How Many Cars Does Your Driving Game Really Have?

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The McLaren P1 GTR: A Driveclub exclusive (for now). Image courtesy of TheCrazySwede.

Nineteen hundred seventy four. That’s a sizeable number, one with significance. You see, that is the total number of car models found in the following games: Gran Turismo 6, Forza Horizon 2, Driveclub, Project CARS, Forza Motorsport 6, Need For Speed, and Assetto Corsa. At least, that’s according to our handy, sortable Google Spreadsheet.

Now, it doesn’t count unique developer-tinkered versions of existing cars, like GT’s Chromelines, Turn 10’s Team Forza lineup, or even Assetto Corsa’s ‘Stage’ or ‘Drift’ models. It does take into account the Vision GT program though. The Fast & Furious cars of Forza are in there too. Yep, so are Project CARS’ 10 class-filling fantasy cars. There’s something for everyone, truly…

…but how many can you access right away? It’s a subject that’s sparked countless discussions in our community, in turn kicking off this investigation.

We’ll start with the more arcade-oriented games. Need For Speed – with a fresh update, we might add – takes a very narrative-driven approach. In between fist bumps and gratuitous energy drink product placement, your faceless, voiceless character has to be able to get from one race to the next. When presented the opportunity to pick your first ride (for free), you’ve got three cars to choose from: a BRZ, Fox-body Mustang, and an EK-generation Civic Type-R. If we want to be charitable, this represents five of the game’s 57 cars, since the Scion FR-S and Toyota GT86 are a part of that list (and practically identical to the BRZ in a game with this much customization).

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Few games do the gritty night look better than Need For Speed. Image courtesy of V0RT3X.

Want to drive another car? Well, be prepared to save that in-game cash, bro. There’s no rental or test drive options, and while you will occasionally drive other cars as part of the story, it’s only for specific races. The credit barrier isn’t a serious problem on its own: a few hours will cover the most expensive car. No, the other game mechanic that limits availability is garage space. With only five slots, and resale values being a portion of the list prices, it’ll take a huge amount of coin to be able to say you’ve driven each one of the cars.

Horizon 2 starts in a very similar way. After the introductory race across the coast in a Lamborghini Huracan, the player is given the choice of three cars. Like Need For Speed, there’s an older American muscle car (’69 Camaro), a rear-drive Japanese coupe (Supra), and… a BMW Z4. No front-drive options for players just getting started here! After that, you’re limited by credits in much the same way as the perpetually-rainy NFS. There are some cars scattered around the game world for you to accomplish certain tasks, but these do not appear until later in the game. There’s also no test drive option: if you want to drive it on your own terms, you’ve got to buy it.

One thing to note about Horizon 2 (and its Motorsports sibling): the Forza Rewards loyalty program can provide players with free additional cars, as a one-time option when first loading the game up. In addition, DLC cars do not cost in-game credits, which means a player that has bought all the DLC – a significant sum – could have access to 90 additional vehicles. As the dealership doesn’t unlock until after the player has completed the first championship though, the cars still would not be accessible straight from the start. In a game that has well over 200 cars to its name (or 320 with all of the DLC), that’s a shame. At least the limit on how many cars you can own is 100 times the size of NFS!

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Big wing gang driving off into the sunset. FH2 Image courtesy of Sutuki.

Driveclub fares better, in ways. This doesn’t have a ‘garage’ in the same sense as the other games, since customization is limited to paint. The game progresses on a level system, with new cars unlocking with experience points. The introductory race should provide you with enough to move up one level, which unlocks a Beetle. Provided you’ve grabbed all of the free car DLC that the game has at this point in time, the VW joins a stable of 19 other cars. If you haven’t, you’re left with far slimmer pickings: the Beetle, a Mini GP, and a Mercedes A45 AMG. Ouch. On the plus side, all tracks are available right from the beginning.

Being able to access all tracks from the beginning is something that Gran Turismo 6 can lay claim to. After the increasingly-common introductory race, one can simply hop over to Arcade Mode and select one of the 100+ layouts. There are 20 ‘Courtesy Cars’ available here, a mere smattering of the 1235 options available in the dealerships. We’re all very familiar with the Honda Fit, but what can the remaining 13,000 credits buy?

