By Nicholas Simonovski
Let me start off by saying that I’ve been absolutely craving a new racing experience as of late. Ever since Forza Motorsport 5 was unveiled at E3 a few months ago, it’s quickly become the game I’m most excited for (well, now that GTA V is out of the way), so 22 November and the launch of the Xbox One really cannot come soon enough.
Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend the Xbox One Showcase, hosted by Xbox Australia. While there were a number of Xbox One consoles set up around the room, showcasing launch titles like Dead Rising 3, Ryse: Son of Rome, and Killer Instinct, there was really only one game I was interested in – that of course being Forza 5.
The preview code on show featured five cars to choose from: an Audi R10 TDI, McLaren P1, Ferrari Berlinetta, Ford Focus, and the Mercedes-Benz 300SL. We got to take each through a one-lap race around the Mazda Laguna Seca circuit. For my first race, I decided to select the McLaren, turning all assists off except traction control and ABS.
Graphics aside, the first thing I noticed about Forza 5 was the improvements made to the controller's rumble while playing. No longer does it feel like you’re racing a dodgem car on a smooth surface, where you only used to feel something when you started braking for a corner or while turning; the controller now vibrates much more frequently during the race, which was a nice touch as far as realism is concerned.
Physics-wise, the game feels great, and while I can’t claim to know how any of the cars from the game handle in real-life, there was definitely that sense that Turn 10 had made the effort to really transmit how these vehicles would behave in reality. As you’d expect, the Audi was easily the most planted of the five, the McLaren was mental with its speed and handling (where braking early was a must unless you wanted to spend some time in the sand traps), and the Ferrari was surprisingly tame. As for the other two cars, well, I didn’t mind the Gullwing, but I’d be lying if I said I cared too much about them.
As you turn more of the assists on, the game really does open itself to being accessible for those non-racing gamers, without seeming ridiculously unrealistic. I also appreciated how the racing line didn’t seem as intrusive as it has been in past games, replacing the bright green with a dark cyan-esque tone instead.
All this aside though, the standout feature of Forza Motorsport 5 during my time with the preview code has to be its graphics and presentation, both of which are seriously beyond amazing. Despite being unfinished code, the attention to detail is arguably better than anything I’ve seen from a racing game to date, and it doesn’t stop there. Damage to both your car and those of your opponents is more detailed than I’ve ever seen, and I loved how the game finally recognises that the windshield isn’t missing; you’ll notice the reflection of your own dashboard on the glass when the sun shines into your view. Additionally, you’ll sometimes have your visibility impaired by the sunlight at certain parts of the track. Really, FM5 is as much a treat to just look at, as it is to race in.
The AI also seems to be a lot 'smarter' this time around in comparison to Forza 4. Where in the last game I struggled to claw my way to the front without the AI driving into me as they stuck meticulously to the racing line, the AI seemed a lot more ‘natural’ and responsive in the races I completed.
My only one complaint with the game was the fact that that certain elements on the HUD seemed to disappear throughout the race. Anyone who is serious about racing (which, should be the target market for FM5) will tell you that lap times are important, yet for whatever reason, the current and fastest lap times would appear and disappear from the screen during the race. I didn’t check the options to see if this was something you could change, but it didn’t make sense why it would be useful to have these show only occasionally, as opposed to the entirety of the race.
While we’ll need to wait and see the finished product before we can make any definite assertions about the game, Forza Motorsport 5 is really shaping up to be an amazing title. The game plays and looks stunning, and I’m so excited to see FM5 harness the full capabilities of the Xbox One.