There is a large, loose affiliation of gamers who meet each night, across several different online lobbies, to drive digitized representations of real life cars around digitized tracks all over the world. Some of the races are a casual affair for fun, some have a semblance of organization to them, and some have rule books the size of a small dictionary. Regardless of how many rules, laps, or players are involved in these races, they all center around one name: Forza.
The first Forza game released in 2005, on the original XBox, with a modest roster of 235 cars and a mix of real world and fantasy tracks. The fifth installment of the series (Horizon doesn’t count), the appropriately titled Forza 5, launched on November 22nd, in support of Microsoft’s third console: the inappropriately name XBox One. Fans of the Forza series have alternately supported and condemned changes that Turn 10 has made to the Forza series over the years, but the new Forza game may be the most controversial in franchise history. Did Greenawalt and crew go too far this time...or not far enough?
Dan Greenawalt stood up on a stage at E3 2013, next to a McLaren P1, and told the gaming world about Drivatars. These digital clones of Forza players would learn their respective players’ driving habits and, through the power of cloud computing, theoretically reproduce avatars that possess both the skills and habits of the players who trained them.
At E3, and the months that followed, Turn 10 talked about Drivatars, the new physics engine, paint, reflective surfaces, new tracks, and the “hundreds of cars” that would be present in Forza 5. We were promised a beautifully realistic Forza game with realistic avatars of the folks who are our racing friends. Turn 10 delivered on half of that promise: the cars in the game are the most beautifully rendered vehicles of any racing game on any console. The tracks were laser scanned and look exactly as they look on TV. This is quite possibly the closest to real life I have ever seen in a game. The new physics engine is supposed to be more realistic, and the cars certainly feel right on the track. I found that I lost a considerable amount of grip between Forza 4 and Forza 5, and I had to alter my tuning adjustments to make up for that loss of grip. It is much easier to lose control of a car in this game than in previous entries, especially bone-stock models on street tires. If you don’t know how to tune, now is a very good time to learn.
Cooter’s smiling because you’re about to crash.
“The end of A.I.” Did Drivatar deliver on simulations of real-life players, actively reproducing their driving habits through the magic of the cloud? No, it did not. What we got instead was lobotomized versions of ourselves aggressively smashing into our friends and stupidly braking on apexes. I actually witnessed Gizzie’s Drivatar brake on a fucking straight with no one in front of him and no corner in sight: Gizzie does not drive that way in a race...I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him apply his brake. He may not even be aware that they provide one in the game.
A driver is so much more than cloud-based mathematical computations. I know which of my friends are going to stupidly run into the back of my car on a corner because they can’t seem to remember that muscle cars or luxury sedans need to brake earlier to make a turn than the exotic with full aero that they are driving. I know which friends brake late, who uses FWD, who is going to reciprocate if I bump them, who will make a mistake if I put the pressure on them, and who is going to drive off and not be seen again until the start of the next race. I received messages, both through XBL and Twitter, complaining about the aggressiveness of my Drivatar. I can be a bit assertive, but never to the point that someone felt obligated to message me to tell me I drive like a dick. So much for cloud computing: the Drivatars are not as accurate as advertised.
Turn 10 continued their long standing tradition of omitting tracks to make way for the newness. The game contains 14 tracks, at launch, and I hope that some of the omitted tracks make their way into the game at some point down the road. Tracks from previous games that made the Forza 5 cut are:
The Bugatti circuit at Le Mans, introduced in Forza 3 only to not return in Forza 4, was added back to the track roster. Silverstone underwent some changes in track configuration and starting line placement, with only the National Circuit remaining nearly the same as before.
Australia’s Bathurst, with its crazy straights, elevation changes, and suicidal turns is probably the worst track in the world to race V8 Supercars, but why would that stop the Aussies? I feel fairly certain that a good portion of this track was the inspiration for the Blue Mountain track in the first Forza game. Players may want to resist the dual temptation of Mount Panorama’s two long straights and bring a car that can handle the wicked turns in the hills instead of a straight-line monster...but only if you’re interested in leaderboards or actually winning races.
Hollywood loves Prague, with its crazy mix of Medieval and Renaissance architecture, arches, plazas, famous statues and bridges...lots of bridges. XXX and the first Mission Impossible were both, at least partially, shot in Prague. Forza 5’s Prague track reminds me of Positano with legs. Racers should expect a fair amount of bricks and cobblestones, cable car tracks, elevation changes while turning, and several sweeping turns. Bring a balanced car with good brakes and acceleration, and just enough grip to hold sweepers. Four configurations.
Belgium’s Spa is one of the most player requested tracks in Forza history. Spa sports a good mix of long straights, elevation changes, chicanes, 90s, and sweepers, and starts with a very acute hard right at turn one. Acceleration and a fair amount of grip are required to keep it clean at Belgium’s Gran Prix track.
Yas Marina in the United Arab Emirates was obviously designed with Formula racing in mind. Two nice, long straights with some very tight turns and wicked chicanes to break up the monotony of oval racing. When not driving a Formula car, bring something with a shitload of grip: the straights mean nothing if you’re blowing turns. Five configurations.