Unsurprisingly, not much: 45 vehicles sticker for that amount or less, ranging from the slowest of the karts, to the Fit’s close competitor, the Toyota Vitz. Unless one buys the karts or the Daihatsu Midget, the personal garage won’t exceed two cars before some racing needs to be done to earn more credits. Suddenly the 20 million credit cars seem far away.

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Mid-engined Megane recently joined the PCARS ranks. Image courtesy of c172fccc.

Like the Forza games, GT6 can benefit from some additional free cars. Numerous special offers existed for the 15th Anniversary cars in the run up to the game’s release in 2013, ranging from a handful to a few dozen. This dramatically opens up possibilities for players to explore, but nonetheless is still only a fraction of the full roster. Even with the largest of the Anniversary rosters, plus the freebies in Arcade Mode, a new GT6 player cannot drive over 90% of the much-vaunted car lineup. Over 1000 cars remain off-limits at first.

Forza 6 follows the same rough career template as GT6 (and its open-world companion, Horizon). Player runs an introductory race; player gets option of a few different starter cars; player must start racing to earn credits to buy more cars. FM6 at least gives the player five options for their first rides instead of Horizon’s three (or GT6’s one), but that’s not a massive improvement.

What is massive is the car selection in Free Play. Here, the player has access to all of the tracks in Forza, for hotlapping or races against the AI. A rental car option is available, where any and every car in the game can be selected. The catch here is that all rental cars will be stock, and no credits or XP will be earned in any event completed in one.

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Ferrari? Yep, that would’ve required some saving. Image courtesy of RaY29rus.

Assetto Corsa and Project CARS, while both having smaller rosters overall, join Forza in offering their entire lineup to the player right from the very first session. Without an upgrade system like NFS, GT, or Forza, an in-game economy certainly seems less important in these games. Sure, an unlock system in the same vein as Driveclub could be used, but it’s interesting that Project CARS instead focuses on letting the player choose their path in the career. We’re curious to see what, if anything, has changed with Assetto Corsa’s career mode once the game arrives on consoles April 22nd.

What conclusions can we draw from this? For one, it seems that the concept of “progression” means different things to the teams behind these titles.

Need For Speed’s limited approach is ultimately down to the emphasis it puts on having a storyline (no matter how cliché). The cut scenes with the player’s personal garage spliced with the live action certainly add to the immersion. Does it make up for the bizarre five-car limit though? The jury’s still out on that one.

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The recently-returned Ferrari 312 P. FM6 Image courtesy of ClydeYellow.

One common sentiment shared by those opposed to an all-access approach for the next Gran Turismo is that making all cars available to the player destroys a sense of achievement. Perhaps this speaks to the car collecting nature of the series versus the racing aspect. GT6 broke away from franchise tradition, eschewing the concept of unique prize cars by making every car in the game purchasable from the dealership. Strictly speaking, a large garage in GT6 is not a measure of skill, but time invested, as the only limiting factor in acquiring any car is time. Is that bad? No.

Conversely, neither is having all cars available from the start. Removing the need to purchase parts undoubtedly helps in Project CARS, while putting the focus on winning trophies and championships means players can find a sense of achievement and progression there.

Forza 6 seems to straddle the line between both of the above games. It offers the more traditional credit-based career approach, while still giving players access to the entire roster for quick pick-up-and-play sessions.

What do you think? Do you believe opening up the garage in its entirety cheapens the experience? Does locking cars away promote a more satisfying sense of achievement, or is it largely a case of bragging rights? Sound off in the comments.

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Comments (52)

  1. twitcher

    I like the way PCARS works the best. Everything available from the start. Grinding in video games for added replay value is beyond old now.

    In my ideal game, I’d have a hybrid of pCARS and GT. Everything available to use in freerun/practice/arcade mode from the beginning, and everything available online. Many people buy these games to RACE!, and anything aside from racing is a waste of time. To add some progression in single player, I would look events and championships behind requirements like licenses, or lower level series (eg you can’t race GT3 until you have the licence for it, and you’ve finished top 5 in a GT4 series)

  2. SonicBoone56

    I really like the way Forza 6 handles it. Every car available from the start, yet a decent progression system.

