Below is a video review of Forza Motorsport 6. The written version of the review can be found after the jump.
Play Forza Motorsport 5 these days and you’ll find a very different game to the one that launched alongside the Xbox One back in late 2013.
Initially criticised for a lack of content and a cynical car-buying system that forced you to either cough up real money or drive the equivalent of a trip to the fucking moon just to afford a Mini Metro, Forza 5 felt less like a definitive new-gen racing experience and more like an unfinished money-spinner.
In the year and a half since though, Forza 5 has been improved. The snidey money system was massively overhauled, making it far less of an ordeal to unlock cars with in-game currency, and a bunch of free tracks were added, giving players access to the likes of the Nurburgring, Long Beach and Road America at no extra cost.
Why am I wasting my time telling you about Forza 5 when Forza 6 has just come out? Because those improvements made to the former have made the latter seem slightly less revolutionary.
To someone like me who’s already pumped well over a hundred hours into Forza 5, parts of Forza 6 feel a bit more like a Game Of The Year edition. Forza 5 launched with over 200 cars and Forza 6 has over 400, but a lot of these ‘new’ cars are just Forza 5 DLC that’s now available as standard, as well as some cars introduced in spin-off game Forza Horizon 2.
Likewise, the number of tracks has also increased to around 25 or so, but this includes the 17 tracks from Forza 5, including those free DLC ones. If you’re buying Forza 6 purely for new content, then, you may be left wanting.
Where it does innovate is its new weather options, with both rain and night racing added for the first time in a proper Forza game.
Let’s face it, racing in the dark is hardly a new experience so that’s not really a massive deal other than the lighting looking quite nice.
Wet weather isn’t a new concept either – far from it – but it’s what Forza 6 does with it that’s brilliant. In most racing games rain tends to do little more than look pretty and make your car’s handling a wee bit slippery. Here actual puddles form on the track, and not just for decoration either.
Go through a puddle head-on and the best-case scenario is a drastic reduction in speed and a lovely splooshy noise that sort of makes you want to do it again even though it fucks up your lap time.
The worst-case scenario, though, is aquaplaning. Hit a big puddle at a fast enough speed and your car will basically glide over it, leaving you with absolutely no grip as if you were racing on an ice rink.
This means dealing with rain in Forza involves far more than just braking a bit earlier before turns: the puddles mean you have to actually rethink your entire racing line to take the soggy bastards into account.
Speaking of racing lines, Forza’s brilliantly in-depth assist system returns and is as detailed as ever. All manner of aids can be turned on and off, from braking and steering guidance to full and partial racing lines, to stuff like ABS and the like that prevent your car from spinning around like one of Cesaro’s opponents. Wee wrestling joke there.
The clever thing about these aids is that Forza 6 rewards you for turning off as many as you feel you can. Every turned off assist adds to a credit bonus that pays out extra in-game currency when you finish a race. The more help you refuse, then, the more money you make and the quicker you’ll be able to buy the fastest, shiniest cars.
It’d be all too easy to slap all the assists on and breeze through the game like a boss, but the promise of greater rewards leaves you with the feeling you’re missing out if you don’t up your game. It’s a brilliant way of encouraging players to come as far out of their comfort zone as possible and tweak the difficulty to just about what they can manage, which in turn makes races much closer and wins more satisfying.
Again, this won’t be anything new to Forza 5 fans, but in an age where developers often constantly tweak game modes for the sake of it, I’m glad Turn10 stuck went with an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” policy here.
One area where it possibly could have made improvements, though, is car customisation. It’s a wee bit frustrating that we’re now six Forzas in and we’re still using the same vector-based layer system to create decals. It’s used to keep file sizes down and keep designs looking sharp but we live in an age of broadband now and the designs look all pixellated up close anyway.
Granted, there are some massively talented artists out there who can do magic with the in-game tools, making really impressive decals that look just like the real thing. But all this does is continue the class system Forza customisers have forever found themselves in, where those who don’t want to dedicate countless hours intricately putting small shapes together are at the mercy of those who do.
Maybe I don’t want a car with Lego Marvel superheroes on the back of it, but what else am I going to do? Spend 20 hours making my own? Away and fuck.
The solution is simple: let us upload our own images and slap them on our car. Make us upload them through OneDrive if you need to – keep it on-brand with Microsoft and that – but just make it possible.
