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Forza Motorsport 5 Review

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The great driving and great looks of Forza 5 get buried by bad menus, frustrating AI, and a disappointing number of "opportunities" to spend additional money.

Forza Motorsport 5 contains many shiny cars for you to bang up and cover in dings, scrapes, and scratches.

Forza Motorsport 5 should be a triumph. It's the latest installment in a well-liked, well-made simulation racing series, and the driving itself is as good as it's ever been. Actually, the Xbox One's rumbling trigger technology helps to make the driving even better by giving you more feedback about things like traction and helping you determine if you're over-accelerating or not. But everything surrounding that great driving experience chips away at that ideal driving scenario until you're left with a disappointing shame.

The Forza series has evolved over the years to get better and better at appealing to dopes like me, who want a certain level of assistance with the simulation aspects of driving, while still offering things that better resemble the reality of driving fast cars for people who don't. Forza 5 duplicates most of the options found in the previous games, including those various assist options that let you get assisted braking (which is no fun), traction control (which I probably wouldn't play the game without), or cosmetic damage. Typically, if I'm going to spend a lot of time with a Forza game, I start at the highest levels of assistance and graduate up to more difficult situations as I go. This element of the game is intact and works as advertised. The act of driving a car in Forza 5 feels roughly how it felt in Forza 4 and 3. You are, however, given more information about how your car is handling through the Xbox One's triggers, which can rumble independently from the rest of the controller. It's a nice addition.

In the game's career mode you'll face off against AI-controlled drivers, as before. You can set the difficulty rating of these opponents, but this time around they're based on the other Forza players on your friends list. The game collects data as you and your friends drive to build an AI profile, which the game clumsily calls a "drivatar." Thus, your AI profile is eventually supposed to mimic the way you take corners, how aggressive you are on the track, and so on. In practice, this has led to a game in which a large number of the racers on the track are immediately trying to run me off the road. Or maybe they're just leaving the track on their own, weaving around like a bunch of drunks. Even the "car guys" on my friends list--people I certainly would expect to maintain a certain level of decorum in any sort of racing game--bang around the track with some amount of recklessness. If the goal was to make the single-player career feel more lifelike, then it's mission accomplished, for sure. But instead of making it look or feel like a real-life race would, it makes it feel like a public lobby multiplayer race, where half the field, a bunch of goons with nothing to lose, bangs into the first turn at full speed and hopes for the best. I can't imagine that's what the developer was going for. Either way, this style of AI casts a dark shadow over the entire career mode. Once you know what to expect, it's manageable, and it certainly makes the game more challenging than it has been in the past, but I felt like I was being forced to drive aggressively and do way more rubbin' and way less racin' to succeed.

It might not have as many cars as some of the previous entries, but the important one is here.

As you might expect, the online side of the game is built to let you compete against actual humans instead of their shambling, crash-happy ghosts. But this section of the game is cordoned off into what feels like a billion different segments. So if you want to race A-class cars, there's a separate player matching hopper than there is for C-class cars. This is all fine and good, since people will almost certainly want to race specific cars that are suited to their own tastes, but it also meant that I had a hard time finding more than two or three other humans to race against. The developers have responded to this with a "beginner" playlist that lives on the first page you see when you hit the multiplayer menu, and one time I was able to get in a race with five or six others. The lack of a "I don't care what you put me in, just let me drive against people" button is pretty frustrating. You can, of course, round up some friends and get into a private match, but at that point you're dealing with the Xbox One's train wreck of a party interface, so there's no winning here.

While we're piling on, let's talk about post-release payment opportunities, which are poured across all of Forza Motorsport 5 like a thin layer of slime. It's certainly all optional, and you're welcome to race the career as intended and unlock all of the vehicles the "old" way. But when every pre-race screen contains not one but two reminders that you could accelerate your earnings by purchasing a time-limited double XP boost, it begins to feel like a free-to-play phone game. On top of that, you can sign up for "VIP membership" for an additional $20, and in addition to giving you access to an additional set of cars, it also gives you the equivalent of a free-to-play game's "coin doubler." Whenever you earn enough experience points to gain a level, you earn a bounty of credits, which are used to buy new cars and upgrade existing ones. If you're a VIP, that number of credits is doubled. Plain and simple. Like previous Forza games, FM5 even has a secondary currency, called tokens, much like a free-to-play game might. You can use these tokens to buy that double XP boost and cars. The token prices for cars are tied to the credit prices, which ends up making some individual vehicles insanely expensive. The developer has been out there after launch to state that it's reevaluating the overall economy in an attempt to head off some of the early criticism, but more than anything else, all of this just feels nasty. It's a full-priced, $60 game that has another limited edition option that went on sale for $80. Remember, it's all optional, and this certainly isn't the only game to ever offer a variety of shortcuts in the form of post-release payments. But the way the game is constantly reminding you of these additional payment schemes just feels dirty, and it cheapens the experience. Previous games in the series gave you cars as rewards for gaining a level. Forza 5 gives you credits that you can double by paying an additional fee.

