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Simulators Require Expert Knowledge Most Critics Don't Have

It can be difficult for a critic to admit that he or she simply isn't qualified to provide the reading public with an accurate, fair analysis of a certain product.

When it comes to simulators, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that most video game critics are not equipped to properly handle a review. This has been a problem in recent years, especially as the subject pertains to Gran Turismo.

Back in the day, gaming experts and even regular everyday gamers could judge a simulator's realism and authenticity. It wasn't hard. In that time, games were so far away from the real thing that even the inclusion of something like the hurdle in Madden was viewed as a big step forward. And it was obvious what wasn't realistic. We all know that there isn't one spot on a basketball court that is 100% money for every player on earth. Really, things were just so much simpler in those days.

But now, as gaming continues to push forward, most game critics find themselves outmatched when trying to review simulators. They're too ridiculously intricate and in-depth; it's rapidly reaching the point where if you're not an expert on the sport in question, you'll inevitably miss a few critical points. Actually, in the case of GT, it's far more important for someone to be a car and racing expert than it is to be a video game expert. Now, the latter can still do a ton of research (as I did for FIFA 14) but in the end, he or she must still make the difficult admission.

This is an admission I'd like at least one critic to make in regards to a Gran Turismo 6 review. I know more about it than most, so at least in the realm of reviewers, I'm better equipped than most to handle it. But I'd be willing to bet that a real-life racer would still offer you a better analysis (even if he couldn't write it as well). I've reviewed flight sims, but I always make it plain that I am really not familiar enough with the subject. Hence, I always advise that the consumer find a more informed source. The problem here is the ego of critics, who apparently never want to admit that they just shouldn't review something. This is a big issue, especially when review scores have become the be-all, end-all.

Sure, qualified critics can still evaluate certain aspects of any game; graphical quality, frame rate, control, etc. We should know about those things. But if you have no idea what camber is, if the only thing you know about your car is its color, you're outmatched. Please just do the consuming public a favor and admit it.

Tags: game critics, game reviewers, video game critics, gaming industry

12/9/2013 10:00:12 PM Ben Dutka

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Legacy Comment System (31 posts)

Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 10:47:06 PM

I agree, and it pertains to more than simulators. While it's fine to do a straight up quality review, one should make it plain that is what they are up to and not try to evaluate things they don't understand.

I've seen some terrible criticism of Japanese games simply because the reviewer has no experience with that culture's media. If the person doesn't GET it then that ignorance shows.

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Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 11:03:43 PM

I have a few thoughts. I think any time we start seeing games becoming too hardcore we start observing wildly varying opinions on the subject at hand. Whether it be the Souls series, Fighters, Simulators, Strategy, MMORPGs, or anything that really demands a level of expertise that goes beyond the scope of general gaming entertainment, the more homogenous gamer, we see varied degrees of respect and praise.

I couldn't tell anyone much of anything of what makes a good MMORPG these days. I just haven't invested the sort of time as a level 80 WoW player who has gone on major multi-member raids and has invested thousands of hours in the details.
Similarly I love my favorite fighting games. I tend to be more experienced at these franchises than most reviewers and their opinion could only be serviceable to the more generally vested player, unless of course its a horrible review.
I remember the year Uncharted 2 released. It was the same time Demon's Souls released. My brother was already way hooked and enthralled in Demon's Souls and saw the sort of qualities many of it's hardcore had. He sunk well over a few hundred hours into it (and later Dark Souls) He paused to play uncharted 2 and felt it was nice, entertaining, but so very straight forward, lacking any lasting depth that would compel him to play more, a simple 10-12 hour romp of entertainment. Similarly we saw Gamespot's lead editor rave about Demon's Souls, with the game even netting GotY from the long running core gamer site.

