In the last few years, something unexpected but magnificent happened. Gran Turismo, long heralded as the premier racing simulator franchise for video-games, was overtaken. The rival studio was Turn 10, and the franchise was Forza, a developer making titles exclusively for Microsoft’s hardware. With the release of the Xbox One, this fact remains true. Not only is Forza 5 the best racing simulator out there, it is without any true competition. Unfortunately, because this is a launch title, the usual problems also accompany this impressive feat.
On The Short Track:
When you turn on Forza 5 for the first time, it opens with a monologue from Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson, who explains the beauty and majesty that cars provide to the human race. No one is able to show the verisimilitude of these moving vehicles as well as Turn 10 Studios, who have created what is likely the best looking title on the Xbox One at launch. Yet, something seems to be missing. In fact, many things seem to be missing. Cars to be exact.
Yessir, this time there are only about 200 cars in the game. When looking at Forza 4, that's around 400 less driving choices at your disposal. These new models are much more detailed, slightly making up for the lack of content in the game. Seeing a Lamborghini Aventador go full speed across a track is a sight to behold. And it's hard to really hate Forza 5's lack of content. The tracks and cars look close to the real thing; closer than games have ever been. There will be future car packs in the near future that will add both cars and tracks, adding to the content. Still, it's a game of give and take, and the heart-achingly gorgeous rendered tracks and backgrounds make a good argument for the take. At one point, I was travelling through a mountain with a snow covered environment in the distance that I swear was the real deal. That's the sort of addition that makes me believe that both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are worth the price of admission.
Once again Forza trumps the competition in its display of real-time car damage. As always collision detection is extremely precise, and it's extremely satisfying at the end of the race to see your car completely wrecked after a race. Gran Turismo has been struggling with this aspect of simulation for years, but Forza seems to have perfected the art. At the end of the day, this is something that no other racing simulator can attest to. While it seems secondary to other priorities like cars choices, it once again shows Forza's commitment to realism and authentic ity.
One of the more overrated parts of the game and one that I didn’t find all that innovative was the “drivatar.” It creates a driving AI that races based on your skill level, but opponents still feel like CPU's. Yet, there is something to be said for a function that will judge how good a driver you are. Drivatars from Forza friends can make their way into your races, one of my buddies decided to deliberately drive badly. The game then recognized him this way, so when I saw his drivatar in my race, he looked as if he was drunk driving. Even still, it is more of an unfulfilled novelty than the next step in the racing formula. If it is more fleshed out in the future, it could be something much more compelling but for now, it still seems to be a concept.
As for the feel, it's perfect. Never underestimate the details. The new impulse triggers for the Xbox One controller change the way Forza plays. When you use the right trigger, it feels similar to revving up your engine, and you can feel when it changes gears. I hate to say it, but this level of engagement can only be found on Xbox One. Hell, sounds like an advertisement, but in this case, it's justified.
Finally, there are the microtransactions. They aren't a big deal, they just make the experience faster. So if you don't want them, just play the darn game.
I have the Need...The Need For Speed:
If you love the feeling of driving cars, Forza should be your #1 choice. There is nothing else on the market right now that even comes close to it. It may be a shorter, more compact package, but it's also a more authentic experience. Bottom Line: if you love racing games, you've already bought it.