So, the next generation of gaming machines is upon us and with it Turn 10’s race bred pedigree, Forza Motorsport 5. When I popped this into my Xbox One, I recoiled in fear, expecting my senses to be assaulted, nay obliterated, by the screeching of tires and heavy, tub-thumping beats but I was wrong. It starts not with the roar of engines or with the whine of superchargers but instead a delicate orchestral score, showcasing beautifully rendered locations and historic tracks, intercut with spectacular marvels of engineering... that I will soon most likely be writing off in spectacular fashion!
Forza 5 wastes no time getting down to the business of making your jaw hit the floor. Upon pressing the start button, Forza 5 decides ‘To hell with pleasantries’ and throws you in the seat of a $1.15 million McLaren P1 and demands that you re-enact the best scenes from Speed on the historic cobblestones of Prague. As I stamped the gas pedal (or crushed the right trigger) and heard that monstrous V8 scream to life, the first thing that hit me (other than the G’s) was the environment. Holy hell, is it something to behold! Each track has been painstakingly recreated to the point of digital doppelganger like proportions. That devil chicane on Leguna Seca – perfect, the twists and turns of the Burmese Alps (complete with snow-capped mountains that have stolen my eyes from the road more than once) –breathtaking, they even have Supercheap Auto advertising at Bathurst!
But it doesn’t stop there, oh no. What really makes these tracks poster boys for the next generation of gaming is the amazing use of lighting effects on display here. It gives every track a real sense of depth and realism, from the subtle to the overt, like the gleam off freshly waxed million dollar racing juggernauts as they dance through lengthening shadows of the day to the infuriating glare in your eyes from the sun as you barrel over a crest. Hell, even the reflection of my hands in the window screen blew my mind! These little touches, teamed with some of the most realised tracks in any racing game to date, makes for one hell of a visually compelling experience.
This does however come at cost and that cost is we only get twelve tracks. 12. That doesn’t seem so bad until you remember the previous instalment had 29. This shortfall becomes blatantly apparent when you start playing and it all too quickly becomes a bit of a grind, especially when you head to the same course twice in the same tournament.
But enough talk of nature and sunshine; let’s talk about the main attraction, the cars! With over 200 models ranging from unassuming jalopies like the Datsun 1600 to artificial penis lengtheners like the Lamborghini Gallardo, you’re bound to find one that revs your engine.
Each car has been beautifully and extensively modelled inside and out, that the game essentially dares you to look for imperfections with its Forzavista mode. In this mode you can survey the car from any angle, have a delightfully robotic woman recount the vehicle's history to you and even open the door, climb inside and scrutinise minute details, like the AC buttons on the dash (and don’t think I didn’t!).
The uniqueness of every vehicle doesn’t end simply on an aesthetic level thankfully, with each one having its own nuances and quirks to discover, master and end up exploiting. Jumping back into an AE86 Trueno felt like getting reacquainted with an old friend (minus the suspicious stains in the back seats). The handling was spot on, the body roll just right, the feathering of the throttle to maintain loss of traction in the rear - divine, it felt just like the Sprinter I used to own (down to the off-brown interior door trims!) and that is a testament to the time the designers put in to really making the cars feel like their real life counter parts.
As with all racing games, eventually your common sense is going to get the better of you and you’re going to want to whack a 600kw engine into a car only ever made to travel to the shops and back on Sundays. Thankfully Forza 5 handles this intuitively, allowing you to gets as hands on and as in depth as you want. Can’t be bothered playing around with gear ratios and figuring out what cams will suit you best? Hit the auto upgrade button and front the bill! Want to meticulously adjust the camber of your new coil overs one degree at a time to hit that perfect apex? Have at it (believe me, this will consume days of your life!).
In Forza 5, what defines ‘your’ car isn’t only confined to internal engine components and tires. Boasting a ridiculous level of visual customisation, Forza 5 allows you to turn your ride into a true artistic masterpiece and even share them online. Aside from the usual array of rims and stupid GT wings, you now have the ability to layer up to 5000 vinyls on one car, which has led to people creating some crazy reproductions of classic event cars; iconic movie cars and even game related ones (an MX-5 as Bullet Bill!).
One of the most interesting and game changing additions to Forza 5 is something called Drivatar. As you play, the game starts to learn how you race, how aggressive you are, whether you like trading paint and creates a virtual you. This Drivatar then goes out via XBOX LIVE and races in other people’s games as your representative. There are no stock AI racers and it is fantastic! Your opponents feel natural and are prone to human error as much as you are, which makes for some compelling races as drivers battle anyway they can for 1st place!
About now I expect to hear a few of you saying ‘Well if you love it so much why don’t you marry it!’ (because my social interactions still play out like I’m in grade school). Truth be told, Forza 5 has some pretty glaring flaws that I just can’t overlook, most of them revolving around two things: repetition and lack of content.
Forza 5 gets very repetitive, repetitive to the point of boring. After sinking a good 20hrs into it, it had become a joyless grind. There was nothing new for me discover. Nothing to keep it fresh, other than the constant reminder the game was forcing upon me to beat random people’s lap times. I expected more from such a pedigreed franchise. Simple things like different racing disciplines (rally or drift - c'mon, Forza Horizon had them!) or weather effects would have made a world of difference and kept me engaged.
The other major problem is the lack of variety in the cars available. A third of the roster is taken up by Ferrari and Lamborghini (which are boring to drive), a bunch of hotly desired cars were locked away in the form of day 1 DLC (what kind of monster denies you a Dodge Charger!) and half the cars are stupidly priced which brings us back to problem one... grinding for cash (or dropping real world coin!).
With all that said, Forza 5 is still an excellent game and a great first entry into the next gen racing market for Microsoft. The cars are beautiful, the racing is top notch and the new additions like the Drivatar mode really set a standard for all racing games to come. A mediocre track list, average car list and tendency to become all too repetitive have sadly tarnished what could have been one of the greatest racing games to ever grace our consoles.
Forged haphazardly from discount parts and blinded by the old world ideals of Sega fanboy-ism. Jonny Robot is half man, half machine and runs on the unstable fuel source of lukewarm coffee. He also owns an Atari Jaguar but can't justify why.... a burden he bears to this day.