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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 Korwin

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.

On the podcast this week he called it "the very definition of a three star game". A good core premise mired in bad decisions.

Posted by Sooty

@bribo said:

Dear videogame-publishing-cunts,

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

Yours etc.

That's just as bad an idea as microtransactions.

Edited by ThomasCro

@skytylz: I see you are focusing on the important things in life.

Posted by AMyggen

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.

He more or less always said that it was gonna get a 3, even said it was more or less the "definition of a 3/5 game" or something on the Bombcast. I think it lines up pretty well: He really likes the driving and how it looks, but dislikes everything around it like microtransactions. I think it seems like a fair score.

I just hope enough people voice their concern about this microtransaction in full priced games shit for companies to take note. EA has been doing this bullshit for years now, and as always they've been pioneers in fucking over consumers. Japanese companies like Square Enix are also awful when it comes to this, and I agree with the 8-4 guys: I'm afraid of what the Japanese games industry will do with microtransactions this generation.

If you include microtransactions in a full priced game, parts of the game will almost always be designed around it (like in Forza 5 where it's more difficult to get new cars, because they want you to spend money), and that's the problem. It's a shame so many publications looked past this when they reviewed Forza 5.

Edited by AMyggen

@sooty said:

@bribo said:

Dear videogame-publishing-cunts,

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

Yours etc.

That's just as bad an idea as microtransactions.

Of course it isn't. The problem with microtransactions isn't that it makes the game more expensive, it's that it makes for worse games. They design the games around the microtransactions, so that you progress slower etc. in order to get people to spend actual money. That's the problem.

If publishers feel they need more money for their games, I'd easily prefer that they raise the price of the games instead of spoiling the actual game with microtransactions. I'm not saying I want either, but of the two, raising the price up front is easily better for the consumer.

Posted by Gatehouse

If this had been just Forza 4 with the bump up in graphics and feel that Jeff says, it might have convinced me to buy a console for it. I love the idea of Drivatar, but hearing the really mixed reactions makes me think it needs some more work. All the other stuff can absolutely take a hike. I hate all this free-to-play stuff and having it now infect premium games really gets my goat.

Edited by benspyda

It's a shame because as a driving game for the driving alone and how the tire traction is displayed by the trigger rumble, it's probably the best racing game I have ever played Shame all the other bull shit around the game detracts so much. Also the limited number of tracks are starting to get a little repetitive.

Posted by Atwa

Real bummer, the series used to be so good.

Posted by scaramoosh

It is a game that could be mostly fixed by a patch.

Edited by joelalfaro

@hojufixter: jeffs perspective on this game is kinda unique actually. Definitely not on the majority. An i teresting counter review is Adam Sessler's review on Rev 3 games.

Posted by Scotto

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.

As he says - the core of the game is as sound as ever (the driving is fun, the game looks great) - the problem is just the terrible experience built around it.

Thankfully, a lot of the game's problems are something that could theoretically be fixed with a game update, assuming Microsoft/Turn 10 ever came to their senses about how aggressive microtransactions in a $60 game feels slimy, and how segmenting the multiplayer in a hundred different hoppers is a bad idea.

I still think Driveatar is a great idea, but it clearly needs some more tooling for Forza 6.

I sometimes think Jeff gets overly "pissy" about certain games without just cause, but after seeing Forza 5 in action myself - he's completely bang on about these complaints. When you buy a $60 game, you shouldn't feel like you're being further nickle and dimed in order to "get ahead". The deluge of these microtransactions in all of the MS published games, leads me to think this is some greater mandate from Microsoft, which worries me.

Edited by BRich

@scotto: They already gave me 3 million reward credits and 3 cars. That was enough to get a car for every race event in the game. Why anyone would invest real money on tokens is beyond me. It's a completely irrelevant feature that gets a lot of attention.

The actual racing here is the best I've seen and the rumble triggers are an incredible upgrade. So if you enjoyed past Forza games for the racing, have no reservations going into this one.

Oh and Drivatars are incredible, especially on the higher difficulties.

Posted by Yummylee

The Gears of War Judgment of Forza games.