I want a Celtic FC badge on my car. So let me just put it on it. Otherwise, if we need to do it in layers, then if nobody makes one I never will, because the best I can do looks more like Celtic commissioned Picasso to design it.
It’s not outwith the realms of possibility, you know. WWE 2K16 is letting players add their own uploaded images to created wrestlers, even letting them use them online. The next step for Forza then, in my eyes at least, is giving everyone a level playing field to design cars as they see fit. As it is, I’m stuck using the text tool to dump my website address on the side of my car as if I was a shit plumber.
An element that has been massively improved, though, is the rewards system. As I said before, Forza 5 was slated at launch for its focus on microtransactions and its overly-stingey car-buying system. Forza 6 is the biggest evidence that Turn-10 has been listening, as not only has it completely done away with any sort of microtransactions, it also chucks cars at you like it was a pantomime dame lobbing sweeties at kids in an audience.
Every time you level up – which, initially, is every couple of races – you get a spin which earns you a new car, loads of money to buy one or mods, which are special cards that can be used to boost your car’s stats or give you challenges that earn you more cash. By simply playing through the career mode, you’ll find yourself gathering an impressive fleet of cars without really doing much: a far cry from the endless bin-raking you had to do just to afford a wee banger in Forza 5.
Of course, all this would be a waste of time if the game itself was rubbish and thankfully that isn’t the case here. Forza 6 may not be massively different from Forza 5 but that means the same satisfying gameplay remains present and accounted for too.
Some people aren’t big fans of the slightly floaty feel of the handling and it could be argued that the cars in Sony’s DriveClub have more weight to them, but as someone who admittedly can’t drive and doesn’t know his Yaris from his Volvo it still feels fine to me – certainly better than that shite pun.
It’s gorgeous too. As with its predecessor it happily rolls along at 60 frames per second and renders natively at 1080p. The only real visual shame – and you have to be a proper wank to let it bother you – is that the rear view mirrors are running at 30 frames per second. You’ll barely notice it but for those who aren’t technical types this basically means it’s running half as smoothly as the rest of the game.
That minor niggle aside, the game’s lovely. The in-car view is the stuff of beauty, especially when the rain starts arsing it down and the window wipers start giving it big licks. And though I’ve never really been fussed about realistic racetracks – I’m a sucker for scenery, you see – I love the courses set in real-life locations, like the amazing-looking Rio track.
The only other thing I haven’t touched on is the career mode. It’s perfectly functional and does the job but, once again, it’s little more than Forza 5’s career mode repurposed.
Granted, it’s now split into chapters, which is just a fancier way of breaking up the car divisions, and there are now one-off Showcase races whch have you doing a range of stuff like knocking over bowling pins, but for the most part you’ll just be picking a car, racing it, then repeating this process over and over. Perfectly fine, mind, just nothing ground-breaking.
The only major drawback Forza Motorsport 6 suffers from is the greatness of Forza Motorsport 5. Its predecessor nailed the gameplay and the graphics so effectively it set a bar that has proven tricky to clear by any massive distance. After all, cars can’t jump.
Nevertheless, Forza 6 has still cleared that bar: albeit only just. Its wheels sort of clipped the bar as it went over it. Look, just forget the fucking bar, that isn’t the point.
The point is if you’re either relatively new to the Forza franchise or you only played Forza 5 casually, Forza 6 will blow you away and keep you entertained for hours on end.
If your time with Forza 5 went beyond the 30 or 40-hour territory though, Forza 6 won’t feel so jaw-dropping. You’ll have seen a lot of this before, even though what’s new is fantastic.
Is it the best racing game on Xbox One though? Welllll. It’s certainly the best ‘realistic’ one, definitely relegating Forza 5 to the ‘£4.99 at CeX’ status that inevitably comes with older franchise instalments. If it’s serious racing you’re after, Forza 6 is without a doubt the answer.
But for sheer entertainment, I reckon its free-roaming cousin Forza Horizon 2 is still the champ. This is a game that happily lets you drive a Ford Transit van through a field or race an old army Jeep around a quaint Italian village. If Forza 6 is for petrolheads, Forza Horizon 2 is for dickheads. In a good way, I mean.
But I digress. Forza 6 is the shiny new thing, not Horizon 2, and while it isn’t reinventing the wheel you’ll still have a great time with it, as long as you don’t mind a racer that takes itself a wee bit too seriously.