Forza Motorsport 6 – Review
Forza Motorsport 5 was a successful, but not entirely spectacular release from Microsoft’s Turn 10 Studios. Whilst the vastly improved visuals and handling softened the blow, there was an outcry over a perceived lack of content and the overbearing presence of micro transactions. 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of the very first Forza Motorsport, and just in time to celebrate that fact, Turn 10 Studios have polished off its sixth iteration, Forza Motorsport 6, and let it loose from the garage for the very first time.
I can safely say that many of the problems with Forza 5 have disappeared. There are over 450 cars and 26 different circuits, each with a number of varying layouts and weather conditions to suit. Rain makes its series debut in splendid fashion, and after many, many hours of play there isn’t a single microtransaction in sight. It all points to something new and wonderful, and in many ways it is. The handling has been updated and improved, and there are more cars on the track simultaneously than ever before. Nevertheless, there is a monotony to Forza that has been present in the series for some time now, and it largely remains here via it’s admittedly visually pleasing but largely unchanged presentation, and a dry, deadpan career mode.
To start off, you are dropped on to the picturesque streets of Rio de Janiero in a brand spanking new, not-even-released-yet 2017 Ford GT, letting you loose on the tarmac in a one lap contest with 23 other supercars and all the assists on. Immediately apparent is the colour and vibrancy of the circuit and it’s surroundings, as is the improved handling, amongst a host of other, more modest changes.
For instance, tyres that form tyre barriers are now all separate physics objects, meaning the next time someone goes careening into the wall, tyres will litter the track, leaving a trail of debris for you to navigate next time past. You no longer have to pay for damages at the end of a race, and happily you no longer feel like your car is stuck in a mud bog when you put a couple of wheels off track. T10 have instead opted to place large tyre barriers on the insides of corners that could be easily cut, which a far better way to handle corner cutting than some half-baked, slow-down system. You also have the ability to use Mods to change up your race experience. Mods are card packs that you can purchase using in game credits that, when applied, modify the behaviour of your car or the rewards you can receive at the end of a race. They vary in rarity; the rarer the card, the great greater scope for changes and rewards, and are a simple way to add a bit more diversity in the on track action.
Track presentation has always been one of Forza’s strong points, although a few of the real life circuits are missing some of the nuance that gives them their character. This doesn’t mean they are bad, not by any stretch. The circuits look amazing, with plenty of track side activity lending itself to the spectacle. The same goes for the fantasy tracks, as well. Rio de Janiero, for example, is quite the sight with sweeping undulations giving a dangerously distracting view of the gorgeous horizon. Sections vary from tight and confined to wide and open, all coated with the striking level of detail that you have come to expect from a Forza game.
Vehicle handling has been revised and dialled in even further. The suspension in particular feels like it’s had the most improvements, especially on some of the older, softer sprung cars. No longer do they feel like navigating a large boat through a narrow channel, instead the springs feel stronger and more responsive. The tyres also feel slightly improved, though they preserve some of the odd, overly slippy beyond-the-limit behaviour that has graced Forza since it’s inception. Thankfully, the Xbox One controllers rumble and haptic trigger feedback works wonders to give you the feedback you need to navigate the circuit as quickly and smoothly as possible.
For the first time in the series, Rain has been included as a weather setting. It’s not dynamic, so the track won’t start dry and transition to wet, or vice versa, but its been implemented really nicely. Puddles stretch across the track as if they are reaching out to grab you and pull you in, and its up to you to either try to avoid them by using a different line through a corner, or risk aquaplaning on the water surface, likely putting you into a spin and into the tyre barrier. Night racing also features heavily and has an effect on overall grip due to the colder track temperatures. It also excels at giving an epic sense of claustrophobia, particularly when you’re screaming down the Mulsanne straight at Le Mans at 300+ k/ph. Sadly, not all tracks are given the rain or night treatment, and you won’t find any tracks where it rain and the night time mix, which is a bit disappointing. In the grand scheme of things, though, it’s a much needed inclusion and its nice to see it finally here.
The career mode is a simple progression across various disciplines which T10 calls ‘Stories of Motorsport’. These multi-race series start you out in lower class hatchbacks, and as you progress up through through the ranks, you unlock the next tier. There are five tiers altogether, using cars ranging from old muscle cars to modern day hypercars, up to the super fast Le Mans prototypes. It’s a slightly antiquated approach, but thankfully they also include Showcase events, which are one-off style events which could be anything from a gated autocross time trial to a one on one face-off against The Stig’s digital cousin, and many of these can be accessed from the beginning, so at least this adds a touch of variety, if that’s what you prefer.
Multiplayer has a bunch of different hoppers you can jump in, similar to previous Forza games. You won’t have any problem connecting to servers or races, and despite the occasional warping and flying car, you’ll likely have very little problem outside of people using your car as their brakes. There is also a League mode now, which puts you into a series of races against a host of other drivers. Leagues are community events that are split into divisions that stretch across a week at a time, Players are placed in divisions depending on skill level and they battle it out for points and ultimately, the league title. Racing against human opponents is far more rewarding than facing the drivatars, largely due to the drivatars level of inconsistency.
The drivatar concept is brilliant on paper, and to be fair they have improved it over what was offered in Forza 5. Some drivers show better spatial awareness, and the sharp turns into traffic seem gone, too. This doesn’t mean, however, that crowd-sourcing AI from player drivers is the best idea in the world. Whilst it results in a set of drivers who are somewhat varied in their on-track behaviour, it’s so wildly inconsistent that even on higher AI difficulty levels, the AI just aren’t much of a challenge. Thankfully, Turn 10 goes out of their way to encourage you forwards by rewarding you at every given opportunity. At the end of every race, you’re given a bevy of credits, as well as prize spins for when you go up a driver level, allowing you the freedom to build up your car collection with some of the most spectacular cars in the world.
There is so much more to say about Forza Motorsport 6. It’s brilliant in so many ways, and yet in so many others it’s still the same, stubborn Forza. Regardless, it’s an incredible driving game. This is what Forza 5 should have been, and is a worthy upgrade for any fan of the series, or driving games in general.
James Swinbanks is a Games Critic currently writing for GameSpot, although you’ll still occasionally see him popping up on Player 2, because frankly, he loves the smell of the place.