If you are some sort of petrolhead it’s very likely that you’ve established the Forza Motorsport franchise as the number one go-to racing simulator. Over the last eight years development studio, Turn 10 Studios, have all but perfected the genre. It’s now time for it to debut on the Xbox One.
When you start the game up and hear the soothing voice of Jeremy Clarkson, talking about the car porn you’re about to get your hands dirty with, you can’t help but feel the shivers run down your spine. The presentation is of the highest quality, as we’ve come to expect. Before you get to decide what mode you’d like to play you’re greeted with a menu that shows off some videos of cars… well, that’s what I initially thought. You see, Forza Motorsport 5 has such stunning graphics that we’ve now finally reached the point where the blur between reality and games are non-existent.
Enter the Forzavista section where you can walk around your car as you could in Forza Motorsport 4 before this. Yes, you can still jump inside your car and start it up or explode (open the doors, boot and bonnet) at will. When you realise that you can see each and every stitch on the steering wheel and bucket seats of your sleek Golf R32 you know that it’s probably as close as you’ll ever get to the real thing. The way the light reflects off the paint, the details in the grooves of the tyres and everything else right down to microscopic details on the dashboard – it’s all there. After a race you’ll see each and every scratch, bump and even mud splatters. It’s easily the best-looking racing game I’ve ever seen.
The first mode you’ll jump into, once satisfying your eyes with all the graphic goodness, is career mode. Play it offline, without that enormous 15GB update, and you’ll have access to four different leagues, which consists of numerous classes and races. Download the patch and you’re rewarded with double that number. There’s lots to keep you going as each league will take you roughly three hours to complete, with the latter classes being much tougher. As always you’ll start with a small number of Credits and build that number with each race you complete. Why? Well, to buy or upgrade cars!
Unfortunately Forza Motorsport 5 lost some traction when it comes to the number of cars on offer. There’s a mere 200 cars on the disc, with more available via DLC, but when you consider that the number was sitting at over 500 in Forza Motorsport 4 it’s a bit disappointing. What is more frustrating than anything though is the number of tracks. There are only 17 circuits to race on which, in simulator terms, is very low. Consider that three of the 17 tracks are actually part of that 15GB patch it makes the sound of 14 tracks, on the disc by default, that much harder to swallow. You’ll very quickly feel that you’re replaying some tracks numerous times. There is however is silver lining.
Because of the limited courses on offer you get to learn the ins and outs of each track that much better. Before you know it you’re driving in a McLaren P1 at breakneck speeds around Spa, Nurburgring or the Top Gear track and hitting each and every one of your brake points. Veterans will be glad to hear that there is at the very least a brand new and original track named ‘Prague’. It’s based in the Czech Republic and has racing curves and intricacies to die for. It’s easily one of my favourite circuits in a racing sim yet, but it can also be very unforgiving as it’s a track you tackle at top speeds. As before a quick tap of the ‘Y’ button will reverse time for you to correct a mistake, but you’ll lose Credits for doing so.
As I mentioned earlier, your credits can be spent to upgrade your cars. Thankfully the ‘quick upgrade’ option, that calculates your requirements for a specific upgrade (and for those n00bs in us), is still available for selection. For the hardcore you can tamper with just about anything – Engine, Platform and Handling, Drivetrain, Tyres and Rims, Aero and Appearance and lastly Conversion. The basic fundamentals are still there to make this game as fulfilling as it’s ever been. Where the real innovation comes into place is the much talked about Drivatars.
I’m going to be completely honest – I have created my own Drivatar, because it automatically does so with each race, but I have not yet raced any of my Drivatar friends online as most of them are based in South Africa and, at the time of writing, the Xbox One has not yet launched locally. It does indeed look promising, but we’ll have to wait on launch day to see if it works as well as we were hoping it would. I’ve also battled finding online games. The setup feels a little alien in that you have pre-selected modes and leagues to race in, so you never quite know where you’ll find a race. There are monthly tournaments, leagues, class and special event races, but most of them left me empty-handed. Again, once the local players are online this might change, but I found it bizarre to find so many empty lobbies. I at least expected some 10-year old American kid to mouth me off. I did not even get that.
Forza Motorsport 5 finds itself in an oily patch. It’s definitely a complete game and can’t be called a Prologue, but it’s nowhere near as deep as it’s predecessor. As a launch game it’s a great showcase of what the Xbox One is capable of when it comes to pure horsepower and thankfully Kinect has not been shoved down our throats (it’s merely used for head-tilt tracking now if that appeals to you, but can be switched off). The rumble in the left and right triggers also bring something new to the table, but it’s certainly not ground-breaking. Car enthusiasts will find that there is more than enough to love in the game, but just be aware that it’s not quite Forza Motorsport 4 on steroids.