I pretty much feel Gran Turismo is much like this. It's one man's treasure but another man's misery. And it's level of enjoyment varies based on your expertise in the venue. Gran Turismo may be worth more to a gear head than any other game ever invented. All the while it may be the most boring thing conceived to someone less interested. Sure we can believe all reviewers evaluate things based on quality, as arbitrary as that can become, especially when comparing and contrasting across genres, but many reviewers do review based on a perceived level of entertainment value and not so much the dissected individual parts of that evaluation.

it's this mishmash of ideals that brings us in front of our systems to play that makes recommendations so very hard to specify. if a critic esteems himself to a level of objective evaluation that is grounded in an evaluation of impartial quality, then yes, i agree he should only evaluate that to which he is an expert of. but i feel the culturally involved critic who rides along with the excitement of whats new and hot, who believes his voice represents the interests of the gaming majority will not even bat an eye when facing something like a Souls game or Gran Turismo or what have you and judge it as he or she feels his level of entertainment is proportional to the average gamer who plays through dozens of different games every year.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 12/9/2013 11:04:19 PM

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Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 11:12:01 PM

i agree with some of the critic say. as hardcore GT fan , i kinda disappointed with gt6, it feel rushed and lacking something, and still no real car damage, what kind of real simulator is that?

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 12:47:40 AM

The kind where your goal is not to bump in other cars but drive with the most skills and best times. If you want to bump and crash get burnout, need for speed or the new ridge racer. These arcade games will give you a good thrill with fancy explosions.

Gran Turismo is about simulation *racing* not simulation *crashing*. Where would the fun be if after a small bump you have to quit the race? Because that's how a real life simulator would be. They have to draw a line somewhere. And they drew it quite well.

Last edited by Neo_Aeon666 on 12/10/2013 12:50:24 AM

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 8:46:46 AM

But Neo, isn't an integral part of skilled racing to *avoid* crashing - ergo if you in a simulator do crash it should cause fatal consequences, preferably in a natural way?

Now I'm no racer driver - far from it - but I've read complaints about this in several reviews out there and to be honest I think the criticism seem legit.

Last edited by Beamboom on 12/10/2013 8:47:19 AM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 10:05:01 AM

Well, that's sort of the point, Beamboom. You ARE supposed to avoid crashing, so the lack of damage shouldn't be a big deal.

However, I do agree that it's old-fashioned and if you're not penalizing drivers for hitting another car in a turn (and a lot of times in GT, you're not), that's a problem.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 10:37:51 AM

I think PD avoids car damage to preserve resources for other important things the game engine is doing. Kazanori has commented in the past that car damage seems so beside the point to something like GT. but I do agree that penalties should be in place for collisions.

I sometimes wonder if the 1440x1080 res they push is just too taxing for the PS3's small memory pool.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 11:03:13 AM

Yeah I think that things you so clearly are not supposed to do *should* be penalized. That's essentially a prerequisite for a penalty, isn't it?

All I am saying is that I think the critics are right in that particular point. Especially in a simulator. If you're heading flat into a concrete wall it should clearly be insta game over (one review I read said it wasn't).

Please note now that I am talking about the consequences, not the visual effects.

Last edited by Beamboom on 12/10/2013 11:04:55 AM

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 12:00:50 PM

Its impossible to avoid collisions with GT6's AI. On several occasions I've been rear-ended on a straight (and I wasn't trying to block), I've spun out countless times from the ai smashing into my back end (again, often on straights where there is plenty of room, but occasionally when an opponent is following me into the turn and forgets there are other cars on the track), and I've rear-ended a few opponents when they brake while exiting a turn. Until the AI stops trying to murder me, collisions will be unavoidable. And when collisions are unavoidable, the pathetic damage model makes it that much more frustrating.

Last edited by NoSmokingBandit on 12/10/2013 12:03:12 PM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 1:59:15 PM

Sorry, SmokingBandit, but you just have no idea how to drive. The only way you get rear-ended on a straightaway is if you're going WAY too slow (maybe started braking way too soon). Slam on the brakes in real life like a total amateur, which other drivers would never expect, and the same thing happens.

I've been racing for five or six hours now and I've never had opponents hit me. Maybe rub me a little in turns but that's it.

Learn how to drive first; bash the game later.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 4:14:06 PM

Aerodynamics are so important at higher speeds, too.

