My windscreen is cracked and I don’t know what will happen if it takes another hit. On top of that, the sun is so bright it’s making the road impossible to properly judge, and two cars are near me – I just have to get past them. Bang; more cracks – will it break? Thankfully I don’t have to find out as I pass them, only to finish fifth. Bloody fifth. And yet… my palms are sweaty and I feel like I’ve been through something here.
Welcome to Forza Motorsport 5.
The easiest thing to say about Forza 5 is that it’s very much the fifth Turn 10 developed Forza game in the series, thus it feels more or less like you’d expect. But the reason you’re buying this one is for the visuals and of course Drivatar, right? It’s gorgeous. There’s no caveat needed here, this is one of the outstanding launch titles for the Xbox One, full stop.
But there are moments you feel Turn 10 have gone slightly overboard with the visuals. The aforementioned glare of the sun is almost too much, and whilst that’s a real-life occurrence permeating into a video game, it feels slightly overdone. It adds a nice dynamic, of course, and the courses and vistas are breathtakingly stunning to look at. As your in-game avatar shifts gears and fights the steering to stop it spinning out, this is bliss to a racing game fan.
A small touch that adds so much is the new rumble functionality from the Xbox One’s controller. As you accelerate and decelerate you’ll get feedback right on your trigger fingers, which genuinely adds to the immersion – something that Forza 5 does incredibly well.
Drivatar is a horrible PR buzzword, but after experiencing it, it’s hard not to actually be impressed with it. The idea is simple: the game analyses your driving style and after a few races throws that style into the online cloud for others to race with. This actually replaces the traditional AI race opponents in single player, making for a far less sterile race environment. You can’t see exactly what is being calculated, but rather than cars following one another on a pre-ordained calculated path, there are bumps, crashes, and some wonderfully aggressive driving from these Drivatars. It’ll be fascinating to see how this progresses as the game is played by more people, but as it stands it’s looking mighty impressive.
Presentation is something Forza games always excel at, and that same clinical menu system greets you throughout, with a female American voiceover talking you through everything you’d ever need to know. Jeremy Clarkson (of Top Gear fame) appears occasionally to add colour (or annoy you if you hate him – Lord knows many do), and there’s a feeling of familiarity that will be welcoming to some, but not to others. It’s hard to come down on a racing game for being a racing game, especially when there has clearly been an effort to do something new with Drivatar.
Career progression is handled pretty much the same as always too, in so much as you have a progressive level for you (the driver) as well as a level for vehicles; a loyalty system. Credits are awarded depending on your performance (this time around you will get gold for finishing between 1st and 3rd, silver is the middle tier finish, bronze the lower tier) and can be used to upgrade or buy new cars. The upgrades are detailed beyond most casual motorsport fans’ care, but it’s fun to take an average car that you can’t get better than fifth with, and give it a cash injection to become the leader of the pack. There’s no real “story” to follow, just a series of races set in different sections.
Credits (CR) aren’t the only way you can upgrade, however: you can also use tokens. These are micro-transaction based, and combined with the constant reminder that you can rewind with a quick tap of the Y button, do spoil things a little bit. To their credit, the tokens are never forced down your throat, instead they are an option, and you’ll only find out what they are if you click them in the first place. Similarly, you don’t have to use the rewind function – nor should you!
There’s a decent amount of content in terms of cars, but there’s not a huge amount of circuits, and with more available at a later date, given the price of admission (remember, you’ll need to buy an Xbox One to play the game) this is a bit disingenuous – especially given how expensive some of the best cars are, and how much grinding it would take to get them. Multiplayer extends the life of a game that begs to be played, anyway. That said, Drivatar gives the feeling of multiplayer, even to those who don’t like to venture online very often.
One slight mar on Forza’s next-gen debut is the music. It’s an obvious attempt to create more tension, but it’s full of awful, out-of-place creations. The races are tense affairs already, simply because they are usually close calls – the music adds nothing, and when you notice it, you’ll want to turn it off.
However, none of these minor negatives change the fact that Forza 5 is a bloody great racing game. It feels pretty realistic (but not wholly so), but most importantly it is a lot of fun. When all is said and done, a driving game lives and dies by how it plays, and Forza 5 plays very well indeed.
VERDICT: It’s refreshing to play a racing game that doesn’t feel stale when played alone, and that’s all thanks to Drivatar keeping things fresh every time you race. Forza 5 looks absolutely gorgeous, which makes the lack of weather and night races even more glaring. But other than the terrible music, there’s very little to complain about.
SUPERB. This is the mark of greatness, only awarded to games that engage us from start to finish. Titles that score 9/10 will have very few problems or negative issues, and will deliver high quality and value for money across all aspects of their design.
Review code provided by publisher.