Forza Motorsport 5 Review

Developed by: Turn 10 Studios / Publisher: Microsoft Studios / Played on: Xbox One / Price: $59.99 / ESRB: [Everyone] Comic Mischief

Cynics love to trounce next-gen optimism, reminding you that launch games are just the same old business with slightly better graphics. Forza 5 asks the question—is the same game with better graphics really so bad? Turns out it isn’t…sort of. Forza 5 is a solid, solid racing game, but the Forza series itself has already set the bar higher. The second you catch your stride with Forza 5, a lack of gameplay content and variety will have you wondering where you can find the rest of the game.

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Right off the bat, Forza 5 makes it clear it’s taking a step back from the inventive, open world of Forza Horizon. This racing game is by the numbers—you pick events from a menu and play through a series of races in a variety of vehicle classes. There is one novel bit—race results are determined by gold, silver, and bronze ranks rather than positions. If you finish in the top three, that’s a gold, meaning you don’t have to get first place in every race. It’s a subtle twist that removes the frustration caused by an impossibly fast lead car. Aside from that, Forza is about as cut-and-dry a racer as you can get. There’s no points system like Project Gotham and no sense of progression like that in the DIRT or GRID series.

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To find Forza’s successes you have to get more granular. While Turn 10 presented the “drivatar” system as this entry’s defining feature, I found the Xbox One’s impact triggers way more… impactful. If you’re unfamiliar, there are small rumble motors in the shoulder triggers of the Xbox One’s controller, and they’re awesome in Forza 5. Yes, they rumble when you hit the gas or brake, but you can use that rumble to “feel” your car’s traction. As you accelerate through a corner, you can feel exactly when the tires start to skid and lose friction, allowing you to hit that razor edge of speed just before you start to oversteer. Playing without traction control used to be unrealistic with powerful supercars; now it’s just awesome. With impact triggers, you can feel the car’s power more than ever before. If you love racers, it’s worth playing Forza 5 for that alone.

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Another win for Forza 5 smacks you in the face; this game is gorgeous. Environments look amazing and I am floored by the car interiors modeled in Forza 5. Typically I use the bumper cam in most racers but I spent most of my time in the cockpit view just because the car interiors are so nuts. Sunlight even bounces off the dashboard and reflects in the windshield, which is an effect I haven’t seen in any other racer. Speaking of the sun, sometimes it’s so next-gen it’s annoying. Sun bloom makes it impossible to see anything when it blasts you in the eyes… which you could argue is realistic. Still, Forza 5 is, without a doubt, the best-looking racer I’ve ever seen.

Forza 5 puts those meticulous car models to use with “Forzavista,” which sets new standards in car porn. In this mode, you can walk around any car you own—open the doors, activate the lights, and of course switch to camera mode to get those perfect pin-up shots. Car simulators have been trending to digital car love letters for a while now. This feature is a natural evolution of that sentiment that makes great use of Forza 5’s incredible visuals.

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The drivatar system is less noticeable. The idea is interesting—supposedly the game learns how you drive, and will then tailor an AI character around those behaviors and seed him into other people’s games. If your “drivatar” wins credits in those races, you get a sack of money the next time you log in to play. It’s oddly reminiscent of Dragon’s Dogma’s pawn system, but in practice I didn’t see a noticeable difference between these drivatars and normal racing AI. Sure, the drivatars would occasionally botch a turn, but so does traditional AI. It’s possible this system will gain more personality as more people play and salt the earth with diverse behavior, but right now I’m unimpressed.

You might think that racing against real humans would be more stimulating, but if you do, you’ve probably never played a simulation racer online before. Every race goes like this: everyone barrels into the first corner at full speed, causes a cataclysmic pile up, then whoever’s lucky enough to squirt out of the maelstrom first gets a free lead unless they miss a corner somewhere. Aside from enabling simulation damage or the occasional moment when the game disables car collisions, there’s no penalty for making contact with other cars. As a result, even well-intentioned races end up being a dirty riot of spinouts and swapped paint. It’s not challenging or interesting; it’s just silly.

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A much more rewarding outlet for competition is improving your own lap time on a given track. At the end of any race, Forza will slot you in a leaderboard with close rivals and friends highlighted to tempt your competitive spirit. A few buttons drop you back on the track, giving you the opportunity to dissect every corner and shave tenths of seconds off your lap time. Given the strength of Forza’s simulation and its awesome controls, tackling a track over and over until you nail that perfect lap is still a lot of fun.

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That said, I don’t expect many racing fans are chomping at the bit to drive on a single track for hours at a time, and that’s where this game falls the hardest. Forza 5 only features 200 cars and 14 track locations, which is anemic when compared to the upcoming Gran Turismo 6 or even past Forza games. There’s no point-to-point races, no rally, and the track lineup is missing iconic locations like the Nurburgring.

If you thrive on variety, your patience with Forza 5 will wear thin in ten hours or so… and the idea that DLC may fill out the experience sometime in the future isn’t very comforting. That’s tragic, because Forza 5 is one of the most gorgeous and best-feeling racers I’ve ever played. I just wonder when the rest of it will get here.

+ God damned gorgeous
+ Impact triggers feel fantastic
– Severely lacking in content

7.5 / 10

  1. Appreciate the author’s point of view in the review and agreed with some of it. But his dismissal of online play and drivatars to his limited exposure ( pre and early launch) is misleading and unrepresentative of what users can expect. Yes, you CAN find yourself in those disaster races online on occasions, but as your skills increase and the number of players in the community increase, the quality of the races increases as well. Same with most other racing games. Sounds like the author just isn’t very good and needs to improve his skills. Just like any online game, if you suck at it, it is not fun.

    Give the game and yourself some time to improve online.

  2. I agree with you review way to much left out of the game but do you really need to use the Lords name in vain to describe how it looks ?? You just offended a lot of people please be sensitive to other people.
    It’s one of the basic 10 commandments, it’s not a hard one to keep ‘
    How about we say Lawrence Damn Gorgeous ?

  3. Goddamit Ken. You’re going to hell for that comment. Jesus Christ get a clue, there no such thing! Just a group of great businessmen who created the bible.

  4. I have read a lot of reviews and feel all of you are missing some crucial points. Let me help you out with some questions are i believe are important.

    1. Does the game have a scoring system of points depending on the spot you end in each race. Or is it like forza 4 were each race had no scoring system. Which i feel was idiotic. As a fan of racing you keep on track the points each driver has in the season. Is like buying a FIFA game and just being able to play shoot-out, no cup, no qualification, no nothing.

    2. Does Forza 5 have endurance races. This also was a huge set back from the Forza 4. Endurance races are fun, Fuel strategy is an awesome variable to add, to a race. Endurance was the only way to try this.

    3. How is the reward system. In Forza 3 cars had a limit of level 5. Each time you level a car of the same brand, you were adding 10% to different parts of the car. In Forza 4 the cars had no limit, and all shared the level of the brand. If you level a car you got a 25% discount on all. So if you had a car lvl 4. All the parts to change were free for that car and all the cars of the same brand. This was really lame, because since there was no score system, sticking to a brand didnt had a real benefit but credits awarded after level 4. So in Forza 5 what benefits do you get from leveling yourself up and leveling a car up?

    Hope you could awnser this questions. I feel they are really important for a racing game, this sort of details balance a simulation racing game. Make it feel more real, and maybe more enjoyable.

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