What you’re looking at above is the ultimate display in sim racing elitism. As of today, Facebook’s largest group for discussing our little hobby – over 7,500 users strong – have voted to ban all discussion of both the Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo series, with users who create posts featuring either of the two titles in the future to have their submissions removed at once, and potentially banned from the group altogether after repeated infractions. The latest in a string of incidents which prominently showcase how toxic our community can be to those who refuse to blindly worship obscure PC simulators and broaden their horizons with software constructed for mass market appeal, a survey completed by just 1% of the Facebook group has effectively told a significant portion of our hobby that two perfectly competent simulators are taboo topics because they’re too successful.
Earlier this week, I published an article stating I believed the downfall of sim racing was due to iRacing convincing the community that the hobby should be treated as an exclusive online country club rather than a $60 video game, and it appears some of my sentiments are being reflected in how these online groups are being moderated. I feel this is complete bullshit for the community to act in this manner. Both Forza Motorsport 6, as well as Gran Turismo 6, are virtually no more or less hardcore than titles such as Project CARS, Assetto Corsa, and iRacing; refusing to even acknowledge their existence or label them as “arcade games” is pretty hilarious when you actually pick apart the technical aspects of each console release.
Let’s start with Gran Turismo 6, because I really want to ruffle some feathers off the bat in this post. While many sim racers got their first real taste of the racing simulator genre with the third and fourth entries in the series on the PlayStation 2 before moving onto the Windows gaming platform, Gran Turismo 6 enters the ring as Polyphony’s flagship modern simulator.
The Gran Turismo series, dating all the way back to its inception on Sony’s original PlayStation, has been all about car collecting and JRPG-style grinding, with the core driving experience taking a back seat to garage management and progression elements. Aside from the endurance championships near the end of each game, most races are three lap sprints against an underwhelming artificial intelligence, which are placed well ahead of your starting position to generate a challenge that otherwise wouldn’t be there on a proper starting grid, so it’s certainly not an authentic Le Mans Prototype experience until the final portions of Career mode – and that’ll indeed make some believe it’s an arcade racer.
But there are ways to turn Gran Turismo 6 into something significantly more recognizable as a hardcore sim nerd. Each vehicle in the game comes with tires that are simply too sticky to be realistic, and Polyphony automatically enable most of the driving assists by default – meaning the Gran Turismo 6 most of you have played out of the box is vastly different than a hardcore sim racer’s custom GT6 profile. Taking thirty seconds out of your day to configure your steering wheel, turn off the numerous driving aids, and equip a harder tire compound than the car’s default, Gran Turismo 6 produces a driving experience on-par with most PC simulators. Lap times at Brands Hatch in the GT3 Spec BMW Z4 mirror what the rFactor 2 Endurance GT Payware mod cars are capable of, and the virtual recreations of locations such as Spa, the Nordschleife, and Laguna Seca are phenomenal.
Yes, there is a problem with some of the car setup options in Gran Turismo 6 – running no camber at all generates an instant boost in speed when this would instead destroy your tires in real life. However, this exact same bug is present in Project CARS, a game which was financially aided by 35,000 hardcore sim racers. And though the single player events are designed to fuck with gamers via unfair AI head starts and bogus sprint races that almost never bring tire wear or fuel into account, the robust online functionality of the title offers hardcore sim racers the ability to conduct their own events, with proper practice & qualifying sessions, and a traditional rules package that can make use of standing or rolling starts upon the request of the user. Assetto Corsa, on the other hand, currently does not allow PS4 or Xbox One owners to host their own custom lobbies; they are at the mercy of whatever configurations Kunos Simulazioni have put into the dedicated server rotation.
Gran Turismo 6 has been deemed to be an arcade racer and not worthy of discussion by the same community who financially contributed to a different game exhibiting the exact same camber bug as Gran Turismo 6. This same group of people also neglect Gran Turismo 6 despite offering more functionality for hardcore sim racers than a game whose tagline is Your Racing Simulator.
Moving on, let’s look at the other title wrongfully thrown under the bus, Forza Motorsport 6. The Forza Motorsport series originally launched in 2005 as Microsoft’s answer to Gran Turismo, but since it’s introduction to the scene a little over a decade ago, most people believe the Forza series has objectively become the better game. The car roster is a great deal more diverse than the fifty different Nissan Skylines and Mazda MX5’s taking up needless space in Gran Turismo, the livery customization elements, auction house, and setup building marketplace have added a virtual Barrett-Jackson element to complement the racing experience, and last but not least, there’s an enormous amount of shit to do in the game.
Like Gran Turismo, but directly addressing GT’s shortcomings, Forza Motorsport gives users several different ways to play through the game – though most of them are intended to appeal to a casual audience. Online races are short and sweet, perks or handicaps can be applied each race to exponentially increase your post race rewards, thus allowing you to accumulate a comprehensive collection of cars, and some of the engine swaps can get pretty absurd. It’s very easy for a hardcore sim racer to become turned off by the flashiness of Forza.