You ladies need a ride?

At least it looks great. The car models have been ratcheted up a few notches from Xbox 360 to Xbox One, and the game runs at a terrific frame rate--though for some reason completing an online race drops the frame rate by about half as soon as you cross the finish line, when the game takes over and drives the track for you while you wait for other racers to complete the event. The Autovista mode lets you walk around the cars in a showroom and view the interiors, but you can't get under the hood, which is unfortunate. Photo mode and the ability to paint, customize, and tune cars is also largely intact, though the system for distributing paint jobs has changed a bit. Overall it delivers a solid sense of speed and usually looks fantastic.

It looks great and it drives well. Given the Forza pedigree and the aplomb with which it nails those two things, this should be a fantastic game, the best Forza yet. Most of the pieces are there. But everything is out of place or hidden behind disappointing layers, whether that's the unfortunate AI or the multiplayer hoppers. With all of that in mind, Forza Motorsport 5 becomes a game that is outstanding in specific, limited situations, but overall, it's kind of a drag.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
110 Comments
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Posted by JayEH

Guess I'll wait for #DRIVECLUB on PS4

Edited by damonstein

Shme it's not better, was hoping this might get me into racing games.

Posted by hojufixter

Was excited for this game. Not so much anymore after seeing a few reviews

Posted by Ozzie

After hearing them talk about this game over the podcast I am not shocked.

Posted by Lausebub

If there was only another racing "simulator" game coming out soon...oh wait. (We'll have to wait and see how good GT6 actually is, but I'm definitely more confident there.)

Edited by MooseyMcMan

I tried playing this once on my cousin's Xbox One, and I did not like the rumble triggers at all! They made my fingers tingle.

That's the only thing I have to say.

Posted by Skytylz

@jayeh said:

Guess I'll wait for #DRIVECLUB on PS4

If they release it with the # in the title, I won't buy it.

Posted by JCHenderson

This game feels less than the sum of its parts. At a glance Thanks Jeff for a thought out and considered review for those I'm sure still on the fence if they should splurge and delve into new console territory.

Posted by FuriousJodo

I've been enjoying it but I was never super deep into the previous Forza games. I have only spent a few hours with it though.

Posted by bunnymud

An impressive balanced review. Cannot argue with any of the points he made. Love the driving, hate everything else about it..except the Top Gear guys input.

Posted by bigwhiteyeti

HASHTAG DRIVECLUB.

In all seriousness, Forza 3 actually bumped this series above GT for the last couple of iterations, and I loved Horizon. It's a shame Microsoft's money making ambitions have tarnished what Turn 10 has obviously put a great deal of thought and care into.

Edited by csl316

Glad the driving is nice. I won't be playing it, but at least the core is solid enough.

Edited by anbilow

Awwww yeaaa. Chevy Nova.

Posted by xxDrAiNxx

Outza

Edited by beard_of_zeus

Shme it's not better, was hoping this might get me into racing games.

Just go play Forza Horizon intead :)

Posted by Grilledcheez

This isn't the Forza game I was hoping for :(

Posted by Falconer

I agree that this is a 3/5 game. However, I disagree that Drivatar is bad. As someone that has played the Forza series almost religiously since the second game, the AI in Forza 5 is a MASSIVE improvement over previous games. I'm not saying it's perfect (it still brakes like a computer), but it's noticeably better. I'm curious @jeff, what difficulty do you usually have the AI set to? I don't know for myself since I went straight to the higher ones, but from what I hear the AI is way better at higher levels. Makes sense to me since I don't think it's nearly as bad as everyone is making it out to be.

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Posted by uzer_error

The driving and models are fantastic, but I agree with Jeff that that's where it ends. This should have been and easily could have been an amazing experience. One thing I don't get is the complaints about the drivatars, I simply haven't had any problems with the AI being reckless or over aggressive.

Posted by CptBedlam

Forza Horizon 2 was pretty much the only Xbone game I was looking forward to and now I'm concerned they will pull the same shit in that game as they did in Forza 5. Fucking Pay2Pay2Play. :-/

Edited by Nasar7

Yeah, but the physics are so good which, including the superb triggers, is really all I care about. I'll never pay real money for cars or double xp, but then again I did buy the limited edition. Never had a problem with the drivatars but I play with it on pro difficulty so maybe it's bad and unskilled at lower difficulties, can't really comment one way or another. As someone who loves cars and racing sims, this is a 4 star game for me, but if you're a more casual fan I completely agree with Jeff's 3 star review.

