Forza Motorsport 5 Review: Burnout
From an outsider’s perspective, Forza Motorsport 5 appears unstoppable as ever. Turn 10 brings each Honda, Ford, and Lamborghini to life in stunning clarity. The sun’s rays reflect off headlights, quarter panels, and wheels while you chase opponents around circuits spanning Monterey County, California; Le Mans, France; and Bathurst, Australia. Pop the hood, though, and anyone can see Forza Motorsport 5 requires fine-tuning. Featuring less cars, fewer tracks, a stunted career, and multiplayer that veers between busted and functional, Forza 5’s minimal advances ‒ the visuals, Drivatars, and physics ‒ will only get the hardiest of fan engines running.
In some ways, I do commend Turn 10’s next-gen foray ‒ no frills, just racing at its purest. After a tease of the McLaren P1's potential, career mode sets you loose on the competition. Players may enter any championship once they have the cash for an entry car, while the events put the pep of compact hatchbacks, the roar of American muscle, and the grip of modern Indy engineering at the forefront. Forza Motorsport 5 is a game built for car enthusiasts by car enthusiasts, with dozens of makes and models represented. Whenever I tired of sliding my Ferrari 458 around turns, I jumped over to the vintage tournaments to take my Volkswagen Beetle for a spin.
Unfortunately, career mode has been stripped down to its bare chassis. Gone is the auction house for cars and liveries (which players download freely), as are the abilities to hire AI drivers and test vehicles before making a down payment. Players cannot sell their unused speed machines, and the game no longer passes them out left and right for podium finishes or increases to your driver level ‒ a result of the reduced roster. Forza 4 supported 500 mid-life crisis-mobiles, but Forza 5 downsizes its showroom by nearly 300.
Past Forzas handed out vehicles like Halloween candy. In Forza 5, every sedan, SUV, and coupe must be purchased. Some, such as the Ferrari 250 GTO, surpass $3,000,000. Yes, six zeroes. Most championships pay about $100,000, presenting players with a grind before they even line up at the starting grid. The other option is to purchase cars through microtransactions, but fan outrage encouraged the developers to alter their pricing strategy.
Every car can be viewed in Forzavista mode, letting you check under the hood and slobber over that sensual V12 metal, or examine a vehicle’s interior and let her engine rev. The sounds of a 2012 Chevrolet Camaro’s eardrum-bursting wails differ wildly from the raspy purrs of a 1971 Nissan Skyline, and the faithfulness to the dashboards, steering wheels, and leather seats is reason enough for any motorist to soil themselves.
Other changes seem less seducing. Forza 4 featured 26 tracks; Forza 5 features 14. Given Forza 5’s 587 races, you will visit several circuits nearly 50 times. Give me less Silverstone, England with its dreary overcast skybox. Give me less Laguna Seca, where the only excitement occurs at its iconic corkscrew. Give me more scenic routes like Prague’s quaint cobblestone villages or the Bernese Alps in Switzerland, where the undulating terrain masks upcoming corners. Even Germany’s Nürburgring forsakes an expected appearance ‒ practically unthinkable for any triple-A racing sim.
No racing game, however, will test your patience like Forza Motorsport 5. As part of the next-gen hype, Drivatars bring the thrill of multiplayer into single-player. Traditional AI is absent. Rather, after uploading your stats to the cloud, the Drivatar system replicates your style of braking, accelerating, and cornering, which goes for the rest of Forza 5’s players. Random avatars, as well as those of your friends, occupy races, making each jockey for the lead that much more personal.
Drivatars brake early, skid out, shunt you from side to side, and deviate from their racing lines. They behave like real people to a certain extent, though I had to bump the difficulty to a higher setting to keep things competitive. Unfortunately, their dickish attitudes increased in turn. Battling forward from the back of the pack (where players consistently start) would be a harrowing test of swerves and sideswipes if it were not so nightmarish, like dodging teenagers in rush-hour traffic.
Although damage defaults to cosmetic, turning on realistic damage boosts profits post-race. The physics affect your car’s handling in subtle ways as well, lending believability and challenge to the simulated events. Broken brakes impact the rate at which you slow, while a cracked suspension jerks vehicles around as they come to a hard stop. A ruined driveline pulls the steering to the left or right, too, requiring players to counter-steer appropriately whenever speeds reach 200 miles per hour.
The patented rewinds let you undo the past few seconds before you put yourself out of commission, which now have unlimited uses. Except, rewinds deduct a percentage of your winnings. If you habitually stop late, expect a substantial fine. Turn 10 no longer penalizes you for the harm done to the car, however, as if to acknowledge that Drivatars act like dicks. The developers award gold medals to the first three finishers in a race, with no bonus for placing first or second.
The one real bright spot in the career is the return of Top Gear’s announcers. Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond bring a reverence to the discussion of cars that photorealistic visuals or tourist magazines cannot duplicate. They speak with an appreciation of automotive eras that only comes from someone with a genuine motorsport passion, yet they retain their unapologetically cynical wit that left me in laughing fits.
The rest of the audio, delivered by a droll American narrator, I could do without. You cannot skip commentary, for tutorials or otherwise, and other superfluous moments add up. Countdown timers and camera pans of your vehicle after a race superficially extend a lengthy campaign. I do not want to wait 30 seconds every time the game tallies my earnings, nor do I need to see my car’s faceless pilot giving the all clear on system checks. Did I mention Forza 5’s nearly minute-long loading times?
The menus and loading screens also sing of an out-of-place soundtrack, a setlist of orchestral arrangements befitting a Hollywood action film. Are we fighting Mass Effect’s Reapers, maiming gods as Kratos, or mourning the death of Batman’s parents? Or are we controlling a game of motorsport?
You will spend more time scraping guardrails than actually racing in multiplayer, since the developers do nothing to dissuade intentional griefing. Iconic first-turn pile-ups happen often, and I met several opponents eager to drive the wrong direction around a circuit. Forza 5 lacks a means to report driver misconduct, and the chance of sending players back to the lobby post-race was a 50-50 shot, leaving contestants to quit the match or watch replays on loop. Turn 10 divides playlists into monthly events, class competitions, specialty heats, and so on, too. Yet these playlists spread a threadbare next-gen fanbase thin. Outside of the monthly events, I never found a full 16-man lobby. Sorry, I think I prefer Drivatars.
I played Forza Motorsport 2 to completion, shed a tear at the sight of a Mercury Cougar Eliminator in Forza Motorsport 4, and lost hours to the open world demo of Forza Horizon. But as much as I force myself, I hesitate to replay Forza Motorsport 5. Forza 5 is a safe next-gen launch title ‒ with its modest roster of cars, realistic grasp on handling, and heavenly Forzavista mode ‒ but players expecting something meatier of the expensive Xbox One should probably dine elsewhere.
Originally written for WikiGameGuides.com