Platforms: Xbox One
Developer: Turn 10
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Ratings: E (ESRB), 3 (PEGI), G (ACB)
Since May 2005, Forza Motorsport has been Microsoft’s return shots to Sony’s killer Racing app, Gran Turismo. The game series featured realistic cars, physics and driving simulation, amazing competitive online racing and a library of cars from the greatest eras of motoring that would tickle the fancy of the newest car enthusiast to a seasoned petrol head. The series also featured famous real world tracks and the ability to custom paint your car and share with other players. The question is, does Forza Motorsport 5 live up to its predecessors? Well…yes and no.
Let’s get the obvious bit out of the way. Forza 5 is beautiful, featuring graphics so believable that if it were not for the TV screen you view it from, you’d swear you could get in the cars and drive them away. Damage modeling is well done as well. Anytime I scraped a wall or collided with another vehicle, paint would scrape off in the proper places in a believable way, and the bodywork would warp and bend in a convincing fashion. Animations are smooth as well, running at 1080p and 60 frames per second. Throughout my entire gameplay, I did not experience a graphical glitch or a frame rate stutter, not even once. My only real graphical gripe with Forza 5 is that the crowds in the game still look like cardboard cutouts, but this is a minor issue as you’ll be whizzing past them at such high speeds that you’ll hardly notice.
Racing in Forza is as good as ever. Racers who are used to the likes of Need for Speed or other arcade racing games may find the driving physics to be unforgiving at first. This is because Turn 10 Studios programs their racing series with simulation racing in mind. Driving physics are as close to realism as you can get, with factors like speed, drifting, vehicle weight and braking all being considered for when you are about to take that sharp turn at high speed.
Players have the option of bringing up heads up displays that can give them readouts on how much pressure is on each wheel, the condition of the various parts of their vehicle and the g-forces hitting the vehicle while turning. Intermediate players will play as close to real life conditions as possible, sometimes going so far as to incapacitate their vehicles from crashes. Novice players who might be worried by this have the option to turn on driving assists, such as automatic breaking around corners, turning damage off and having a guideline that changes colors for recommended breaking that they follow around the tracks. While this game may not be for everyone, novice racers only need to turn on the assists and they can easily get into the game.
Another great feature of Forza 5 is of course, Drivatars. Forza 5 does not use conventional racing AI, instead opting for a much cooler, and sometimes, irritating approach. Keep in mind I say irritating, not because it’s a bad feature, but because it makes me hate my friends. Forza 5 analyses the driving of every player that gets behind the wheel. After a few races, it has enough data that it can create a Drivatar for you. A Drivatar is a digital representation of a player, meaning that when you are offline, you have a digital driver representing you in other player’s games that races against them using your racing habits. If you have friends who play Forza, you are guaranteed to see them in every race you play, even though you won’t actually be playing against them, just an artificial representation of them. I’ll give a couple examples of how I saw Drivatars in action.
I have a friend named Brandon who is a very aggressive driver. When racing in a game against his Drivatar, I was in the lead and ready to win the race when suddenly his car was behind mine, his bumper touching the side of my rear bumper, and then in one aggressive burst of speed and a little nudge of the wheel, he hit me with just enough force to nudge me into a spin that sent me crashing into a wall and he won the race. The other example is actually from OnlySP’s owner, Nick Calandra. When racing against Nick, I found that Nick’s racing habits show a bit of a predator. There were times I was certain that Nick’s Drivatar was stalking me to the point where I’d spend an entire race with him right behind me maintaining a nice cruising speed, just to have him roar on his engines and pass me on an inside corner just a few seconds from the finish line. In short, Drivatars are insane and an amazing replacement for AI. Racing has never been this unpredictable in single player.
Players have a decent car library to choose from as well. There are around 200 cars to choose from, though some may find this to be an issue compared to Forza 4’s library of around 500 cars. All the well-known car brands are there though, from Ford to Mitsubishi, Saab to Aston Martin, Ferrari to McLaren and so on. Some players may have a few issues with how the purchase and trade of cars is handled though. First off, Forza 5 is riddled with micro-transactions. Whenever you finish a race, you are reminded that you can buy experience boosts with tokens, which can be purchased through your Microsoft account. Whenever you go to buy a car, you are given the option of buying the car with in-game money or tokens, and it’s not cheap either.
My favourite car in the Forza series is the Bugatti Veyron, but when I went to buy it in game, I discovered that not only was the car a DLC, but it also cost about $10 of my local currency to buy. Another issue that I had in the game is that in previous Forza Titles an incentive for racing a particular brand of car was that as you leveled up your experience with that brand, you’d get discounts for performance parts which eventually lead to free parts from your sponsors. In Forza 5 this has been replaced with credit bonuses that really don’t make much difference. Leveling up your driver in previous Forza games would also get you free cars, while this is not the case in Forza 5. Another issue is that you can no longer sell cars when you are done with them, meaning that you can only delete them from your garage with no benefit of doing so. This makes it more difficult to earn money in the game to progress you further through the career.
While we are on the subject of career mode, in previous Forza games career mode was simple; you are given a place to race and asked to choose a class of vehicle to drive. Races were adjusted according to what you chose. In Forza 5, you choose from different racing careers and eras. You can choose between classes like Hot Hatchbacks, American Muscle and Supercars, and then race in a sequence of races suited for that class. Also, in previous games when you upgrade your car, more options were given for races in career mode. In Forza 5, if you upgrade your car in career mode, more often than not you’ll find the game forcing you to either downgrade your vehicle or buy another vehicle to match the other cars in the race, even though you are all the same class of vehicle. This really takes away from the experience of tuning and tweaking your car, and then showing your teeth to other racers.
Player customisation is back in one good way though. Custom paint jobs have always been a staple of Forza Motorsport. Players have the ability to paint their cars with Amazing paint jobs that represent their favorite shows, historical races, movies, comics—anything with incredible detail. Once designs are created, they can then be shared with the community and rated. Players can then download designs from the community and can search designs using filters that choose between rating or more specific filters like scifi, fantasy, real life and other options. Because my playthrough was right at launch, I didn’t get the opportunity to see that many player designs, but as time has passed, I’ve started seeing more and more neat stuff from the community.
One thing about the career mode that is kind of awesome is that every career type is introduced by one of the hosts of the UK show Top Gear. You’ll hear Jeremy Clarkson talking about how cars are better with “more power” and James May talking about the elegance of classic motoring. You’ll even hear Richard Hammond referring to how his fellow hosts will like certain cars because of how it fits their often hilarious Top Gear antics.
Along with this are some interesting races on the famous Top Gear test track, one of the more memorable ones being a race through the “Streets of London” which is just the test track decorated with phone booths and cardboard cutouts of mailboxes, the Big Ben and London bridge. The track is completely covered and naturally things were flying all over the place. Another example is where players get a chance to drive around the Top Gear test track against a Drivatar modeled after The Stig, known as “The Stig’s digital cousin”.
So, is Forza 5 worth buying? Yes it is, providing that you love continuously racing the same courses over and over to earn enough money to get your favourite cars. The game is lots of fun aside from being plagued by not-so-micro transactions, the graphics are great, and the car selection is quite large—though not as large as in previous titles. There’s a decent variety of tracks from all around the world. One track that is noticeably awesome is the Top Gear test track while another track that is noticeably absent is the fan favourite Nürburgring, which Turn 10 has talked about adding later as paid DLC.
Overall, if you love racing, Forza is just the game for you.