It’s hard to keep things fresh after six installments of a franchise. Expectations need to be met. When it comes to Forza, the graphics need to be better, there needs to be more cars, more tracks, the UI needs to be smoothed out–it’s that sort of thing. Forza Mororsport 6 doesn’t do anything revolutionary here, but the changes that have been made are worthwhile.
What Is It?
Forza Motorsport 6 is the latest edition of the popular Xbox racing franchise. Though the Forza series has split into two at this point—with Horizon being an open world, fun filled party of a game— the Motorsport series retains its focus on circuit racing. It makes some changes to its structure that streamline things, though not all of these changes end up working as well as they may have been intended to.
Why Should I Care?
I mentioned above that Forza 6 has gone back to being more focused on circuit racing. This is evident in the way the game’s career mode is now structured. In Forza 5, for instance, circuit events were intermixed with special event types like Top Gear bowling, Autocross, or Overtaking challenges. In theory, this gives players a wide variety of event types to participate in. Unfortunately, this also meant that you would have to slog through many events that you might not care for. These special event types have been put into their own section now and are mostly optional. You can challenge yourself to them if you like and reap the XP and rewards, but if you don’t want to knock over bowling pins in your car, you no longer have to.
The career mode is now divided into Volumes encompassing a particular subset of available vehicles. You’ll start with Compacts and Hot Hatches, and as you progress through the volumes you’ll work your way up to the full-blown, purpose-built racing machines. This is a nice idea in theory, again, but in practice it makes the career feel like a grind for series veterans who have to go through all the less potent cars in order to get back to where they’re comfortable. The linear way the Volumes are set up won’t be a problem for newcomers who will not be ready for a Le Mans racer, but I can’t help but feel like having the option for players to jump around and do what they like would have been a good thing to have. This is made even more annoying as you level up and earn prize spins.
This is unlike Forza 5, which gave you the option to jump around, but did not award you with cars for progressing through the series. In Forza 6, you have a chance at winning a car with each level you earn. On gaining a level, you’re presented with a prize board and a randomly moving cursor. Pressing A will stop the cursor and award you the prize it lands on. These prizes can be mod packs, credit bonuses, or new cars. You’ll earn many of these, and not be able to use them in the career until much later in your progression. You could always go into free races with them, but that sort of defeats the purpose of a career reward.
Along with the career mode, there are a wealth of online features. Rival races pit you against someone’s ghost driver in a one-on-one challenge. There are Multiplayer lobbies, full Matchmaking facilities, and a new League system in place. Leagues are special multiplayer divisions that will group you with players that have a similar skill level to yours. The more you race in these Leagues, the better your standing will be. Eventually, you will be able to access higher level leagues as your skill-set improves. All of these multiplayer features do work well, and I’ve not had any issues with lag. As always, when internet connectivity is involved, your mileage may vary, but for the most part Forza 6’s online offerings have been very easy to get into and play in.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
When you get right to it, Forza Motorsport 6 is not a huge step up from its predecessor. That’s not to say that the changes made to the game don’t amount to something. Two very important additions to the game come in the form of night and wet weather driving. Driving at night is a different experience, both in terms of visuals and car handling. Lower temperatures mean less grip overall, so you have to somewhat alter the way you drive a course. When you take to the wet stuff, that’s when the biggest change comes into play. Not only do you have to deal with rain on the windshield and camera, but also a significantly reduced amount of control overall. It’s easy to lose control in the wet, especially if you hit a large puddle the wrong way and begin to hydroplane. These effects may not be done in real time, but they don’t suffer for it. They look great and behave as you’d expect them to. This does mean that you can’t have day-to-night transitions for endurance races, but on the whole, these two new features really do add to the gameplay and help the game feel more complete.
One other addition comes in the form of a card system. The game refers to them as Mods, but they are effectively collectible cards. Before each race you can equip up to three of these cards. They come in three categories: crew cards, which give you a permanent bonus to a particular attribute of your car; boost cards, which give you a temporary upgrade; and dare cards, which challenge you to meet a goal or play with a particular handicap for extra XP or credit rewards. If you’re someone that likes collecting cards, then you might enjoy this meta-game, but ultimately your success comes down to your driving skill and not the Mods you’re using. They’ll help, but they won’t give you an overwhelming advantage.
While the entire package ends up working out very well, it isn’t without its rough edges. The most notable of these is the Drivatar AI. During some races, there will be one Drivatar who seems to be at a much higher setting than all the others–not exactly skilled enough provide a challenge, but so skilled they’ll be able pull away to a ten to fifteen-second gap between first and second. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does it can be a real frustration. It’s like the game is just trying to be mean at that point. It’s most likely a data parsing error. Drivatars shouldn’t be completely consistent to better mimic the player’s they’re based on. I’d just like for the ones that end up in my races to better match the difficulty setting that was chosen.
Finally on the list of burs that aren’t sharp enough to cut, but worth looking out for, is the scaling back of the Top Gear presentation. Event introductions that were typically narrated by Jeremy Clarkson have been replaced by another person. Meanwhile, Richard Hammond and James May do a good job of introducing each car class. The real sticking point, though, is when you hear the introduction to the Stig. This script is word-for-word that of Forza 5’s, which was narrated by Clarkson. Having that in my mind, and then hearing the exact same words coming from someone else, just felt a bit strange. More importantly, though, some of these introductions reference things that aren’t even in the game, such as Point-to-Point races. With the rather abrupt end to Jeremy Clarkson’s tenure as presenter of Top Gear, it is no surprise that something like this would happen. The show is in a transition as they hire new presenters and maybe rework their format, which leaves Forza in the lurch as a result. (Yes, I noticed.) Many other Forza and Top Gear enthusiasts did as well. It’s not a deal breaker, but it was a less-than-ideal way of handling the situation.
Rough edges taken into consideration, Forza 6 is still the finest example of simulation racing you can find on the market today. The game is visually stunning, has excellent audio design, and provides a healthy selection of cars for you to race and collect. It’s hard to go wrong with this game.