As an avid car nut and gamer, nothing lights my wick as much as a brand new Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport title. One of those franchises has been relatively quiet over the last while, the other forked into a behemoth that not only covers pure vehicle simulation, but arcade racing action and even off-roading, in the form of the Horizon series. That franchise is, of course, Forza.
2015 marks the tenth anniversary of the Forza marque and with it comes the latest instalment in the simulation side of the franchise, Forza Motorsport 6.
The Xbox One launched with Forza 5. The game received generally positive reviews across the board but it wasn’t lost on the press, or the consumer, that the game had been cut considerably shorter than its predecessor to successfully meet the launch date.
Forza 6 takes what I considered to be a glorified demo, beefs up the vehicle and car rosters and packages them into a much more complete experience, with a few extra bells and whistles for good measure.
You’ll spend the bulk of your time in the game’s main career mode. This is split into five separate categories, each containing several races. The career mode is a linear experience which seats you in lower powered road going machines to begin with. As you advance, you are treated to more exotic rides; the end game being the ultimate racing machines, from LeMans prototypes to the returning Lotus F1 car.
I really like this approach. Other games, such as Project Cars (which I haven’t played, to be honest) allow you to race in any vehicle of your choosing from the get go, leaving, in my opinion, nothing to strive towards. Some might find the Forza system a bit of a “grinding” experience but rest assured, none of the cars in this game are overly slow or boring, which brings me to my first gripe of many.
Although Turn 10 have whacked a whopping 450+ cars onto the disc, I can’t help but feel that the variety is a little lacking. I know this is probably nitpicking but the other racing stalwart, Gran Turismo 6 has everything from kart racing to moon buggies. Forza’s offerings are always slanted towards performance. Sure, that fits in with a racing game but having an argy-bargy multiplayer race in dead-slow nana-mobiles can make for an incredibly close-fought, if a little sluggish, racing experience.
It should also be noted that there’s not much emphasis on modifying your cars. In fact, the option to do so is hidden back on the main menu and there’s really no need. I modified one car in my entire romp through the career mode and was promptly told that it was no longer legal for the current race, despite being in the same class as when I started (I was careful not to amplify the performance so much it’d move up a level).
It’s also not necessary to buy cars, unless you really fancy something in particular. For the most part there will be something in your garage that is suitable for the upcoming events, as you are awarded cars hard and fast, thanks to the returning “spin” system. It must be noted though, I bought the special edition console that came with an extra ten-pack of cars, so your experience may differ. It should also be noted that once you select a car for a racing series, you are stuck with it for every single race (no more than six at a time).
As for the tracks, the roster has increased in size and, as you’d expect, some will please and some will have you pulling your hair out like a meth-fuelled gibbon (they do that, right?). Seriously, if you like spending most of your time out of first gear, stay away from the Nascar Infield track. Obviously car and track preferences are truly subjective, though. There’s really something here for everyone.
As for the career mode itself, well, this was my biggest issue with the game. Forza 6 is touted as having a seventy-hour-plus play-through time. This is a bit of a false economy. You’ll breeze through the main mode in around fifteen hours. What makes up the other fifty-five-plus hours are the showcase events (more on these soon) and then the ultimate gaming no-no that was made popular in the late seventies; starting over.
Yes, that is correct – once completing all the races at the highest level, you are politely told (spoiler alert) that to get the best “Forza experience”, you need to re-play every single race in every single car class to truly complete the game. To be honest, once I’d played through the initial run, I felt no reason to carry on and do what had already been done, only in a slightly different car. In a nutshell, you need to play through the entire game six times to “clock” it. They also took a similar approach with Forza Horizon 2; I hope it’s not a tradition for future instalments.
As for the showcase events, these help add a bit of variety to the main career mode, which can become a little stale just driving for lap after lap. There are events from the god-awful “autocross” events which see you navigating through cone gates, to overtake challenges, manufacturer battles and one on one fights with the Top Gear’s Stig.
