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Forza Motorsport 5 review

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AT A GLANCE
  • Still one of the most fun, inviting racing sims
  • Subtle refinements to all areas of gameplay
  • Drivatar system could revolutionize solo racing
  • A paltry number of tracks
  • Less aggregate content than Forza fans may be used to

On paper, Forza Motorsport 5 is a massive disappointment. Its car roster has been halved, leaving a paltry 200-odd to Forza 4’s 500-plus, and its showing of tracks is so limited that you’ll likely have raced on a variant of each within the first hour of play. The career mode has been stripped down as well, and the game's few additions are minute. It looks great, but it doesn’t come close to defying next-gen expectations. But in practice, even with a drastically diminished amount of content, there's still more to do here than any reasonable person would ever have time to complete. In that sense, Forza Motorsport 5 is only a slight disappointment--no, you won't get as much content as you might expect, but that reduction has actually led to a few gains.

Forza 5 holds fast to what separates it from other games of its type--you can get realistic racing from a dozen other games, but Forza is special in its ability to engender in the player a real passion and desire to improve. Where other driving sims feel exclusionary and insular, Forza 5 wants you to jump in and have a good time, no matter your fluency with cars or racing games. And the non-I'm-in-a-car-driving features are present and as deep as ever--a creatively inclined player could spend dozens of hours toying with the ludicrously extensive decal creation and painting system, and players without the time to invest can still peruse the community-curated storefront for amazing user-generated designs. That’s the thing: Forza 5 still has everything that made the last few games worth playing, and they all still form a cohesive package that deserves all of your free time, even if it seems a tad too familiar.

To understand how thinning the amount of content is a not-so-bad or even a good thing, you’ll have to bear with me for a brief tour of the franchise’s history. Back in 2005, the original Forza Motorsport had interesting ideas but struggled to make an impression. By the time Forza 2 rolled around, the series had found a place for itself by leveraging its accessibility and exterior features that no other driving sim offered. Forza 3 was the high point of the series, adding in a few straggling features that were perceived to be missing and offering so many advancements to the genre as to make it not just the best Forza game, but arguably the best console driving sim ever. And in 2011, Forza Motorsport 4 added… more cars.

Okay, I’m being a little reductive, but Forza Motorsport 4 did feel like a retread, and it proved that adding more raw content to the same package wouldn’t get developer Turn 10 very far. In that way, you could read the scaling-down of Forza 5 as more of a refinement than an outright deletion, with Turn 10 stopping to take stock of what makes the franchise great. For example: Yes, there are far fewer cars, but each one is detailed to the point of obsession. Every car is fully rendered, inside and out, for you to scrutinize and fetishize in the near-pornographic Forzavista mode. And that’s indicative of Forza 5’s philosophy as a whole. Sheer quantity has taken a backseat, with priority being given to detail and subtle improvements to the overall gameplay experience.

Take the career mode. On the surface, it seems slim and a bit aimless, but the result is a much slower, more focused progression that lets you play how you want and makes better use of the content that’s available. Career modes in previous games threw so much money and so many cars at you that you scarcely had a reason to stay in any one car for very long, but Forza 5 limits your resources and encourages you to make smart decisions with your car purchases. And because you won’t have unlocked dozens of cars within the first few hours, you finally have a compelling reason to delve into the game’s deep upgrade system. It ultimately gives the player a clearer avenue to explore everything the game has to offer. And it plays better, too; Turn 10 has yet again improved the physics simulation, however imperceptibly, and they’ve got a snazzy new AI system, dubbed the “Drivatar,” that’s designed to keep players on their toes.

The theory behind Drivatar, not to mention its implementation, might just be Forza 5's game-changer. Traditionally, the AI in racing games has been lousy, due mostly to the fact that it's hard enough for most people to get the mechanics of racing down. Rather than tough AI, the challenge is typically one of besting your lap times--if you want a real challenge, you head online, against human opponents. With Forza 5, Turn 10 has attempted to solve that long-standing issue by imbuing the AI with the behavior of real players by way of their “Drivatars,” AI opponents whose performance is based on data gathered from all players. It’s an interesting idea that, in theory, should make the AI act in unpredictable ways. It remains to be seen just how gameplay-relevant the addition can be (given that the console isn't out yet, and significant player data has yet to be collected), but it has the potential to evolve and improve the game in exciting ways.

Forza Motorsport 5 is admirable in its pursuit of solving a tough problem. Having effectively perfected the console driving simulator years ago, Turn 10 was left with the option of driving in circles with a same-y annualized release, or peeling out of that cul-de-sac and onto the open road. With Forza 5, it chose to compromise in certain areas in an attempt to create something unique and fresh. It’s not entirely successful, as the sometimes-negligible improvements to the gameplay can’t quite make up for the sting of losing so many fan-favorite cars and tracks. But what is included is still terrific, and in some cases better than ever.

More Info

Release date: Nov 22 2013 - Xbox One (US)
Available Platforms: Xbox One
Genre: Racing
Published by: Microsoft
Franchise: Forza Motorsport
ESRB Rating:
Everyone: Comic Mischief

Forza Motorsport 5 prizes quality over quantity, eschewing the vehicular excess of previous entries to focus on the gameplay. The result is a leaner, more refined racer.

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8 comments

  • danielmybrother - February 7, 2014 6:52 a.m.

    great game, did you see the racing car game in google store? named: ispy hunting ? it is great, retro game , form the 80th, action begins in level3.
  • tiffany-sanchez94 - February 6, 2014 10:05 a.m.

    sweet! I got a Xbox Live code and it worked! Check this site out http://freexboxliveforever.com
  • macrm32 - November 20, 2013 11:34 a.m.

    Having been more of a Gran Turismo guy, I gotta say, prefer Forza a whole lot more, and Drivatar, if it works, will be a game changer. It's a nice bold move by Turn 10, and I hope it pays off.
  • MidianGTX - November 20, 2013 11:14 a.m.

    So you're saying they've finally gone back to making you earn cars? That's great news. The previous couple of games threw them at me so quickly I didn't have time to start giving a damn about any of them. It might as well have been an arcade game with unnamed vehicles. The first Forza remained my favourite purely because I grew to love my crappy old car, we went through a lot of experiences together and I slowly fixed it up until finally it became an utter beast. That's also what I loved so much about the GT games and somewhere along the line, Forza lost that.
  • hester2 - November 20, 2013 12:36 p.m.

    It didn't really bother me, but I mostly ignored the cars they would give you in 4. I played it the same way you described, focusing on upgrading a handful of cars while squirreling money away for my next big purchase.
  • TRCThrobbinhood - November 20, 2013 1:10 p.m.

    I agree, and you could pick a car without tuning it to win races, now it's back to how it should be. Turn 10 are doing what other developers are doing now, EA for example and trying to get more money by getting you to spend more money on DLC and in game money, but I think this is the best review of Forza 5 and can't wait to play it even though I know I will be buying cars and tracks I have had before, but like I said, they are all at it. I had to laugh at one review marking it down for punishing handling lol, I'm glad it's gone back to the level of difficulty of Forza 2, Forza 3 was slightly dumbed down in my opinion so bring the game on.
  • Whit - November 26, 2013 7:03 p.m.

    What was left out is that you are going to have to play A LOT--to unlock those cars. Well unless you are willing to part with a few dollars to buy Drive Tokens.

Showing 1-8 of 8 comments

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