But it’s just as easy to ignore it all. Buried within the career mode are several Endurance racing events which can be entered with only light progression through the main experience – which most wise sim racers will partake in anyways to dial in their wheel settings and explore some of what Forza 6 has to offer. A pretty solid selection of multiple hour endurance races can be attempted using a vast array of modern racing machinery, with the game’s Free Race feature allowing you to configure your own races with virtually any piece of content in the game – which also pay out cash prizes and continue to your career progression. There is nothing stopping you from configuring a 14-lap race at the Nordschleife in any of the historic Formula One entries available in Forza Motorsport 6 to bring Grand Prix Legends into 2017, and if IndyCar is your thing, 50 laps at Long Beach may not be full race distance, but it’s more than enough.
The aforementioned perks and handicaps can be disabled entirely, and you can even select the number of mandatory pit stops for each race, generating a Forza Motorsport 6 experience decidedly different than the dudebro culture-infused mainstream gameplay you’ve probably seen demonstrated in various videos from annoying YouTube personalities.
Behind the wheel, it’s also not terrible to drive. A good friend of mine owns Forza 6, and I’ve logged many laps with his Logitech G920 exploring everything the game has to offer because that’s what you do on a Friday evening before raceday. Truthfully, it resembles how Assetto Corsa felt about a year ago. The cars are just a hair too planted in all situations, and though it’s something I can forgive considering the scope of Forza and how it’s intended primarily for mass-market appeal, I find it hilarious when Assetto Corsa owners knock Forza Motosrport 6 for somehow being “less serious” of a racing simulator – in this particular case, an arcade game. Forza, as it stands right this minute, drives how Assetto Corsa did on the PC in the spring of 2016. Unless you’re a phenomenally inexperienced driver who cannot possibly begin to diagnose car handling discrepancies, or just that ridiculously determined to become part of some exclusive PC sim racer club because you desperately need something to belong to, I’m a bit lost at how Forza Motorsport 6 is being labeled an arcade game when it feels roughly the same as Assetto Corsa once did.
Especially given some of the other bells and whistles found in Forza Motorsport 6. The Long Beach Street Circuit still hasn’t been completed for iRacing – instead being sold as an unfinished tech track with barely any scenery – and if you see it in YouTube videos by any chance, it’s a bit embarrassing. On the other hand, operating on inferior hardware compared to modern PC’s, the Xbox One version of Forza Motorsport 6 boasts a beautiful rendition of Long Beach, as well as the 2016 aero kits for the Dallara DW12, while iRacing still operates using an outdated 2012 model. Forza Motorsport 6 also includes in-game functionalities for livery and setup-sharing, whereas iRacing members are forced to download a third party program and manually browse the forums just for a whiff at custom content. And though the game does not ship with a safety car, caution flags which serve a purpose, or the ability to jump the start, the first two features are not functional in Assetto Corsa. Instead, owners of Forza Motorsport 6 get to play in the rain as compensation – a weather variant only found in rFactor 2 and Project CARS.
This somehow warrants Forza Motorsport 6 being labeled an “arcade game.”
In conclusion, it’s frustrating to see the elitists of the sim community deem perfectly decent alternatives to hardcore PC racing sims as arcade games that are against the rules to talk about in very large sim racing communities. Forza and Gran Turismo are solid titles, both of which I personally enjoy, and while I’ll obviously stick to my isiMotor stuff for competitive league racing, there’s nothing inherently wrong with what Forza or Gran Turismo bring to the genre. Both series make a genuine effort to accommodate the hardcore users alongside the casual audience, and it’s very bizarre to see sim racers outright ignore these elements.
Gran Turismo 6 has infinitely more online functionality than Assetto Corsa, generates the same lap times as rFactor 2, and exhibits the same bugs as Project CARS, yet Assetto Corsa is the game sim racers are masturbating over, Project CARS is the game they’re throwing money at to help develop, and rFactor 2 is what they’re shitposting about on every message board that hasn’t banned them for their viral marketing efforts, all while calling Gran Turismo an arcade game.
Forza Motorsport 6 admittedly does slightly more to cater to the casual players, but all of these little diversions to the core experience can be set to off, and you can still play Forza as a modern substitute for GTR 2 or Assetto Corsa – with plenty of hardcore endurance events to select from, as well as your own custom races even counting towards your profile’s overall progression. Yes, there are stupid perks, three lap sprints, prize wheels, and a whole bunch of assists enabled by default. You can scrap all of those and run three hundred laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway, or 50 laps at Road America if you’d like.
Yet nobody ever dares to mention any of this.
It’s as if I wasn’t kidding when I said sim racers want the genre to be an elite online club so they can finally feel like they belong to something, rather than a selection of driving games which require a slightly higher base level of skill to be successful at.