Posted by HerbieBug

This could have easily been a system seller for me. I sunk 100+ hours each into Forza's 2, 3, and 4. This? No interest. And it's not just the smaller roster of cars and the smaller selection of tracks, the economy setup and all the rest of the slimey grossness. There was one thing Forza has always been missing: weather effects and night driving (Horizon doesn't count). We're on iteration number five here and still no night driving and no weather. Even the super hardcore simy F1 games have weather for godssakes. D:

Posted by Korwin

All this game had to be was a prettier bigger Forza 4, instead they broke it with a f2p phone game design philosophy. It makes me wonder if anyone at any point stuck their head up during development an asked "wait... are we making Real Racing 4?".

Posted by AV_Gamer

And this was suppose to be the top launch title for the Xbox One. 8.8 all over again?

Anyway, reviewers need to call out Microsoft for their criminal micro-transaction methods. It's bad enough the console cost $500 dollars when its less powerful than the PS4, but to nickel and dime consumers who already paid full price for a game is borderline criminal and true gaming journalist need to mention it as such and not make excuses for it. They also need to punish developers whom agree to it by taking away points during reviews, I don't care how good the game itself is.

Posted by Meptron

pay-to-pay model. Exclusive to the xbox one.

Posted by Sterling

Lies, all Lies!

Posted by flameboy84

Haha awesome use of that picture of the crowds genuine laugh out loud moment from the Quick Look.

Posted by RiccochetJ
Posted by Korwin

Haha awesome use of that picture of the crowds genuine laugh out loud moment from the Quick Look.

It's always amusing when a companies "NEXT GEN" bullshots get debunked.

Posted by HerbieBug

@av_gamer said:

And this was suppose to be the top launch title for the Xbox One. 8.8 all over again?

Anyway, reviewers need to call out Microsoft for their criminal micro-transaction methods. It's bad enough the console cost $500 dollars when its less powerful than the PS4, but to nickel and dime consumers who already paid full price for a game is borderline criminal and true gaming journalist need to mention it as such and not make excuses for it. They also need to punish developers whom agree to it by taking away points during reviews, I don't care how good the game itself is.

I like to play a game of what would things be like if Microsoft included all of the anti-consumer policies they originally announced. In addition to the Forza loveliness, we could have had great things like: mandatory always on Kinect, mandatory online security check-ins once every 24 hours, additional charge to play a disc based game on any account other than the one it was originally associated with.

Posted by NTM

I'm not really interested in this game, but hm, this is surprising.

Posted by GERALTITUDE

sad. kind of expected, but a shame nonetheless.

Posted by RareSpine

I'm still enjoying this game quite a lot for what it is - a launch sim-racer that probably didn't get as much development time as needed. Though I must be rather lucky with the AI, as I have not come across AI racers that are purposely trying to run me off track or take corners like those you would see online.

Posted by KoolAid

But Harry Hogge taught me that rubbin' is racing!

Posted by LucidDreams117

Hmmm. Sounds about right. A shame. I'm curious, Jeff, have they made the economy adjustments that they talked about a week ago? Would/did that change anything?

I'm also curious as to what the Bomb Crews take will be on GT6. Their micro transactions seem like they'll piss people off too. $150 for a in game car is kinda crazy. Optional grind or not.

Something tells me There is gonna to be a pretty whine filled long period of growing pains with putting in micro transactions in full priced game.

Edited by LucidDreams117

Gotta love the Microsoft hate in here. Oh yeah guys it's only them. Go ahead. Be ignorant. GT6 says hi. It will expects wallets open.

Some gamers man. It's a real shame. It's what's making the internet harder and harder to read. Stay ignorant gamers. Stay ignorant.

Posted by Bribo

Dear videogame-publishing-cunts,

Stop spoiling all your games and just raise their price by five or ten bucks.

Yours etc.

Edited by stenchlord

I'm a little disappointed in this review.

I'm not saying what @jeff has said is all wrong but he's failed to mention a couple things and perhaps not explored the game enough and has some misconceptions about it.

There was no mention about the lack of variety in race tracks or the mandatory narration from the Top Gear presenters (I'm a huge fan of the series and have watched it all but don't care for it in the slightest in FM5 and you can't skip it) and also the smaller roster of cars available not to mention that you need to use credits in free play to drive cars you don't own...

