No console launch feels complete without some sort of driving game. While Sony has delayed their quintessential offering, Microsoft is coming out of the gate with one of their flagship franchises, Forza Motorsport. The fifth numbered entry in the series definitely showcases the hardware with its slick 60 frames per second and 1080p resolution, but a few omissions and questionable progression system dampen the experience.
This is Forza. The same visual superiority carries over to the Xbox One with super damage modeling, and car detail that continues to impress me on a daily basis. The handling of the cars is incredible and the overall presentation is slick, if not a bit smug. Everything I would expect from a Forza game is here and accounted for.
The game jumps off by throwing players into one of the higher-end cars in the game, and letting them get adjusted to the driving. There is no pressure to come out in first place, and a lot of the assists are turned on by default. Customizing how I play in Forza is almost as in-depth as perfecting my difficulty sliders in Madden. Deciding how much brake and steering assist I want, but also balancing how much of a challenge I can handle is a taxing process. Forza 5 also bases its reward bonuses on what assists are on and off, which also played into my decisions.
The career mode is no longer hinged to a specific path. Instead, this time around the developers have opened it up to let players jump around as they choose. After an initial series of races, I had the option to race any other class I had enough credits to purchase a car for. Obviously that meant I wasn’t able to jump right into the exotic races with some of the cover cars, but I was also not restrained to simply racing in the lower-tier sections either.
It can be a bit disorienting without structure. Some players enjoy being handheld into where to go next, and this change may intimidate them. I am one of those players by nature, but once I got the hang of it, I was enjoying being able to jump around at will.
What makes the actual racing more enjoyable this time around though is that pressure is not there to always finish first. Tiers are now based on placement, and I could nab gold rewards without coming in first. It kept me moving forward in my career, earning credits to buy new cars, and increasing my driver level. I prefer this system to the traditional winner-takes-all mentality. There are 200 cars in Forza 5, which might not sound like a lot to fans of the series, but the amount of grinding and credits that need to be earned make owning them all a seemingly endless endeavor.
This is where some of my issues come into play. There is a microtransaction system in place, which never bothers me in most cases. However, with Forza, there is no way to earn credits fast enough to unlock cars for certain events, without mindless grinding. This almost forces me to want to buy credits, and unlock new cars. There is also a $50 season pass that includes a bunch of DLC cars over time. While I am all for extending content, asking players for another $50 after they just spent $60 on the game feels a little excessive. Combine that with the push to sell in-game currency, and it feels designed to milk more money out of players.
I was OK with 200 cars, but there are also only 14 tracks, and with as much racing as I had to do to earn credits, things got repetitive fast. Each locale is gorgeous, and the new tracks are great additions, but I felt like it was recycled far too often. Some of the past favorites like Suzuka are missing. I am sure there will be more added with the upcoming DLC, but again this feels shady in the worst kind of ways.
Drivatars are a new feature that change the way Forza 5 handles opponents. I was never racing a generic computer AI in my single-player game. Instead everyone who owns Forza 5 gets a Drivatar that slowly learns how they play, and stores it in the Cloud. Then these users are pulled down (friends lists are obviously prioritized) into create opponents. This works on some levels by making races more interesting, but also showcases the bad side of how your friends play. My Drivatar is apparently a real dick. Break-checking other drivers, and using cars as padding on sharp turns. This is not uncommon, and actually makes for some hilarious racing. I love the feature, I just wish it was a little more refined.
The online portion of Forza 5 is a hot mess right now. The concept is awesome, and if it gets ironed out, it will be amazing, but right now it simply isn’t there yet. Smart Match is supposed to queue me up with players similar to me, but it also has to take into account the car class I have available. That means I can start up the search, go play single-player for a while and then jump in when a match is found. The problem is a lot of times it simply dumped me into a room by myself after waiting.
Hoppers are the different types of races that can be entered, and again these are all dependent on car class and such. I again found myself being dumped into matches without opponents. When it did work though, it was incredible. Online matches felt just like offline with no lag and smooth racing. I hope that the longer it stews, the better it will get. The matchmaking is a bit rough right now though.
Forza Motorsport 5 is a gorgeous racing game that continues the tradition of Turn10’s excellent attention to detail and style. I am not a fan of the way they are handling the progression system, and hope they can tweak it over time to be a bit more realistic. There is one car that could cost over $60 to purchase with DLC, which is insane. The Drivatar system is a great idea that again needs some tweaks, and the lack of tracks disappoints, but this is still a solid launch title to showcase Microsoft’s shiny new black box.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.