  3. JCH8r

    Do I really want to live in a virtual universe that doesn’t include GRID? Idk…

    Racedriver GRID had a great system. Start in the discipline of your choice and move up with tougher AI and better car selection. I liked the sponsorship deal too. At first take anybody’s money and slap their sticker on the car, but later, look for brands that match the team’s identity. Maybe the car selection was too restrictive, but you can only race one car at a time.

    Also: the livery system was expansive but controlled (PD should license it from Codemasters). It doesn’t allow inappropriate content, but striping and color combinations are extensive and 3 digit numbers if I recall correctly.

  4. Grippy

    Dunno why they dropped so many things from the GT fanchise but I’d like to see the return of these to GT7; Used cars and Used wheels(makes for great hunting game), and the option to play cars in arcade once unlocked in career.

  5. glassjaw

    I that the article calls NFS’ 5-car selection in the beginning “bizarre.” Some racing games are allowed to be games, with the classic style of progression. Not everything has to be Forza, Project Cars and Assetto Corsa.

  6. Bigsword1955

    I lost interest playing Project Cars because winning a Trophy only sucks. I love The Crew Wild Run where you buy your cars then you win events to get performance car parts to build up it’s overall levels, plus you earn Bucks so you can buy car performance or body parts is fun. The game has various daily, weekly and monthly challenges. But l really enjoy the Summit Qualifiers and Main

  7. Ealirendur

    Regarding Driveclub, it should also be said that it is possible to sample a somewhat larger variety of cars via one-make single player career tour events (standard, startline – which is a sampler of other tours, and a couple of free DLC extra tours). If you happen to cave in and get the Season Pass, it provides a really quite large bunch of cars (and more tour events) at once, but I resisted that until level 40, with most of the roster unlocked. The unlocking structure was quite motivating for me, actually. There are some quite memorable tour events (“One Man, One Engine”, “Punching Above Your Weight” amongst others – haven’t got to the Venom laps yet, though).

    GT6 does the sample without owning also to a small degree, but the events are often fairly short (eg Licences, Single-makes, and the Goodwood and Senna events). I was spoiled for choice from the outset with the Anniversary edition there, though, and I also didn’t find it especially hard to get credits in any case.

    For PCars, I think the all unlocked approach suits it. I haven’t done much career at all, because I chose the Karts, and I flat-out hated the first few races (particularly being launched into the stratosphere – not sure of physics simulation if you can’t get gravity close to 9.8m/s^2 – is it GT6’s moon buggy, or a Kart with an adult human?). I do like being able to just practice/race anything, anywhere, but I haven’t tried all of the roster yet, as I’ve found the base tunes/FFB setups off putting in several cases, and don’t really have the time or desire currently to tune and tweak endlessly. Enjoyed the Ford V8 at Bathurst, though.

  8. panjandrum

    As an adult, with a job (or two), family, responsibilities, etc. I have come to appreciate the ability to drive any car I want right away. The last racing sim I was really able to complete was GT4. Most of the time what I have time to do is grab cars I find interesting, get onto tracks I find interesting, and just have fun. Is it ideal? No, I really enjoyed earning cars in GT4, but finding that kind of time just isn’t in the cards for a LOT of players. I think a hybrid system is the best idea: Have you own garage of cars you earn and buy, for career mode. But make all cars available in online and other “just let me play” modes.

    1. Johnnypenso

      Our gaming needs really do shift was we get older and have less and less free time. I just hope that PD realizes that all of it’s entire original player base is in at least it’s mid to late 20’s by now and likely in it’s 30’s and beyond. Millions of us are no longer teenagers or young adults with copious amounts of free time to grind our way to racing glory. The game is ripe for an overhaul to it’s approach car ownership and the game economy. I have a sneaking suspicion that GTSport may be a part of a revolution in PD’s approach to racing games that takes the focus off of grinding and onto competitive racing, online and off.