Ben, it's probably impossible to notice without a lot of exposure to the game, but any idea if you get bumped or rubbed a lot by other cars if speed has more difficulty topping out or acceleration suffers? Or even if fuel efficiency takes a hit? Again, that would likely only matter at very high speeds anyways, but still!

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 4:32:44 PM

Because each event has a PP (Performance Point) limit, you can't have superpowered cars driving around with a Corolla. Therefore, all the cars should be relatively even in terms of capability. Only YOU can switch up that balance a bit by upgrading your vehicle and getting as close to the PP barrier as possible. Then you can probably win easily.

But nobody is going to crash into you just because of minor things like gear ratios. It would have to be severe; like the gear ratios are so screwed up that you hit your max speed way too soon and end up red-lining all the way down a stretch. Then you've basically got a broken car and yeah, you should worry about cars hitting you from behind.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 5:40:09 PM

Ok Ben, way to be a dick.

Heres what happened to me today.

I was finishing up the Schwarzenegger (I don't know what its actually called, its the German series in Nat A) series, the final race, which is one lap at Nürburgring. I took my 320i Touring car. I was on the last straight (the really long one, these german names kill me), and I had a pretty great lead, but the opponents were gaining on me rather quickly. I underestimated how that car would keep up on a long straight. I saw the 2nd place car coming up on my left, so I stayed right. After he passed and was about 3-4 car lengths ahead, the 3rd place car smashed into the back of me. I was still as far right as possible and hadn't weaved back and forth at all. I kept control because he hit me rather straight, but at that point we were entering the left turn at the end of the straight. This time the #3 car managed to steer around me on the inside of the turn, but then instantly slammed into my driver's side and pushed me off the track. Its like the game completely forgot that my car existed.

Tell me how I drove incorrectly, oh holy one. Sure, I was slow, but I was also on the edge of the track so faster cars could overtake me. I had a 4 second lead going into that straight (that touring car is great for the technical parts of the track), they had plenty of time to see me and overtake on the left. So tell me what I did wrong. Explain to me how rear-ending me on a perfectly straight length of track, with plenty of room to overtake is my fault.

My PP was within 20-30 of the limit, but the stock gear ratios didn't work well for that straight. I think I was topping out at about 155mph, which just didn't keep up with the SLS in 2nd place at the time. Still, even if I were sitting perfectly still on the side of the track with 3/4 of the straight behind me for the AI to see me, there is no excuse for the AI to run into me.

I know how to drive. I've gotten gold in every license test in every GT game so far (though GT6 seems to be a lot easier than past games). I can't really think of any other metric by which to prove my driving skills, but I'm thinking it probably doesn't matter anyway.

I used to join discussions here a lot, but I haven't for a while (probably a year or two), so it is nice to be welcomed back.

You seem to get really defensive about this game. And its a great game, but the AI has always been awful, and it still is. Just don't take it personally if there are actual problems with the game. It's not like I'm insulting your child.

I'm not familiar with the online part of the game; is there a way to share replays?

Last edited by NoSmokingBandit on 12/10/2013 5:42:07 PM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 7:33:04 PM

Warning: Don't call me names just because I said you can't drive.

And you can't. Getting golds in licenses is meaningless; it's just about endless repetition. That doesn't mean you know HOW to drive or the concepts of racing. Here's one rule- if you're the slow car, you need to look out for who's coming up behind you. It's not the responsibility of the other racers to deal with your slowness.

Granted, as I said elsewhere, the AI cars in GT6 don't alter their position enough in relation to you. But you said collisions were unavoidable and the AI was "out to murder you."

Yeah, it's not. That's a blatant exaggeration. So call me a dick all you want; not my problem that you're wrong.

Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 12/10/2013 7:33:59 PM

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Banky A
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 12:10:20 AM

Is this foreshadowing a 8 or 7 number score from PSXE?

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 1:21:34 AM

For me it's not so much the final score, but the merits of the review itself. Most of the reviews I see seem to just look at the surface, and not much else. If it's an 8 or 7, it's fine as long as the reviewer justifies it fairly. A 5 though, as I've seen, is just ridiculous though.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 10:13:37 AM

Why do you say that?

