Both Microsoft and Sony’s next-gen consoles are finally here and the inevitable comparisons of each systems’ launch titles are made by gamers everywhere via blogs and gaming forums. With what little PS4 has to offer in terms of exclusive titles, Microsoft also has its own intriguing lineup of exclusive games to compete for the greatest installed base.
With the poor reception of Ryse, Forza Motorsport 5 is now Microsoft’s best chance to prove that the console stands for quality and has more to offer than its competition. Developed by Turn 10 Studios, Forza Motorsport 5 is the latest entry in Microsoft’s flagship racing series.
Forza Motorsport 5 is an amazing game with so much potential but unfortunately suffers from a few design flaws and poor decision-making on the developers’ part. Even so, at the core of this latest installment in the Forza series lies a solid sim racer where driving is still as good as one can expect from such a high profile racing game. The game’s strengths can easily compensate for other small hiccups and bugs surrounding it. For one thing, this game is quite addictive. Once you get a hold of the controller and start racing around a track, you’ll likely find it hard to put the controller down. The game builds tension and provides that realistic feeling that you are actually racing as you approach a steep corner or pass other cars in the race. However, the most gratifying part of the experience is the joy of having just made that perfect turn or drift and taking the lead as you pass the finish line.
Gameplay and reward mechanics in Forza Motorsport 5 have been significantly altered from those of its predecessors. You are no longer competing for first, second or third place. Instead, finish the race as one of the top three and you will be awarded with a gold medal, while the next three will get silver medals and so on and so forth for bronze. As a result of this, racing becomes more fun since there is no longer the pressure or the need to rush through the race for first place. The shift of focus from rewards to the actual gameplay is quite welcoming.
The new system, dubbed Drivatar, adds replay value to both the offline and online racing experiences. When you and your friends are driving together, Drivatar (or driving avatar) tracks your driving habits such as how both you and your friends drive, when you put on your brakes and/or when you step on that gas pedal. It acts as a realistic model of your own driving habits. It monitors everything related to the driving behaviors exhibited by both you and your friends and incorporates them into its own A.I system. Drive recklessly, braking and apexing too soon or too late and your Drivatar will do the same. You can improve your Drivator’s skills by consistently driving better since Drivatar is essentially a clone of yourself and they are only as good as you are on the race tracks.
As dubious as it may sound, it works amazingly well for the most part. Crank the difficulty all the way up and you will be pleasantly surprised with the results. Drivatar makes it seems as though your friends are competing with you, which in turn makes gameplay more engaging and challenging. One of the best things about this Microsoft’s patented system is that it always keeps you on your toes. Once you beat an AI, the system replaces it with more advanced AI, thus keeping you focused, mindful and engaged throughout every second and every moment of the race.
The only issue with this advanced AI system is that it doesn’t work the way it should in 16-car races. It only seems to work when there are a handful of opponents. With 16-car races, the first three corners are sure to put some damages on your vehicles. Graphic-wise, the game does a great job of depicting your car with chipped paint, broken headlights and dents or scratches especially on your vehicle’s fenders. Racing with fewer AI opponents is certainly much more fun.
A welcome feature to this game is the ability to rewind to the last few seconds of a race while you’re racing if you accidentally make a mistake like hitting the curb or spinning out of control. The game basically gives you a chance to go back in time to replay the scene so you’ll have a better chance of beating your opponents to the finish line.
Despite what some may say about how graphics don’t matter, the truth is with the new generation of consoles, it is one of the first things we look at and dutifully compare against past gen consoles. Fortunately, Forza Motorsport 5 excels in this area because the game easily dazzles our senses with its new lighting and shading system. Cars look very realistic as well as buildings, race tracks and other things that appear in the background. While the lighting is impressive, weather and time variability seems to be missing from the game for some unknown reason. In Forza 5, you’ll only get to race during the day. Early morning sun is overplayed to an extent where you will be tired of having to drive into a blinding white orb repeatedly.
The Good and the Bad of Forza 5
While Forza Motorsport 5 nails it with its driving mechanics, everything else including the user interface is a mess. The menu is actually poorly organized. This makes it obvious that the developers must have rushed this title in order to meet the launch date.
Moreover, the in-game music itself doesn’t live up to the quality one would expect from such a high profile game. All the crashes and drifts sound almost identical which cheapens the intensity. While it still packs a solid punch, Forza 4 fares much better as far as music is concerned.
Furthermore, there is no way to tune a car just moments before you are ready to race. The game forces you to go all the way back to the main menu to do that. In carrier mode, you will have to endure the long loading screens before you can tune your car.
Even worse than its user interface are the microtransactions which are heavily emphasized this time around. We are familiar with the token system as it has been a prominent feature in previous games. If there’s a car that you like to have, you better cough up the dough.
What’s incredibly annoying is once you decide to pay, the game entices you into spending more money just to unlock the next car. The game never forgets to remind you that you can level up through tokens (which cost real money) and it does it quite intrusively.
Talking about missing features, there are quite a few that’s missing from this game. The auction house used for selling and purchasing cars is no longer there. The ability to give your cars away to friends is also no longer possible. The Free Play mode features significantly less cars and fewer tracks to play with than in previous installments of the series. Car clubs, which were one of the ways to team up with friends and borrow or exchange cars, are also absent.
Considering the prevalent and intrusive nature of the token system, it’s not difficult to see why they would remove all the features that enable you to access more cars. If you decide to use the token system, you should be prepared to spend much more than the $60 you paid for the game. Yes, some cars cost as much as $80!
While Forza Motorsport 5 is a really amazing racing game, it’s not quite the game we were hoping for. Microtransactions will annoy you more than anything and certainly give you the impression that Microsoft intends to milk as much money off of gamers as possible. However, in light of better news, it’s been announced that Microsoft is going to modify the token system (i.e providing 50% discount off of car purchases for a limited time) after taking gamers’ feedbacks into consideration.