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Forza Motorsport 6 Is a Triumphant Return to Form

The latest entry in the racing franchise is the best yet.

When it comes to Forza Motorsport, I’m a bit of an addict. I have burned away many a late night feverishly lapping the track du jour in hope of cracking a personal best, or discovering something new about whatever 800-hp monster I was steering at that moment. I’ve played every Forza installment up to 2013’s Forza Motorsport 5, so I was eager to get some (virtual) seat time in the new Forza Motorsport 6.

Forza Motorsport 6 (FM6) is a rather important title for developer Turn 10, as the path left by FM5 was a rocky one. While FM4 was a triumph of design, entertainment, and variety, FM5 left players cold with its stripped-out, de-contented shell, a result of Turn 10 rushing to release the game in tandem with the launch of the Xbox One. In this regard, FM6 serves not as a ground-up rebuild, but instead a strong refresh designed on the framework laid out by FM5.

Because of this, FM6 feels especially polished. Turn 10 clearly spent time spit-shining the game in ways that might not be immediately noticeable to the first-time player. FM6 loads faster, runs smoother, and looks better than the previous installment, with a less-choppy rate of play throughout.

Dynamically, FM6 feels sharper and more intuitive than FM5. Cars turn in faster, are less prone to frustratingly finicky handling quirks that send you careening into walls if you dare make a slight mistake, and the patented Drivatar artificial intelligence has been revamped for a more authentic challenge. Keep the kid gloves on, and the assist system keeps the most novice of players right on track. Experiment with the difficulty settings, and FM6 becomes more engaging than ever, with refined car control that allows for as much of a challenge as you are up for.

Like plenty of choice when it comes to cars? FM6 has you covered, with over double the number of cars in FM5. Initially, the game launches with 460 cars. Unlike some other racing franchises, Forza offers cars that would be of interest to both car crazy gearheads and the casual player alike. From a Honda CRX to a slew of LMP1 Le Mans racers, there is a car for everyone. More downloadable car packs will be made available for purchase in the near future, along with more content including tracks and events.

The track selection has been amped up, now with 26 different environments to test out your favorite chariot. The scenery is beautiful, with detailed track pavement, banners, and buildings all gorgeously rendered. New fan-favorite tracks like Lime Rock and Brands Hatch are added, along with graphical renovations made to the classics like Road America, Sebring, and Circuit de Catalunya. Turn 10’s stable of fantasy tracks gets a new addition as well, with a beautifully rendered and challenging street circuit set in Rio de Janeiro.

The Forza Motorsport franchise finally adds weather and night racing. Racing in the wet, which is only available on certain tracks, adds a level of challenge previously unseen in past titles. According to Turn 10, locations on the tracks in which wet racing is available were painstakingly researched to determine the exact locations of standing water that accumulate during moderate to heavy rainfall. The first time you hit a spot of standing water with just a single tire, you wont forget the violent result, as the car hydroplanes and immediately spins out of control. Night racing is also a different and welcome experience. With nothing but your headlights piercing inky darkness, turns, crests, and barriers approach at dizzying speeds. Ripping through the Nurburgring in pitch black darkness astride a Lamborghini is an inexplicable event that is better to experience yourself than read about.

FM6 also is designed to make progression through the game easier than FM5, and it works. Credits, the unit of currency used to purchase cars and upgrades, now flow more readily than in FM5, where cash was difficult to accumulate. Upgrades are now nearly half the price of FM5, along with the return of absolutely absurd engine swaps. My personal favorite so far is a tie between the quad-rotor, 2.4-liter rotary spitting out over 700 hp in a stock-looking Mazda Miata, or my all-wheel-drive, 900-hp 1949 Mercury Coupe with the beating V-8 heart from a stock car.

The traditional Forza Motorsport career formula is tweaked slightly, with initial career races slotted into five different volumes, each containing three different series. Each series is a race segment of your choice, with different classes and cars available per volume. You start off in the bottom rung of performance cars, with choices like the Mazda RX-7 and Honda S2000. Move up two volumes, and you will be behind the wheel of hypercars like the LaFerrari and McLaren P1. When you reach the top rung of the Career ladder in the fifth volume, you will be behind the wheel of the highest level of race cars. The occasional monotony of grinding through these career races is regularly broken up by special optional Showcase Events, each providing a car and location for you to race in a special environment, ranging from facing off against the Stig, a recreation of a famous motorsports event, or an 80-lap endurance race.

Each race nets you driver level experience points, which in turn results in a prize spin per driver level, where you can win cars, credits or mod packs, which include different one-time or unlimited use “mods” that affect gameplay during a race, including modifiers like additional grip, power, or starting position on the grid.

If online multiplayer is your activity of choice, FM6 features the same online modes from previous installments, along with new “Leagues,” which involve different tiers of racing that reward the player at the conclusion based on his position in the league, allowing for a pick-up-and-play pace for those who might not want the inherent chaos of standard multiplayer.

FM6 isn’t perfect. Sometimes the AI can be a little confused, and from what I experienced, weather and night racing is not available on local split-screen two-player, even on the weather-designated tracks. These are minor quirks, though, for a game which triumphantly returns to its fun-to-play roots. At the end of the day, Forza Motorsport 6 brings the franchise full-circle back to the glory days of Forza Motorsport 4. If you have an Xbox One and even a passing interest in cars, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice by missing this spectacular title.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have races to win.