Seeing Forza Motorsport 5 appears as an Xbox One launch game was quite the surprise. The previous two Xboxes were graced with entries in the Project Gotham Racing series whose arcade sensitivities were a good introduction to gaming on their respective consoles. But here we have a game that could be considered more sim than arcade game.
That is until you start the game and are introduced to the Forza world via the voice of Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson. The man has a way with words and in much the same way he introduced players in the previous game of the series, he basically explains to us why he thinks cars are awesome and by the time he finishes you are thrown headfirst into a race and learn the ropes from behind the wheel.
It’s an extremely effective way of getting the player both psyched and running with little concern for settings or menus; I firmly believe it is one of the best designed intros I’ve seen in any game for years. Everything you’re meant to love about cars and the game is there from the beginning.
Once past the intro, Forza Motorsport 5 eases you into the options available by placing you in your first competition in the lower classes. Not that you are confined to the slowest cars. At any stage you can purchase other vehicles in the roster and join those competitions; as long as you have earned enough credits on game or purchase tokens online.
After launch there were concerns about the in game economy being far more punishing than previous games. But a recent update adjusted the rewards and car prices to a much friendlier level which gives everyone a better chance to drive one or two of the dream cars.
Visually, the game is beautiful; the tracks show an incredible attention to detail that surpasses everything that came before it in the series. But in including new tracks such as the might Mount Panorama, others have been sacrificed including Nurburgring which is a surprising exclusion. The cars too are assembled in such a fine degree that the game allows the player to walk around each, opening doors and even starting the engine. There’s nothing at all useful in the feature except perhaps fuelling your car lusts further. But those cars are so pretty…
With all the detail, one obvious question that has been raised is if the game handles weather and different race conditions. Unfortunately not; the developer has explained that to achieve such a result would require additional development time that was not possible. It is a shame though as hitting the same corner again and again to be greeted by identical lens flares tarnishes the visuals and makes you feel like you’re watching a repeat of a JJ Abrams film.
Gameplay may have had the biggest change of all thanks to the new drivatar system. Basically the game records your performance over time, creating a virtual representation of your skills as a driver which is then shared amongst your friends and the wider gaming community. When playing against your friend’s drivatars the game feels more random in the way the races unfold as opponents can be aggressive and fallible. Just as you might lose a race in the final turn, don’t be surprised to see a drivatar do the same. It adds a thrill to the races that was never there before and is a brilliant addition.
Its also one of the day one titles that really demonstrates the new impulse triggers on the controller. Feeling the subtle vibrations under each finger takes some getting used to but adds immersion for players who may not want to invest further in racing wheels.
The multiplayer has also been beefed up to support more players than before (16 I believe) and feels much the same as before. I do wish though that the developers might have tried to be a little more playful here with modes such as cat and mouse which were popular with PGR just to give players something quick and fun to jump into.
Tuning and paint return once again to allow skilled players to further add customizations to their cars and share the with the masses. Being a big fan of the paint tools I can’t wait to try something new here as the system is quite robust in what can be achieved.
Overall though, this is a great title for the platform that continues the Xbox tradition of having a killer racer at launch. There is certainly room for improvement with this generation but if you are a car nut and are looking for a new console, there really isn’t anything better.