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Forza Motorsport 6

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One
Genre: Racing
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Turn 10 Studios
Release Date: Sept. 15, 2015 (US), Sept. 18, 2015 (EU)


Xbox One Review - 'Forza Motorsport 6'

by Adam Pavlacka on Sept. 15, 2015 @ 3:00 a.m. PDT

Forza Motorsport 6 is the latest installment in the racing game franchise, featuring the debut of Ford Motor Company's all-new GT and its entire new performance line.

As one of the Xbox One launch titles, Forza Motorsport 5 didn't quite hit the high bar that the franchise is known for. Forza Horizon 2 picked up the slack last year and delivered a game that both looked and felt great. Now, Forza Motorsport 6 returns to the track, with a number of improvements, making this the game that Forza 5 really should have been.

The biggest differences between Forza 6 and Forza Horizon 2 are the frame rate and the number of cars in each race. Given the open-world nature of the spin-off series, Forza Horizon 2 ran at 30fps. Forza 6 is limited to specific tracks, but the frame rate is locked at a rock-solid 60fps, with races that feature 24 drivers on each course. It may not sound like much on paper, but the smoother movement is a must, given the mainline franchise's focus on the simulation aspects of driving, even if the introductory race isn't even close to a sim.

If you've played the Forza 6 demo (and you should, as playing the demo will grant you a free car in the full game), you know that the introductory race forces you to play with all of the assists turned on. The full game is the same way, and it's a bit counterintuitive. After all, even if you're playing with a controller instead of a wheel, the whole point of mainline Forza is to simulate the feel of real racing. Ripping around corners with the gas pedal floored and never losing traction isn't very realistic. Thankfully, once that first race is over, you are free to adjust the settings.

How you configure Forza 6 really depends on what type of equipment you have on hand. This is a game that is designed around a wheel and really should be played with one. You can play with a controller, though you're not going to get as much out of the game as you will with a wheel and pedal setup. Part of this is due to the Xbox One controller, and part of it is due to the game's default controller settings. Out of the box, Forza 6 has a large dead zone setup for the analog stick. Minimizing the dead zone helps, but the twitchy nature of the small stick means you're never going to have the fine control you really need to succeed at the higher difficulty levels.

With that said, playing with a controller is still more than doable. Just be aware that there is more of a learning curve, and you will have moments of utter frustration, especially if some of your Xbox Live friends drive like asshats.

Forza 6 includes the Drivatar technology first introduced in Forza 5, and it certainly delivers what it promises on the tin. Similar to how Nintendo's Amiibo learn your fighting style in Super Smash Bros., your Drivatar learns your driving style. This is layered over a base driving AI to create a series of opponents that behave like real people. It may sound like technobabble, but it works. While playing, I was competing with Drivatars of my friends and saw all sorts of behavior. Some rode the line, and others were aggressive on turns and would occasionally spin out. One of my fellow writers has a Drivatar that constantly rammed me in order to gain an advantage. Yes, the AI Drivatar was playing dirty.

It is possible to turn down Drivatar aggression, but if you're going for the feel of real people, you might as well leave it on. If my time online with other players during the early access period is any indication, real people don't have any problem with playing dirty. Online races had no shortage of players treating the pack like bumper cars and pushing others out of the way to gain an advantage. You won't see racing like this in real life, but when you get 24 people onto a virtual track, it's not uncommon.

On the plus side, finding matchups was not a problem, even with the limited amount of players in early access. Getting into a lobby was quick and easy. If you load into an in-progress race, you can spectate until it is finished. Then it's on to the track.

One of the downsides, both in single-player mode and the online competition, is that Forza 6 seems to overlook qualifying laps. When going through the career mode, your starting position in races is fixed. Online, versus other players, it seemed to be random. Having a qualifying lap to determine the starting grid would have been a nice touch, especially because it would offer a way to avoid the starting line pile-up if you were a good enough driver.