I'd have loved to hear some praise for the audio in the game too, whether playing out of the speakers of when I have headphones connected, the game sounds fantastic. The music that plays is pretty poor for the style of game it is (least in my opinion) but the sound of your car and the cars around you is fantastic. Would also have loved at least a sentence regarding the attention to detail of the cockpit views for all the cars which I think is great. None of the GT5 "b.s." of some cars will have cockpit views and some won't (yes I realise this is also due to the limited roster of cars).

One of the things he may not have realised is the "drivatards" improve when you increase difficulty. The game is a heavily advertised launch title so the amount of casual driving gamers who likely bought this is going to be pretty high, specially when you consider the accolades the predecessors received.

When you race on the default difficulty or even just one or two steps above it you're going to be racing against these same people and as mentioned they drive like lunatics. Once you start to move into the Pro and Unbeatable AI difficulties you're being paired with drivatars from players who are more atuned to the racing sim genre and who are likely playing with sim-like damage enabled and are less likely to be running people off the road.

Having said all that, I think an option to disable drivatars would have been a good middle-ground but considering how much emphasis the developers were putting on it and the amount of work that likely went into it, this isn't going to happen.

Also you can definitely look at the engines of cars in Autovista mode but it's only select cars that this option is available for.

Overall I agree with the end rating but there are things that I think should have been mentioned in this review. Specially considering how long it's taken for it to come out.

Posted by TheBlackPigeon

I don't know about everyone else, but I prefer my racing games with a bit of slime covering them.

Posted by Vuud

Big Rigs did not have microtransactions. Just putting that out there.

Posted by supernogglepop

Seems the first Forza is still the best in some respects. At least it had (limited) night racing and somewhat meaningful pit strategy. The money-grabbing is only one of a great many problems I have with this series. It has simply not evolved in the direction I hoped for from Forza 2 onwards. I have no interest in a car porn photography simulator catering to people who are happy with 2 lap races and never turn off traction control.

Also, Turn 10 have repeatedly shown complete contempt for their user base. People didn't like that there were no custom public lobbies in Forza 3? Solution: erase the feedback forum! People tuned their cars to go 400mph using a gear exploit that's been in every iteration of the game? Solution: don't fix it - ban them for using nothing more than in-game tools! People want to make a single player race longer than 2 laps? Make them pay for Xbox Live Gold!

I'm out. Done with Turn 10. Done with Microsoft.

Edited by Deathpooky

Glad to see a review that actually deals with the shitty microtransactions. The number of reviews that either fail to address the sliminess or dismiss it with a simple "you don't have to spend money" is ridiculous. Importing free-to-play mechanics in a full priced game sucks and obviously influences the game design. The ridiculous amount of time it takes to unlock and tinker with the top cars and the amount of stuff that's been changed and removed to push you to spend money shouldn't be tolerated.

On the other hand, it is kind of hilarious that they nailed the basic gameplay for a launch game but destroyed it by screwing with things that worked in the previous games. Having this come after Horizon is a huge bummer.

Posted by DonPixel

I red Polygon's Arthur Gies review of Forza and I was like mm maybe, but reading this remains me why I trust Giantbomb.

Posted by LandonRobinson

Glad that off-track moment in the Quick Look was included here. :D

Posted by Tajasaurus

"Forza Motorsport 5 contains many shiny cars for you to bang" - Jeff Gerstmann, 2013

Posted by Lifendz

The score doesn't seem to match the content of the review

Posted by Tblockkiller

Need horizon2

Posted by Fushichou187

After all the shit Jeff's been giving this game in regards to the shady microtransactions, the broken online experience, and crappy AI, it still gets a 3? I'm genuinely surprised.

Posted by nothingreal

The entire concept of the drivatar is foolishness.

Of course the "AI" is an overly aggressive maniac.. most of the early races which you are forced to run are two laps and the player always starts at the end of the pack..

In order to pass 10+ similarly equipped cars in under two laps, you've got to drive like a maniac.. hence all the drivatars are driving like crazy people... its a concept that probably seemed like a good idea at the time but it's nonsense.

This game is an exercise in disappointment and frustration. it could have been so good.. but it's easily the worst game to bear the Forza name.

Edited by ripelivejam

@vuud said:

Big Rigs did not have microtransactions. Just putting that out there.

what about big mutha truckas

Posted by afrofools

I have played 3 Forza games. All except for the very first Forza feature batshit-insane AI drivers that push you off of the track. This quite possibly has little to do with the new drivatar feature. It must be a huge programming challenge to make cars follow an ideal path along the track, while simultaneously having to overtake one another and react to the mostly unpredictable driving of the player. When I try to drive clean I usually end up being pushed from the track via a pit-manouvre. This is why I hate racing games. Arcade racers feature rubber banding and simulations feature stupid AI.

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