    2. infamousphil

      Well said JP. I don’t mind GTSport being focused on competion because l don’t do ‘abbreviated’ GT. Like if the only way to win a car is online against other live players?… if the online mode became the ‘career’ mode, as a way to win cars, l wouldn’t be very succesful. I find the talent pool much faster than myself. Then there’s those dreadful Brazilians l encounter in ‘Quick’ races. Ayrton would not be proud.

    3. infamousphil

      Making all cars available for online races would be doable… if the entire garage was readily available, Panjandrum. 5hundred ‘favorites’ isn’t enough for complete online coverage… IMHO

    4. GrumpyGrumps

      @panjandrum

      I’m with you a 100% on this one. I get about 20 minutes a day to race, and only after the kids are asleep, so all I want is to just sit down and race. For this reason, DriveClub and PCars have worked very well for me. With DC none of the events are too long, and PCars allows you to set the event length however you want in either laps or session time. So I have 20 minutes then I set it for 8 laps, and if by chance I have an hour then I do 25 laps or so. It is what I need it to be. Plus, those laps are actually a challenge because I can set the difficulty to my liking. I’ve said this in another thread, but GT6 is not challenging, in any way, so sitting there with $40 million credits and all the really expensive cars already purchased leaves me with nothing to achieve.

    5. Jeanr

      @panjandrum

      I also agree with you. I’m this life phase by now. Gaming time is short theses days… I guest a nice touch would be able to make custom races/championships, like Forza 4 and Grid Autosport allow to do. Set the tracks, laps numbers, cars and difficulty (and, be able to save these settings!), so you can just find the exact race you want to do!

      @infamousphil

      As a brazilian, I must say I’m sorry! I race with an american account in GT6 (we had no PSN yet by the time I got my PS3), and I’ve been victim of what you said many times. It sucks! And, not only in GT this happens… But, not all are like that. I race on a small group of brazilians, and are all clean racers.

    6. Fredzy

      If GT Sport and GT7 give us something equivalent to GT6’s current quick match system as a means to earn money, money will never be an issue. With login bonus and full grids, even a very slow driver should be able to earn 2 million/hr. They may even learn something in the process.

    7. Johnnypenso

      QM races are the dregs of online racing. It’s not exactly good game design to say, “go race in the lowest quality online racing available to earn money to drive cars”. It’s more like punishment than fun gameplay. And before someone lays out the, “I was in a QM match once last month and it was the greatest racing ever” exception, I’m talking about the overall, average quality of QM matches.

    8. FS7

      I’ve suggested this many times:
      -Have a traditional GT career mode where one starts from the bottom and work their way up, and has to acquire cars by either earning them as prizes or buying them with game credits.
      -Have all cars & tracks available from the start in arcade mode, along with every option needed to setup proper races offline.
      -Have all cars available from the start online as courtesy cars, and have an option for host to block courtesy cars and restrict car choice to career garage only, so that people who like to “earn” their cars can be matched with like-minded players.
      If PD does that they’ll make the game enjoyable to everyone, forcing people to play a specific way only suits 1 group of players.

    9. infamousphil

      The QuickMatches are the worst, to say the least. The cars are not tunable, limited and yup… there’s something fishy with the physics. Also, it can be time consuming getting locked into a server.

      But l still go there for the preset catagories (and the credits). I dig the idea of having not to worry about the specifics of a room and the hosts’ preferences. If used as a career mode though, it could prove to be a very popular way to earn credits for cars. The credits earned here are ridiculously exessive. So address that, clean up the room accessiblity issues. Allow our garage tunes and use the usual gamer settings… variable weather, fuel consumption and class appropriate tyres and wear and no NoS. It’s just a great idea that is horridly applied.

  9. infamousphil

    I’ll always prefer the challenge to win a car. Just don’t make it impossible to win with my aging arthritic thumbs and six axis controller. I suffered throughout GT5s entire life cycle not being able to pilot McLaren’s F1 (stealth?) race car and was hoping it would be made available before the servers were shut down. I was pleasantly surprised to find every car available for purchase upon GT6s release.

    I do miss, however, shopping for ‘used’ whips every 5days… one of many aspects of the GT franchise that get dropped… never to return.

