The rush to make the Xbox One launch date meant that, inevitably, Forza Motorsport 5 was a compromised experience. Fewer cars and fewer tracks than Forza 4 detracted from the otherwise polished experience, and its introduction of microtransaction-based game economy was largely reviled by fans (and fixed in subsequent patches). While it didn’t quite feel like a tech demo, it did feel very rushed and incomplete.
Two years and a second entry in the Forza Horizon series on, and Turn 10 have delivered the complete next-generation Forza that Forza 5 hinted at. There are over 460 exquisitely detailed cars, including the upcoming 2017 Ford GT, which replaces McLaren’s P1 as the marquee car for this edition. Each car is fully modelled, interior and exterior, and all cars now have ‘Forzavista’ information, providing additional details and background for each one, though, sadly, no longer delivered by Jeremy Clarkson.
The track selection is also a vast improvement on Forza 5, with 26 locations overall, including all of those from the previous game. Brand’s Hatch, Watkins Glen, Circuit of the Americas, Lime Rock, Monza and Daytona all make their Forza debut, while Hockenheimring and Sonoma return from Forza 4, and the game even includes a Rio De Janeiro street track for the first time since the original Forza Motorsport. The returning tracks from Forza 5 have been polished up with better background visuals and lighting, and two (Indianapolis and Mount Panorama) have been remade to reflect real-world changes at the track since the previous game. Two tracks— Nurburgring and Long Beach— that were DLC in Forza 5 are in the game from the beginning.
Each track is again presented as a ‘snapshot’, the time of day and weather conditions intended to show the track as optimally as possible. New to the series are weather effects and night racing, but these too, are just snapshots. Weather isn’t dynamic, and there’s no day-night cycle. If you want rain, you have to race on the rainy version of the track, and it will rain constantly throughout the race. If you want night, you have to race on the night version of the track. The justification for this is that it’s the only way to get the game to run at 1080p60 at all times, and while that’s a noble commitment, it results in an oddly disjointed experience.
Compare this approach with the much more dynamic approach that Slightlymad took with Project CARS. In that game, weather and time of day are dynamic, and while the game isn’t a 1080p60 visual marvel, it holds up well enough. I’d much prefer having a race where I have to deal with dynamically changing conditions than one where the conditions are preset from the beginning. Even the past couple of Gran Turismo titles offer such dynamics to a limited extent.
A curious new addition to Forza 6 is the mod system. These are modifiers that add some kind of additional boost or challenge to your racing. There are three types: Dares require you to achieve a certain goal within a race; Crew mods usually provide some kind of enhancement to the car, such as more grip; and Boosts usually do something that improves your payout at the end of a race. The system is entirely optional if you feel it intrudes on the purity of the Forza racing experience.
Forza 6 has once again revamped the game’s progression system. the game now divides the main career mode into what the game calls volumes, each of which is split into smaller chapters that contain the actual race events. This makes it more obvious that you’ll be starting out small and working towards the bigger, faster cars as you go along. Each chapter allows you to choose one of six different categories of car, and the races in that chapter will then tailor themselves to the category you chose. This offers a good selection of options beyond the usual zippy hatchback or small sedan, while still easing players into the game’s way of going about things. I still miss the excellent calendar system from Forza 3, but I have no complaints here.
Everything else about Forza 6 is pure Forza. The physics model feels as tight as it ever has been, and there’s still the vast amounts of upgrade and tuning options that are a series hallmark. Very little has changed in this regard, though some bugs and annoyances have been fixed (such as brake bias once again working as it was prior to Forza 5), and the whole experience is just a bit more refined.
In fact, refinement is the main theme in Forza 6. Having made the generational transition already, Turn 10 can work on consolidating the series for the new hardware, and making sure that they maintain the high quality experience that Forza has delivered for years now. The downside, however, is that Forza 6 feels too conservative in its approach, as though it has done just barely enough to maintain its position. While it’s still the best racing game you can get, the margin between Forza 6 and its rivals is now a lot closer than it has been since before the release of Gran Turismo 5.
The challenger this time, however, is not Gran Turismo, which stagnated a long time ago, but rather the aforementioned Project CARS. For all its flaws (many of which have been patched in the months since it launched), Project CARS offers an experience that’s almost as good as Forza 6, and while it falls short in some areas, there are definitely others that Turn 10 should sit up and take notice.
A good example of this is how much more alive Project CARS feels. A longtime complaint about Forza is that it often feels sterile and lifeless. Compare this with Project CARS, where you’re very much made to feel part of an actual world of motorsport, with offers to race in different events and an overall goal beyond “win all the things”. In races, you have to practice and qualify, which makes each race feel much more like a proper meet rather than an isolated event. While you’re on the track, you get feedback from your pit crew, making you feel much more part of a team. This all helps make Project CARS feel much more alive than Forza 6. Going from Project CARS the previous week almost felt like taking a backward step.
These complaints aside, Forza 6 is the best racing game in the world right now. The fact that it does this through subtle refinement of existing elements is a concern for the future. Turn 10 definitely have a lot to prove the next time a Forza title comes around, but for now they’ve done enough. If you have a wheel, then this is a no-brainer, and even on controller it feels pretty great, taking full advantage of the Xbox One controller’s detailed force feedback capabilities.
It’s been a long time since Turn 10 had to worry about serious competition. The fact that there are again challengers to its crown simply means that Turn 10 can’t rest on their laurels. The racing game market is going to get more competitive than it’s been for a long time, and the next Forza is going to need to show a lot more evolution than Forza 6 has. For now, though, if you want the best racing experience, the answer remains Forza.
As a final note, I was pleased to discover that Forza 6 offers the option of playing as a female driver. It’s a little thing that has no effect on gameplay whatsoever, but for those who prefer to play as female characters in video games, well, there it is.
The definitive racing experience
Vastly expanded car and track selection from Forza 5
Wet weather and night racing
Feels like an incremental step rather than a dramatic overhaul
Weather and night racing are not dynamic
Still the same sterile Forza atmosphere