When Forza Motorsport 5 launched with the Xbox One, it was a bit disappointing. It was a pretty polished and tight Forza Motorsport game, but it lacked the oomph to be really impressive, and to really embody that “next generation” that was at its outset.
Of course, launch titles pretty much always suffer from that kind of problem. Even first party studios don’t know the platform well enough to fully exploit it, and the technology simply isn’t mature.
Two years have passed since then, and Turn 10 had the time to perfect its engine and to get really intimate with the platform. Did they finally create a Forza Motorsport game able to make the Xbox One really shine? Fasten your seat belt, because you’re in for quite the ride.
The first thing that will jump to your eyes are the graphics, which are definitely tight. Everything is rendered at the promised native 1080p, and runs at a super-solid 60 frames per second. The environment flies by like silk when you race, and I never noticed a single hitch, missed frame or tearing. It’s technically as perfect as it comes.
The cars look beautiful, with great reflections, high polygon count bringing out the smallest detail, even if at times the resolution of decals isn’t as high as it could be. This forms pixelated bits on curved surfaces here and there, but you’ll have to squint to notice it.
Cockpits are as beautiful and detailed as the exteriors, and the internal view remains the best way to enjoy the game and immerse yourself in the racing. It also offers a great sensation of speed, that never hurts in this kind of game, and that naturally fades a bit when in external view.
The only real flaw is a bit of visible aliasing, but it’s much less apparent if you play from the cockpit, while it’ll become more visible from external cameras. That said, with this kind of visual fidelity on consoles, it’s probably inevitable.
The tracks have definitely been improved since Forza Motorsport 5, and especially urban ones like Rio really shine, with great vistas and high object density. The artful composition of elevation changes is what makes them really interesting in comparison to your usual racing circuits, as they give the player the chance to really embrace the environment visually, with spectacular results.
Forza Motorsport 6 introduces rain, and it looks positively good, with awesome wet effects on both cars and environment, really showcasing the power of the ForzaTech engine. Even when the rain falls there isn’t the slightest frame rate drop, testifying on the solidity of the implementation.
Night is another new feature, and when there’s no artificial illumination provided on the track, it’s really, really black, as it should be. Speeding down the flugplatz on the Nürburgring guided only by your headlights is a scary, scary experience.
Unfortunately, the game lacks dynamic day/night and weather transitions, offering only a handful of presets for each track. This is, in my opinion, a missed opportunity. I doubt it’s even a matter of hardware limitations, because the engine can do night and can do weather. Transitions shouldn’t be much more taxing, and would have added a lot more fun and variety to the game.
Maybe Turn 10 found the enormous range of variable conditions that would be created by dynamic weather and time difficult to simulate with the required level of detail, but I definitely hope that they will consider this kind of implementation for their next game. There’s nothing more spectacular than watching the sun set over the Nürburgring during an endurance race.
But after a small downer, let’s talk about the real game changer: 24 cars on track. This is the best thing coming to the Forza Motorsport franchise after Fujimi Kaido. Having this many drivers crowding the circuit increases the variety of race conditions and situations tenfold, and helps in mitigating the “empty track” effect you often get after a while in games that feature less cars. It also looks absolutely spectacular.
This is without a doubt the biggest visual achievement (of course it influences gameplay too, but we’re talking about graphics now) featured in Forza Motorsport 6. Considering the steep increase in total polygon count caused by having to display quite a few more vehicles, it’s the real showcase of how Turn 10 radically improved its mastery of the Xbox One’s hardware.
Ultimately, Forza Motorsport 6 looks impressive. It might not feature the extreme visual fidelity of other titles, but it holds its own, and does so with more cars on track and holding a silky smooth 60 frames per second all the way through. That’s definitely a technical achievement that deserves praise.
The game also features some really lovely sound effects, ranging from awesome engine audio that really brings out the soul of each car, to interesting and funny voice acting done by the likes of Richard Hammond.
Unfortunately, the standard narration can be a little boring at times, especially in Forzavista, when compared with what we heard from Jeremy Clarkson in the past, but this is a really minor flaw in the grand scope of things.
Music is… there. That’s really all I can say about it. You’ll probably forget that it exists after a few minutes, and that’s probably how it should be.
But let’s get down to business. Now that we know how Forza Motorsport 6 looks and sounds, how does it play? Spoiler: like a dream.
The driving is simply awesome, with extremely tight physics that just feel right. It’s not a full-fledged simulation by any means, but it gets very close, considering that it’s a console game. The ForzaTech engine takes in consideration an enormous set of variables, and that shows by how your car feels when speeding down the track.