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 1:08:44 AM

It's really frustrating for me to read these critiques over GT's lifespan:

Standards: I understand the criticism for consistency, but I think most critiques don't understand the reason why PD even bothers on putting these in. They could just go the easy route and take them all away, and stick to 400 plus premiums, but to the hardcore fans, that's taking away hundreds and hundreds of cars to drive. Apart from the varied quality of the exteriors/interiors, these things benefit from the physics as well as all the others. Plus, their functions are no longer limited as in GT5. I would be devastated to have them taken away.

Damage: Very frustrating. Apparently, many folks out there think having cars all dent up and broken after heavy impact is an important feature to have in a racing game, where crashing is not encouraged. It's a racing game that encourages us to race in a clean manner. It's nice to have, sure, but it shouldn't be a heavy factor just because other games does it, not that they're realistic or anything anyway.

Sound: I'll give this one a slight nod. Sound is definitely important for the experience, but it shouldn't be a major deal breaker. If you take the time to listen to a lot of the cars, they actually sound really good. Yes, there are some that require more work, but some of these critiques ignore the fact that a lot of them actually sound pretty accurate. Also, Kaz and the team are currently working on the sound and hope to have it patched in GT6. I can't wait for it, just so the fanboys stop saying lawnmower simulator.

Livery: This is just sad in my opinion. I'm not going to knock anyone who loves livery, as I would love to have them as well, but for what GT is trying to achieve, this is one of the last thing to worry about. The game is in a continuous effort to provide the best driving experience under various situations, and the absence of livery apparently is a big deal to some of these critiques. PD is working on them atm, but even if they're not, it shouldn't be a big deal imo, just because it adds little to gameplay.

A.I.: I guess people expect the A.I. to be crazy aggressive. I'm not going to lie, the A.I. for most of the career mode so far are pretty slow, that is, when you use overpowered cars and drive aggressively. If you take the moment to drive realistically and cleanly, you will actually see the A.I. is better than most of what these critiques are saying. You'll find that the A.I. actually do know where you are and act accordingly. I don't know why but PD should put the hardcore A.I. found in Arcade Mode set to max. Try to drive clean with these A.I. and you'll experience the best possible racing experience on consoles, imo. It's far from horrible. A.I. is also one of the things apart from sound, that PD is trying to restructure, so we can expect a change in the future.

Apart from those points, everything good about GT are ignored.
Forget the fact that this is the only game where you'll be able to drive under weather or night conditions... dynamically and realistically.
Forget that this game paid attention to details, down to a single cm on the accuracy of the tracks.
Forget that this is the only game in which you can race with up to 15 others, even under the stress that the game is pulling off in trying to achieve 60fps the best it can, under high resolution.
Forget the fact that the game provides a unique experience such as the Goodwood Festival, Lunar Roving, Redbull insanity, Rally, etc. that you won't find in other racing games.
Forget the fact that the game is reaching out to real life manufacturers in trying to give you free DLC content so we can experience the future of the automobile industry.
Forget the fact that this game has mentioned that it will be supported for a year, EVERY month for content and features that other games will probably charge you $$$.
Forget the fact that the game is trying its best for you to create a track of your own with its envision course maker with gps data.
Forget that the game gives the most varied automobile experience in the industry.
Forget the fact that the game has paid extra attention to simulating the driving experience from the atmosphere, aerodynamics, suspension characteristic, and tire physics.

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Lawless SXE
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 3:27:49 AM

Based on my time with GT5, and the criticisms I've read of GT6, you pretty much just nailed it, daus. So many critics choose to pick at the absence of these features that they claim are necessary, when the reality is that they only dilute the purity of the experience. That being said, I would like to see PD implement a kind of penalty system for if you slam into a wall or go off the track, but it certainly isn't necessary.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 10:08:59 AM

Good post, daus. I think you'll be pleased with my review. ;)

I only disagree about the lack of damage to some extent, just because - as I said in a post above - one should realistically be penalized for hitting another car. You just shouldn't be able to ram your way through a turn and come out ahead.

