Forza Motorsport 6, more than anything else, feels like a reaction to Forza 5. The watchword here is “more”. There are more cars, more tracks, more weather effects – but can Forza survive on “more” alone?
When Forza Motorsport 5 served as a launch title for the Xbox One, it was forgiven for some of its perceived shortcomings – it’s never easy being first out the gate in a new hardware generation and most people know that your main job was to look really pretty ahead of any other design considerations. Forza Motorsport 6, it seems, heard the criticisms of the last game loud and clear and has attempted to address them by just packing content into the game.
There are over twice the amount of vehicles on offer – up to 450 over Forza 5’s launch total of 200 – from every manufacturer and driving discipline. The progression path hews close to the old ways with the game dropping you into some qualifying races to assess your skill level and give you a bit of practice before heading into the pro circuit. There are, as always, heaps of different race types to try out and progress through and Forza 6 includes 10 new tracks over the previous installment, complete with rebuilt Indianapolis Speedway to mirror its real world renovations.
Despite feeling at times like a reaction to criticism of previous games, Forza Motorsport 6 really does feel like Turn 10 Studios at the peak of their abilities. The Forza series continues to be the best racing simulator series this side of Gran Turismo and it squeezes in a number of features that even GT doesn’t yet boast. Chief among them, the sort of weather effects that will actually make you pull the car over so you can look at it for a minute. I haven’t ever seen rain and water that looks quite this lovely and realistic in a game before. Switch to the cockpit view for the full effect, you won’t regret it.
The way the water interacts with the tracks, however, runs the gamut between lifelike and infuriating. Often a puddle that would fall within the racing line would send me spinning out of control despite my every attempt to deal with it responsibly. It actually started to feel like the result of any interaction with them was decided at random, though the internal dice would frequently err on the side of cruelty. Thankfully, the rewind feature (that this series helped to define) keeps this from being maddening to the point of a full blown rage-quit.
Night racing is similarly lovely to look at and tactile in equal measure. It’s not playing around with the darkness however, with some tracks possessing only the bare minimum of visibility. Turn 10 have worked to make it feel different though, by including a lowered road temperature due to the sun being down. This means your tires interact with the road differently than they do during the day and as a result, night races become a different beast all their own.
Another area where Turn 10 have excelled is in their incredible simulation of momentum. Jumping into a Formula 1 race was a visceral, stressful experience. I jammed on the accelerator like I always do and the car responded with banshee scream and an acceleration that was seriously alarming. Though Indianapolis Speedway is a series of sloping, easy lefts, it felt like I was hanging on for dear life and by the end of the race I found myself sweating from the tension.
Features from previous games in the series make a return appearance – Mods, which arestat boost cards that can be collected and applied race-to-race, and spin tokens that can allow a player to win in-game cash or new vehicles to add to their garage for instance. Similarly, features like the game’s very enjoyable risk-vs-reward approach to difficulty also reappear. Taken as a whole, while these features may feel very familiar to fans of the series, they’re still quite unique when placed up against other racing games of this type. They give Forza a personality all its own and the series is better for them.
My only real complaint from a technical standpoint has to do with the racing line which, as frequently happens to me in Forza games, tells outright lies about where the best position for cornering actually is. Frequently it acts more as a vague guide rather than a hard-and-fast instructor. There is, in my experience, almost always a better racing line than the one the computer is trying to show you.
One area that feels a bit anaemic is in the presentation. Previously, Forza had relied upon the vocal stylings of the Top Gear team for colour commentary between races but with that show’s near-complete implosion earlier in the year, their presence has been severely diminished. Richard Hammond and James May still appear and have lots of interesting things to say but Jeremy Clarkson is nowhere to be found and his absence causes the voice-over interstitials to lose some of their character.
Forza Motorsport 6 is a game that is all about the little things. Its design is immaculate and many of the more interesting changes under the proverbial hood may go unnoticed by many players, but they’re the things that Turn 10 does better than almost any other racing game developer. Despite only really minimal changes from its predecessor and a loss of some of its personality, this is still a racing simulation par excellence and, inkeeping with its recent promotional material, it really does feel like what racing games have been moving towards.
Review Score: 8.5 out of 10
Highlights: Beautiful; deep customisation; seriously addictive
Lowlights: Puddles are bastards; lack of Top Gear hurts the game’s charm
Developer: Turn 10 Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Games
Released: September 15, 2015
Platform: Xbox One
Reviewed on Xbox One