With every generation comes a racing game that will define it. One that both showcases the visceral power of the hardware coupled with the sheer excitement of racing. In Forza Motorsport 5, Turn 10’s next instalment into the popular series, we have both these boxes ticked and then some, but is it enough to make this the first Xbox One defining moment?
With any racing game, it is the cars that truly make the experience. Featuring just over 200 cars, Forza 5 may be way short of the mark in terms of count, but it makes up for it in sheer beauty. Every vehicle is masterfully crafted, from the bonnet to bumper, created with expert precision. Steering wheel dimples, tyre tread, carbon fibre bonnets, all display with such minute details, which can all be laboured over Forzavista mode.
Definitely one for the motor enthusiast; you are able to drill down into the most minuscule of any car’s features, even the smallest of dashboard finer points can be divulged over in any one of the vehicles on offer. It’s a testament to the level of complexity on offer here and although the 600+ cars featured in Forza 4 were nothing short of astounding, it’s obvious to see where the fat has been trimmed from in order to make room for such splendour.
The system used to acquire these cars has also been changed, in my opinion for the worse. Previously you were rewarded with vehicles after each promotion, levelling up offered this reward and opened up more opportunities to race the cars you actually wanted to drive. However, now you are restricted by what you can afford within each class and it seems to take longer to reach the more attractive vehicles.
To have the carrot dangled in front of you for that first ‘taster’ race, and then have it swiftly removed in place of vehicles such as Fiat Abarth and Ford Fiestas is a really killjoy and certainly removes some of the fun. Alas some of this is negated by the ability to tune, customise and paint any vehicle you see fit, but if you really want to drive that McClaren P1, you’re going to have to wait.
After the cars, the tracks have also had the same level of meticulous details laid upon them. This is no lift and shift job, that’s for sure. Each track, from the beautiful vistas of Mount Panorama to the sun dipped cityscape of Prague, the sheer visual fidelity on display is nothing short of breath-taking. If you’re looking for something to harness the power of the Xbox One, then look no further.
The cobbled streets, the roadside camber, the speckled rubber lay dormant on the edges of the racing line – these all shine as lovingly created examples of how much attention Forza 5 has been given. It’s then a shame that this isn’t ported across to maybe dynamic weather or time changes. Imagining the Top Gear track covered in a summer shower or the Prague streets laced with snow is an exciting prospect and makes me hanker for what could’ve been.
Although the tracks may be beautiful, they are somewhat let down by their lack of variety. After only a few hours of playing tracks begin to be repeated, the commentator, trying their best to lay on some differentiator to advertise the next race, can only try to tell you otherwise. It’s a real downer that the limited number of circuits really detracts from the experience.
There’s only so many times you can race a track, before it becomes stale and boring and even in later races with more exotic vehicles, you can’t help but feel like you’ve been here before. To overcome this each track is tackled in a range of ways, from straight up races to bowling. These certainly extend their welcome somewhat, but the addition of more tracks would have been more than welcomed.
A single player evolution?
One really ground-breaking change to Forza Motorsport 5 is the introduction of the Drivatar system. In single player races you will no longer find yourself up against nameless AI driven vehicles but instead you will be fighting for first against your friends, or at least an artificial version of them. The system is certainly a masterstroke; it’s such a simple idea that in essence really pushes you to compete and I tried my upmost to ensure I was beating my nearest combatant; it made what happening on the track all the more important. However, this comes at a cost.
Whilst you’re now no longer racing against opponents who tread the racing line almost perfectly, you’re now facing people who play dirty. You’ll catch all the Drivatars cutting corners, shunting other cars and basically taking any shortcut possible. It makes the first corner of every race usually end up in a pile of twisted metal. The Drivatar system shows us the ugly side if racing, the one where everyone will do whatever it takes to win. It is more realistic and makes you think long and hard about how you will attack each course, making the single player experience much more satisfying when you win, but also very frustrating when you don’t. The rewind button has never been used so much and it always irks me when I see the loss of a small percentage of my credits at the cost of other careless racers.
It’s also worth noting that even when you’re not playing your virtual self is, gaining credits and featuring in your friends races, so next time you log in, you’ll be welcomed with your racers winnings.
Forza Motorsport 5 is a technical masterpiece; it elegantly portrays the beauty and craft of racing down to the smallest detail. It is a joy to sit behind the wheel of each vehicle and just drive. Any automobile enthusiast would be silly not to pick this up. It may be lighter this time around, with a shallower depth of tracks and cars, but is a feat of engineering not to be sniffed at. Forza 5 is the most beautiful and striking entry in the series to date, taking your seat in the driver’s seat has never felt or looked this good.