Posted by dagmarlena

Good going Giantbomb! Call out the FULL-PRICED games that try to nickel & dime users with these micro-transactions.

Edited by jimmyfenix

Where is Project Gotham at ?

Posted by Snakepond

C'mon Jeff. I understand you disappointment, but a f'ing 3 on 5. Seriously?

Posted by Sanjuro82

Wow...what a terrible review. Forza 5 is an excellent racing sim! Certainly not perfect, but a 3 out of 5 is laughable.

Posted by Xshinobi

On the A.I part, I totally agree and it ruined the game for me. It is seems that all Drivatar system equals is everyone ramming into me, ramming into each other as they take the corner and/or pushing me off the track. I would much rather have Forza 1's AI system then what they have done with the Drivatar system. The sad thing is that driving is fantastic and I love the Forzavista and Top Gear stuff but the freaking A.I has made me stop playing.

Posted by Krakn3Dfx

Good on Jeff for calling MS and Turn 10 on this microtransaction shit. Other reviews that gave the game 8s or better never even mentioned it because Forza was supposed to be the Xbox One's Gifted and Talented launch child. Reviews that actually call out bullshit like this are why GB tends to be a cut above most of the time on stuff like this.

Posted by spookytapes

This is a 3/5 game. I am still enjoying but much less than the last 2 main forza games. They stripped a lot of what I love from the franchise out of this one. Good review, Jeff.

Posted by Spankmealotus

Kind of a drag he says. Good one Jeff. Good one. On another note I bought my first 360 for Forza 2 and only ended up playing about 10 games on it over the 7 or so years I had it. Kind of bitter sweet that Forza 5 is such a shit show. On one hand I'm glad to not have it pushing me to buy a 500 dollar console. On the other hand I really enjoy the experience of a new Forza game and will miss having that.

Posted by Andheez

I couldn't care less about a racing sim, just not my thing, but I think the 'micro transactions are ruining games' hate has gotten a bit out of control. No, I do not love micro transactions, but I also don't let it ruin things for me. Recently played Dead Space 3 and just completely ignored them. I also played Mass Effect 3 and put in $10-$15 on the multiplayer and felt fine about it. They are only options, you aren't forced to buy them, just ignore them if you don't like them.

Edited by bgdiner

As a fan of the series from the very first game, I find it disappointing that the developers felt that microtransactions would be a good idea. I expected some degree of this, given its status as a launch title and the fact that we've faced this kind of thing since Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and a bit before, but this feels like such a departure for the series.

While I'm not saying Forza is a core-focused driving sim, I do believe that most Forza fans are likely buying the game for the experiences the previous games offered. I get that Forza is now a broader-focused series that isn't necessarily reserved for more dedicated racing fans, as maybe the first two games were, but this is a step too far.

Posted by Jared

Thanks for the review Jeff. What a bummer of a game this is. Hearing that more and more. No reason to currently get an XBOX One now. Sticking with PC and Wii U.

Posted by ei8htbit

In terms of physics, technical ability, graphical fidelity, depth, and feature set as a capital "R" Racer, this is the most impressive and easily the best Forza ever made. Hands down.

I don't really go for DLC, which is fine because it never got in the way of me playing or enjoying this game at all. Not even a little bit. So I'm surprised by all the hubbub being made. Is it there? Yes it's there but it is totally and legitimately optional. There are no false limiters in place and you always have full access to the complete experience. This isn't a chopped up episodic FarmVille many seem to assume it to be. I'm honestly baffled by the backlash. I can understand many don't want it even present at all and there is a bigger dialogue surrounding the industry in general, but if it really doesn't gimp the game or prevent you from playing it fully does it really warrant such a negative judgement of the game overall? At that point it's more of a political statement than objectivity based on it's merits - in my opinion at least.

In terms of multiplayer, maybe I'm just lucky but I haven't had any issues finding a decent grid to play. This definitely isn't Horizon in terms of format, but it's the best Forza I've played. Seriously, this thing is a blast it's super fast, it's smooth, it's glossy, it's gritty, it's loud but most of all it's fun as hell. The fact there is DLC available that I don't care about personally doesn't take any of that bigger experience away from me.

