Turismo, but is in its own right a specialized and very unique racing experience!
At E3 2012 a new entry in the Forza stable was announced in the form of Forza Horizons, but it should be emphasized that Horizons is not part of the established Forza series at all, being an off-shoot that was created specifically to address an area of auto racing that in no way relates to the highly structured traditional mode of racing that is represented by both the Forza and Gran Turismo games.
Specifically the focus of Forza Horizon is focused upon the open world racing style that is more familiar to the average car owner; a video game exclusively for Microsoft's Xbox 360 that is positioned as a spin-off whose strength is a fictional racing festival called the 'Horizon Festival' that is set primarily in and around a fictional town in the state of Colorado, in the USA.
In the second official introduction trailer created by iRacing.com the realism elements for the game are the focus as gamers are given a quick name-dropping tour in which it is made clear that this is not your father's race car game...