IndyCar Paddock Pass Presents: Forza Motorsport 5 review

FM5If you’re like me you will never be graced with the opportunity to get in and drive McLaren’s new hybrid hypercar the P1 unless, of course, you return in a second life as Bruce Wayne.  The P1 is sold out, but even if it wasn’t it carries the meager price tag of 1,150,000 dollars without tax, export, customs fees, and other miscellaneous costs of getting the car to your garage.  Many of us would be lucky to make 1.15 million dollars in a decade.  Microsoft’s new tech toy the xBox one retails, currently, at $499 plus tax and for $60 more you can purchase the crown jewel of racing games and the sixth installment from the Forza Motorsport racing franchise; a franchise that has garnered the highest consistent rating over the last decade across all game consoles.  Forza Motorsport 5 harnasses the power of the xBox one to bring the most realistic experience to your living room.  Continuing the franchise’ alliance with the superstar personalities of BBC’s renowned Top Gear program, Jeremy Clarkson welcomes you to the game, just wetting your appetite for what you are about to experience.

After you’re through salivating at Clarkson’s introduction, you are whisked away to one of Forza’s new tracks making their debut, the Streets of Prague in the Czech Republic.  In traditional Forza style you must ‘race’ into the main menus in the game and, also in traditional Forza style, you are graced with the opportunity to drive one of the game’s gems, the aforementioned McLaren P1.  It may seem like an intimidating place to start, but your first experience is with all the game’s assists turned on making the powerful P1 as accessible to drive as 1995 Honda Civic with an automatic transmission.  The speed, the graphics, and the sound are pure exhilaration.  Enjoy it now for it is short lived.

As quickly as Turn 10 gives you the taste of what high end cars are capable of on this title, they return you to reality.  After completion of the “Prague Prologue”, you are returned to the Sport Compact world of the game which is where you begin your quest for Forza Motorsport 5 glory.

CAREER MODE

For Forza 5, Turn 10 has re-engineered the career mode separating it into championship quests by car type instead of car classes like they have done before.  The result is closer competition because each car you are competing against is in the same general ability bracket as your own.  It is true that some cars have advantages in straight line speed but sacrifice corner ability.  There are eight different ‘car worlds’ to compete in Forza Motorsport 5 and inside of each are at least three different divisions with championships and bonus events to keep you busy and racing for hours on top of hours.

CARS AND TRACKS

FM5 RaikkonenBeing a launch title for the next generation game console, Forza Motorsport 5 required a complete revamp of all cars and tracks and brand new digital model creation of each.  The result is fewer race courses and cars than Forza Motorsport 4 which, on the surface, is an unfortunate sacrifice.  But every car and track that is contained in the game BELONGS there. It is regrettable that tracks like Sonoma Raceway, Sunset Peninsula, Road America, and the famed and daunting Nurenburgring Nordschliefe were not included, but additions of Prague, Yas Marina, and the Mount Panorama of Bathurst, Australia provide ointment for the wound of decreased tracks.  Each circuit is created with brilliant, almost eerie, realism and make you feel as though you are actually there.  The Circuit du Le Mans returns as well as Road Atlanta, Catalunya, and, importantly to IndyCar fans, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

So far, Forza Motorsport 5’s car roster, reduced to two hundred from Forza Motorsport 4’s five hundered plus contains no gimme cars that you would have no interest.  Each car is valuable somewhere in the game and will help you get to the promised land of completing every event.  From the Fiat Abarth 500 essesse to Kimi Riakkonen’s 2013 Lotus Formula 1 car, this game has a car for every taste all brilliantly recreated to give the player the exhilaration of what it actually would be like to pilot these awesome machines.  As in previous Forza titles, players are given the freedom to drive the cars as they buy them from the car roster or customize them to their heart’s content with paint, decals, numbers, and bodywork designs.  In fact, with the power of the xBox one the number of decal layers allowed in the game has increased.

DRIVEATARS

The most difficult challenge for games is creating AI players that are believable, unpredictable, and challenging.  If there was one area Forza Motorsport 4 fell short of the bar it was the quality of their AI matrix.  The development team faced this challenge head on for Forza Motorsport 5 and brought a gun to a knife fight.  Their solution is what the call Driveatars and they are a complete game changer for future racing titles.  The system works by observing how you, the player, drives, makes passes, and corners.  Do you race dirty, clean, or somewhere in between?  This data is constantly updated and synchronized and sent up into the cloud for the game to access.  Forza Motorsport 5’s AI is generated from these thousands of player’s data and while you sleep in Colorado, your Driveatar is out in the world of Forza Motorsport 5 being grabbed and pulled down into the career mode of a player in Japan to race against meaning you never race alone and the AI is generated not by the programming of the game, but real world player driving habits.  This means AI makes mistakes, spins out, runs you off the road, and is as unpredictable as possible with current technology.  You, the player, receive credit bonuses each day for races in which your Driveatar competes and making money when you sleep is pretty sweet!

ECONOMICS AND MICROTRANSACTIONS

Game players have two ways of purchasing cars on Forza Motorsport 5, by using credits obtained from career and online race events and car tokens available for purchase from the Microsoft store system.  The game has received the ire of some fans because buying cars with tokens is more expensive than earning enough credits by playing the game.  For instance, Kimi Raikkonen’s E21 in game credit cost is 6,000,000 which will take the player some time to procure but it can be acquired instantly with purchase of car tokens with a hefty 10,000 token price tag.  10,000 tokens come at an equally heavy price of $100 of the player’s hard earned money from their bank account.  Developers of Forza Motorsport 5 created this system to make the game’s high-end cars more ‘special’ and almost unicorn like because they take investment, be it gameplay or token purchases, to obtain.  Gamers are disappointed in this stance, but let’s be honest.  This game mirrors the economics of life where anything luxurious worth having often requires vast amounts of time to acquire and cost extreme amounts of money to get quicker.  The developers are currently working on changing the economics of the game to alleviate some of the backlash, but, come on, we all bought this game to PLAY IT, so let’s play it and we’ll all get there in time!

OVERALL IMPRESSION

This game is, without doubt, THE definitive racing experience available across all consoles and avenues.  The graphics, handling, and Forza DNA of this game is crazy close to real world.  The game is adjustable to anyone’s ability and can be tuned to be as challenging or elementary as the gamer desires.  Each track is brilliantly depicted in such a way that you can almost feel the brisk cold air of the Bernese Alps, the ocean breeze of Yas Marina, or the palpable history of Indianapolis.  Cars can be customized, upgraded, and painted to the player’s personal tastes and the possibilities are limitless.  Quite simply, this is the best racing game that I have ever played and it lives up to and continues the good name that is Forza Motorsport.

OVERALL SCORE: 10/10

OH YEAH…WHY IS THIS ON HERE?

FM5 DixonFor the first time, we IndyCar fans have the opportunity to drive our favorite style of cars in a realistic, high quality environment.  Sure Grid 2 brought us the DW12 in May of 2013, but Grid 2 is purely an arcade style game and it was great fun to drive in, but it’s not even in Forza’s ballpark when it comes to realism.  Forza Motorsport 5 contains the IndyCars of Scott Dixon (pictured), Ryan Hunter-Reay, Graham Rahal, and Will Power and can be modified from road course configuration to oval configuration so it can be raced at Indianapolis as well as the famed Le Mans circuit.  One of these drivers NOT your favorite? No worries, the Forza design studio will allow you to create any IndyCar on the grid since the 2012 season went green so if you want to race a Sebastien Bourdais McAfee car, make some vinyl groups for sponsors and go for it!

HAPPY RACING EVERYONE! SEE YOU ON TRACK!

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