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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 coolowlbro

Drivatars are absolutely ruining this game for me. I'm really starting to regret buying this.

Posted by Gigaflop

To say I strongly disagree with a great deal of this review is an understatement.

First, the micro-transactions that the reviewer went ON and ON about. I had 7 of my friends over and we spent the weekend playing Forza. Only 1 guy even noticed the micro-transactions after hours of playing, and it's tastefully done, completely unobtrusive and barely noticeable. There are really only 2 ways you'll see it. You go to buy a car that's not included in the default roster (and honestly I haven't even cared about the few cars that say "DLC" on them) or you notice the "accelerator" thing at the end of a race that lets you spend tokens to accelerate your XP. It came with 100 tokens, I haven't used any of them. I don't even care to. Micro-transactions are here to stay (see latest GranTourismo), as long as they're unobtrusive, I don't give a damn, and hell, maybe, just maybe the additional content might be something I'd like and might consider paying for.

Additionally, it's clear that the reviewer left the "drivatars" on the "full retard" setting. It would be nice if he upped the difficulty so that he'd see less of the behavior that bothers him. The thing is, they behave EXACTLY like noobs in multiplayer do. You set the difficulty to noob, you're gonna get noobs. WOW, surprise surprise. Not surprisingly this is the first and ONLY review I've found that considers the drivatars a negative.

Finally, he's completely wrong about several details. Many of the cars DO in fact allow you to look under the hood. The C and D class cars probably don't have the option, but many of the A and R cars do.

And the things that are genuine gripes, he completely misses! Lack of tracks? Lack of weather? Inability to skip voice overs (even though they do only play 1 time, still...) Did this guy even play the same game? If you're going to focus on the gripes, you could have at least picked legitimate ones and not made up some new ones pulled out of your nether regions.

Edited by MrKlorox

@damonstein said:

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.

I disagree. I was never actually into racing games until I played Forza Horizon. I had owned and messed around with a number of racing games in the past, but I hated the whole track aspect. When GTA4 came out, I started being able to appreciate slightly more realistic driving models. I then picked up Driver SF after hearing Jeff praise it on the Bombcast and loved how the driving felt, even though I wasn't a fan of the actual racing. Then when Horizon came out and was dropped to $15 during Black Friday, I took a chance and fell in love with the whole package (assists off and manual+clutch or bust). I'm certain that I wouldn't enjoy a track based Forza or Gran Tourismo nearly to the degree that I would enjoy an open world game with the same driving models.

Games like Need for Speed feel like total garbage by comparison. If that's the type of racing game @damonstein thinks of when he implies he's not already into racing games, it's definitely worth suggesting something similar yet at the same time very different like Forza Horizon.

Edited by chilipeppersman

@shortbreadtom: yeah just because someone thinks differently than you doesnt mean they are bad, they are just different.

Edited by andrewjohn6985

I like this game. Awesome gaming experience.

Posted by TAUSEEF_123

Excellent with time distributing with your team.

Edited by DoulonMTF

Forza Motorsport 5 is one of the best driving simulation game ! It offers handling of the car close to the actual time. Effects and graphics's game are very nice like in the car, the dash ect.. There is a large line-up of cars and equipments to change your vehicule. The sensations get by the controller are spectacular. Circuits are real and immerses you in the game ! But, the menu of the game is basic and not really adapted to the gamer and AI is a problem too, bots are badly programmed. Despite some negative points forza is a very good simulation game and if we can give a mark to it, we give a 4 out of 5. A good exclusivity for xbox gamers and a good rival of Grand Turismo 6.

Posted by MaximiliensylvainMTF

Hello,

I’m agree with the review.

First the good aspects of the game is there a graphics, the environment, the modelisation on the car and totally vehicles has a cockpit camera contrary at is concurrent who is Gran tourismo 6

Second the bad aspects of the game is : for finish the game it’s necessary paid the vehicles with your real money, the life time is very court because the number of race is limited. The AI frust gamers because it’s not intelligent and the menu is bad.

Finally Forza motosport 5 is a good race game but it has some defects.

Posted by fox01313

Hopefully they will just rerelease Horizons to work with the new system, really been wanting to go play that again & looks like the gameplay is better there too.