Updated 17/11/2015: As Turn10 sneakily introduced micro-transactions into the game after release and review, this review has been updated to reflect that stance. As a result, needless micro-transactions have affected the game’s score negatively.
The Forza series has been around since the original title launched on the first Xbox back in 2005. At the time it was quite ground-breaking, certainly a challenger to the dominant Gran Turismo series on the PlayStation. Since then there have been six further games in the series, including the two spin-off Horizon titles, an arcadey cousin to the simulation main game.
Forza 6 is the second true outing on the Xbox One, having seen Forza 5 arrive as a launch title with the machine. Sadly that particular racer was a little bit of a low point; it had limited content and was laden with micro-transactions and screen nags, asking you to spend even more money after having shelled out close to £500 for the game and a console to play it on. After a few patches, things improved somewhat, but it failed to make up for its ills and never left as good an impression as other games in the series previously did. Enter Forza Motorsport 6 and with it the opportunity to right all the wrongs of its black-sheep sibling.
The game begins with an unavoidable intro video, establishing the importance of racing, racers and the reason for doing it. It’s a touch on the dry side and not a patch on the recent advertisements for Forza 6 showing the evolution of racing games. This follows straight to the start line with a race in the cover car of the game, the new 2017 Ford GT, along with all the driving aids turned on. The first thirty minutes of the game includes a rather large amount of hand-holding, which for Forza veterans will be a little bit frustrating – it will all be very familiar, can’t be skipped past and a bit of a drag until the game opens up. And no, the voice over guide can’t be turned off.
It quickly becomes apparent that this is a by the numbers Forza game in that there are no real surprises here; it follows the tropes the series always has: pick a car, pick a race series and complete a series of races with twenty-three other competitors across a number of real life and fantasy circuits. Before you click on the cancel order button, however, it should be stated that this is the most polished version of the series yet released; whilst Forza 6 might appear superficially similar to its previous outings, there are enough changes under the hood that warrant giving it a closer look.
Perhaps one of the most important features of any racing game is the cars. There are a great variety of vehicles in this one and it’s nice to see a bigger roster without having to resort to additional car pack DLC to fill things out – in fact plenty of the Forza 5 DLC cars are available to buy from the off, especially with the cash gifts for past masters to get things started. Everything from open wheel to Ford Transits are here, along with a race series to compliment the vehicle type. There are a number of classic 80s boy racer motors including the Fiesta XR2 and the Honda Civic Type EP3 and of course, a selection of exotica from Ferrari and Lamborghini. For those that prefer to keep it green, there is even a selection of cars from the e-racing series.
All the cars in the world would be meaningless were there limited roads to drive them on, thankfully there are plenty of tracks in the game to keep things from getting too repetitive too quickly. The old familiars return, such as Road Atlanta, Silverstone and Nurburgring (this time available in the soaking rain), along with nine new stretches of tarmac which include Rio de Janeiro and Mount Panorama. Twenty-six different locations are available in all with some variations within them. Sadly there is no sign of any point-to-point tracks, which is a shame as these always add a bit of spice. Everything looks very lush and vibrant and it runs at a pleasing 60fps with no noticeable tearing or slowdown, even with a full grid of cars, keeping things silky smooth.
Night and rain races are perhaps the most obvious addition in the new game, adding an extra something to the mix, so it’s a bit of a shame that the number of tracks featuring the wet stuff is limited to a small subset of these locations. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen weather within a racing title of course, or even in the Forza series itself, albeit in the spin-off title, but in Forza 6 it is exceedingly well realized to the point where the game forces you to adopt a change in driving style, unless a podium spot seems unimportant. Even through a pad, it really does feel that puddles are tugging at the wheels as the tyres splosh through them. Ideally it’s better to find a new racing line and avoid them altogether, but when the rain is beading down the windows and the inadequate (and somewhat oddly short) wipers aren’t quite enough to clear the view, hitting a large sheet of water will see things aquaplane. It’s unnervingly realistic in its sensation. Turn 10 claims that they’ve spent a lot of time on the tyre physics and that’s quite believable. Whilst it might not be as pure a sim as say Project Cars or Assetto Corsa, Forza 6 nails the fine line between fun and realism – if you want a pure sim, however, one of the other titles mentioned might be a better fit.
AI is always a tricky one in driving titles and in Forza 5 particularly even the highest difficulty level was questionably easy to beat. This seems to have been ramped up a little bit in Forza 6, with the computer drivers being more aggressive rather than passively moving aside to let the player through. The AI will happily block you from putting in a sly overtake on the inside line and they’re not shy about sharing paint. With so many cars on track as the lights turn green, it’s near impossible to get a completely clean race – the computer drivers will sometimes brake inexplicably leaving the player nowhere to go apart from up the rear end (that’s why braking distances in the real world are important people). Generally it gives a reasonable challenge unless your name is Hamilton.
If things do get a bit much to handle, aggressive AI can be switched off in the options, plus there are plenty of driver aids to turn on, along with the cheat button (press Y to rewind) to get the player out of a tricky situation when there are driving errors. It pays, literally, to turn most of these off, not only because the racing experience will be purer, but because the pay-outs at the end of a drive are increased quite substantially when the realism is turned up. Some of the simulation reality is offset by the introduction of “mods”, though fortunately only in single player. These allow the player to gain a slight advantage by adding bonus grip or more power, or increasing cash and XP pay-outs, but perhaps the most interesting of these are the “Dare” mods, which will force the player to drive in a certain way such as from the back of the pack or without driving aids. For the most part they are forgettable and it is questionable how much, if anything, they add to the game.
If the by-the-numbers main career progression becomes a bit of a grind, Forza 6 has a series of Showcase events to augment the racing. Here there is a selection of oddities such as the Top Gear Football and Bowling events, but also some real gems such as “The Birth of Racing” allowing the player to slide around Spa in a 1939 Maserati 8CTF. This slice of motorsport history provides some of the most interesting racing in the game.
Along with ramping up the AI a touch, It does seem that Turn 10 have listened to more of the negative feedback received from fans over Forza 5. Gone are any mention of “Tokens” (the completely unnecessary micro-transaction nonsense) and thankfully two other key things have been changed because of this: pay-outs are higher and the ticket price of new motors have been substantially reduced – it will no longer cost you a year of grinding to get a Lotus E21 (or £35 in tokens). The upper limit of the pricier cars is around two or three million, making it a far more likely that the garage will be filled with shiny metal. Unfortunately, the micro-transactions returned in a post-launch game patch, these things have no place in AAA games, they are not needed and are a blight on modern day gaming.
Whilst Forza 6 might not offer a massive amount of new content over previous games, it does present some of the best racing available on Xbox One at the moment, and it is arguably the game Forza 5 should have been. There is still plenty of fun to be had on the tarmac, a decent spread of cars and tracks and a host of multiplayer options to keep speed fans happy for a few months at least. If you like the smell of petrol in the morning, Forza 6 is definitely worth revving down to the shops for.