All I can say is that if you have an Xbox One you owe it to yourself to at least try this game or borrow it from a friend or buy it used if that's the only way you can justify it because it really is a quality racer and true next gen experience if that's what you're looking for. Don't support the DLC if that's your concern, the full game is always there.

Edited by IAmNotBatman

Wow...what a terrible review. Forza 5 is an excellent racing sim! Certainly not perfect, but a 3 out of 5 is laughable.

Opinion that differs from my own = Terrible review?

People like you are the worst of gamers.

Posted by Brainling

I pretty much fundamentally disagree with Jeff's review, but I understand where he is coming from.

I am having a blast with Forza 5. Maybe because I didn't get heavily in to 4 and Horizons I just "don't know what I'm missing", but I've had nothing but a good time with this.

The microtransaction stuff is somewhat disappointing, but then I look at all the other XBox One games that have it and I realize that this seems to be a push directly from Microsoft, not the developers proper. That doesn't make it okay per se, but I also understand that it's not really Turn 10's decision.

I'm perfectly happy with this as a launch title, and I'm going to end up putting a ton of hours in to it. Especially since we aren't getting a race sim for PS4 until Q4 next year when GT7 releases. This will tide me over until then.

Posted by GeneJuggler

I don't get these comments! 3/5 means it is a good game. Everybody is saying 'wow, what a disappointment...' or they are saying 'It should have been scored higher!!!'. It's a good game. There are aspects that are a step back from the last one. Graphics and gameplay in races is better. If you like racing games, you should try it. So much drama. Goodness!

Posted by LeTHaLMiGRaiNe

Jeff lowballed this game big time. It looks amazing, it feels amazing. drivatars are cool as hell and most games need to find a way to work in a similar feature. there are plenty of cars, there are plenty of tracks (only 13 tracks, but each has multiple layouts). if you don't like this game you are soulless. this is the best racing game since the PS2. this is definitely a 8.5 out of 10 game.

Posted by Shortbreadtom

@sanjuro82: Calling reviews you disagree with "terrible" is laughable.

Edited by SPCTRE

Funnily enough, all this Forza and GT talk made me get wayyyy into FM4 again over the last days.

Glad I didn't invest in a NextGen machine yet.

Edited by bhhawks78

Honestly reads like more of a 1.5-2 than 3.

Posted by Sander

Very well written review, makes me feel as though I've experienced the game first hand.

Posted by agentboolen

Yea sure those graphics are sure pretty but I'll stick with my Forza 4 till Microsoft makes another Xbox Wireless Speed Wheel!! Till then this would be a unnecessary upgrade for me.

Posted by JillSammich

@luciddreams117: And yet gamers will still buy and play these games, and there will still be support for this shitty practice. We're doing nothing but reinforcing bad behavior. We'll whine and cry, and we'll still buy the damn thing anyway, so what is that really telling the publishers? It's telling them it's ok to put this F2P bullshit in the games because fuck it. They'll buy it anyway. And as a business, why would you not put in opportunities to maximize your profits. This is saying nothing to the dismissive people that are just like "don't like it, don't buy microtransactions". No. It's a slimy practice. If I pay $60 for a game, I don't want to see your stupid points doubler or extra currency shoved in my face.

As long as gamers HAVE to have the newest systems and games, it doesn't matter how much complaining we do. The only thing that will speak for us is our money. But we won't ever get to a point where we can just go without the newest Forza game, or the next GT, (or the next Mass Effect for that matter) so it's a moot point.

Posted by johncallahan

Jeff lowballed this game big time. It looks amazing, it feels amazing. drivatars are cool as hell and most games need to find a way to work in a similar feature. there are plenty of cars, there are plenty of tracks (only 13 tracks, but each has multiple layouts). if you don't like this game you are soulless. this is the best racing game since the PS2. this is definitely a 8.5 out of 10 game.

I... my head hurts reading this.

