Although Forza Motorsport 5 was bundled with some Xbox One pre-orders, you certainly shouldn’t assume the latest release from Turn 10 is a low quality freebie. Fact is the latest edition is a very accomplished driving sim that truly shows off some of the console’s next-gen credentials.
Just like many of the super powered, super expensive, supercars it features, Forza is absolutely beautiful. The graphics are immense for a launch title and a real improvement on the previous games. When you’re not taking a few moments to admire your cars in your garage before races, eyeing their beautiful finish and personalized decals, then you’ll find yourself torn between concentrating on the road mid-race or instead gazing at the gorgeous vistas.
Turn 10 Studios has worked closely with car manufacturers and data specialist Calspan to come up with realistic, lovingly recreated cars in stunning 1080p resolution at 60fps. It’s a truly mesmerizing experience… even down to the damage modelling where you’re guaranteed to wince as the race concludes and your souped-up car comes into view, complete with dents and grazes.
For the real car aficionados, Forzavista lets you glance at your treasured cars from every conceivable angle. It’s like wandering around a car showroom without the threat of being thrown out for lingering and gawping a little too long. Although there are fewer vehicles than there were in Forza 4, there are still over 200 of them – ranging from classic sports cars to extreme exotics and even open-wheel race cars make an appearance. All handle differently and have their own advantages and foibles.
Each can be raced along the 14 great looking tracks on offer, which are all apparently uber-accurate and laser-scanned. Turn 10 has done a great job capturing tracks throughout the globe in microscopic detail, with gamers able to jetset to circuits in Switzerland or Spain and the Czech Republic, Australia, France, Belgium or the US. Even the Top Gear Test Track in the UK is included. Crowds stand trackside urging you on, while helicopters whir overhead and birds soar through the skies. Combined with the roar of the engines, the screech of the tires and the uncomfortable sound of every collision, there’s nothing that’s been overlooked. The presentation is top notch.
From the menu screen you can choose to go for the full blown Career mode, try to top the leaderboards by taking on Rivals, dabble at Free Play, where you can customize races or take on a friend in split screen, or go for the multiplayer. Alternatively, it’s very easy to spend your time drooling over the picture galleries, turn your hand at designing your very own liveries, or tune and upgrade your vehicle.
You start with a solitary car to tinker with and then it’s up to you to earn credits or collect tokens so you can afford to buy more for you garage. Each has a predetermined rating for speed, handling, acceleration, launch and braking – but these can be adjusted by taking your car for a tune up and buying all manner of components. After just a few minutes of tinkering, your customized vehicle can be transformed into a veritable powerhouse, ready to take on all comers.
The dulcet (!) tones of Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson introduce some sections of the game and he’s joined by Richard Hammond and James May, putting a cherry on top of the proverbial cake for all petrol heads. And with the infamous Top Gear test track making an appearance, you can see if you can turn your hand to the hairpins that have challenged the best.
Get a few races under your belt and the game creates your very own “Drivatar”, a virtual you that – thanks to the power of the cloud – races while you’re offline, echoing your abilities and unique driving style. The next time you log back in you’ll be rewarded with loads of credits. It’s all remarkably clever and helps you rank up a little more quickly than you would if you were just relying on your efforts. What’s more, all your friends will have a Drivatar too and you’ll come up against them when you race – making it feel like you’re playing multiplayer rather than bog standard AI. What’s more, you’re constantly informed of who your direct rivals are, their best track times and positions on the leaderboards.
There’s something truly exciting about being able to race against your friends even though they may not actually be online; it looks like their car and drives like them, it even bears their Gamertag – only difference is they won’t be swearing at your through the headset as you nudge their rear and send them into a spin on the home straight! It’s just a shame that many of my friends appear to be exceedingly good drivers and mega aggressive too… so even playing their virtual selves proves a challenge.
Other than having to contend with often aggressive rivals, you have to deal with some very twisty and unforgiving tracks, bright sunlight bursting through your windscreen and such sublime graphics that you’ll constantly be tempted to take your eyes off the road. The minimal HUD sees your position displayed in the top left corner, lap times in the top right, speed at the bottom right and a mini map and lap counter opposite. An occasional note about a rival’s time pops up too, as do congratulatory messages when you perform a perfect pass or draft.
There are several viewpoints to select, although it’s a real treat choosing the in-car option as you can ogle the attention to detail given to the dashboards, dials and steering wheel! It all looks fantastic – right down to the reflection of the track and other cars on your bonnet. Practically, it also provides a lower viewpoint which makes negotiating the tight turns and avoiding collisions a lot easier.
So we’ve gushed over the visuals but a nod should also be given to Turn 10′s efforts aurally. From the subtle background tunes to the guttural roar of the realistic-sounding engines that noticeably change after a tune up, the sound effects in the game are equally special. As is the controller. The acclaimed impulse triggers mean you’ll feel every twitch of the car while racing, providing instantaneous feedback. It really adds to the experience and is a fantastic demonstration of the gamepad’s overhaul.
As ever, the latest Forza is tough for newbies but accessible nonetheless. Fortunately, it’s fairly generous regarding placings and to earn a Gold award – and substantially better prizes – you only need to make it past the finish line in third place or above – which will give the majority of players a decent chance to boost their credits. Driver assists are switched on by default to make it a little easier to get into the swing of things but this affects your winnings. As you get a little more proficient you can reduce the amount of help you’re given and the points start to rack up. You can even spend some of your hard earned credits to boost your XP for a certain period of time, which will certainly help you obtain some of the better cars a little more quickly.
Alternatively, micro-transactions and DLC mean you can always delve into the online shop and part with real money to give yourself an advantage if you so desire. But be warned, if you don’t fancy a bit of a grind to earn the required credits, using this method of buying the most desirable cars could end up costing you more than the game itself!
Forza fans may feel a little disgruntled that this incarnation boasts fewer cars and circuits than in previous games – and the prevalence of DLC certainly grates a little, especially when it’s only recently hit the shelves. But set aside these issues and absorb the excellent graphics, the hum of the engines, the heightened sense of acceleration and braking thanks to the excellent rumble controls, and Forza Motorsport 5 is among the more impressive of the console’s launch titles. Whether you’re a petrolhead or not, Forza is instantly accessible and has enough content to keep you satisfied for some time to come.
This game was reviewed on Xbox One.