Speaking of Top Gear, the relationship between the TV juggernaut and Forza has been watered down a little, but it’s still present. James May and Richard Hammond pop in from time to time to woodenly voice introductions to various segments of the game but they are simply identified as “automotive journalists”. Jeremy Clarkson is completely absent, for face-punchingly obvious reasons.
Okay, so I felt there could be a little more variety in the car roster and that the career mode was a little bit of a laziness, but how does the game actually play?
Once again, Turn 10 have nailed it… in most ways. The cars behave exactly as their real-world counterparts, they look fantastic and they sound so good you can almost smell them… not that that makes any sense. Where things fall apart a little, however, is with the AI vehicles. For a start, there are just too many of them; twenty-four, to be precise.
The game places you smack-bang in the middle of the action in position fourteen. Now, having so many cars on the road is fine if you’re in a real-world event as you have time to carefully pick your way through the pack. Not so in Forza, especially the earlier races. With only a couple of laps to each race (in early events in particular), the only way to get to the front of the pack is by treating the other cars with about as much respect as you show a cockroach that’s swimming in your favourite beer. You really can’t take the gentlemanly approach, or the finish line will be upon you before you can blink.
Other issues I have with the “AI” are the oddly balanced difficulty and the returning “Drivatar” system. In nine out of ten races, I made it into second place relatively quickly but there was always one car that, as if by Satan’s magic, was able to streak ahead and remain there until I caught him (or her, for PC reasons) near the end of the race. There were also a couple of instances when I ran a damned near perfect race and ended up half a lap behind the leader, who was IMPOSSIBLE to catch.
And as for that Drivatar system, Turn 10 claim that the AI cars are based on the behaviour of real-world players. The problem with that is, real-world players don’t know the first thing about driving a race car and, to be honest, can drive like dicks. I should know, I’m a real world player! In some ways this is commendable but it certainly makes overtaking a bit of a nightmare at times. Whilst Gran Turismo might take a more “on rails” approach, their dumdum cars behave more respectfully and stick to the racing lines, as professional drivers tend to do, not zigzag across the road like a drunken teen from Road Cops.
Back to the positive; there are a couple of new additions to the series. For the first time ever in a Forza Motorsport title, players can race at night time or in wet weather (though not simultaneously).
There’s nothing quite like booting along the main straight at LeMans at 300km/h with nothing to light your way but a set of piddly little headlights. It’s an incredible adrenaline rush. Similarly, racing in the rain ups the challenge magnificently. Not only must you be careful with the throttle control to avoid having an unfriendly meeting with a wall, you must, at all costs, avoid the puddles. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in a console game (that I know of) realistic “puddle physics” will either see your car aquaplaning out of control, or grip the tires with their watery might, quickly sending you off the black stuff. The only gripe I have with these weathery additions is that they are hard-baked in and not dynamic in any way.
Another new feature is the mod system, which lets you choose various, well, mods, that can either boost or hinder your driving ability, in return for rewards such as extra XP or cash. These mods could be anything from improved braking or grip to forcing you to play from the chase view. To be honest, the mod system feels gimmicky and you’ll quickly forget about it. I did.
Looking back on this, I seem to have been a bit harsh. I have put a lot of time into Forza and (without having played Project Cars) it’s by far the best racing simulator experience available on any current gen console.
Yes, there is a multi-player mode, too. I had a go at it, but like with all multi-player games, there were far too many good players out there and I simply got thrashed. If socialising digitally is your thing, there’ll be loads more fun to be had, especially with so many real-life humans vying for the podium positions.
Despite its quirky AI (which, if I’m honest, is technically very clever), lazy career mode and unneeded mod system, Forza 6 offers up a massive, deep and engaging racing experience. The game is an absolute stunner to look at and the feeling of speed is incredibly exhilarating. Blasting through the cobbled streets of Rio in a 1967 Formula One car was more fun than I’d had in a digital GP machine since Super Monaco GP on Sega Mega Drive. It should also be said that these gripes are my gripes and possibly my gripes alone. Forza 6 is well worth the purchase for any racing fan and it’s certainly a worthy addition to the franchise, it’s just not perfect. But what game is?
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Also available on: N/a