Forza 5 Review
Every time a new generation of consoles is announced, there is always a car game to go along with it that showcases the power of the new tech, which more often than not focuses on spiffy graphics with little regard given to gameplay. Microsoft’s submission for the Xbox One this time around is Forza Motorsport 5, the first next-gen, first-party racing game and the sixth entrant to the Forza series. And just as you would expect, there is a whole lot of graphical muscle flexing going on here, but somewhat surprisingly, there is also a decent amount of gameplay content here too.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Forza has long been the John Everyman of car racing games. It can be a ‘simulation racer’ or it can be an ‘arcade racer’ depending on how you want to play. It has Lamborghini’s, trucks and Formula 1 cars. It has extensive car customisation and a career mode where you earn credits to buy new cars or upgrade your existing ones. It’s a series that has always had a focus on allowing the player to determine how they want to play and what they want to do, and Forza 5 continues this legacy proudly.
The single player “career mode” is an unstructured set of leagues for you to complete in whatever order you choose. Each of these Leagues is introduced via monologue by one of the cast of BBC’s Top Gear that is absolutely on point for the style and humour of the show. You start out by being given a C-class road car and a few introductory races to complete, then you are free to choose what type of cars you want to race as from a selection of dozens of different leagues. You must have a vehicle with the right spec’s to enter into that league; so for example your formula 1 racer wont be able to compete in the Mini Cooper rally and so on. The leagues encompass all manner of vehicles from different race classes: vintage racers, American muscle cars, V8’s, trucks, hatchbacks etc. Competing in and winning these races rewards you with credits that can be used to buy new vehicles or upgrade your existing ones.
The game offers extensive options for you to tweak the gameplay to your preference. You can turn on options like traction control, ABS braking or automatic gear changing to make the gameplay resemeble a simple, arcade-style racer. Or, if you’re a crazy person, you can turn them all off and have a very realistic (I assume) driving simulation. Each of these options can be individually toggled on or off to for you to play the game exactly as you want. Turning options off generally makes the game harder, and as a result will reward you with more credits at the end of each race. When you find the right set of options that work for you, the racing is some of the best the genre has to offer. The control, feedback, trigger rumble and graphics all combine to create a white-knuckle racing experience like no other.
One of the new features that Forza 5 brings to the series is the Drivatar system. The game monitors your racing style to build an algorithm that reflects the way you perform in certain situations such as approaching sharp corners or overtaking. This algorithm then takes control of an AI controlled car in other people’s single-player races and performs similarly to how you would - well that’s the theory anyway. In reality the AI controls pretty much the same as a normal AI would. Occaisonally you get the lone car that prefers to barrel into others to overtake on a turn, or another that takes turns way too wide and goes off track, but it never feels like you’re racing against other people.
Just like the gameplay, the upgrade system is as simple or as deep as you want it to be. The option is there for you to get in deep and choose exactly what upgrades you want, such as the type of air-filter on your engine or the tightness of your suspension. Otherwise, you can simply do a one-button upgrade that will make the computer do whatever it has to, to get your vehicle into the desired class. You could take your rinky-dink Mazda 3 that you are given at the start of the game and supe it up all the way to A-Class to compete with the Ferrari’s if you wanted to.
The same optional level of depth applies for visual customisation options too. You can choose everything from spoiler to rims to really personalise your vehicle, or you can go online and download some of the amazing community-made liveries that are available and apply them with one click of a button.
The game looks absolutely gorgeous. The cars are rendered with a car-porn level of detail with interiors and exteriors being rendered immaculately. The Forza Vista mode returns, allowing you to walk around your car, show-room style; looking up-close to inspect all the little details whilst also hearing information about the make and model of the vehicle. It’s a feature that a lot of players won’t care all too much for, but it’s also a testament to the amount of care and detail that is put into fully realising the look and feel of these vehicles.
It’s not only the cars that look amazing, but also the locales and tracks themselves are absolutely breathtaking. The first thing the game has you do is race a Maclaren through Prague at dawn. It is amazing. The skyboxes, the lighting effects, the little environmental details littered throughout each track all add up to a very impressive and immersive racing experience.
However, whilst we’re on the topic of tracks, it’s time to start talking about the biggest let-down of Forza 5. The tracks do look amazing, but there are so few of them that you will be completely sick to death of seeing them in a very short time. I would estimate there are about ten or so tracks in the whole of Forza 5. It feels like less. There is a mind-boggling shortage of different tracks to race on in this game. Some leagues have you going through the same track numerous times, and as a result you become so familiar with the ins and outs of each track that they become boring very quickly. It’s a real shame too, as the lack of track selection really brings down the whole experience of Forza 5. Driving the different cars is amazing, but driving the different cars on the same tracks over and over again really sucks a lot of the fun out of it.
Another issue to note is the prevalence of egregious, in-your-face DLC. When you are buying a new car, it seems that half of the cars offered to you have a tiny little DLC icon within their portrait that lets you know that you cant actually have it unless you put in some more real-world money for it. You can’t filter these DLC cars out, so all too often I found myself wanting to pick a car for a new league, only to soon realise that it’s actually DLC only.
The game also offers “boosts” that you can buy with real-world money that will temporarily increase the amount of credits or experience you receive from winning races. These are easy to ignore, but it forces one to consider the developers motivation for their implementation. The progression in the game is fairly steady as it is. Winning races with cheap cars in low-level leagues nets you fewer credits than winning with expensive cars in more competitive leagues, naturally. However, this progression doesn’t continue linearly. For example, you may only need to win 10 races with your C-class car to be able to afford a B-class car to continue onto the next league. Then you need to win 20 races with the B-class to get an A-class, and then 40 races with the A-class to get an S-class car. This is an exaggerated example, but you get the idea. It takes a lot of time to be able to afford that F1 racer that looks so, so sweet, or you could simply buy it for $12. The value proposition is yours to make, however in my opinion it’s a little nasty.
Forza Motorsport 5 is a fantastic foray into the next generation of gaming and does it’s job of showcasing the power of your shiny new video game console with gusto. The graphics are breathtaking, the customisation is compelling and the racing is fantastic. However, the lack of different tracks to race on is a huge disappointment that really bothers me more than I thought it would. There is a heap of content here to enjoy, but the constraint of only a handful of tracks to race on ends up making the progression feel like more of a grind than it really is. Overall though, Forza 5 is worth your time and has a lot to offer no matter your interest for cars.
Final Say: Play It