  10. TRLWNC7396

    I like the way GT progresses. I have PCars and Driveclub, and they are nice, but it’s a different sense of accomplishment. In the end, PCars is a bit confusing because I never know what car I’m going to be in when doing the season (progression, whatever).

    DriveClub is interesting, but it’s a very arcade game in comparison to GT and PCars, and I’m just not that interested in it.

    I think the formula that GT has had in the past was very, very good. However, having ALL cars available from the beginning like in 6 REALLY is better!

    The only improvement I will ask for is a true arcade experience with FAR more arcade style physics, a true race experience that someone can jump into and just see how they do with driving, and a progression experience like has ALWAYS been part of GT.

    And, please, PLEASE, PLEASE!!!!! don’t FORCE us to buy a specific car to start with. That was almost an insult……

    Otherwise, I have really enjoyed (most of) GT6. I just want to see a better spread of the tracks used. I haven’t seen some used much at all, yet others are used MOST of the time. really? You have HOW much that you don’t use? :( Silly and foolish…..

    1. TRLWNC7396

      By the way, I think GT2 was and is the best progression of ALL GT games. Here, let me confuse you a bit more… ;)

  11. Takata

    I don’t think making every car available from the start is the best way to do it, but a game boasting as many cars as GT6 should make 100 – 200 cars available in an “arcade” or “free play” mode, with full tuning. Excluding Le mans prototypes from the arcade mode starting list might give the player something to aim for.

    1. infamousphil

      Were we forced to drive a pos JDM car to start GT6? I caint remember. I do remember starting with 10,000 or so credits in previous GTs. That is preferrable to me.

    2. Johnnypenso

      The Honda Fit Phil, the Honda Fit. I wouldn’t call it a pos JDM car though, just an econobox. The break with tradition of hunting for that first car and picking from a few dozen that you can afford to purchase was a dissappointment for many, no doubt.

    3. TRLWNC7396

      Very, very much so. That was half of the fun when starting! It was almost an insult to HAVE to buy the ONE car….

      If it had been from the “Suggested Cars”, that would have made it palatable……

    4. Takata

      As for the GT mode, yes, being railroaded into ONE car was ridiculous. You could get one of 12 (ignoring similar models) cars for your first car in GT1: MA70 Supra, AE86 Levin/Trueno, Mirage Cyborg, GTO, CR-X del-sol, Prelude, Civic, S13 Silvia Q/k, Primera, R32 Skyline GTS25, FC RX-7, Eunos Roadster.

  12. C-ZETA

    One of the biggest reasons I bought Forza 6 is because I can drive anything I want at any time. And there is so much to drive.

  13. liv4hardstyle

    PCARs has another limiting factor for its car count when you begin the game regardless of the fact the every vehicle is available from the start- skill. strictly speaking about playing with a wheel (not sure about controllers) I found that I couldn’t just jump into a F1 car immediately because I was quite the pleb at driving them.

    The transition form GT6 to a more serious sim was a bigger jump than I had anticipated. I literally had to start in slower cars until I learned how to drive “properly”. There are still cars that I struggle to drive but love the fact that they challenge me in that way.

  14. FS7

    I like the way it works in PCars, all cars & tracks available from the start, people who want to focus on racing can do so without any grinding, people who don’t like having everything available right away can simply ignore the higher-end cars and only use whatever is available in career, or stick to a certain group of cars.
    There is progression in the game’s career mode, one can start at the bottom tier and work their way up if they want to. Also, starting at the bottom is required if you want to unlock all tiers and all invitational events, as well as achieving all career goals.
    Progression and sense of achievement are there but the game never forces players to play in a specific way, it gives players freedom to do whatever they want. If one needs the game to be locked and force them to play in a specific way to have a sense of progression and achievement that’s not a matter of game design it’s a matter of player mentality.

  15. Tyger

    Awesome work on that spreadsheet! Often thought about doing something similar myself. I may extend it to a few other fave games like Enthusia. Car nerd paradise!

