Played on: Xbox One
Available on: Xbox One
2014’s Forza Horizon 2 was a beautiful open world racing game, that gave players the freedom to explore the south of France and north of Italy in some of the world’s most desirable cars. It was a game that was passionate about driving; beautiful cars, stunning views, and the unparalleled joy of taking a car out on the open road and exploring. I said it before when I reviewed Forza Horizon 2 for TheCultDen and I’ll say it again now; in the words of former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, Forza Horizon 2 had soul.
Soul is not a word, however, that can be used to describe Forza Motorsport 6, with its sterile menus, business-like presentation, and corporate tutorial voiceovers. In fact Turn 10’s latest entry in their Xbox exclusive racing simulation franchise is a very different, albeit equally as excellent, beast. The key difference is that where Forza Horizon 2 perfectly captures the joys of driving on the open road, Forza Motorsport 6 perfectly captures the thrills of racing on the track.
Forza Motorsport 6 is the second game in the Forza Motorsport franchise to release on the Xbox One, nearly two years after its predecessor, Forza Motorsport 5, launched alongside Microsoft’s current generation console. Forza Motorsport 5 felt rushed, with too few tracks and cars, and a presentation that wasn’t quite the generational leap everyone was hoping for. Forza Motorsport 6 rights those wrongs however, and it’s clear that Turn 10 are also hoping to remind everyone that whilst Playground Games’ Horizon spin-off franchise is all about driving with soul, the main series is, as ever, about racing with precision.
Forza Motorsport has evolved over the years since the franchise first started on the original Xbox over 10 years ago. Initially Forza was a direct competitor to Sony’s ultra-realistic (but not very fun) Gran Turismo franchise, but over the years Forza’s default handling model has loosened up, making the driving a little more fun, if a little less realistic. With Forza Motorsport 6 the default handling model now has a tendency towards drifting, and when combined with the new ability to add vehicle mods for races (such as extra grip on certain tracks), and the returning option to rewind time when you make a mistake, Forza Motorsport 6 now has a plethora of options to cater for the more casual racer.
There is, however, still a racing simulation buried just beneath the surface in Forza Motorsport 6, and gamers who are willing to invest some time digging in the game’s options screens can really get into the nitty gritty of real world racing and tailor their experience to their tastes. With the handling model set to simulation, the various assists turned off, and with a few hours invested in the car tuning menus, Forza Motorsport 6 can provide an intense and challenging racing simulation as good as any Gran Turismo game, and equal to the recently released Project Cars.
Importantly, whether you choose to go for pure simulation, or stick with the more Horizon-like default settings, Forza Motorsport 6 provides an enjoyable racing game that’s easily the best in the franchise to date. The assists and mods can be altered to increase or decrease the difficultly of any given race, and the AI’s skill level can be tweaked to provide a nice challenge, though the game’s Drivatars (AI racers that learn how to drive via the game’s community) are prone to making some horrific errors of judgement at times. Nonetheless the options given to players within Forza Motorsport 6 to customise and tailor their experience is something to be admired.
The number of cars and tracks on offer in Forza Motorsport 6 is also more than generous. Turn 10 have included over 450 machines for you to throw around 21 tracks. Forza Motorsport 5 offered much less, relying instead on paid for downloadable content, and whilst Forza Motorsport 6 will no doubt give you the option to purchase more cars and tracks in the future as well, it’s hard to argue with the generous offering provided by the core game.
As well as improving vastly on Forza Motorsport 5, the team at Turn 10 have also pinched some of the best ideas from Playground Games’ sister franchise, Forza Horizon. Prize spins have been integrated into Forza Motorsport 6’s core gameplay meaning that you’ll be racing in and owning some of the game’s best cars by the time you reach your second or third starting grid; I won a Bugatti Veyron on my first ever prize spin, for example. Showcase Events have also made the transition from Horizon to Motorsport, giving racers the chance to indulge in some Top Gear style challenges, test drive some beautiful cars, or take part in some iconic races, such as lapping around the Indianapolis Speedway in a 230mph Indy race car.
The presentation in Forza Motorsport 6 is immaculate, and this is yet another area that deserves a lot of praise. The Xbox One has often been said to be this generation’s inferior console, but Turn 10 have proven that Microsoft’s machine is more than capable of achieving the current generation’s golden standard; the engine maintains a solid 60 frames per second at all times, with the 1080p graphics showcasing the beautiful cars and tracks.
The addition of wet weather and night time racing is also a first for the main Motorsport franchise. Wet races dramatically alter the handling of cars, forcing you to re-think your racing lines and overtaking strategies with each passing lap, as puddles quickly build up and the risk of aquaplaning increases. Night races, on the other hand, make the track surface and tyres cooler, though the impact on handling is much less noticeable than the addition of water to the track’s surface. Some tracks, however, have long stretches without any sources of light, other than your headlights, and these stretches can be treacherous once again forcing you to adjust your racing strategy to account for the near total lack of visibility.
Whilst both wet weather and night time racing are thrilling and welcome additions, it is important to highlight that Turn 10 have hand-picked the tracks that feature these options; not all of the game’s tracks come with night time and wet weather variants. You also can’t combine these conditions, meaning you won’t be racing in the pouring rain at midnight. Furthermore, Forza Motorsport 6 doesn’t feature any dynamic transitions between night and day or dry and wet weather, something that Forza Horizon 2 did include. There’s no doubt that the lack of dynamic weather and time of day is due to the bump up to 60 frames per second (Forza Horizon 2 was only 30 frames per second after all), and therefore this design decision can be justified. Nonetheless, it’s a shame that these features are absent, and it’s hard to see how Forza Motorsport 7 could be feasible without including a full suite of dynamic weather and time of day options.
I’d be remiss not to also mention the multiplayer, an aspect that is so important within the racing game genre, and where Fora Motorsport 6 continues to shine. Even with 24 online racers on the track the engine remains rock solid, with the added bonus that the often erratic Drivatars are eliminated. Forza Motorsport 6’s new Leagues system does a good job of ensuring that you go up against racers with similar skills and race styles to yourself. If a fun game of track-long bumper cars is your cup of tea then the Leagues system will try to place you with similarly aggressive racers, whereas if your preference is for flawless precision races then the Leagues system will look to accommodate this instead.
Turn 10 have gone all out to make Forza Motorsport 6 one of the best racing games available, and they have succeeded. The slimmed down offering of Forza Motorsport 5, with its reliance on additional purchases, is long gone with Forza Motorsport 6 delivering a generous package that also borrows some of the better ideas from Playground Games’ Forza Horizon franchise. The inclusion of the Top Gear track, alongside voiceovers by James May and Richard Hammond (but unsurprisingly, not the controversial Jeremy Clarkson), only further adds to the feeling that Forza Motorsport 6 is now the leading authority in video game racing. It’s hard to see where the franchise can go from here, but that doesn’t detract away from the excellence of Forza Motorsport 6 in the here and now.
Turn 10’s stunning presentation, expansive list of tracks and cars, hours of racing, and in-depth customisation options all combine to make Forza Motorsport 6 one of the best track racing games available at the moment. If you’re looking for a game that’s as full of soulful driving as Forza Horizon 2 then, in all honesty, Forza Motorsport 6 is not that game. It makes up for this, however, with cool, considered and meticulously crafted racing instead.
If Forza Horizon 2 was a game all about the soulful joys of open world driving, then Forza Motorsport 6 is a game all about the precision thrills of track racing. Both are equally excellent in their own right, and perhaps more importantly, the Forza brand now finally represents this generation’s gold standard for racing both off the track and on it.
Images from http://www.forzamotorsport.net