I like many others waited in line on a bitterly cold November evening to be one of the first to collect an Xbox One. My excitement for this “new toy” was equalled by my anticipation for what promised to be one of the greatest games for petrol heads… Forza Motorsport 5. November was a while ago wasn’t it? So why am I writing this now? Well, what with “fan boys” throwing virtual punches left and right over how many car the game has or just how it compares with Gran Turismo 6, I though I’d reserve judgment until I had experienced the game in full over a couple of months in order to reveal if any of its novelties had worn off.
Visually Forza 5 is absolutely stunning. Displayed on an LED TV the graphics of this next-gen racer are biblical. It isn’t just the photorealistic lighting or the paintwork that has an almost tangible texture to it, no what is impressive is the borderline obsessive level of detail. Let us take the reflection in the chrome trim of a headlight bulb for example. Zoom in and you can see the scenery and other cars reflections in this tiny component that you didn’t even notice until I just said. As you can imagine, if those reflections look good then how a cars finish interacts with its environment is very impressive. The interiors for each of these cars are just as detailed as the exteriors and with head tracking turned on, a feature that looks around the cabin as your head moves, you could fool yourself into believing you were driving a real McLaren F1.
What is it like to play as opposed to just look at? FM5 presents itself as a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde in terms of gameplay. You see with various assists turned on the game is approachable to just about anyone who can hold a controller in their hand with the car slipping and sliding just enough to proved entertainment, but not enough to produce a realistic portrayal of how it drives in reality. That is fine as it means that Forza can broaden its audience to more than just hardcore simulation fans. However, turn all of the electronic nannies off and what you have is something very true to life indeed. Simulating everything from downforce and spring rate, to the flex of the tyre wall, I was spellbound as to how accurate some of the digital recreations of these machines were to their real life counterparts. I drive an original MK1 Mazda MX-5 in reality but Forza Motorsport 5 has capture the handling characteristics of my little sports car brilliantly. It is the same story with many other cars I have driven. I was impressed to say the least. The feedback from the Xbox One’s new controller via its triggers added a new dimension of interaction with the car. These triggers used for braking and acceleration vibrate just as a wheel locks up or brakes traction. Much like in a real car, you can understand what the car is about to do and correct its behaviour if necessary.
The career mode in FM5 never leaves you wanting for more than the 200 cars that come with the game, more are available via DLC. A great source of criticism is that Forza 5 shipped with 300 cars fewer than its predecessor, mathematically this is a PR disaster but in reality I’m rather glad of it. To produce this next generation game Turn 10 had to start from 0. Unlike other games in the series each car model had to be painstaking built without reference to previous incarnations. Factor in the level of detail in each car and what you have is quality over quantity. Gran Turismo fans will crow about this until the end of time, but Turn 10 A) refuse to have a million variations of the Nissan Skyline and B) Will not create car models with worse graphics than the rest. Many cars that didn’t make the final cut were relatively unimpressive ones such as the Chrysler PT Cruiser. What does let the game down is not its lack of cars, but tracks. Though Turn 10 created as many tracks as they could in the allotted time, 14 tracks over such a vast career does become repetitive even with the enjoyable Spa and intelligent AI. More will be added at a future date but for now this is by far the games weakest link. Those who are creative will enjoy the paint element of this game as the editor allows you to create a custom livery as intricate as you are dedicated to it. Pixel by pixel you can recreate an old favourite from the past or bring to life your own racing colours. As in every Forza Motorsport game, there is a wealth of car mechanical customisation on offer too. Everything from crankshafts to full engine swaps, if you know what you are doing, you are at a real advantage especially when it comes to fine tuning.
Overall Forza Motorsport 5 is without a doubt the best driving game on console today and ultimately the important bit, the driving, is spot on. Gran Turismo 6 may have more cars and tracks but it lives in the shadow of next-generation games. Living with Forza Motorsport 5 is just as enjoyable as the games that preceded it.