Reading a Forza video game review is one of the most absurd, anticlimactic things you can do. You know it’s going to be good. The question, then, becomes just HOW good…
You could be ever so kind to the Monsignor and keep reading, fellow geek-parishioners, or you can just take my word for it and drop a quick preorder at your LGS (local game stop). For this racer is the very best “niche” game I have played all year, and only the thrilling gore-fighter Mortal Kombat X comes close. Forza Motorsport 6‘s new weather and night racing capabilities, continued excellence of the Drivatar A.I. system, and — thus far — microtransactionless explosion of cars (460 at launch) is enough to have fellow thrill-spillers racing to the register.
Thing is, there’s far more than an extra 260 speed demons to explore this year, which only improves upon 2013’s Forza 5 and its near-perfect graphics, gameplay, and A.I. The loss of the Top Gear branding aside, which still offers the program’s quirky Stig Challenge and knowledge from a vast array of race car drivers and analysts (James May and Richard Hammond still contribute– but losing Jeremy Clarkson is akin to FIFA losing Martin Tyler), there are 26 tracks with 24 players per race. That’s a nice improvement from the very stale 17 (with DLC) from Forza 5, and 18 racers per track.
Those 26 individual venues also feel like 10 or so more when you consider the ability to go for a spin in the dark or witness water on some of these tracks. Of the two, the rain physics are so downright real.. they’re scary. The consistently heavy rain sloshes both sides of the windshield and will obstruct your vision, an added challenge to an already challenging racing sim. Despite the fact that you might feel a drizzle around the track every now and then, the weather isn’t quite so dynamic. So don’t go expecting expecting a beautiful rainbow at the end of the yellow Brickyard 500.
The biggest challenge in all of this, however, is the plethora of puddles — most massively 3D — you will find yourself hydroplaning on or trying to escape around. Despite the dread of getting those tires wet or crashing into either vehicle on each side of the moat, graphic-heads are rewarded with the some awfully wonderful reflections on the hood and even liquid mud flying at their feet. The level of detail in one puddle and the physical sliding effects it brings alone is beyond desirable.
As far as night racing, I wasn’t as initially wowed by this new element in Forza as I was with rain; but that all changed after driving “under the lights” at Daytona. The contrast between shadows of the bright and the dark back end felt so wildly new, and made up for all those bad NASCAR video games we had to put up with throughout the years. And just wait till you experience “tunnel vision” via Le Mans’ Mulsane Straight. After all the neon glows of a few giant buildings, seeing only a ray-beam of shoddy headlights from the rear is sure to raise anxiety. More than just appearance, nighttime racing also delivers a change in temperature too. Tracks will feel much cooler, and it’s up to the driver to boost that tire pressure and adjust his racing style to this new challenging dimension. Despite the fact you won’t be able to see any rain at night just yet, both of these newly additions make Forza 6 feel like an entirely new and different game than FM5.
Not that it needed to, but everything in Forza Motorsport 6 looks prettier and sounds dirtier. You’ll now see more intensified clouds, crowds, rubber (not just the track; but the new tire barriers too), tarmac, grass, and models (Formula E, anyone?) that justify those 60 fps and 1080 statistics. Arguably as impressive are the roaring 24 car engines at green light, and the blazing 260 mph+ “peeeeeeowwwww” speeds of the Indy 500. The variety of cars alone is insane, man. Everything from the littlest Volvo to powerful Can-Am, IndyCars, Escalades and Dodge RAMs are fully upgradeable, and if you search in the community creations close enough you’ll likely find some outstanding odes to pop culture as well. The game isn’t out for a few days yet and I’ve already pushed the impressive peer paintwork of Jurassic Park, Wolverine, and…
Showcase events provide a nice spontaneous break from the career mode to show off various classic to classy cars, speed demons, randy obstacles and retro Moments in Motorsport (i.e. pre-war era Grand Prix, the origins of GT). Perhaps the biggest downside of the 5 volume “Stories” — Super Street, Sport Icons, Grand Touring, Professional Racing, and Ultimate Motorsport — is that you must finish in the Top 3 to advance to the next race, to which you will likely add another assist from the CPU (auto-braking or road lines), or merely turn the Drivatar A.I. down a nod, so you’re not stuck on the same race when you’ve got another 65+ hours left in an all-too linear career.
You can earn “Mods” through spins, credits, or affinity levels, too, which includes augmented grips, weight and speeds, or “dare” handicaps that will give you more XP upon completion. Despite how cool and arcady this new addition is to Forza, it would have been nice to begin races at a certain qualifying point via NASCAR (finish one race in 16th, wind up there the next…etc.). But hey, thankfully Mods can’t be used to cheat with online, you n00bz.
Forza Motorsport‘s famed “Drivatar” A.I. also adjusts to your driving style on particular tracks, not just opponents. You’ll feel far more rumble from the X1’s triggers this time, pertaining to how you’re making out situation-by-situation. Wait for that “WOOSH!” in the puddle, as it doesn’t just look amazing; you will actually feel the puddle. Not that Drivatar this year is completely perfect. I had no problem smoking by most of the competition in most of the races I had on “Hard” difficulty, which you can easily tinker with various Assist Sliders and Avatar difficulty, except for when I reached the Top 3.
Although I won my share of races (against A.I. drivers who pecularly have your friends’ gamertags above them, even if they never played this game), you can almost count ONE car being ahead of the pack. Way ahead. The #2 driver most likely will pose as your hardest competition, often driving all-too erratically at that. It’s a shame that the Drivatar system causes a little too much separation between racers in a mere 3-5 lap race. How about experiencing a “5 wide” on the last lap at Daytona? With the way the A.I. is at currently, it’s going to be really difficult to create your own “Moment in Motorsport”. Oh, you can still rewind any fault you make during the race — like it or not.
Due to the nature of an unreleased game during Labor Day Weekend, nonethless, I wasn’t able to connect with the good people at Turn 10 for some appointed multiplayer action. So, if those MP modes happen to fail big time (they won’t), I’ll be sure to give you the lowdown or alter some Bibles (I won’t). But even if multiplayer isn’t all that its cracked up to be (it will), there’s plenty of difference-making in Forza Motorsport 6 to make that upgrade. At the very worst, you can still split-screen race with your friends–a rarity in video games altogether.
Hell, I’d argue that racing in the rain is solely worth your $60. So much so that, despite a few minor chinks on its ultra shiny polish (i.e. absent Clarkson, erratic Drivatar, linear career progression), Forza 6 is still above and beyond every other racing sim on the market. This one, my friends, has no need for more speed.
Turn 10’s Forza Motorsport 6 is only available on Xbox One this Tuesday, September 15.