If you have ever owned an Xbox console and been remotely interested in racing games, chances are you’ve probably owned – or at least driven- a Forza title by now.
There’s no need to explain why Forza is Microsoft’s proprietary racing franchise; it’s hugely popular having sold upwards of 10 million copies globally.
Its popularity is due, at least in part, to the fact that Forza is, as its core, a challenging and compelling racing sim, complete with real-world handling, superb mechanics and all of the action is shot through with incredible visuals. You don’t just drop into a game of Forza expecting victory; you have to give yourself to the game and earn every win.
Forza 6, then, is a slight departure. While all previous Forza games have traditionally focussed on being the apex racing simulator, the sixth instalment takes things is a slightly different direction.
Taking a couple of cues from its sister franchise, Forza Horizon, adopted a looser, more arcade style of play, Forza 6 rather beautifully blends arcade mechanics into the core simulator experience that people expect.
Forza MotorSport 6: For the core and the casual
On the surface Forza 6 operates like most other Forza games. It’s as close to driving hyper expensive supercars as most of us will ever get, and the hardcore racing sim gameplay is both present and correct.
Players can still tinker with gear ratios, experiment with downforce or see how close they can come to the magical power-to-weight ratio that will rocket their car further and faster. All those elements have been retained for the die-hard petrol heads who like to adjust, shift, tilt or modify to squeeze every last kilowatt out of the engine.
Or you can just completely ignore all of that and use the new mod packs. The mod packs are a new addition to the Forza franchise; they’re virtual packs of cards that allow players to tweak and augment their vehicles.
For example, one card may gift your card 6% extra grip on any track, while another card will add 10% horsepower and 12% grip. Not all mods are applied to the car directly, as some give you a starting line position boost, add a bit of weight to your car (for a hefty payout bonus), or reward you for perfect turns.
The mod packs are probably going to become a bit of a contentious issue between many drivers – purists may turn up their noses at the more arcade-style of play they offer players.
However, if you’re a player whose always been attracted to the Forza series but been intimidated by the learning curve, the mod packs add a new dimension to racing of knockabout fun. Furthermore, depending on your skill, sometimes those mods are actually necessary to balance out the game’s brutal difficulty.
Forza MotorSport 6: It’s all fun and games until…
Forza 6 is hard. Very hard. Very hard indeed. Logic would dictate that even if you are an average driver, you would be able to keep up with most of your competitors on an average difficulty setting. We soon learned from a few races, however, that Forza 6 is unforgiving when it comes to difficulty.
Well, at default setting anyway, as the difficulty level can be tweaked almost as much as the cars in the game. Players can tinker with the AI driver skill, turn all the technical driving aspects like ABS and traction control on and off and toggle between cosmetic or realistic damage.
However, even if you tweak some of the settings, Forza 6 is by no means going to be easy. In the past we have seen many racing games which used elastic AI, but there is none of that in Forza (not that it ever suffered from it).
The rule of thumb here is if there is a car in front of you, you are going to have to work very hard to overtake it. Even if you consider yourself a fairly competent driver, dropping the AI difficulty to ‘Inexperienced’, doesn’t guarantee a win.
Forza MotorSport 6: Artificial driving machines
Forza 6 makes use of Drivatars – virtual versions of players that first appeared in Forza 5. During races in the career mode the opponents are made up of a number of Drivatars who drive the same way their real-life counter-parts do. The same goes for you of course – the more you play the game, the more the game learns about how you drive.
When you are offline, your Drivatar will be inserted into other people’s games as an opponent, and can also net you some cash if it races well enough.
Having digital versions of people in your game makes it even more realistic (for the lack of a better explanation), as no two races will ever be the same. Additionally, you really have no way of knowing how they will race, whereas with normal AI it is usually pretty easy to figure out a driving style.
In a way it makes the game even more challenging as if a racer’s Drivatar is really good and knows a certain track pretty well, you will have to give it everything to get to the front of the pack and to stay there.
Forza MotorSport 6: Cars as far as the eye can see
Like every other entry in this series, Forza 6 provides drivers with an incredibly huge selection of cars to tool around in – over 450 cars in total, which is twice the amount of virtual boy toys offered in Forza 5.
Furthermore the selection encompasses nearly ever car class imaginable. You have your sedans, sport compacts, hypurther cars, off-road juggernauts, compacts and a host of pure American muscle – just to name a few.
The visuals in the game are absolutely stunning; cars are rendered using physically-based materials (PBM) system, which allows for light to be reflected and refracted differently on different types of materials. If a car’s paint job includes coloured flakes, you will be able to see the individual flakes.
The Forza franchise has always been renowned for its incredible attention to detail, but Forza 6 has outdone its predecessors by delivering some of the best in-game graphics any racing game has ever offered.
Every car’s exterior and interior has been faithfully recreated and every model looks eye-wateringly realistic. Granted this aspect may not be something that you are paying a lot of attention to when you are careening down a track at 200+ km/hour, but it definitely helps.
The excellent graphics are present in the cars’ surroundings; small bumps in the road, the rigid speed breakers on the chicanes and people on the side of the track look amazing. Clock an eye at some of the pictures in this review, and you’ll see what we mean.
Forza MotorSport 6: And now for something completely different
Some might (and will inevitably) argue that this is just another Forza game with more cars and tracks, but the truth of the matter is that there are some elements in number six that has never before been used.
Some race days, for example, are completely rain-drenched. This creates a rather unique challenge, in the sense that you have to watch your racing line carefully. Hit one of the puddles, and you run the risk of aquaplaning.
When that happens, your car will skid into all sorts of directions if you hit it at speed, and you can forget about braking as that will actually make it worse.
The other new feature is night racing. As the name implies, you will be racing some tracks in the dark and in this instance, visibility drops rather dramatically. While the track is lit up perfectly near the main stands on certain circuits, away from the starting line, you can find yourself cruising in near pitch darkness. If you drive with simulated damaged turned on, good luck in spotting the track if you bust a headlight.
Forza MotorSport 6: Around and around we go
Think back to Forza 5. How many tracks can you remember it had? If you were an avid player, you can probably name off the tracks on two hands, as it only allowed you to race around a handful of them at launch.
As time went by, it ultimately had 17 tracks, but that still pales in comparison to Forza 6’s 26 tracks, which includes nine that are completely new to the franchise.
Forza 4’s Hockenheimring and Sonoma are included, as well as a redesigned Rio de Janeiro track from the original game. In terms of brand-new tracks you now have Brands Hatch, Circuit of the Americas, Daytona, Lime Rock Park, Monza and Watkins Glen.
It goes without saying that all the tracks have been faithfully crafted to mirror their real-life counterparts.
Forza MotorSport 6: End of the line
Forza 6 is definitely one of the best entires in Microsoft’s flagship racing franchise and a huge step up from its predecessors. However, it might not be the best entry-point in the series for newbies.
As mentioned, Forza 6 can be brutal at the best of times and it might be incredibly frustrating for new players.
Developer Turn 10 has done a fantastic job of trying to meld arcade play with sim experience, but that might not appeal to everyone. Thankfully you don’t need to make use of all the aspects to play the game the way in which you want to – and that is where its massive appeal lies.