When it comes to keeping me on-side with their racing games, Microsoft and Turn 10 Studios has a problem. It isn’t that they killed Project Gotham Racing (how could they, though?) – But rather it’s thanks to Horizon, Forza Motorsport’s more fanciful open-world sibling. Horizon is, as detailed in my review last year, really bloody good. So good, in fact, that it’s dented my interest in the more traditional track-based Forza titles – so I went into Forza Motorsport 6 sceptical that it could hold my interest.
Turn 10 will be happy to learn that they succeeded – Forza 6 managed to hook and drag me in even throughout the month that essentially became Metal Gear Solid Month. There’s something about almost every facet of this package, from how slavishly it conveys the belief that there is nothing in this world more sacred and important than to worship at the altar of your favourite car manufacturer through to subtle gameplay tweaks designed to make the game more accessible, that oozes class and polish.
With Top Gear imploding throughout Forza 6’s development, the Top Gear focused bent of the last few games has been diluted down some. Clarkson is absent, and while Richard Hammond and James May put in appearances, they’re merely credited as “automotive journalists”.
They’re a few of many, voices of varying levels of fame drafted in to read from an over-the-top script that describes precisely what makes each class of car or type of race in the game special. Quite often these speeches are accompanied by an over-the-top swelling score that’d be more expected from some fantasy epic. This is what Forza is about, ultimately – the spectacle.
Forza 6 is a bloody pretty game – that has to be said and pushed out of the way immediately. It runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second with 24 racers on track, looks gorgeous doing it, and for the first time in the series offers up the racing in the rain and racing in the dead of night. Both aren’t just a cosmetic change, but actually offer up a significantly different gameplay challenge.
In rain, for instance, uneven segments of road will cause deeper puddles of rainwater that when driven through at speed can have a hugely impact your control – god help you if you hit one at speed on a corner. Puddles became my greatest enemy in the early hours of Forza 6, but later on they became a fun challenge – to skirt them, to send up spray for those behind me – another exciting track-based obstacle.
In the dark, headlamps are all you have, making each tight turn that little bit more exhilarating. There’s a fear in the night racing as every corner is a virtual unknown – but even beyond that, Forza’s physics simulation under the hood actually takes into account the fact that the night time is cooler, which means cooler-running engines and tyres, something which has the subtlest impact on racing – but one Turn 10 considers important enough to simulate all the same.
Turn 10’s work on the Forza series is of course primarily iterative, and much of the content of Forza 6 picks up where the fifth title in the series left us off. After some success with the career mode there, this continues down that path by avoiding the typical simulation racer structure of a career that sees you winning races and earning credits to buy better cars for bigger races.
Instead, Forza 6 offers up ‘Stories of Motorsport’, five sets of races that offer a different angle on the life of a racing driver. At the base end that features street races in hot hatchbacks and the like, but later chapters of the story will through you into multi-million dollar super cars on some of the world’s most challenging maps.
There’s immediacy to this mode that wasn’t present in the older structure, but I still feel like something is lost thanks to this structure.
It’s far easier to get to the better cars, and even outside of this a ‘rental’ system allows you to hop into a Bugatti from almost minute one if you so wish. Forza 6 essentially drops the concept of being a broader fantasy about a career in racing and instead presents the ability to live out smaller, more specific fantasies of experiencing whatever car you like on whatever track you like – now in whatever conditions you like. Your mileage will vary greatly with this, but I personally find it to be a less satisfying progression, even with the addition of extra Showcase and Top Gear themed events.
The big new addition to Forza 6 mechanically is the ‘mod’ system, a cheeky little system that while solid in design also allows Turn 10 and Microsoft to slip in some free-to-play style gacha randomness. Mods are essentially cards that can be applied to your cars before a race to power them up or offer you bonuses. Some mods will make things easier on you; while others will offer a further challenge in exchange for more credits if you go on to win.
It’s an interesting arcade-style wrinkle in a simulation game, and of course is entirely optional. Some cards are unlimited, while others will expire when used. In order to have a decent supply of cards, you’ll have to buy Booster Packs with in-game credits, with more expensive packs more likely to yield rare and powerful cards.
The mods system works well, and it’s nice to have another sink for credits beyond cars themselves – but one can’t help but wonder how much this system really fits in a simulation game – it feels as if it’d be more at home in Horizon.
Despite that bump in the road with mods, Forza 6 happily avoids sliding into microtransaction and DLC hell, something that Forza 5, an Xbox One Launch Title, suffered with terribly. The fan backlash worked, it seems – and other than traditional DLC of tracks and cars planned with season passes and the like, Forza 6 is microtransaction-free. It ships with a vast amount of content on the disc, and the DLC offered up so far seems to be of a high quality and a good value for the asking price. Turn 10 has to be commended for learning their lesson.
Forza 6 isn’t just good, then – it’s pretty damn excellent. If you’re after a simulation racer, Forza Motorsport is now staking a strong claim as the best on the market that rivals will have to sit up and pay attention to. More than that, however, systems like the Mods System, Drivatar AI Difficulty Settings and a more simplistic way to access even high-end cars also make this a far more appealing title for casual players. This is the game Forza 5 should have been, and easily matches up to Horizon 2’s excellent quality.
Forza Motorsport 6 was developed by Turn 10 Studios and produced by Microsoft Game Studios. It’s available for purchase now. A downloadable copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review.