If one thing comes to mindthe moment you boot up Forza 6, it’s this: if developer Turn 10 turned its hand to creating a car, it would be a wonderful piece of engineering.
This latest in the now-decade-old franchise is a meticulously crafted package, with an incredible attention to detail in almost every facet of its design.
Having made major missteps with Forza 5, Turn 10 has recognised and rectified where necessary. While its predecessor was a tight-fisted, condensed racing experience with a cut-down list of cars and tracks, Forza 6 is generous and dauntingly broad, more in line with series highpoint Forza 4. It has also excised the monetisation that plagued the Xbox One launch title and, while these shifts aren’t enough to make Forza 6 truly exemplary, it’s still a fantastic ride.
Not only does it run at 1080p and at an unflinching 60 frames per second, but it has been put together with precision. The downside is long load times, but the plusses outweigh the minuses. Navigating menus is clean and pristine, and there’s still much joy to be found in looking at cars up close in Autovista, peeking in bonnets to look at glorious V8 engines and hearing the satisfying “clunk” of doors unhinging open as you clamber in.
This is a game that feels as premium as the Ferraris and Lamborghinis that sit in its 450-strong garage. With a car roster of this size, not only is it impressive that Turn 10 has achieved such a level of consistency, but it’s also a testament to the studio’s understanding of motorsport that every car still feels distinct and unique to drive: 1960s open-wheel racers join family saloons and 4x4s, with each vying for your attention.
Where Forza 5 was a slow slog at times, Forza 6 moves so much quicker, even stealing Forza Horizon’s lucky-spin tombola that spits credits or free cars at you to make curating a garage so much more rewarding. Race mods act like perk cards and attempt to add even more variation into individual events, which can be single-use boosts to your grid position or to car performance, or event-based parameters such as being locked to cockpit view. Using mods affects your credit bonuses at the end of each race, and despite adding colour to individual events I found myself forgetting about them as they felt like an inessential obstacle.
Really strong new additions to Forza 6 are showcase events – another cheeky takeaway from Horizon. These one-time challenges put you in cars you may not have unlocked yet for exciting career highlights. Whether it’s sitting in a hyper-car, taking part in an endurance race or taking a spin around the Top Gear test track to knock down some obstacles, it makes Forza 6 feel much more fun.
Turn 10’s understanding of motorsport permeates through Forza 6. Each new race chapter you enter is prefixed with a slickly-narrated overview complete with racing trivia, but it’s a shame that these short scenes set up expectations that the game never quite hits. Richard Hammond and James May – coyly titled “automotive journalists” now that their Top Gear involvement has come to a punchy end – do well to evoke the sense of excitement about getting into a beastly Subaru Impreza to tackle the dusty twists of a point-to-point, until you remember there’s no real rallying in Forza 6. Similarly, my heart skipped a beat when the game mentioned the thrill of pit stops and tyre management as I waited to race in an open-wheel tournament, but these features aren’t even in the game. It’s odd that Turn 10 highlights its own game’s omissions.
Thankfully, the driving and racing remains some of the best available on Xbox One. Driving with the Xbox One pad’s rumble triggers is still sublime, and Turn 10 has seemingly added even deeper nuances to its handling model. You can feel when you’re running to the edge of your grip, or have hit the brakes too late as you run into the hairpin at the bottom of Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina. Forza 6 may not boast the sense of speed or pure carnage of some of its more arcade counterparts, but it’s a racing game that puts driving at the forefront of the experience.
Still, with such top-tier driving I expected more dynamism from how Forza 6 deals with its new night races and wet weather conditions. The individual beads of rain strolling up and off your windscreen, responding to the physics of each turn, look absolutely incredible, as do the 3D puddles, which wreak havoc with your trajectory if taken too lightly. But only a small handful of tracks have wet weather variations. This is the same with night races, too, which test your mettle as you hurtle toward an unseen apex in the pitch black. It all looks great and adds a touch of variation to events, but the lack of changing conditions or a dynamic time-cycle feels like a missed opportunity.
Elsewhere, the Drivatar system is still occasionally shonky and still doesn’t consistently deliver on the promise of “real human brains in AI cars”, but these are infrequent problems. Forza 6 feels like a worthy apology for the misjudgements it made with Forza 5. With competition from the likes of Driveclub and Project Cars, the franchise isn’t quite the benchmark it once was, but it’s damn good to see Turn 10 back on track with such impressive flair.
Microsoft; Xbox 360/Xbox One exclusively; £42.99; Pegi rating: 3
This article was written by Sam White, for theguardian.com on Monday 14th September 2015 15.06 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010