Forza Motorsport 5
|Developer: Turn 10 Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Release Date: November 22, 2013
Platform: Xbox One
Also Available For: N/A
Written By: Phillip Nelson
December 7, 2013
Xbox One hit the ground running with one of the Xbox line's biggest exclusives launching with the new hardware on day one in the form of Forza Motorsport 5. Over the past decade and now five Forza Motorsport titles, the series that began as Microsoft's immitation of Gran Turismo for Xbox has surpassed GT, not in sales but in respect, and has went on to become the benchmark by which other console racing games are judged. Even when another game does one thing better, Forza has brought the total package. It has satisfying physics, customization, upgrading and tuning, photo mode, multiplayer and other online features, hundreds of cars, and pretty graphics and sound. Turn 10 set the benchmark pretty high on Xbox 360.
Because of that, Turn 10 proved to be their own worst enemy, in a way. Players were quick to complain about a lack of content, as Forza Motorsport 5 boasted "only" 200 cars, not counting the standard series of subsequent DLC that comes in monthly for many months following the release of Forza games. 200 cars seemed like nothing in comparison to more than double that in Forza Motorsport 4 on Xbox 360. There's problems with that complaint and it's awfully unfair, not to mention unrealistic. FM4 benefited from Turn 10 building on the car lists they built in previous games, so they didn't produce 400+ cars in a single development cycle. FM4 was the third iteration of the franchise on that generation of hardware. With FM5 they're starting essentially from scratch on new hardware. They couldn't simply copy and paste all the Xbox 360 content onto Xbox One or else we would end up with a mixed bag like Gran Turismo 5 on PlayStation 3, which had 200+ really beautiful car models and 800+ horrible models copy-pasted as-is from older games on older hardware, which padded the game's numbers but padded it with heaps of garbage. Turn 10 can't simply be expected to produce 400+ cars from scratch for Xbox One without hiring double the staff to produce that much content, which would mean double the development cost which isn't economically plausible. The kids crying about perceived lack of content neglect to realize that FM5 still boasts four times the number of cars available in a typical racing game.
The game's cars and tracks were rendered in higher detail than the last-gen models, and even tracks returning from previous games have been rebuilt. That includes even fictional circuits like Bernese Alps, which appear in greater detail and are much prettier. In FM4 we got a taste of what in Forza Motorsport 5 became ForzaVista, which is a mode wherein players can virtually explore every single car in the game up close and personal, including opening the doors, hood, and trunk, studying the engine in detail, and climbing inside to examine the full interior. The track detail comes with extra polish and fluff, as well, as typically sterile environments are given added life in little organic details like flocks of birds flying by, a food stand billowing smoke as they grill meat for spectators to consume, or wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube men. Controversially, the developers have fiddled with the audio to work in sounds like lion roars to subliminally stimulate the players senses and emotions, and players were afraid that this would have come out cheesy, but whatever was done with this was done in a way that players are not consciously aware of it, because we hear none of this; at least not on a conscious level. The cars and road noise all sound as well as we've come to expect from the franchise. The music is a departure from last-gen, though, as licensed music has been replaced with original orchestal scores that change dynamically based on what is happening, though I personally turn music off so that I can listen to audio cues from my car. Some players whined about the lack of licensed music, but not only am I one of the ones that don't listen to it anyway but personally I prefer this orchestral music over dubstep and all that nonsense, but that's just personal preference.
With more processing power comes more performance, which was utilized to render sixteen cars on track at once, and the game stays at a locked 60 frames per second, as is standard for the Forza Motorsport games. Many racing games either run at half of that or try for something closer to 60 but with frame rate drops, as is the case with Gran Turismo 5 and 6. 60 FPS might sound excessive, but we aren't talking about watching a space marine run around on foot in a shooter but rather racing with cars traveling sometimes at over 200 miles per hour, and at such speeds a lot of distance can be covered between frames if rendered at a mere 30 FPS. By my calculations, at 200 MPH you could cover 9.7 feet in between frames at 30 FPS so here that 60 FPS is actually a pretty big deal. I can't help but wonder if the extra cars and sticking to 60 FPS didn't come at the expense of difficulty optimising performance in time for release because I feel like they fudged a bit with the AI cars. The AI only takes cosmetic damage in the main career mode and not even cosmetic damage in free play, although it can suffer full damage including mechanical damage in mutliplayer races. In older games you could follow AI cars during race replays and even view their telemetry, and while you can follow them still in FM5 you cannot view their telemetry, which leaves me suspecting that there might have been some fudging to keep the game running smoothly.