There’s a degree of unpredictability that should always be there when simulating racing. It’s definitely manageable, but it keeps you on your toes at all times, at least with cars that have an engine bigger than that of a lawn mower.
One of my biggest complaints with previous Forza titles was that high powered RWD cars always felt somehow “neutered,” with their peculiar rear-happy kick mitigated in order to make them more manageable even with all the assists off. In turn, this resulted in their performance being clamped as well, removing most of their competitive edge against AWD vehicles.
That sensation is gone in Forza 6. If you jump on a powerful RWD car, prepare to have to tame a wild horse and to be very gentle with the throttle and the brakes, and if you love that kind of car, that’s really a joy to play.
If you’re more casual and tend to stomp on the pedals (but your pride prevents you to mitigate the chance of spinning with the deep set of assists provided by the game), don’t worry too much. RWDs simply aren’t for you. Just stick to AWD and you’ll do just fine. They might be a little less “fun,” but their performance is rock solid, and their stability is unparalleled.
When you get to racing series where AWD are rare or non-existent, you’ll be at a point in which your RWD beasts have so much downforce weighing on their ultra-light frame, that their happy tail will be a little more manageable anyway.
Of course, you could always roll your sleeves up and improve your throttle control, sticking to RWD from start to end. That won’t just make you a much better (virtual) driver, but it’ll be a whole lot of fun and very rewarding once you master the necessary skillset.
Rain puddles are another great feature. The surface of the asphalt isn’t just wet, but it’s scattered with 3D puddles of simulated water. They don’t simply flatly reduce your grip, but they actually simulate the interaction between your tires and the water, with often unpredictable (and rather realistic) results. This adds an absolutely lovely level of challenge to wet races.
In other driving games that feature rain, all you have to do is to increase your awareness of grip (or lack of thereof) at all times, applying smoother and more careful throttle control. Here you have to make actual choices. Do you alter your line to avoid the puddle? Or maybe you try to pass through it with both wheels? Do you go safe and slow down, or recklessly keep the pedal to the metal, counting on your ability to control the aquaplaning?
You’re the only one that can answer those questions, but the fact that the game asks them is just awesome.
Drivatars return with this new chapter of the series, and they’re still definitely one of the best features of the franchise. I honestly don’t know just how much your friends’ behavior is simulated, but they do feel genuinely different among each other, and they are positively more fun to play against, compared to your standard AI.
Forza Motorsport 6 includes an extremely welcome feature that will clamp on the Drivatars tendency to bump while overtaking, and that’s great, since most human players tend to be very bumpy when driving in a game. Activating the option will retain most of their unique attitudes, but will make them behave more like real race drivers and less like destruction derby champs. I’m looking at you, Major Nelson.
Incidentally, the AI is also very competitive, especially at higher level of skill (you can set it for yourself, ranging from “New Racer” to “Unbeatable”). Starting from “Expert” onwards, catching up to the front of the grid will be very challenging even for veteran virtual drivers, and that makes the game all the more satisfying. Ultimately, the degree of customization is great, and you can set them just right for your needs, depending on whether you prefer a challenge or a bit of an easier time.
The game will also gauge whether you’re too good for your current AI level, and will periodically ask you if you want to increase it.
The campaign offers a very wide variety of events, and it includes a really smart design choice: It doesn’t force you to hop between different cars and categories all the time like most racing games. If you want to stick to your favorite car for an extensive portion of your career, you definitely can. All you have to do is to select the branches that include that car.
The only caveat is that you’ll have to start relatively small and build up to more powerful cars, but there’s still a degree of flexibility in your progression. Kicking new players right on the most powerful racing cars (that they probably don’t own anyway) would have made little sense.
Of course, you can still hop around on many different cars if you so wish. But you don’t have to, and that’s absolutely fantastic. On top of that, the showcase events, that pop up periodically as you unlock them, help in breaking things up and making the whole experience more interesting and varied, even if you’re sticking to your favorite cars all the time.
Speaking of the showcases, the Stig’s digital cousin is a really funny idea, with lovely and witty introductions that closely imitate the puns made about the mysterious white-clad driver in Top Gear. Unfortunately, he has a fatal flaw. He’s weak.
Top-grid drivatars feel much more competitive at the same level of skill, and that doesn’t really match with the Stig’s myth, especially when you (metaphorically) run circles around him on the track.
