This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Forza Motorsport franchise, and with a decade of research and development behind them, Turn 10 may finally have created the definitive Forza experience with this year’s edition. The headline features include over 450 cars, 26 real world tracks, and one of the most detailed weather systems ever seen in a racing game, all the while retaining the series’ meticulous handling model and clean presentation.
Just as in the recently released demo, Forza 6 immediately drops you into the stunning 2017 Ford GT and has you take it for a spin around Rio de Janeiro, set against the bright and colourful Brazilian landscape. It’s a great introduction with plenty of drama that looks to skew the perception of the gap between the more considered Forza 6 and last year’s livelier Forza Horizon 2. Players returning to the franchise will also find a number of vehicles bestowed upon them at the outset depending on your loyalty to the series, with a number of tiers of rewards available through the returning Forza Rewards program.
As an experienced player, this is also the point at which they allow you to choose your difficulty level, so you can tailor your assists as you see fit. There are the standard broad difficulty levels, but it’s most likely that you’ll opt for a custom set-up; I plumped for Hard, but knocked the suggested racing line back up to full to begin with. Depending on your chosen assists, you’ll be rewarded with a higher percentage on your race earnings, meaning you’ll potentially be able to afford higher-tier cars earlier on in your career, as well as providing yourself with an ever-increasing level of challenge – that is until you place your heart in your mouth and turn them all off.
The Stories of Motorsport career mode covers five different Volumes – Super Street, Sport Icons, Grand Touring, Professional Racing and Ultimate Motorsport – which are each broken up into a number of Championship Series and Showcase Events. To begin with, you make your way through a three event qualifying series which you may have also seen in the recent demo. You’re given a choice of cars here – I plumped for the 2014 Volkswagen Golf R – and then offered a range of paint jobs to truly make it your own. There are already a decent selection on show, which will only grow exponentially when the talented community creators get hold of the game.
Drivatars also make a return, with the promise that they’ll be as individual as the player whose style they’re based on. Once again, the game fills the racing grid with members of your friends list as well as some from the wider community, and whether completely accurate or not, the Drivatar play-styles seem to reflect those of their real-world counterparts, or at least feel authentically human.
You can adjust the Drivatars difficulty level and limit their aggression, but if you allow their aggression to show through, this seems to provide you with the truest representation of your rival drivers. They will readily block you, force you from the driving line or, on occasion, drive like they’re insane, which is probably incredibly accurate given how many people’s propensity seems to skew towards using other cars for braking rather than the, you know, brakes.
A new feature to Forza 6 are mods, which are cards with unique qualities that you can play against your car. Crew cards improve your car’s performance, Boosts increase your earnings or XP, while Dares pose you with further challenges – such as forcing you to play from cockpit view with your assists off – in order to net big rewards. Mods have varying levels of rarity, with ultra-rare cards offering some serious gains. Some mods are permanent, while others are only usable once, with up to three allowed in play at once.
Coming in a variety of differently priced packs that you can buy using your in-game credits, they unwrap in a very similar way to Madden’s Ultimate Team mode. Though I kept expecting them to appear, there are no microtransactions in this year’s edition, and while there are DLC packs planned for the future, it’s a welcome step from Microsoft to have moved on from one of the major points of criticism from Forza 5.
Racing and winning build up your XP, which in turn increases your Driver Level. Rather than the simple credit bonus you received in Forza 5, you’re treated to the welcome return of the prize spin where each time you rank up you may net yourself extra credits, mods or even a new car. On the whole, it seems to be on the more generous side of things as I gained a number of new vehicles to fill out my garage, though that only helped to make it feel like a real reward.
As mentioned before, dropping into your career at various points are Showcase Races, which are one off events in fields beyond those in your current career. You’re given a vehicle, which you then have to take onto the track, and hopefully lead to victory. The first of these is an Indy 500 race that sees you hurtling around in a circle at 235mph, which was both heartrendingly fast and suitably twitchy, and had me literally on the edge of the sofa. There are ten categories of Showcases, which range from Bondurant Autocross and Endurance Racing to the return of one on one battles against Top Gear’s Stig – or at least his digital cousin.
