Another week and another racing game put through its paces. Last week Need for Speed: Rivals proofed to be strong on the Xbox One as a top contender, but what of Forza Motorsport 5, the king of racing games? Well it finally arrived back with the launch of the Xbox One and judging by all the hype Turn10 and Microsoft generated, it sure had better be good and far exceeding than anything that has preceded it. Was all the noise in the build up to release day just PR hype or is this game as good as they say? Ladies and gentlemen, buckle your seat belts and start your engines, this is going to be a fun ride.
If like me you are a follower of the franchise, you’ll be well aware that this is undoubtedly the best racing simulator around (forget about Forza Horizon – it’s not included), it’s that much better than F1 (no, really it is). Forza Motorsport 5 features in excess of over 200 cars, a petrol heads dream and we are talking some serious motors here from classic muscle cars to icon classics and of course the new McLaren P1, which not only looked drop dead gorgeous but handled like a dream… albeit a simulated dream. Other worthy mentions in terms of vehicles include the classic McLaren M23, Ferrari 312T2 and the modern day Lotus E21 as driven by Kimi Raikkonen in the 2013 F1 Season.
Visually as you would expect Forza Motorsport 5 is polished, it has all the bells and whistles and is exceptional to behold. Especially good is the Forzavista mode which we did have a taste of in Forza 4, basically you can have a good look around the cars opening doors and bonnets etc, all very well modelled and detailed which is great if you are a dedicated petrol head who gets off on looking at these expensive vehicles, as for me I just want to get behind the wheel and do some serious racing.
The gameplay as ever doesn’t disappoint with some very impressive lighting and visual effects that really bring this whole experience to life, handling has improved and you can really notice the difference between the cars, it was great in Forza 4 but now it’s superb.
Perhaps the game’s most impressive revolution is the introduction of Drivatar, a cloud-based system that digitally recreates your driving style to populate other player’s games with your Forza driver; Drivatar. Racing against your friends’ Drivatars is fun and can really apply the pressure as you try to beat your best mate from down the road… even whilst he is at work and your slacking on the sofa. You’ll see things previously impossible to create with computerised AI. Human errors, poor judgement calls and random acts of aggression all make the track a much more dynamic and dangerous place to be, which in turn makes the racing feel truly on the cusp of next gen.
Whilst still talking about AI, at the right difficulty setting, each race transforms from a mad rush to first then a lonely trek to the finish to a competitive, exciting, interesting, and involving experience. The lead will change several times, cars will get damaged, and you’ll find yourself reacting like a real driver, waiting for the right moment to pass.
It’s hard to put into words how much better this is than previous simulation models where the player’s super modified car simply tore past the AI and then spent the rest of the race effectively hot lapping. Somehow, Turn 10 have managed to bring the fun back to a genre that seemed to be all about numbers, statistics, and polygons.
With over 200 cars to choose from, there should be plenty of courses ready to pick, right? Wrong. There are just 14 circuits (each with their own variations) to pick from in Forza 5. This is a massive and notable cutback in terms of content when compared to 400 cars and dozens of courses as found in Forza 4. Newcomers such as the legendary Spa Francorchamps and Bathurst, Australia are both thrilling circuits, but the appearance of familiar stalwarts like Sebring, Indianapolis and Laguna Seca means that it won’t be long before you’ve seen all the tracks that Forza 5 has to offer. It won’t be long… as in a few hours.
This isn’t to say Forza 5 isn’t a sizeable game however as to be fair the variety of the garage alone makes it compelling for any car enthusiast. Everything is represented in Forza 5 from sports and touring, to prototype and formula cars, Forza 5 introduces more and more disciplines to the games. Then there’s the BBC Top Gear content featuring Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond. Although not particularly deep, their commentary when choosing a new event, championship, or league still introduces some history to the proceedings. And of course there is then the car customisation that offers the opportunity for hours of artistic brilliance and tuning tinkering.
However annoying it may be that Forza 5 is small in comparison to previous titles in the franchise it shouldn’t put players off what is otherwise an extremely solid release. The new haptic feedback and overall controller design provide a much better experience than in previous games, with gear changes, tire slip, and road surface changes all well communicated via the new rumble triggers. On top of that, the analogue sticks are a lot more precise and allow for greater finesse when turning into corners. A large amount of work has been done with Calspan to further the research into tire behaviour modelling and it shows.
The sound is excellent in Forza 5, each engine resonates through the room a with incredible realism, screeching tyres and background noises reverberate around you as you struggle to keep your metal beast on the track.
Forza Motorsport 5 is another triumph of car mania with superb graphics, stunning vehicles and excellent sound; it’s almost everything we wanted albeit the shortage of tracks did add a little disappointment to the affair. Forza 5 is a beautiful world of engines and tire smoke, a world of convincing motorsport with the introduction of Drivatar and tuned AI. If you are looking for a ‘must have’ game for your new Xbox One, this is it.