I have had my ups and downs with the Forza Motorsport series. The original on the Xbox did get some attention from me, but at that time I was more into the arcade racers of the day. Yet Forza 2 and 3 became mainstays on the 360. I took part in many an organised event and had a wonderful time with both, even investing in a wheel.
Yet there was something about Forza 4 that just didn’t seem right to me after a while and thanks to getting an Xbox One a full year after launch, I had pretty much decided to skip most of Forza 5 knowing the 6th was due pretty soon.
I did dabble with it, it’d be rude not to but again it didn’t grab me like those earlier versions and I couldn’t put my finger on it. So here we are, Forza Motorsport 6 and a chance to jump in from the very beginning.
This is a hard one for me to review in many ways, as I feel I have been spoiled by some other racers over the past year or so. My simulation needs have been met by Project Cars (and there will be a few comparisons along the way) and my simcade needs taken by Driveclub and Forza Horizon 2.
It used to be that Gran Turismo and Forza were my go to games for ‘simulation’ but that has changed a lot for a couple of vital reasons and one of those is where Forza Motorsport 6 still struggles in my opinion.
One thing I have been very vocal about over the years is the career structure in simulation racing games on consoles. I don’t mean the unlocking of events and cars, as I don’t really mind that to a degree, my issue comes with race length and this insistence to start you in very short races without the ability to qualify and expecting you to hit a target position.
There are seemingly no options to change this, no concepts of full or half length races that allow you to really get into a racing groove. No qualifying that allows you to at least try and improve your grid position. Which frustrates even more when you can improve the Drivatar difficulty as you see fit.
The reason this really gets to me is because other games allow this and allow the game to be tailored to your needs. Whilst I understand Forza has gone down a path where it wants anyone to be able to play from the 3 year old using a controller for the first time and the 80 year old who has had one thrust at them, to the highly skilled racer who wants everything off. It means that it becomes very hard to get excited for much of the career, especially early on.
Project Cars has the perfect balance for this, allowing you to adjust, using sliders, the race length and AI difficulty before every event, meaning you really can get the races you want for any given situation and is one area where that shines and Forza Motorsport 6 really fails.
A new addition is the car mods. A concept that has come in from the world of the FPS, where you can buy and use temporary mods that offer various bonuses and dares, that you can use to earn extra credits or XP and is generally a nice touch.
However, whilst earning 10% extra credits for a race or 1000 credits for performing dares such as perfect drafts is a lovely thing to have, the mods that offer extra grip, better acceleration, higher top speeds etc at certain tracks, or even permanently as long as the mod card is installed, are terrible ideas.
It is fine in an arcade racer, but for a game that is aiming to be realistic this is purely poor judgement and again whilst it is an optional usage thing, it really shouldn’t be there, because it literally makes no sense in the way it is presented. If these mods were quick tuning changes or something like that, then fine, but not just cards that give you an advantage.
Now that is pretty much all the negative stuff out the way and apologies for lingering on those for so long, because Forza Motorsport 6 is the best Forza game yet where it counts…on the track!
Previous Forza games have had solid AI, but they have since been surpassed by other games that seem to handle AI personalities in a much better way and allow you to feel like you are racing personalities rather than dull bots.
But the Drivatar system, now further down the development line has really changed the game. Every car on the track is being fed racing styles by the entire Forza community, recording how every person races and then using that data to bring them into everyone else’s games.
It mainly seems to pull from your friendlist which is a clever feature, because all of a sudden that guy in front defending the inside line isn’t just an AI bot, that is that guy you know and he is driving like an arsehole, he is doing that on purpose, you want to beat that guy.
It really does change the mindset, when you see names of people you know instead of generic fake names. I was skeptical of the actual tech, but having seen my own son race in the game and then seeing how his Drivatar races, I can safely say they are pulling and using the data as promised.
My son has a habit of braking late and often taking corners wide, as well as being aggressive on overtakes and will often make contact with another car if they are in his way. So when I saw his car a couple of places ahead of me in a race, I could see all his traits there and it could easily have been him at the wheel.
The Drivatar stuff is impressive in its own right, but when Turn10 have introduced 24 car grids, it becomes very special indeed. Gone are the days where a race could feel very sparse and lifeless, it has evolved a hell of a lot and now feels like you are competing, no matter how far down the field you are. Which again is a shame, when the career mode is purely focused on winning, but I have dwelled on that long enough.
There also night races and wet races as part of the overall package. I thought Project Cars handled weather well, but here it is something special indeed. Puddles are apparently modeled in 3D and each puddle can have a different effect on the car, depending on the speed and angle you go through it and even how deep or large the puddle is.
Again I was skeptical, but after a race at Sebring, that skepticism was gone. Sure, as usual you had to brake early and be gentle on the throttle for corners, but usually when on a straight you can really hit top speed. Not here though, I was on the long back straight and I went to overtake another car after getting a good draft, hit a puddle on the side of the track and completely lost the car, as I aquaplaned off the track.
It isn’t always as spectacular as that though, it can be a lot more subtle, affecting your acceleration, or just losing that bit of momentum, it has a controlled chaos about it that just works. It is missing a proper track evolution aspect, but you feel that it will come at some point down the line. However, this is a game changer for wet weather racing and has set the standard.
One thing the Forza games have had since conception is that they look stunning and Forza Motorsport 6 is no exception. The details in the car are just sublime, but it is the extra details around the track that just add that extra little bit of wonderment.
Drive on some American tracks and you’ll see smoke from the infield where the fans are having barbecues, there are leaves blowing across the track and being thrown around as you drive past them. There are so many lovely little touches, that it would be impossible to list them all and I am still finding new ones the more I play.
Then there is the Forzavista, the mode for car lovers, where you can look at any car in detail, both inside and out and to someone walking in without knowing it is a game, they could be forgiven for thinking it is a video of a real car.
Despite my own personal issues with race lengths in the career mode, I have fallen in love with Forza Motorsport 6, it has truly evolved over the years and this is something special indeed. It also gets bonus points for not forcing me to listen to Jeremy bloody Clarkson.