For anyone who felt that Forza 5 was a little barebones, Forza 6 is incredibly generous with what’s on offer. Beyond your career there’s Free Play, Test Drive, online and offline Multiplayer, Rivals mode and the new League mode. This matches you with players from a similar skill division, and then has you earning points as you race, with your final position when the league concludes deciding the level of payout you receive.
The introductory league is very straightforward and operates without any car collisions for those who haven’t “acclimatised” to racing online, though more serious leagues will undoubtedly present themselves following launch and orient themselves towards cleaner drivers. Either way, it’s an enjoyable online mode that genuinely promotes return play beyond simply working on your driver level. Joining online lobbies is swift and without any hiccups, though of course, our pre-release test won’t have seen the servers placed under anywhere near the strain of a full launch.
It feels funny to only touch on the actual racing at this point, but then Forza has become so synonymous with high quality racing and accurate driving models that there would have to be some almighty disaster for Turn 10 to have got it wrong. It’s safe to say that the cars feel fantastic, carrying real weight and solidity, while performance for each vehicle feels individual, all assisted by the Xbox One pad’s excellent feedback which helps you feel every bump, hump and gear change through the body of the controller and the triggers as well.
The weather effects this time around are something else. Rain on your windscreen, mist, and variable levels of standing water force absolute caution on drivers as you fight to keep your car on the road. Standing water in particular can cause you to aquaplane, or knock serious speed off your car, and forces you to alter your racing line to accommodate for it. The puddles are – somewhat unbelievably – modelled in 3D and even pool in the correct places on each course which, whilst being the definition of minutiae, is an exquisite addition that lends a serious amount of authenticity to the experience.
The biggest shame here is that of the 90 circuit variations only 22 feature weather effects, with them being ‘baked-in’ rather than appearing dynamically. As such, DriveClub’s dynamic weather effects remain the genre’s pinnacle, though Forza 6’s standing water model makes a huge difference to those tracks where it does appear, and is hopefully something we’ll see evolve in future updates.
Of course, that weather wouldn’t mean much if the courses weren’t up to scratch, but thankfully all 26 of them – equalling Forza 4’s variety in locations – look utterly fantastic whether rain or shine. New additions such as Brands Hatch and Monza are hugely welcome, while Daytona’s appearance stirred the Sega fanboy within me – however inaccurately.
Using Turn 10’s proprietary engine ForzaTech the results are spectacular, turning in a rock solid 60fps at 1080p, with some wonderful lighting effects that really show off the individual cars. There’s also Forzavista, where you can take a close look at those fantastic car models, both inside and out, while hearing the history of each car company and vehicle as well. Fetishistic car-porn it may be, but when you’ve finally got the Lotus Esprit you’ve always wanted who can blame you?
While the instrumental soundtrack lends plenty of drama to the proceedings, some of the separate section commentary can feel a little low-rent, despite the serious voice-work, and in fact the Super Street one actually felt patronising rather than educated. James May and Richard Hammond provide commentary for the car class descriptions and are much better, sounding confident and knowledgeable, though it’s a shame to be missing Jeremy Clarkson.
Despite everything else, interconnectivity is potentially the most important watchword here, and Turn 10 are experts in building a community around their games. With Forza 6, you can design and share your own liveries – I spent hours creating a version of the Lancia Stratos from Sega Rally – as well as create and share your own tuning options and replays. You can also take part in community events and challenges that change throughout the year meaning that there should constantly be reasons to return, no matter how long you may have played for.
Forza Motorsport 6 is beautiful, meticulous, dramatic and generous. It is arguably a faultless piece of driving software, and on top of that, Turn 10 have definitively proven that the Xbox One is an exceptionally capable machine when in the right hands. Serious racing fans owe it to themselves to experience Forza 6, while franchise stalwarts may find that this is the next generation Forza they were waiting for.