However, as you say, there's another side to that particular issue and there are MANY other elements critics are conveniently ignoring.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 4:17:42 PM

When I worked at the youth centre, they would play Forza 3 a lot... and one thing they inevitably do is go to opposite ends of a straightaway and just charge at each other as fast as they could.

And I gotta say... I don't know what these reviewers thing Forza does so well with damage... their cars go flying, sure, but at a force of 250mph (two speeds combined) they should have far more damage than dented bumpers, scratched paint, and a popped off hood. They should be dead and the engines should be smooshed into cubes. I'm not sure what "realistic" crash damage they think exists out there.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 4:33:33 PM

The Forza damage modeling is laughable. Absolutely no reason to laud it.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 4:07:36 AM

Couldn't wait for GT5. Even bought a wheel to play it. The driving was sublime but the menus, grinding, shadows etc left a lot to be desired. Doubt I will even pick up GT6. I think that sums up a lot of gamers at the moment. One game a generation is enough. GT6 seems like its the wrong game for the wrong time. They should polish it up and migrate it to the PS4.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 5:29:22 AM

if i ever see some critic giving Gran trismo a bad review or something along those lines i'll be like the dev is a boss there's now way it cud score low.

happy gaming =)

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 9:19:52 AM

Yes I agree, consider IGN review of GT6, it covers nothing to do with emulation and everything to do with the authors personal taste in car games.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 9:25:24 AM

Lol something tells me gt6 did nt get the review score they wanted .

Still agree with them a little but .... at the root of it all , it have to be fun .

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 10:01:32 AM

I'm 20% into GT6 as of Sunday night and so far the game plays well, wide range of cars (more than ever), the sound of cars are great regardless of what anyone says. A toyota corola is going to sound entirely different than a Nissan GTR with turbo. Most critics need to stop thinking that all cars sound like a turbo charged Nissan Skyline.

The only things that I do not like about GT6 are the loading times and at times some races can get annoying but that's the challenge you get once you get GT6. There are also some mission races and "coffee break" challenges that are very fun once you want to stray away from all the serious racing.

Also, let me say that I really like the menu transitions more than ever. I don't have go all the way to the map just to change car settings or change cars. Menu transitions are very very smooth.

Last edited by MRSUCCESS on 12/10/2013 10:07:25 AM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 10:10:50 AM

Yeah, load times are a little long, IMO. Have you noticed that the event must be loading the instant you're on the last menu screen? Because if you just hit "Race," you'll wait a bit. But if you adjust the car settings or driving options first, and then go to Race, you don't wait hardly at all. Must be loading while you're fiddling with the almost encourages you to do exactly that. LOL

But while I like the more streamlined menu system, I think it lacks the slickness of the GT5 presentation. It's almost kinda...bland, I guess.

Not that that's a big deal or anything. The added ease of use and accessibility is what ultimately matters.

Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 12/10/2013 10:12:54 AM

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 10:24:58 AM

You're certainly right, Ben. I usually don't play around with car settings or driving options unless the car is giving a lot of trouble to drive and that tends to happen more often with American cars lol.

I also do agree that GT5 had better presentation. It kind of made you feel more proud of your car seeing it parked on the streets of Italy wherever. Perhaps the streamline menu system and GT5's great presentation will be implemented in GT7 but as of now I'm just enjoying GT6 and it's yes it's definitely not a deal breaker.

Edit: Looking forward to your review.

Last edited by MRSUCCESS on 12/10/2013 10:25:40 AM

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 12:40:51 PM

Be aware that the first time you race on a track it will take longer to load. Subsequent loads will be much quicker. I find that I rarely wait more than 7-8 seconds to jump into the race if I'm returning to it.

Last edited by NoSmokingBandit on 12/10/2013 12:41:02 PM

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 5:46:45 PM

Couldn't agree more. When I see video reviews and the guy's using the chase cam, you know he's not really a sim racer. I've read reviews of racers where it was obvious the reviewer never even went into the options menu as they're complaining about things that you can quite simply change. Then I see the reviewers going ga-ga over something like Grid.

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