Ah Forza. I’ve had a superb time with the series of the years, each one arguably better than the rest in many ways. Forza 4 is still on the very top of my most favorite games ever played and whilst that’s not to say it’s the best game ever, it is the one game I could continue playing forever more. It’s my desert island game if you will.
So the excitement that swept through my body once I heard Forza 5 was coming out as an Xbox One launch title was huge. It was the one game I HAD to have and was easily going to be the first game I threw into my shiny new console. But it had a lot to live up to. It has to be off that starting grid quicker than Forza 4, it has to be cleaner in the corners than Forza 4 and ultimately, it has to be faster round the track than Forza 4. In short, it has to beat its predecessor hands down or I won’t be happy.
I’m not usually one for drooling over trailers and scouring the web for every single piece of information I can find on games. I like them to drop through my letterbox so I can pick them up and open the cellophane wrapper like a little kid on Christmas Day. But this time things were different. For the first time, I was writing about a Forza game. I was covering Forza videos. I was reviewing a Forza game. I had no choice but to scour that web for info I didn’t really want to know about, but you know what, it was bloody great and just heightened that Christmas feeling even more.
And now it’s here. Forza 5 is mine and I have to review it. God damn, nervous ain’t the word!
So what have we got? Well, take Forza 4, add a load of shiny next generation stuff minus a few tracks and cars and you’ve got yourself the latest greatest car racer on the Xbox One.
Minus tracks and cars you say? Um, yes afraid so. Whilst Forza 4 had 26 circuits and 500 cars, it’s successor has to make do with a measly 14 tracks and just the 200 racing thoroughbreds from the off. This is mostly due to that fact that the cars and tracks scrapped just weren’t worth the effort in terms of new capture or updates. Whilst that’s fair enough and I guess we’ll get to see more vehicles in Forza 6,7 and 8 as the new generation gathers steam, it does bring a tinge of disappointment to proceedings. You can be sure that more cars will be added each and every month (with Turn 10 promising at least 10 a month for a while), those will only be available to those who wish to spend real world cash grabbing them. The standard pick up and play gamer probably won’t bother to purchase these and so will be left with just a ‘measly’ 200 or so, even if some of these do include the new open wheelers, most notably the 2013 E21 Lotus, this years F1 charger. Richard Hammond once said ‘Nothing can prepare your mind for the assault’ when speaking about the F1 motors and believe me, the Lotus in Forza 5 lives up to that statement. It’s unbelievably good, as is the big name McLaren P1.
If you don’t want to fly around in the E21 or P1, you can of course stick with your more sedate cars. The usual class system is in there and we now run through D,C,B,A,S and R before hitting the real quick stuff in the X class. That means that your usual suspects of Focus’, fast Beemers and little Lotus’ are there and these handle and act much as you would expect them to. Obviously you’ll possibly be missing a few favourites but after many hours with the game, my only tears car wise is due to there being no Seat Leon for me to hack around in.
And whilst a reduction in cars is a hit, the reduction in tracks hits home even harder. The Nordschleife is the biggest name casualty and it doesn’t seem right that this iconic track isn’t in the biggest selling racer on Xbox One. It was a massive draw in my eyes and will be sorely missed and again, whether it reappears in later versions of the game is anyones guess. We do however have a couple of new legendary circuits to replace it. Namely Spa and Bathurst, two of the biggest names in motorsport folklore. It’s obvious that Spa has come in to satisfy the F1 crowd and hammering that Lotus F1 car round there strangely feels better than whenever I do it in the actual F1 Xbox 360 game. Meanwhile Bathurst holds a special place in my peoples hearts for many reasons, my own personal one being the fact it reminds me of another favourite ever racing game, TOCA 2.
But you know what, if you can get past the issues of less cars and less tracks, the rest of it is better than it’s predecessor in many ways.
None more so than the introduction of force feedback through the triggers. It’s an Xbox One addition but the way Turn 10 have implemented it in Forza is second to none. For the first time you can actually feel the sensations of driving through the trigger fingers and this seems to bring another dimension to the whole racing genre. In fact, due to a battery power issue, I found myself needing to swap the controller batteries out as soon as I lost the feedback because it actually felt strange not feeling when the tyres were on the edge.
Another outstanding addition that has only been made possible through the power of Xbox One is that of Drivatars. No longer do you play the single player game racing against soulless AI opponents. Nowadays, each and every one of those drivers on the grid alongside you will take on the characteristics of someone else around the Forza world. Whether they be your friends, or friends of friends, or complete and utter strangers, you’ll only know when checking the starting grid before the race, but whatever they are, they are real….ish. It’s made the single player races more exciting, and where you would quickly learn how to beat the AI in previous Forza games, now that they take on the thoughts and aggression of real world racers, you don’t really know what they are going to do until they’ve done it.
Sharing what those Drivatars have been up to is another highlight. Not only can you get Xbox to ‘record that’ but you can also save many in-game photos and video clips to the Forza servers in order to show off your driving skills, or the aggression of your friends Drivatar in a certain race. It’s brought in an amazing social element to the game and gives you the chance to have a laugh at yours or your mates expense at a later date.
Both the graphics and audio have been subject to the next gen brush and what was already very very good, has just gone into the awesome category. We’ve seen many a screenshot of what the Xbox One can achieve with it’s immense power, but until you actually see a game running, I don’t think it can prepare you for how sexy things actually look. Forza 5 is one of, if not THE best looking game I’ve ever seen. The tracks are detailed beyond belief with a circuit of Prague and a blast up through Eau Rouge at the new Spa track being absolute standouts for me.
The cars are just as detailed (inside and out), and it really is coming to a point where it is getting increasingly difficult to spot the difference between real world shots and that of a Forza garage vehicle. I’m still not convinced that the Mini below isn’t one from a BMW garage! As is now standard by Forza standards, there is the option to look into all cars in a more detailed way through the use of ForzaVista.
As mentioned above, the audio is also top notch with each and every car having it’s own perfect exhaust note as you blast your way around the gorgeous tracks. The tyre squeal as you pull away from the grid and wind your way around tricky corners is second to none and you really do need to have your TV up at a reasonable level to fill the full effects of the sound. Just make sure you switch it down again when sitting in menus because the musical accompaniment to these gets a little irritating after a while. *Xbox Mute!*
With the option of running through over 40 career leagues, each consisting of more than ten races split over varying race modes (mostly circuit racing but you will find the odd chase race and autocross event in there), you’ll see there is a fair bit of game time to be found with Forza 5. You can also throw in the Rivals modes allowed you to beat your friends and those around the world on set time attacks and the like, and free play mode giving you the option of racing however you like, even with a friend via split screen. And it wouldn’t be Forza if they wasn’t any multiplayer and so it’s no surprise to see this included as well. There’s not really a lot to separate the multiplayer from any other standard racer and we just see the usual race modes available with circuit, timed, drift, multi-class and elimination events to hack around with friends to. It would be nice to have seen some more, different modes included in the first release on next gen but I’m happy enough with what we’ve been given for now.
All in all Forza 5 is great. The tie in with Top Gear is nice although it could have been much deeper (the football from the last version has been taken out for instance), but the racing is of the usual Forza class. I’m not a big one for painting my cars up, but those who enjoy the decal side of things will be happy, whilst those who are just interested in driving fast will also be more than satisfied.
It looks lovely, it sounds lovely, it plays lovely.
But with the cut in tracks and cars, it’s not a massive step up from Forza 4, with number 5 being more of a step sideways with a view to moving forward, than the massive jump we would have been after.