Edited by Clapmaster

I pretty much 100% disagree with this review and feel almost the complete opposite of what Jeff says about the game. I haven't really noticed the game trying to pull additional cash out of my wallet at all. I'm level 33 in the career mode and I've accumulated over 1 million credits just from playing up to this point in the career. Haven't had to do any grinding whatsoever or pay additional real world money for anything. 16 car races and drivatards make the events in this game so much more enjoyable than anything I played in the previous Forza Motorsport games. There are fewer tracks and cars but the track selection is great, so many new tracks compared to the previous games. You also have to remember that games take time to develop and the detail they've put in these cars and tracks is just insane. I would much rather have this than a rush job with 500 poopy looking cars. Forza Motorsport 5 is easily the best next gen launch game and my favorite game of the series so far. I would've given it a 9.5/10

Edited by PoisonJam7

That really sucks about the microtransactions, but seeing as I already got this game in a bundle for Christmas, I'll still check it out. It is also disappointing for me to hear that there aren't as many cars as in previous versions, but I'm sure they will be adding a ton of DLC cars throughout the game'is lifespan.

I have a question about the AI though: what does it do if you have no friends playing this game to pull driving behavior from? Will it just be the same terrible AI from FM4? In a way, that sounds preferable.

Posted by Snapifly

well thought out review. I have seen more than one article say micro - transactions are the way of the future however not in my opinion. Your game should be fun enough to want to play through the unlocks .. when it doesn't its a grind and becomes boring.

Posted by JohnZimmerman

I agree with Jeff. It’s not the racing, that’s as good as it ever was. It’s the presentation; from the music, to the way the game explains nothing about driving or where anything is, the aggressive drivatars, the micro transactions. It all adds up to a game that’s mechanically sound, but hard to love.

I really don’t like the way dlc works in forza the “give us money to put the game in the game, then earn/spend in game currency to actually use it” thing is really annoying. Most of these cars I don’t even care about. I really don’t like being expected to give money up front, sight unseen for content to be delivered later. There is no guarantee of quality or value.

Posted by goatmilk

Forza 5 screams "rushed for launch" to me. Would have been nice to see what it would've been had they been given another 6 months or so to work on it.

Posted by Devil240Z

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

if you aren't already into racing games I don't think any racing game is going to do it for you.

Online
Edited by Shaunage

There are 13 tracks, but there are nearly 600 races in the career mode. Do you want to race on every single track almost 50 times? I sure don't. This is the biggest problem I've found.

Posted by BawlZINmotion

Is it just me, or has there been an acceleration of incomplete garbage proliferating the technology world the last year or two? Windows 8, half-baked. Battlefield 4, still frozen inside. PS4 operating system, I think they forgot a few things. Xbox One operating system, did they cut a corner off the premature Windows 8 pot pie? Throw-in whatever you want to say about NBA Live 2014, SimCity, "insert name", and now this.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. The headlight recall for my vehicle lights was programmed wrong, and on my way to have that addressed the latte I ordered was have foam that vanished 3 minutes later. I paid for a 14 ounce coffee, not 7. It's always the little things that get you, and there seem to be a lot more of them these days.

Edited by pickassoreborn

I was worried about this. Forza peaked at Forza 3. Forza 4 was a bit of going through the motions. More excited (like Jeff is) about Forza Horizon. Give me an Xbox One sequel to that and I'll be sold on the console.

I know the cardboard cut-out crowds are a giggle, but it's a massive downer for anyone expecting advancement in the graphical boundaries Forza 5 promised to push. They did have fully polygonal crowds in the footage they revealed when they first unveiled the Xbox One in that massive tent in Redmond - though I expect something went wrong along the way and we're left with last gen crowds.

Drivatar AI also sounds like a nightmare as it's mimicking people who can't actually drive around the courses, so you have an AI crowd of simulated assholes. Something to note - although Jeff enthuses about Forza Horizon, that game also featured the same micro-transaction dickery as Forza 5. I guess I was more forgiving about it as the game itself was such a joy to play - it almost feels as though gamers who play Forza 5 need to spend money on those transactions to make it a more lively experience.

Posted by wardcleaver

While I understand that some people are put off by the microtransactions, I wish the hyperbole in describing them as "criminal" and "anti-consumer" would stop.

As someone who works long hours, including overnight travel, I appreciate the fact that, if I choose, I can unlock some cars faster by buying them with real money. To me, this is very "pro-consumer". Eye of the beholder and all that.

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