To most, cars are simply a transport from point A to B, a husk with wheels and seats. But to some, they are these magnificent machines; lovingly and painstakingly designed to perfection. Forza Motorsport 5 by Turn 10 is for the car obsessives out there, but you don’t need to be a professional racer to feel like a star on the track.
My first reaction to playing Xbox One’s flagship racing title at PAX was a positive one, but I started becoming worried after hearing that some of my favorite tracks are now missing, and that the number of cars is about 400 shy of Forza 4‘s roster. After having spent a good chunk of time with the game, my worries have dissolved, though I am still quite upset that Nürburgring isn’t there; it’s always been the most fun track to drive. But have no fear, there are plenty of enjoyable roads to speed down.
Visually, this is one of Xbone’s prettiest games, though it does have some effects that don’t look great. The cars are beautiful, the reflections are insanely realistic looking, and many of the tracks have really nice backdrops to admire as you tear through them. The lighting is also fantastic, and you will be frequently slapped in the face with sunbeams, but the tire smoke, dirt, and sparks all look pretty awful. There are also some special races on the Top Gear Test Track with added obstacles that are just ugly and don’t add any fun to the races. They spent so much time on the close-up detail of each individual car that they forgot about some of the overall polish that make a game look nice. Forza is almost too honed in on the cars, and sometimes not enough on the overall experience.
As I said however, the cars do look excellent, and you can check them out in full detail in Forzavista, a virtual showroom in which you walk around in first person view to ogle at your glorious car collection. From here, you can open the doors, hood, or trunk to check out the extremely detailed interiors and engines. Each car also has a little blip you can click on to hear a voiced history of the car and the company behind it, which is a cool feature for someone like me who enjoys cars, but doesn’t know all the details about them.
If there’s anyone I want to explain cars to me, it’s the crew from the UK’s Top Gear. Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond all have voiceovers for each league intro sequence, and any fan of the show will be happy to hear these. It’s not just audio either; Turn 10 has used the familiar Top Gear editing style when showing off the cars, with the same fast cuts and filters found in the show. The only thing that drags this down a bit is that Forzavista is one single room, and every car appears in the same place. It definitely lacks the variety in scenery that you get from the show, but overall this idea feels like a step in the right direction for the series.
Once you’re done staring at the realistic reflections in your car’s paint. It’s time to hit the road. If you’ve played a Forza game before, you sort of know what you’re getting here, but with some new fun additions. The cars are heavy and you’ll have to drive realistically, otherwise you’ll be constantly smashing into walls. Each car has its own sound, and the audio in general does not disappoint. Engines roar and tires screech as you’d expect, and there’s even some tactile feedback for that. I’m talking about the Xbone controller’s impulse triggers, which help you feel when tires are slipping or brakes locking up. It’s subtle but adds a new layer of realism to the experience, and I’d even argue that it can help improve your driving.
The default driving settings are pretty forgiving for newcomers, and I urge you to take some time to dial in the right assists for you. In my opinion, to get full enjoyment out of Forza you must wean yourself off the braking line altogether, otherwise it almost feels like cheating. I’m still a little surprised that the racing line is a default feature, but I understand why they do it. Racing simulators are not easy to play if you’re used to more casual racers.
Forza‘s main new feature is the Drivatar system, which syncs data as you play and uploads it to the moon (Did I get that right? Pretty sure I did). This means that you have a virtual version of yourself driving in other people’s races, if you choose to leave that feature enabled. When your Drivatar races for you, you earn credits. But more fun than that is having other people’s Drivatars in your game, so even single player races feel almost like multiplayer, sort of. I have to admit though, it’s really fun to see someone from my friends list racing in my game, even if I know it’s not actually them. It’s a cool feature and I look forward to watching it evolve as my friends and I race more; the Drivatar system continues to learn how you drive with each race you complete. I’ve put in quite a few hours and my Drivatar sync percentage still hasn’t hit 100%.
Rivals mode makes a return, where you can asynchronously race your friends’ (or strangers’) ghosts for the best lap times. They’ve also added all kinds of community challenges, so if your friends aren’t racing, you’ll get matched up with someone of similar skill who is. Standard multiplayer is there too, with all kinds of different hoppers for any skill level, and they will rotate monthly to keep things fresh. The matchmaking works well, meaning you spend less time in the menus and more time on the track.
Forza Motorsport 5 keeps the series in the seat of the best racing simulator out there, even though there are still some small details that I feel Turn 10 is missing. Fortunately, most of those details are just visual and don’t detract from the fun of driving fast cars down a winding road. What is lacking in volume of cars and tracks has been made up for in quality. This is a beautiful, fun, and fast racing simulator.
[+Excellent racing sim] [+Top Gear hosts are a welcome addition] [+Beautiful cars, both inside and out] [+Impulse triggers add a fun tactile response] [-Forzavista lacks visual variety] [-Far less cars/tracks than its predecessor] [-NO NÜRBURGRING]