DRIVECLUB: ‘PS4’s Forza Killer’

NOTE: The following is an opinion editorial and does not necessarily reflect the views of PSU as a whole or any PSU staff members other than this author.

Today is the day. After a yearlong delay, one of the PlayStation 4’s most beautiful games launches, dressed to the nines and ready to impress the world. The game (DRIVECLUB, of course) got high praise from PSU’s own Kyle Prahl, but it didn’t arrive without a shred of controversy.

And I do mean a shred.

Not too long ago, this trailer arrived on YouTube and raised some eyebrows:

“PS4’s Forza Killer,” said VG24/7. This quote refers to this article, in which VG24/7’s Matt Martin did in fact (rather innocently) call DRIVECLUB a “Forza killer.” Instantly, gamers freaked out.

Now DRIVECLUB is live, and if you look at the comments of most DRIVECLUB-related articles today (I don’t recommend visiting the comments sections of most gaming articles) all the buzz is about this quote. Gamers spit venom at each other about whether or not Sony was justified in calling DRIVECLUB a Forza killer. Comparisons are constantly made to some iteration of Forza, Xbox’s premier simulation racing franchise, and the usual childish remarks about one console or the other fly around. People even made YouTube videos about it.

Whenever someone tries to bring up the fact that DRIVECLUB and Forza are inherently different and shouldn’t be compared, the reply is often, “Well, Sony fired the shots first by calling DRIVECLUB a Forza killer, so Sony brought this on itself.”

Here’s the thing though: Sony didn’t do that. Matt Martin and VG24/7 did.

In the article in question, Martin did not praise DRIVECLUB and its beautiful environments and gorgeous cars, its groundbreaking social features, and other things that someone might praise Evolution Studios’ racer for. He simply speculates momentarily about DRIVECLUB’s potential for success and adds a few links to some of VG24/7’s other DRIVECLUB-related work. Even so, the title of the article does read, “Inside PS4’s Forza Killer.”

In that context, he doesn’t necessarily mean that the game will leave any iteration of Forza, Xbox’s premier simulation racing franchise, in the proverbial dust. Martin refers to DRIVECLUB in this way to mean a racer that Sony may hope to pit against Forza as PS4’s big racer. In this sense, it’s completely innocent and normal, right?

Yes and no. The intention behind the title is just fine, but the fact is that by design, DRIVECLUB is not working the same street corner that Forza is. Forza is a simulation racing game, focused on realism in as many aspects as possible. DRIVECLUB is a bit of a hybrid. There are aspects of realism in it, and also aspects of an arcade racer in that it focuses in some places on making a fun video game rather than a completely realistic driving experience. Comparing Forza and DRIVECLUB is like comparing a prosecutor to a defense attorney; they’re both lawyers, they’re both after similar things, but they naturally work in different ways.

“But,” one may argue, “Sony and Evolution didn’t have to put that quote in their media quote video.”

That is completely true, but why wouldn’t they? To avoid promoting DRIVECLUB too aggressively? To avoid getting people to talk about or try the new racer? To prevent DRIVECLUB from getting too many compliments? To make sure DRIVECLUB isn’t talked about too positively?

Yeah. It sounds ridiculous to me too. Of course Sony and Evolution would want to put that quote in there. It’s a good quote about a big exclusive release, and it didn’t come from them; it came from a media outlet with a decent reputation. Here’s the kicker: VG24/7 would have had to agree to that quote for it to be in the video. Before using a quote, Sony contacts the media outlet that wrote it for permission to use it in the video. VG24/7 would have had to give its stamp of approval for Sony to use the quote. This quote comes from VG24/7, and not Sony or Evolution studios.

Even so, gamers are mad at Sony and Evolution for allegedly calling DRIVECLUB a Forza Killer, which they didn’t do in the first place. No one seems to be giving VG24/7–which not only originally wrote the quote, but later approved it for use in the video with VG24/7’s name on it–a second sniff.

Here’s another kicker: The article came was published on VG24/7 May 22, 2014. Gamers have had almost five months to be upset about the title of “Forza killer,” to blow up for no reason on Internet articles about someone daring to make the comparison to Xbox’s sacred racing franchise, and yet no one has. Even in the screenshot above, the volatile YouTube videos only showed up a couple days ago, after DRIVECLUB’s unexpectedly controversial trailer was released. All of a sudden, Sony and Evolution are dreaming for daring to call DRIVECLUB a Forza killer when those companies never made that distinction in the first place.

Kicker number three: This isn’t even the first time the “killer” term has been used. It’s a pretty normal term in a number of industries. Not too long ago, Killzone was written as a “Halo killer.” I wouldn’t be surprised in the near future to see someone call Rise of the Tomb Raider an “Uncharted killer.” It’s a common term used for something to be pitted against something great and does not deserve this much vitriol from gamers.

In the world of gaming, stuff like this happens, everyone flips lids, and then it disappears. This happened some weeks ago when Microsoft published an ad for a Destiny fragrance. Personally, it’s something I hate about being a gamer. I’m tired of seeing people treat each other so badly over inconsequential details like numbers and semantics and things that they often don’t understand to begin with, all in the interest of comparing two boxes that essentially do the same thing. I have made no bones about my disdain for “fanboys,” as we like to call them, of any one device, and I have never attempted to disguise my dislike for the console wars as a whole. Even so, I accept that for now, it all exists, and I would ask nothing more in this situation than for people to blame the right party. 

DRIVECLUB launches in the UK on October 10, 2014 and in the rest of Europe tomorrow, October 8, 2014.