The variety of tracks is also great, ranging from old favorites to new entries, from urban streets to circuits. The Nürburgring and Rio are definitely my favorites, and this specific rendition of the old Nürburgring is probably my favorite in a racing game, ever. It’s difficult, dangerous, big, precisely, and it feels oh, so right.
Incidentally, Monza is included, and since it’s my home circuit (it’s just a few kilometers from where I live), and I’ve driven on it multiple times in that mysterious thing called “the real world,” I can definitely testify that it feels nearly perfect.
Unfortunately, we’re still left orphaned of the track that is, in my opinion, the best that was ever included in the Forza Motorsport series: Fujimi Kaido. I don’t know why Turn 10 seems reluctant to include it in its games, as the fun factor it provides is simply perfect, but it’s not there, and it hurts.
Considering the abundance of mid-tier Japanese cars, the lack of a proper touge track is a missed opportunity for the game, and hopefully it will be addressed via DLC.
Car customization and tuning are extremely deep, giving you great ways to make your cars unique and truly “yours.” As usual, tuning can be a little daunting for newcomers, and I will never understand why developers don’t spend some resources in creating a tutorial to teach you the ropes. Yet, Forza Motorsport 6‘s extensive social features come to the rescue, letting you download shared tunes. Of course it’s not nearly as fun as learning how to tune your cars on your own, but it helps.
Combine the enormous levels of customization with the equally enormous car line-up of 460 fully-featured rides, and you have a game that isn’t just deep and extremely fun, but it’s also really, really big.
Not only there are many cars available, but the degree of variety is also staggering. It goes from vintage exotics to the most advanced race cars, passing by quite a lot of rides that you probably never heard about. If you can’t find several favorites that are just right for you, you simply don’t love cars.
Mods are an interesting addition to the game. Basically, they are the racing equivalent of collectible cards, split into Crew, Boosts and Dares of different degrees of rarity. You can purchase booster packs to get new cards with in-game credits, or win them when leveling up.
Crew mods simulate the skillset of of your pit crew, and will give you flat bonuses during the race. Dare mods will let you further customize the level of difficulty, applying penalties or turning off certain assists, but offering increased rewards at the end of a race. Boost mods are one-time bonuses that will increase your winnings, or even apply special effects like deactivating collisions during the first lap.
Of course, some of the mods (like the “Ghost” mentioned above) aren’t exactly beneficial for your immersion, but you can simply ignore those (you need to “equip” a card for it to take effect, and you can have only three equipped at any given time). They shake up things, and they offer another outlet to spend your credits. Obviously, they won’t work in multiplayer.
There could be no Forza Motorsport without its extensive paint shop, that also contributes to making each car just “yours.” The degree of visual customization offered is just staggering, even if a lot of practice and artistic talent is necessary to get the best results.
Of course, you can simply enjoy other people’s creations by downloading them via the game’s social features, so the paint shop is great even for those who have the creativity of a potato. You’ll never run out of liveries to apply to your cars, that’s for sure. And in a world in which most developers ask you to pay for a skin, that’s always refreshing.
Online racing is as good as ever, featuring both hoppers and customizable private matches. The hoppers feature a series of different events for the different classes that range from exotic showdowns to drag racing and drift competitions. If you want something a bit less serious, you can jump into a tag match, but that’s more of a side activity that never really managed to catch my attention for more than a few minutes. I want to race, sue me.
The net code worked very well in the sessions I tried, and there was very little to no lag. Ultimately racing against other humans is the pinnacle of this kind of game, and Forza Motorsport 6 does it really well. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see how the community will embrace the feature. It’s difficult to gauge the scope of a game’s multiplayer until it goes live and until the community matures a few weeks after release.
Few racing games gave me as much fun online as the Forza series, and the sixth numbered installment definitely seems to have the potential to match that experience. The lack of the ability to create and customize public lobbies is a bit of a downer, unfortunately.
Leagues are a possible game changer, pitching you in actual tournaments against other players with a similar skill level. It’s really impossible to see the impact of this feature before launch, but the promise is interesting, and it might add even more value to the game’s multiplayer.
So, how does Forza Motorsport 6 hold up? Exceptionally well. The game is simply a joy for any car lover. Not only it’s a technical marvel that delivers great visuals at a steel-solid frame rate, but it’s a big, deep and wide bundle of car-loving fun.
Turn 10’s latest game leaks love for cars and car culture from every pixel. The studio didn’t manage to make the Xbox One shine as much as it could with Forza 5, but with this sixth chapter, Microsoft’s console is as bright as a star.