The Test Track Airfield is set at an abandoned airport somewhere in the Mojave. The single track configuration is a very tight course that runs through hangars, a parking lot, and around the outside of buildings. This track combines the imminent danger of hitting a building with a light-post obstacle course...bring something grippy that you don’t mind smashing up.
A great deal of the controversy surrounding Forza 5 centers around the tragic loss of tracks. Let’s have a moment of silence for the former Forza tracks that didn’t make it to the new game:
At launch, Forza 5 had 213 available cars for those who pre-ordered the Limited Edition. It included another ten if, unlike me, you’re the type who buys Day One DLC. Here’s the deal about that Day One car pack...most of the cars that are in it were already in other Forza games. Does Turn 10 seriously think that players are going to lay down ten bucks for fucking cars that they already had? What kind of dickhead publisher charges for downloadable content on the day the game comes out? EA, that’s who. If you’re following the insidious business model of one of the most hated companies in the world then you should probably brace yourself for some negative feedback.
The cars looks great, and there is very little fat on the roster. There are no shitty hybrids, no Pintos, no PT Cruisers, and very few dipshit daily drivers. What we are left with are the very best offerings from the respective manufacturers, and only Audi and BMW are seriously over-represented with different year models of the same car. We may be racing with fewer cars this time around, but we are also racing with better cars. However, once again, a new Forza game launches without a single Porsche in the game. Other glaring omissions include NASCAR-style stock cars, Bentley, Wiesmann, Morgan, DeTomaso, Devon, and many others. My favorite muscle car, the XXX GTO, is also a no show. Base models are also a thing of the past. If you want a Gallardo, you get the Superleggera. If you want a Veyron, the SS is your only choice.
The PI system was overhauled again. The new car classes are D, C, B, A, S, R, P, and X. D is the new F, A is the new S, S is for supercars and V8 Supercars, R is Hypercars and the GT equivalent, P is Indy and Formula car territory, and X is suicide prototype territory.
Rivals mode is about the same, with the exception of leaderboard integration. This is good news for hotlappers, who can now pick and choose their track and class and be rewarded with experience, affinity, and Forzabucks while testing tunes or chasing clean LB laps. Affinity no longer rewards players with discounts on upgrades, instead it increases monetary rewards incrementally as a percentage. The more affinity you have with a manufacturer, the greater the percentage boost on pay day.
Autovista makes an unwelcome return, but is now available for every car. Players are now able to prowl around inside, around, and under the hood of any car in their garage, without the superfluous Clarkson commentary. I don’t really give a shit about this feature. Why would Turn 10 devote developmental assets to this useless feature when they could have been laser scanning Nordschleife or a 67 GTO? Fucking ponderous.
There isn’t one.
Also conspicuously absent from Forza 5. Players, however, are free to donate tunes and designs to the public, and maybe get paid if enough people like your work.
Gone. Good thing you’re already in a clan and have folks to race with.
Do I look pleased?
Never in the history of online racing has multiplayer been such a pain in the ass. Players can only join a private match after accepting a party invite. Why do you have to be in a party to join a fucking race with friends? This was never a prerequisite in previous games. The lobbies themselves are still problematic. I was having audio issues at one point, but don’t know whether to point the finger at Turn 10 for the game or Microsoft for the console, so I’ll just flip both of them the bird. I also experienced lag and rubber banding in online lobbies...and there were only a couple of other guys in the room with me. Another race dropped a guy from the race, but replaced him with his Drivatar...while he was still in the party.
The loss of the ability to cherry pick which of my friends’ races I wanted to join, and then join that race without the hassle of fishing for a fucking invite is the harshest blow of all. It’s far worse to me, personally, than the lack of cars or tracks. After the annoyance of having to ask for a party invite and race invitation, jacking around with the party settings once you’re there, I find out the the room does indeed include the friend I wanted to race with, but the guy who dropped me off his friends list is also there as is the guy I kicked off my list because he belches into his mic every thirty seconds. At this point I feel obligated to remain for a few races just because it felt like work getting there.
The inability to share designs and tunes with people on your friends list is the final unforgivable sin. The guys in 2Old4Forza are talking about setting up a spreadsheet to share tunes amongst the clan. A fucking spreadsheet! Are you fucking kidding me? Did I just go back in time to 1995? Why can’t we gift tunes? For a developer that claims to be community minded you’re working awfully hard to alienate the community. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of community, the hub of Forza Motorsports, forzamotorsport.net, has the absolute shittiest and most argumentative fucking forum moderators of all time. Some mod named TG (testicle glutton?) Wormburner banned a 2o4f member until the year 2165...literally without explanation. If this is the hub of Turn 10’s racing community, then I am so fucking not impressed.
Forza 5 is a beautiful racing game and an awesome single player experience, but the inept implementation of key features, the inclusion of unnecessary fluff, the loss of tracks and cars, multiplayer aggravation, and the complete and sudden disregard for the social side of the game left a very bad taste in my mouth. It feels unfinished or rushed. If I could go back, I would buy a used or deeply discounted copy of this game instead of forking over 80 bucks for the Day One LE. I’m disappointed, but playing anyway. Finish your fucking game, Turn 10.