Not every day do you make a judgment call that goes against everything that you have grown accustomed to believe and admire, especially in the racing game genre, yet two weeks ago I did and I’m going to share that experience with you. Two games that I hold very dear to my memories is the first time putting in Gran Turismo in my PlayStation and the first time starting Need for Speed in MS-DOS. Most everyone will recognize the box art above! Two totally different experiences, yet both equally as satisfying back then. For those of you that don’t remember the original Need for Speed on the PC, check out the intro video below and jump into some nostalgia.
(Gameplay @ 2:45 )
For me, other than Rad Racer on the NES System, this was my first experience with a PC racing game that absolutely had my jaw dropping at the time with my sweet S3Virge graphics card. It wasn’t until many years later, I fell in love with Gran Turismo. Over a period of time, racing games had come and gone, some good and some bad. The Need for Speed franchise had its share of epic releases and game-play such as NFS: Underground along with its hit sequel, but it also had its share of poorly designed and aesthetically displeasing games. It was always a fight for my time and attention between Gran Turismo and Need for Speed , I would always compare them, usually ending up with Gran Turismo being the victor. Most recently, with the decision to upgrade my racing experience with a full on racing setup, I yet again have been thrown into the Gran Turismo vs Need for Speed conundrum. This time I go through a dilemma that I know will be hard to prove to my fellow racing enthusiasts; how Need for Speed Shift 2 (on PC) dominates Gran Turismo 5 on (PS3) in almost every aspect.
First, taking a look at both games, you tend to believe the notion that Gran Turismo games are more of the simulator style (hell it says it right on the cover of GT5) and Need for Speed games are arcade-ish, which typically holds true. However, I found out this is not the case with the two games. Before people jump onto my case about how you can’t compare games on different platforms and “insert console vs. PC fighting words“, personally I would expect a game that had a long development life cycle, countless delays, and hype beyond belief, would be absolutely nothing short of amazing. A game like Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed should easily lose against a titan in the industry such as the Gran Turismo franchise no matter what platform it rests on. Let’s be clear, I am not comparing Shift 2 Unleashed on the PS3 (same with 360) because it is by far inferior in graphics, control, and input lag. Most console players of the game already know what I am talking about in regards to that. Despite this, the PC playing community was blessed with patches and improvements shortly after game release that fixed almost every issue that the console players are still plagued with today.
Let’s take a look at the setup I am running for this comparison. In term’s of graphics and sound both GT5 and Shift 2 should be able to show off their finer points. In GT5s corner I am running Klipsch KF-28 dual floor standing speakers, Pioneer center channel, Pioneer Reciever, 50” Panasonic Plasma, MTX 12” down-firing sub woofer. For Shift 2 on the PC I am running a 46” Sony Bravia , Corsair 2.1 audio, and a custom-built PC running a GTX680 GPU with some other hardware obviously. Rather than try to describe graphics, sound, physics in a wall of text, I have made this video to showcase what Im seeing in Shift 2 on PC with a G27 wheel since most players already know how GT5 looks/sounds/and feels with a controller. (despite the fact you can’t enjoy the full sound experience over Youtube). Please make sure to watch in HD and turn the volume up.)
(Recording myself playing a quick run in Shift 2 with the Logitech G27 and Evolution Playseat)
(Below shows another Youtuber displaying the graphical differences in GT5 and Shift 2 on console)
What you just witnessed is a totally different experience in terms of sound and realism when it comes to racing. Precise and strong force-feedback hints at over-steer and under-steer situations, loss of control, wheel slippage. Each release of the pedal greets you with the sound of an accurate blow-off valve or waste gate flutter. Consequences to poor driving are severely punished in Shift 2 while, damage is poorly indicated in Gran Tursimo. Sound is more visceral and immersive in Shift 2 while, Gran Turismo is leaving you wishing for more. The one thing I can not show in a video is how it actually feels to drive in both games with the same driving wheel setup. Shift 2 exhibits stronger more realistic Force Feedback especially on rumble strips while Gran Turismo has somewhat of a softer feel floating feel. After realizing the type of article material I had laying before my eyes and hands, I really wanted to look deeper into why people might prefer or want Gran Turismo 5 more. Let’s take a look at some comparison stats.
Amount of Cars
GT5 – 1000 plus
NFS – 150 plus
By sheer number comparison GT5 dominates, but take a deeper look. How many of those cars are really vehicles you would want to drive fast around the “Ring” or Ebisu? How many of those cars aren’t really nothing but simply carbon copies of another car with a few stat updates to make the car feel slightly different? I for one know, that each and every car I’ve driven in Shift 2 has sounded almost identical to the car in real life.
GT promised so much in terms of what the community wanted in terms of damage, but really failed to deliver. It’s very hard to argue otherwise. There is no sense of consequence in Gran Turismo 5 when it comes to damage and racing.
NFS delivers damage on a silver platter and forces it down your throat. Cracked glass, wheels falling off, sparks flying from rotors dragging across the pavement, I could go on and on. This adds to the white knuckle feeling behind the steering wheel and trying to pull off turns at high-speed.
The one thing most car enthusiasts live off of in whatever car they modify or drive, is sound. The sound of a rumbling V8 or the sound of dump valves and turbo chatter is something every enthusiast can enjoy.
GT5 has really bad exhaust note re-creations , sometimes you’re even left with wondering what car you’re driving in the first place. Almost all of the V8s and V10s sound identical or barely discernible. To me, the transmission whine seems almost exaggerated and drowns out other sounds of the vehicle that you would want to hear.
Shift 2 balances sound and gives the player what they want to hear and recreates the sounds of the said vehicle with almost perfect precision.
In closing, I literally could go on for pages breaking down both games. Yes, there are good and bad qualities to both games, and you may be screaming at the screen calling me a NFS Fanboy, but I am far from it. I enjoy good quality games with good immersion when I’m racing. In Gran Turismo I am able to properly heel-toe downshift, while Shift 2 isn’t as responsive. I know for true Sim racers there are games such as rFactor and LFS and I absolutely plan on giving those a try as I am open to all forms of games, but in terms of GT vs Shift 2, Shift 2 hands down will bring me many more hours of enjoyment than Gran Turismo 5 probably will. When it comes to playing driving games with a standard controller, sure it is completely different experience all together. One can only hope maybe Sony will look into improving upon GT5’s weaknesses in their new console and bring much needed updated graphics, physics, and sound to it’s already lacking PS3 hardware.