Very few can resist the dense yet tangy taste on the tongue of burnt rubber and engine oil. Dissonant yet orchestral tones blazing from screaming vehicles as they race toward the distant horizon. The crunch of metal deforming metal in high-speed collisions and duels for position as the apex predator on each track. Epic tussles between gods wrought of steel and fibreglass rage across the world upon the battlefields. The battlefields of Forza Motorsport 5. Can Turn 10 bring us speed freaks the magical mixture of simulation and arcade gameplay we’ve all come to know and love in the Forza series?
Unsurprisingly Forza’s most obvious selling point is how good it looks. Each car has been loving created with every curve painstakingly recreated and each surface scrutinized until they reach perfection. Even the smaller details like the grill across the rear of a Ferrari 512TR and the transparency of light fittings are exquisitely detailed. You get the impression that a whole team has been assigned every vehicle and not allowed out of a cell until it’s perfect.
Even damage models are fairly realistic. If you’ve got full simulation active should you take a very nasty bump up the rear only to see the back left of your beloved Lambourghini Countach LP5000 deformed and broken, it won’t look over the top and ridiculous and maintain a sense of realism. Bodywork looks like actual body work supported by an underlying chassis instead of a clay model of pixels. The damage models do falter when it comes to windows however. Sitting in a revving car with each detail around you lovingly formed only to see the window crack with what looks like a white line drawn in paint by someone with caffeine withdrawal symptoms breaks the illusion.
Looking away from the cars for a moment the tracks themselves are adorned with so many smaller details you’ll struggle to spot them while racing. Waving flags, team trucks and broadcast helicopters are quite easy to spot but extra details from smoking food carts to suspiciously clean portapottys sit just behind the veil of each tracks beauty. Road Surfaces are flat upon closer inspection but without taking the time to nit pick they look 100% believable.The infamous Eau Rogue chicane of Spa Francorchamps joins Copse of Silverstone and the Corkscrew of Laguna Seca in amazing recreations of worldwide legendary corners draped across the landscape of Forza Motorsport 5, each one looking so good you’re filled with a strange mixture of joy to see them so well made and dread at messing them up and going into your rivals.
Without going on and on about the visuals Forza Motorsport 5 looks good. Very good.
Forza 5 doesn’t just hang back on it’s visuals and leave your other senses out of the picture though. As always with Forza the orchestral soundtracks swell in your ears and in this fifth major iteration they return with a vengeance. Choral harmonies meld with heart-pounding drum beats and string accompaniments to a point where they seamlessly add to the gameplay. Good music in games should never fade into nothing and never take center stage, and in Forza 5 the balance is perfectly met. Additionally, the instruments of racing – the cars – add their own unique engine tones and exhaust notes into a sensory treat which would bring a smile to the face of even the greatest skeptic of racing games.
There’s no shortage of gameplay here. There might only be 14 tracks in total but most have a number of variants in course length as well as a larger number of different event types. Besides the standard drive around this track against 15 other drivers to come high as possible there’s a bevy of different event types. From chase events where you go up against 3 other drivers vying to be first amongst a track of other less powerful vehicles to races against the Stig’s Digital Cousin, just one of the features from the Top Gear team which give Forza some much needed personality. They’re not exactly so crazy that the magnetic poles of the Earth will suddenly flip, but they are well placed during each series to keep the game interesting.
Getting into the thick of series there’s more than enough racing to be done. There are 8 series each featuring different classes of cars. Add to that each series holding between three and six sub-series across the class, and slap into each sub-series up to sixteen events ranging from standard races to bonus races. Completing each sub-series takes up to ninety minutes as you race through each event not to mention taking on the bonus events. Ninety minutes of racing is nothing to sniff at for a fan, and the amount of these sub-series is spectacular.
Screwing another wheelnut onto gameplay you’ll be taking on Rivals. No, not the latest Need for Speed, rival drivers. As you race Forza keeps track of your fastest lap on each circuit and slots you into a worldwide leaderboard filled with your friends and random players around you. As you progress through everything at the end of some races you’re offered the chance to take on your rivals in races to try and beat their times. This is done using their Drivatar.
Right Drivatars, hope you’re ready for an injection of information here.
Cloud computing is mated with learning AI to bring Forza’s greatest standout feature. Without going to in depth on artificial intelligence, the Drivatar system monitors the behaviour and driving style of the player and creates a named AI unit. When you turn off your Xbox One and go to eat a sandwich or head for work your Drivatar doesn’t stop. While you don your work uniform your Drivatar heads off into the series of tubes called the internet and takes part in races both with your friends and people you’ve never met. Many a time you’ll come home to find your Drivatar has been off doing thirty races against the world.
This system means that as you play through the game normally instead of being joined by a group of pre programmed robotic opponents you race against approximations of people around the cloud. The system normally favours your friends too, so you can send them angry messages as they ram into your rear end or mock them for coming in 10 places ahead of their Drivatar.
Drivatar brings Forza Motorsport 5 something no other racing game has. A system which lets you enjoy tense multiplayer-esque racing against names you’ll recognise without having to gather people together. This system is nothing short of incredible allowing for you to shout at the screen at people instead of at the game itself. There are of course already installed AI components which are in themselves exemplary, the use of cloud computing to bring Drivatar to Forza makes this categorically the most enjoyable driving game of the last 5 years.
Note how it wasn’t “best”, but most enjoyable. There are some features which bring Forza down. All of the vehicles and tracks are beautifully crafted and never fail to make you smile, there is something of a lack of choice down the line as your garage fills up and you do find yourself seeing the same tracks a little too often. Add to this a somewhat slow levelling system and currency problems which have been improved since launch but in the quest to get every car you are going to be grinding for a long time. Grinding through to get credits that is, grinding gears is pretty rare.
Forza Motorsport 5 is not just a racing simulation now. It’s the first on a grid of next generation motorsport titles which will push the boundaries of the medium and hardware to its limit. Such photorealistic imagery bolted to impeccable sound design and smart driving artificial intelligence is now the benchmark for any other motorsport games to reach. Regardless of how good future motorsport games will be, Forza Motorsport 5 is the pinnacle of what they are right now.