Review: Forza Motorsport 6 (Xbox One)
It’s taken a mere 10 years for the sixth instalment of the franchise to launch exclusively on the Xbox platform. Since then it’s all but overshadowed the Gran Turismo franchise as the leading simulation racer on any console format, but does it have enough to take on newcomers, such as Project CARS?
Forza Motorsport 6 looks to right all the wrongs of Forza Motorsport 5 – a title that had ‘launch game’ smudged in grease all over the body work. The cars have been bumped up to 460, each with their own unique Forzavista presentations and there are now 26 tracks to drive on. Modes are aplenty, but it’s very likely that Stories of Motorsport, the career mode, will sit in pal position.
Let me tell you a story
In Stories of Motorsport you’ll tackle five volumes of motorsport namely Super Street, Sport Icons, Grand Touring, Professional Racing and Ultimate Motorsport. You’re provided a challenge made up of 4, 5 or 6 races per series and it’s up to you to select your car based on a set of six classes. What starts off as Compact Sport Coupe races, turns into Sport GT and later Endurance Prototypes. There’s a class and category for each and every type of player. Each class is introduced by the Top Gear team, Richard Hammond and James May, with the voice of Jeremy Clarkson missing. There are some scripts that had me thinking that it was originally written with Clarkson in mind, as the new voice over is nowhere near as convincing as Clarkson. In-between all the career racing you’ll see showcases, a mode made famous by Forza Horizon, bringing some much needed variety.
Your typical avoid cones, passing challenge, factory spec racing, endurance, moments in motorsport, and high-speed chase (among others) makes this one mammoth racing game, but that’s not where the modes end. You’ll have rival challenges from friends randomly popping up. Sadly, at the time of writing, the new League mode and multiplayer server was down, but I expect there to be hours and hours of entertainment hidden in those two modes. There’s also Free Play mode where you’ll be able to play some offline split-screen games with friends in the same room as you. In 2015 that nearly feels like some form of luxury and I’m glad it’s been included.
All the tuning you’d ever need
If you’ve played any of the previous Forza games you’ll know what to expect from the simulation. As before you can switch it up to ‘normal’ or simulation mode (if not being able to drive your car appeals to you) and also turn assists on or off to customise it to your liking. Do you have several tunes you’d like to adapt to one particular car (suited to the track you’ll race on)? You can save several tunes or download tunes others have worked on, should you have no clue how to deal with the Air Filter, Spring and Dampers or Transmission. It’s as shallow or deep as you’d like it to be. Once you’ve got your hands dirty it’s on to the racing and, oh boy, are there improvements.
For the first time night racing and wet weather have been included in a Forza Motorsport game. The night racing is exceptionally tough, especially when trying to make your way around a track, such as Sebring International Raceway, as it’s pitch black and you’re solely depending on your headlights to make it to the finish line. It’s the wet weather that’s by far the most impressive. In terms of graphics it’s not quite on par with something you would’ve witnessed in Drive Club, but it stands out for other reasons. The rain is not just a cosmetic effect. As with other simulation games your car will slip and slide around corners, but the standing water puddles changes up a course entirely. Driving Brands Hatch in the dry and in the wet is a completely different experience. Where you would take a tight corner in the dry it’s best avoided in the wet. Hit a puddle at speed and you’ll hydroplane right off the circuit. Drive through that same puddle at a lower speed and your car is dragged to the right or left. At no point do you feel that you have complete control of your car when driving through any of these puddles, and it’s all the better for it. It’s as close as you’ll ever get to experiencing wet weather driving, at these speeds, in reality (Unless you’re one of those idiots on the highway of course…). Your opponents does not make it any easier though.
Laugh at the Drivatar system all you want, it’s now morphed into something really impressive. Drivatar difficulties can now be adjusted. Once the game notices that you’re winning far too many races it’ll ask you if the difficulty should be increased and, because the Drivatars act more like humans, it really does feel like you’re racing against a rival that has some form of intelligence. Rivals will spin out when you’re on their bumper, and some will fend you off with aggression, should you somehow piss them off. And if you feel there’s not enough of a challenge at hand you can add a mod to your race.
There are three sets of mods – Crew, Dare and Boost. Crew mods will see your crew improving your Braking, Grip or reducing weight to your car. Dare will force you into manual transmissions, no rewinds, simulation steering or one of the various viewpoint camera angles in the race. Those two mods will remain permanent to your mod setup, until next you change it up to something else. Boost is a once-off mod, that expires after a race. Boost mods include enhanced payouts, superb drafting, improved preparation and vehicle materials and more. At first the mods seem really cool, but after a few races you’ll likely stick to one or two mods you favour. It’s a grand idea, but perhaps it’s something that should be forced in a showcase, instead of being an option. At least you gain extra credits for attaching any of the mods.
Forza Motorsport 6 is a beautiful looking game. You’ll spend much of your time taking photos when watching a replay you’ve saved. (As I did with each image used in this review). The damage model is as good as it’s ever been. Switch to simulation with full damage and tyre wear and your car might come out of a race looking like some form of tin food. You’ll also get to design your own vinyl groups once again, though it’s probably easier to just find something and download it. If your digital artistic flair is anything like mine it’s best you leave it to the pros.
There’s a flat tyre or two
I do have several issues though. Forza Motorsport 5 had 21 tracks available to race on and, after the long development time, there are now only another 5 tracks. Classics such as Rally di Positano, Maple Valley Raceway and Camino Viejo de Montserrat are absent. It could be that it’s planned DLC, but when a game like Project CARS launches with over 100 tracks it needs to be questioned. I also have an issue with the soundtrack. Though many will turn the music off I prefer driving with music on, and the music literally has me drifting to sleep and off the track. If the Xbox One added the ability to play your own soundtrack (as the Xbox 360 did) then this would not be an issue, but it’s perhaps time to invest in some licensed music that injects some form of adrenaline into your veins when taking a perfect corner. Lastly I think it’s time that offroad racing is introduced, as we’ve seen in Gran Turismo. Adding a ‘Rally Day Heroes’ series, that includes a car selection of the Subaru Impreza and Lancer Evolution, without any dirt tracks, is an insult to the racing fanatics.
There’s not much to fault when it comes to Forza Motorsport 6. Adding night racing and rainy weather is nothing new. We’ve seen this way back on the PS1 (Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 3). It’s just that there’s never been an emphasis on these features as with Forza Motorsport 6. It might not be a massive step forward in racing, but the developers have matched the realism you’d expect and that’s not an easy nut to crack. All I know is that Xbox One owners are spoilt for choice when it comes to driving simulation games and that’s just increased by one.