Sim racing games occupy a weird space in the gaming landscape: they come out at regular rates, and most of them are visually and gameplay-wise similar to one another, to the point that “serious” gamers equate them to yearly releases like FIFA, Call of Duty, and Need for Speed games... and yet, they’re produced at a prolonged rate so that they’re usually more polished than said games, and each iteration comes with brand new features, modes, and overall content, to a point where they’re no longer meant for casual gamers. They’re both not serious enough, and yet too serious, which is usually why they don’t get the attention of releases like, say, this year’s Pokemon game, nor the long awaited Bethesda open-world RPG. Which is a shame, since good racing games can have a unique atmosphere that can keep you playing for hours without getting tired or bored, but can also be challenging enough to give Dark Souls players nightmares. Guess where Forza Motorsport 6 falls in...
Despite sporting the number 6, this is actually the eighth entry in the now decade old Forza series. Spanning across three consoles and two franchises (the serious, track hopping, racing focused Forza Motorsport, and the more casual, open world driving focused Forza Horizon series), the series is still going strong despite a somewhat spotty transition from the Xbox 360 to the Xbox One. Forza Motorsport 5, while visually and gameplay wise was undeniably impressive, lacked on content and had microtransactions that tarnished an otherwise pure experience. Forza Horizon 2 also looked and played great, and actually fixed most of the issues that plagued the earlier game (no microtransactions at all for the first few months after it came out, and a greater amount of content; heck, it even managed to negotiate with EA to get Porsche vehicles for the first time in years)... but it somehow lacked the magic that made the first Horizon such a special game. The soundtrack simply wasn’t as good, it went for a more real aesthetic instead of a filter that gave the original game a perpetual sunset/rave look to it, and there wasn’t a strong story/motivation for the player to drive around the open roads of the French-Italian Riviera.
Now, after two years of feedback, getting to know the new hardware better, and having more time to scan and model as many cars as they can get their hands on, Turn 10 studios has produced the game I’m looking at today. And the result is, without a doubt, the best sim racer out there right now. While not without fault, it fixes nearly all the problems the two previous games had, brings back features that have been missing for far too long, and adds in completely new ways of playing the game. If you were disappointed by the last two games, now’s the perfect time to jump back in.
As with the previous games, Motorsport 6 immediately grabs your attention with the sheer amount of quality that’s present in almost every aspect of the long list of cars and the environments. Tracks are scanned and recreated to the nearest millimeter, effects like lighting are able to capture the difficulty of driving directly towards the sun on a clear day (with no sun visor, I should add), and now there are the new rain and nighttime effects. Racing when it’s wet outside is obviously quite difficult, but Turn 10 has gone beyond simply making the tracks more slippery. The studio has modeled exactly where puddles form on various tracks, and also what happens when your car goes fast enough to hydroplane over said puddles; where FH2 instilled a seething hatred of trees, FM6 will make you despise puddles (you’ll understand when your Corvette goes off back-end first around a corner during a Sebring race that’s outright drenched). While racing in the middle of the night doesn’t sound as bad, it’s more than just hampered visibility. Cooler temperatures mean tires won’t grip nearly as well during the day, which means a normally graceful supercar can turn into a giant, bright, screaming ice skate.
Speaking of cars, this is the area where the game destroys its competition. Unlike other racing sims that pay noticeably more attention to some cars more than others, Forza has always given each and every car in the game its rightful due. Perfectly recreated exteriors, interiors that capture the actual texture of leather and carbon fiber, engine notes that actually sound like real engines instead of glorified vacuum cleaners; this level of detail goes into every vehicle, from cheap Japanese sportscars, to old and current American muscle, generations of European supercars, to racing cars from the 1940s to the present day Le Mans and Formula One crowds. This ubiquitous level(s) of detail is also present in the highly accurate handling model, which gives the game a feel that hasn’t quite been matched by any other competitor out there. It also gives normal people a taste of what unobtainable cars actually feel like to drive: every level and limit(s) of weight, power, grip. It’s all there.
One thing that pleasantly surprised me about this game is the fact that it brings back modes that haven’t been in the franchise for years. Autocross trials, endurance races that require you to drive for hundreds of miles in a single sitting, and commentary from real life drivers and car nerds, from Top Gear presenters such as James May and Richard Hammond, to personalities like Matt Ferah, and current race car drivers such as Tanner Foust. One disappointment I will voice though is the continued lack of virtual tracks that the series used to have. Real locales such as Le Mans, Watkins Glen, and the Top Gear Test Track are great, I won’t insult them in the slightest. But I miss creative, insane driving playgrounds like the drifting paradise that was Fujimi Kaido, the Spanish mountain circuit Camino Viejo, and my personal favorite that was the murderous gauntlet of corners: Rally de Positano. They aren’t needed, but like the game’s supercars, just having them makes the experience so much better.
All of this sounds like more than a handful, but that brings to light the best thing about this game: it’s approach-ability and sheer capability to cater to your play-style. If you have no idea of how to drive or race, don’t worry: this game will teach you how to do so, and will make you better at it. And if you want an unforgiving experience, it’s got you covered there too. Simulation damage, driver AI that’s without equal thanks to the unique drivatar system that records data and the driving style of real players to simulate them on the track, and even a rewind feature so that one mistake doesn’t destroy all your efforts. All of these can be turned on, off, and anything inbetween. Along with a comprehensive upgrade and tuning system, and a long list of singleplayer and multiplayer events for you to complete and participate in, the game doesn’t lack or hold anything major back. All that matters is that you ultimately enjoy yourself while playing.
Finally we come down to the two main questions:
Should You Play This Game: Yes. If you’ve never played a racing game (or one that you consider “good”), Forza Motorsport 6 has a demo out right now for free (and a thorough one at that). Try it out, and see if want more.
If So, When Should You Buy This Game: Now. It’s your call if you want to spend money on the month car packs, but the base game is more than worth its price.
Forza Motorsport 6 is available now for the Xbox One, both in physical and digital retail outlets.
TGRIP is a film student studying in Portland, OR. TAY’s resident Xbox and racing game fan, he also (part time) reviews and does opinion pieces on games, movies, television, comics, and anime. He also runs his kinja sub blog Work(ing Title) In Progress. You can follow this third person narrating weirdo on Twitter @Dennis_wglasses, and his Gamertag on Xbox Live is “Aventador SV”.