Forza Motorsport 6
Our car lurches violently to the right and, for once, it’s not down to the damage caused by rear-ending an opponent during an optimistic out-braking manoeuvre. This time, it’s because we barrelled into a large puddle on the apex. Turn 10 promised much for Forza 6’ s three-dimensional pools, and they don’t disappoint. The loss of traction from hitting one at speed is instantly telegraphed, and you can feel the steering lighten as you aquaplane, hoping your tread finds purchase again in time to avoid that fast-approaching wall. Equally, hit them with less pace and the thud of additional drag is palpable. Puddles, it turns out, are no damp squib.
In fact, if Turn 10 hadn’t revealed that it had based its puddle placement on real-world circuits’ pooling zones, it’d be no stretch to contend that they’d been located purely for gameplay reasons. Their introduction during wet races forces you to reconsider familiar racing lines – staying clear of the apex in a corner, or winding your way down what is usually a high-speed straight – weighing risk and benefit as you look for overtaking opportunities that won’t send you into the gravel. Don’t mistake this for dynamic weather: surface water is of the same volume and in the same place every time, but it ensures that wet races provide more than just extended braking zones and reduced visibility.
Turn 10 has also simulated the properties of the 140 driving surfaces that make up Forza’s tracks, meaning that the character of, say, rumble strips or patches of reparative sealant change drastically depending on the conditions. Warmed rubber might stick to curbs in the dry, but you’ll regret putting a wheel on one during a downpour. With so many material types, racing in the dry is just as detailed, Forza’s tracks constructed of a variegated patchwork of materials and cambers that see cars fidget and roll over every surface.
It becomes even more challenging when night descends. Forza 6 spectacularly captures the fearsome undertaking of hurtling towards an as-yet-unseen corner with only headlights to pick out the turn when you get there. It’s here that the developer does some of its best visual work, too, contrasting impenetrable blacks with the well-lit bluster of the home straight and fierce glow of sporadically placed metal halide lamps. But the rest of the game rarely dazzles to the same extent as its trackside illumination, its otherwise rather flat lighting producing an overall look that falls short of DriveClub’s intermittently photoreal visuals.
Forza trades such gloss for speed, pulling off an unwavering 60fps at 1080p, despite the presence of considerably more detail in its tracks than Forza 5’ s offered. And that framerate contributes to a handling model that feels minutely responsive, layered and utterly credible. Forza 6’ s driving system is a return to the warm, fun-focused and robustly flexible physics of the first four games, one that abandons Forza 5’ s bizarre indifference to traction and that can be quickly and easily tuned to suit casual supercar fanatics or hardcore simulation enthusiasts.
Allied to this handling is the series’ best AI – and, indeed, most successful implementation of Drivatars – yet. We had to dial them up to expert (two tiers from the highest available) before they presented any kind of challenge, but there’s genuine personality in the field even on lower skill levels, some cars attempting to thread through the pack, others jostling over a position, and still more putting pressure on you. They’re prone to accidents, too, which don’t feel staged. Disastrously wide corners and big tyre-wall-demolishing impacts are as likely to befall a confident leader as drivers further down the pecking order.
There are smaller details in opponents, too, such as a sudden jab on a steering wheel to avoid a collision with a boxed-in, ambitious driver, or a touch on the brakes to correct building oversteer. Bar some occasional acts of bewildering idiocy, it all makes for thoroughly convincing track time, and unpredictable races. There’s no detectable rubberbanding, but Turn 10 has engineered opponents that are exceptionally good at not barging into you, which makes a refreshing change. It’s a shame, then, that all this progress is draped over a thoroughly outdated career mode, which insists on minimum third-place finishes in order to unlock the next event as you chip away at its five-volume procession of race series. In the context of Project Cars’ eagerness to give you everything up front, DriveClub’s challenge-based structure or Gran Turismo 6’ s stars system, Forza 6’ s structure feels disappointingly rigid.
Turn 10 injects variety with a series of themed showcase events, such as blasting past as many Minis as possible in a Veyron, and the potentially divisive Mods system (see ‘Car tricks’). Both offer a change of pace from bouts of thematically samey racing, since you’re otherwise locked to a single car for each four-to-sixrace series. There’s always the broad suite of multiplayer modes to turn to if you start to feel fatigued, of course, and while there was little community to speak of when we attempted to take our beautifully liveried Pagani Huayra online, the new ratings-based league system promises much, and the returning – and better populated – Rivals mode proves just as addictive.
In every respect Forza 6 is an improvement over Forza 5, and yet the game feels oddly torn between two eras, its stodgy insistence on piecemeal progression undercutting a handful of fresh ideas. The series may not have found a clear route back to its Maple Valley Raceway glory days, but Forza 6 is a shift in the right direction as it rediscovers the playful soul and personality it first introduced to the sim racer.