  16. Jeanr

    Sorry for going a little off topic, but regarding game progression and history, Racedriver: Grid has the best history/progression. The idea to start the game driving for race teams to make money, so you can have your own team, have to buy cars to participate in different championships, to contract a second driver, stand to sponsors needs, is very very nice! Too bad is such an arcade game… And it’s a game that the car list could be larger, too.

    As for the games mentioned, GT had always a very nice progression. All you win feels earned. But, some struggle is necessary to get all you want… Forza, by the other hand, gives you everything very fast, and easy. With few hours played you have a huge garage. But, there is not that earning feeling, you know?

  17. dolande

    I hope they change that in GTS/gt7. One of my major gripe about gt5/gt6 is that finally after a year out so of playing to be able to get the 20mil cars, there aren’t any real nice events to use them.

  18. Tuppence870

    GT4 probably had the best system for me. They gave players 100+ cars immediately in arcade mode and let players make their own way through the career, but any new cars acquired would be added to the arcade selection in stock form.

    Not sure why GT5 & 6 didn’t do that, since messing around with the favourites list was such a clunky way to get cars into arcade & split-screen.

    1. Takata

      Yes, the favorites list in GT6 is clunky as hell, and GT4’s system where the cars obtained in GT mode are automatically added to arcade and split screen mode is much better. Being able to browse cars by country on the vertical axis and manufacturer on the horizontal axis is also much better.

  19. wraith of horus

    Forza maybe has the best approach for me. I like how you have the option to buy token packs to buy parts or card with them. The prize spin is a cool idea which can win a car potentially worth as much as 1,000.000 or more. If you already have the car you get the credits for the exact value of the car. You can choose to save prize spins for later so they get stored up. So you can progress normally. Then there’s certain mods which help you gain extra credits or upgrades or downgrades car performance, and there’s the dares which have the real challenges. Also T10 are much nicer at awarding free cars than most other games. Plus the tier ranking system that as you reach new levels awards you 100,000 credits or so. Forza is more than generous when it comes to earning your money or being awarded with cars.

  20. Johnnypenso

    One of the things that held me back from moving to pc sims for years was the smaller car count. After all, when you’re used to having hundreds of cars available how can you be satisfied with 50 or 75 cars and no customization or upgrades right? Turns out that the combination of fantastic visuals, sound, ffb, competent AI and of course complex physics and in depth simulation make you forget all about the smaller car count because the driving and racing is so immersive. Car count has gone from being a reason to play nothing but GT for years to being at the bottom of my list when considering a game these days.

    1. FS7

      GT6 proves that having a large car count is pointless if there’s nothing interesting to do with the cars, career mode is bad, there’s no way to setup proper races offline, and even time trial has limitations.
      PCars on the other hand has interesting stuff to do with the cars, a pretty good career mode, and a very good solo mode with lots of options to setup offline races.

    2. infamousphil

      The variety of cars IS what gets me online every single day… standard or not. Driving the same car as everyone else is so nonattractive to me. But l do see many single car races in GT. So l could do that too… if l needed. Not to flame, but my favorite Nurburg 550pp room is ran with 6 groups of cars with 3 to 8cars in each. I don’t repeat the race with the same car unless the lap was flugged. Its just how l GT.

    1. Deatharrow

      i largely prefer see more cars from years 19xx than from 2000+ , i don’t say that they haven’t their place but GT is a game who help us to dream with driving legendary cars , and i prefer drive a 250 GTO ar a F40 than a new-born hypercar like many asks there is no cars out of date and i wanna see more cars from 20′ 30′ 40′ 50′ some old cadillacs or 250 testa rossa or old roylce , bugatti etc ….

    2. TRLWNC7396

      How about some high tail ‘Caddys? ;) HAHA!!!!

      But, I do agree FULLY. The range of cars is too small, and getting a high-end new car that you don’t have to drive well to do well with just isn’t an interesting enough challenge for me.

      I want the Espace F1 from GT2… ;)

  21. Jayson619

    Lock the cars but don’t make them impossible to get or reserved for the elite-only players, like how almost impossible it was for many casual gamers like me to get the X2010 back in GT5.

    In the end racing games must be for all to enjoy.

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