We can still upgrade a broad range of parts on our cars, and we can still tune our cars, which is still great. We can also still save hordes of setups and share them with the community, and can download tuning setups shared by others. We can still create custom vinyls to slap onto our cars, can create whole custom liveries for our rides, and we can upload and download these with other players. We can still take photographs and save race replays, and again we can share these with the community. Unfortunately, we've lost a bit since Xbox 360, as the wonderful Storefront and auction house are both painfully absent. We can still search for liveries and tuning setups, but we can't view a single player's collection of shared content like we could before, which is a shame. I have mixed feelings about the loss of the auciton house, as we can no longer sell unwanted cars and we can no longer search for deals on cars we want, but in my past experience the auction house always got ruined by a group of players monopolizing the system, buying up dozens of the same car at once just to later flip all those cars back onto the auction house at inflated prices, making it tedious trying to get a good price and meaning few cars actually go for much less than dealer value. A final community omission is the loss of clubs, wherein previously we could join up with other players and share cars and content amongst our club members.
A nice new addition to the franchise are open-wheel cars, which have been requested by players for a long time but required an overhaul of the old game engine. Right out the gate on day one we have two generations of Formula One cars, including a modern Lotus E21 F1 car that competed in the 2012 Formula One season, plus James Hunt's McLaren M23 and Niki Lauda's Ferrari 312T2 from the 1976 Formula One season and featured in the terrific movie Rush. There are also a handful of modern IndyCar cars, as well. Other requested features like night or rain are still absent, even though Forza Horizon did have a dynamic day/night cycle a year earlier on Xbox 360. To be honest, while I want the addition of night and rain as much as the next player, I have my doubts about how much people would actually use these things if they had them, as they'd probably collect dust, just sitting there as something we said we wanted but only to have rather than to play with.
There remains the elephant in the room that has thus far gone unmentioned. Perhaps the most interesting and controversial change to the formula comes from the new twist on the AI. Typical and predictable AI has been scrapped in favor of "Drivatars", which term is obviously a mix of "driver" and "avatar". The interesting notion here is that the Drivatar system studies the behavior of players and then learns from this and attempts to apply it to the AI, so rather than AI having a rigid, robotic logic to it they instead are more dynamic and less predictable, and each can behave differently from others. My Drivatar attempts to replicate behaviors it saw from me, and my friend's Drivatar attempts to study his behaviors and to replicate similar behaviors when his Drivatar shows up in my races. Gone are the old AI drivers like the infamous M Rossi in favor of DoucheBigalo69 and Fartknocker4Life. This makes for more interesting and less predictable racing, but the down side to this is that players tend to be impatient and overly aggressive and these are painfully reflected in Drivatar behavior. The first turn of so many races ends up being a cluttered crashfest as every single Drivatar crams into the turn as one disorganized blob of banging cars, all insisting that they belong up front and everyone else is just in the way.
The bottom line is that this is still a fantastic product despite some of the unrealistic whining from players, like how four times as many cars as other racing games somehow isn't enough cars. Admittedly, it is a bit of a shame that we still don't have night and rain, but perhaps worse is that we actually lost a few nifty features. I don't think it realistic or fair to view 200 cars as going backwards on account of starting over with a new generation and new hardware, but losing features like Storefront, car clubs, and the auction house are a step back, for which reason I can't rate it as highly as it otherwise would have been had we at least kept features we already had before. It's still a solid and enjoyable racing game, and there's nothing that comes close to it on the new generation of consoles, not only as of this time but in the forseeable future, not just on Xbox One but on any console of this generation. The closest contender is Gran Turismo 6, which falls short and isn't even on a current platform but rather PS3, a last-gen console. It would be ridiculous for any serious racing gamer to pass on Forza Motorsport 5.
|You can't claim to be a fan of racing and not play Forza Motorsport 5. Gran Turismo 6 is no substitute.|
|Like||Improved physics, nifty new-gen graphics, dynamic orchestral music, ForzaVista, and the addition of open-wheel including Formula One.|
|Dislike||We're still missing night and rain, and we lost a few features including Storefront, auction house, and clubs.|