The next-generation of racing POWERRR!
Some say, Forza Motorsport 5 is the standout Xbox One launch game. All I know is it’s the best demonstration of what Microsoft’s new console is capable of across the board. With stunning visuals, complete trigger rumble and a redesigned AI system that makes bots redundant, in the words of events host Jeremy Clarkson, Forza 5 will make you cramp in your smile muscles.
After a brief introduction from the outspoken Top Gear host, who has an extended role in this year’s game introducing most events with his usual candour and is joined later by colleagues Richard Hammond and James May, plus housekeeping from a faceless American lass, Forza 5 puts you behind the wheel of its cover star, the McLaren P1, on the cobblestone streets of Prague.
The stunning orange supercar glimmers beneath spectacular lighting as its 3.8 litre twin-turbo V8 roars to life, echoing between surround sound speakers from the immaculate cockpit view. Forza 4‘s Autovista returns so you can inspect your cars inside and out, listening to tidbits about their mechanical prowess and performance. It’s here that their true beauty can be appreciated, outside of the boisterous rigours of the race track. Even if you're not a petrol-head Forza 5 will get you excited about cars. It wants you to admire their beauty and learn a thing or two, as well. Aside from a little aliasing around the skirting beneath the doors of select cars, they’re absolutely stunning, and look just as good in full motion running at 60 frames per second in 1080p.
Forza 5 is the first game to truly look next-gen.
The ancient streets of Prague, the Bernese Alps and the famous Le Mans light up the screen with stunning realism, but doesn’t quite carry over to Australia’s Bathurst at Mount Panorama, which clearly didn’t have the same attention to detail. Still, it’s better than anything found in competing racing sims and Super Cheap Auto will be happy with the blaring promotion. The only complaint is the early morning sun in some tracks goes overboard with lens-flair — it’s enough to get a standing ovation from JJ Abrams.
Each of the 200 cars has superb handling to match the intoxicating sounds, whether it be a crunching lap in the plucky little Kia cee’d around the Top Gear Test Track, or getting exuberant in a cloud of tire smoke in the Bugatti Veyron. With new suspension and a redeveloped physics engine for the next-gen platform, cars feel more unique than ever before. While it’s down from the 500 or so cars in Forza 4, more will be released via DLC, and each of these cars deserves to be here. But like any racing game, you’ll need to start at the bottom.
A myriad of the important supercars are available to ‘rent’ in the Freeplay Mode, which means you’re free to drive them until your heart’s content, but they won’t garner XP or increase your driver level. The Career Mode begins with lowly C or D class training wheels, but even these are a joy to swerve through tight bends.
Each of the 200 cars has suburb handling to match the intoxicating sounds, whether it be a crunching lap in the plucky little Kia cee’d around the Top Gear Test Track, or getting exuberant in a cloud of tire smoke in the Bugatti Veyron.
Forza 5 is one of the few games to implement the Xbox One’s Impulse trigger feedback and prove that Microsoft is onto something big. Each trigger responds separately, and to varying degrees, when the tyres are slipping away from your grasp or the brakes lock sliding into a corner. For the lack of a less cliched sentiment, you are one with the car feeling it straddle the apex beneath its straining chassis.
Stunning tracks, precise cars and a complicated rumble system earmark Forza 5 as not only the standout Xbox One launch game, but the best in an already remarkable series, but it’s not the biggest addition. That is something you won’t see flex its flashy persona in your face, until you smash it off the track.
The Drivatar system has revolutionised the face of AI controlled players. Your own evolving Drivatar is a rolling clone of your ability, skills and traits as a driver, sent out onto Xbox Live to race on your behalf. It’s not a ghost or bot impersonating your credentials; it’s genuinely a recreation of how you drive, adapting to specific circumstances.
Forza 5’s partnership with Top Gear goes a long way towards transforming it from racing sim to celebration of motoring. The opening monologue by Jeremy Clarkson has you excited long before getting behind the wheel and each event is hilariously, yet informatively, introduced by either himself, Richard Hammond or James May.
The hosts are joined by a series of special challenges that have you racing against The Stig’s Digital Cousin. Even if it’s no different to racing against any other Drivatar, it’s so exciting it will give any Top Gear fan that “fizzing sensation”.
While your’s is out in the wild, it’s your friends’ Drivatars that will change how you play Forza. Racing along in the Career Mode, I came across three of my friends fighting for position — the only three who at the time had played Forza 5. None of them were actually playing, but I definitely wasn’t racing against blind AI. They knew what was happening and employed tactics I’d seen from their real life masters. One of the Drivatars tried to ram me off the road, just as my Xbox friend would have done, while another knew to bide its time to make a perfect pass.
Most impressively, the Drivatar difficulty can be tweaked to match your skill, which means its not necessarily an accurate representation of mates trailing in your dust, unless you set it up to be. By default they’ll offer a serious challenge, which in turn will help you assimilate back into the Forza pedigree sooner if you can repress the urge to tone down the difficulty — you’re much better off failing to win a few early races, but learning to compete against Drivatars instead of traditional AI.
Like past games, Forza 5 continues its mantra of accessibility, while pushing to be a realistic racing simulator. At its easiest, difficulty assists will control braking and handling. The rewind feature returns, but each use taxes XP, offering beginners an opportunity to crank up the difficulty before their time knowing they have a safety net. Racing veterans can turn all of this off to face realistic conditions.
For all its advancements, Forza 5 includes just 14 tracks. Naturally, they each boast various layouts and enough to keep you entertained for hours, but it’s impossible not to get a little distracted by the nice voice over lady constantly saying “now we return to Australia’s Bathurst” 20 minutes after you were last there. There’s still no night racing or weather effects which Forza fans have almost accepted are never coming.
Forza 5 completes the transformation from racing simulator to a celebration of cars. Like its Top Gear influence, Forza 5 will appeal to the casual racer just as much as the motoring enthusiasts thanks to its deep assists and the evolving brilliance of the Drivatar system. It is without doubt the best looking game on Xbox One and is unrivalled in using the power of the next-generation to enhance an already incredible experience.