Career mode offers two main ways to race: Stories of Motorsport and Showcase events. Stories of Motorsport presents a series of themed races around specific types of cars. Completing each series unlocks the next, though you can always go back and re-race a previous series in a new style of car. It's a great way to experience all of the game's tracks in a structured way. Showcase events are one-offs, such as an endurance race or factory-spec racing. Unlike the Stories of Motorsport events, where you need to own the right kind of car to enter, Showcase events provide a specific car for you to use.

Buying cars in Forza 6 is done via in-game credits, which the game seems to hand out fairly liberally. You win credits for every completed race. You get credits for driving cars from the same manufacturer over and over. You can win credits (or a car) from a random prize spin whenever you level up. No, you're not going to buy everything right away, but at the same time, you shouldn't ever feel like you are hurting for credits. Be warned, though: If you buy a car for use in career mode, you're going to have to upgrade it immediately. Forza 6 doesn't seem to scale the cars that the AI uses to what you've got. Instead, you need to top out your new purchases almost immediately if you want them to be competitive in career.

In addition to career and online multiplayer, Forza 6 also supports Free Play, Leagues, Rivals and Test Drive modes. Free Play allows you to pick a car and a track and start racing. You can use any car in the game in Free Play. If you don't own it, you can rent it. Rentals are free; they just don't earn you credits or XP. Local split-screen is supported. Leagues offers up ranked play, while Rivals pits you against the ghost cars of other players in specific challenges. Finally, Test Drive lets you run free on your course of choice. There are no other cars or distractions; it's just you and the pavement. It's a great way to learn the limits of your favored vehicles.

Pushing those limits is done in the tuning menu, where you can tweak a number of settings for each car. Tuning setups can be loaded, and then you can jump right into Test Drive to see the effects of your changes. Though the auto-upgrade options are effective, to get the most out of any single car in Forza 6, you have to do a bit of tuning. If you have previous tuning setups from Forza 5 or Forza Horizon 2, you can import them directly into Forza 6. Tune setups, like liveries, can also be shared with other players. Downloading a tune from an experienced player can give you a good starting point.

Livery creation and customization is a big part of Forza 6. Just like the tuning setups, any vinyls from previous games can be imported. If you want to start from scratch, the included vinyl creator offers up a great deal of flexibility. It can be extremely overwhelming at first, but if you spend some time with it, the amount of detail that can be coaxed out of it is amazing.

With all of the options offered up by Forza 6, it's easy to overlook the actual driving. As I mentioned earlier, you don't get the full simulation effect with just a standard controller, but what the game manages to deliver is still impressive. The sense of speed is uncannily accurate, and the rumble feedback provides just enough sensation to know when you're at the edge of losing traction in your tires. Learning the tracks isn't just a matter of knowing where the turns are; you also need to know how to handle them in every type of car. Attacking a turn with the gas at 100% versus 70% can make a world of difference. The same goes for your brakes. Simply slamming on the brakes isn't going to be much help because you'll likely just lock them up, and if you're racing in the rain, you're going to hydroplane.

First seen in Forza Horizon 2, rain gets a bit of an upgrade for Forza 6. Although it doesn't seem to move location on the track (puddles are always in the same place), water is fully modeled by the physics system. Hitting a shallow puddle is no big deal, but standing water will mess you up if you don't handle it just right. Lifting off the gas and letting inertia carry you through is the way to go. Trying to power through is a mistake.

In addition to its effect on your tires, water also has a direct effect on your brakes. Wet brakes means you've got to account for longer stopping distances. It was amusing watching some of the Drivatars spin out in career mode but even more so watching other players do it during online multiplayer. You may have mastered a track in dry weather, but in the rain, it's a whole other beast.

So where could Forza 6 have done better? Loading time is the game's Achilles heel. Races are its strength, but staring at that loading screen as you wait for the next one to get ready is no fun. Having a more structured career mode would also be a plus. What's here works, but it still feels like a collection of races rather than an actual progression. If Turn 10 could build it around a storyline of some sort, it might be a tad more compelling.

When it comes right down to it, Forza Motorsport 6 is a big improvement over Forza 5 and a must-have for driving simulation fans. Winning races here is all about precision and timing. If you want to showboat, stick with Forza Horizon 2. If you prefer pure skill over splashy moves, Forza 6 is your game.

Score: 8.6/10

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