Review: Forza Motorsport 6 is brilliant under the hood

Forza Motorsport 6 is the latest game in a racing franchise that spans more than 10 years, 3 generations of consoles and 8 titles. Keeping with their traditional 2...

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Forza Motorsport 6 is the latest game in a racing franchise that spans more than 10 years, 3 generations of consoles and 8 titles. Keeping with their traditional 2 year release cycle for new versions of the main series, Turn 10 Studios are ready to release Forza 6 to the world. 

After a solid weekend of racing, I’ve powered through 27 hours in the game and have only reached 20% complete. Forza 6 is simply massive. Without trying I’ve risen to Driver level 20 (there’s likely a 50 max), earned 14 achievements and 200 gamerscore with a cool $2.36 Million earned in races so far. With that experience, it’s time for a review to let you know if you should buy Forza 6.

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V8 Supercars

Before we get started discussing the finer points of the game, I had to try out the V8 Supercars around Bathurst. For a long time fans of Australia’s most popular form of motorsport have cried out for a new version of the V8 Supercars game. Now, with Forza 6, there is no need for a dedicated game, the V8s have arrived.

V8 Supercars are well known internationally and of all the motorsports types available, to have them represented in such a positive way in a game with such international exposure is such a great thing for the sport, the country and most of all, gamers.

While there’s been experiments before, in Forza 6 the V8 Supercars are a serious implementation. Every one of the 5 different manufacturers are represented, which is fantastic for fans to drive their favourite, while 10 liveries are available. With the in-game designer, fans will create photo perfect liveries for the other cars on the grid.

A V8 Supercar in the game costs you $600,000 and is worth every part of that. The new models are great with their hamburger camera on top of the roof, updated roll cage visible most when you drive in in-car view (my favourite). This is where you’ll also get the best sound, turn it up loud and you’ll quickly hear how accurately they’ve captured the essence of what a V8 Supercar is, madness.

With Forza 6 now supporting up to 24 cars in a race, it’s the perfect amount for a full V8SC grid and despite the insane amount of computation that would take, the game doesn’t drop frames or quality. Technically that is a staggering achievement, particularly with the damage and chaos that ensues at the top of the mountain.

Bathurst itself has now been in a long list of games, but once again Turn 10 have worked their amazing laser scanning magic and made it look even better again. The one thing I feel this time, more than ever before is the bumps and rise and fall of the track. I’ve never raced on Bathurst in real life, but after Forza 6, I feel like I have.

There is no other turn, on any other track that’s as insane as The Chase. This is however the first game I’ve raced a V8 Supercar that actually feels like the aero is working to help the car stick to the ground and its very possible to take the corner flat out in top gear and them grab the brakes without crashing. When you nail that, it’s like nailing a magic trick, seriously something special.

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Graphics

The visuals in this game are stunning, there’s no other way to describe it. The vehicles are the highest resolution models you’ve ever seen, but I think in many ways that was expected. The stand out for me is the detail in environments, even familiar tracks like Prague feel new with dramatically more detail in the buildings, the water, the lighting, shadows. Turn 10 have created something special here with 1080p resolution and at 60 frames per second despite having the most detail and largest grids we’ve seen from Forza. In year 2 of the Xbox One, it’s amazing to think what is in store for years 3, 4 and 5 of the platform. 

The intro sequences look even better. We’ve seen tests on the Forza 6 demo that show a drop to 30 fps for those non-controllable sequences that allow a higher poly count to be rendered. This means the developers have more detail in the game than the hardware can handle and as so often is the challenge, finding the sweet spot between performance and visuals is the difficult thing to nail.

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Tracks

This time Forza includes a diverse selection of 26 tracks from around the world. This includes a return of many fan favourites and all new entries to the franchise. The track list in “Forza Motorsport 6” is a combination of real-world race circuits, laser-scanned to be precise recreations of their real-life counterparts, and fictional tracks based on real-world locations, that have been specifically designed to provide players with amazing racing experiences.

After having such a great time driving around these 26 environments, I really wish we had more and certainly more Australian tracks. With the partnership V8 Supercars it’s be amazing to see them fund the development of other key Australian tracks like Sydney, Adelaide, even the Melbourne GP tracks and have them added as DLC. I don’t care if they’re $30 per track, I’d probably buy them.

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Vehicles

Forzavista is back and where only select cars were done in uber detail, this time around all of the 460 cars in Forza 6 has been built to the highest level of detail and can be experienced via Forzavista. This lets you walk around the car, open the doors, climb inside and explore the interior, start the engine, or learn about a car’s history with a detailed audio tour.

You can now customise from within Forzavista which lets you get different angles on upgrades like rims and ride heights.

For the full list of cars, go here.

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Vehicle customisations

Forza is well known for the ability to add style and performance upgrades. There’s a whole community marketplace of designs and even competitions that are run on this vehicle customisation engine in the game. In Forza 6, the mods are familiar, probably too familiar. The detail in the component upgrades are seriously impressive, appearing like Turn 10 got hold of the CAD data from actual components. Textures like carbon fibre on a racing driveshaft look amazing realistic.

There’s plenty more vinyl groups to select from, including almost every font under the sun, so if you’re a fan of designing your own liveries, you’ll be set. What would be amazing to see is the ability to import a photoshop file from a USB drive or cloud storage to use in the design. With templates, this would be a much faster proposition using keyboard and mouse to design, rather than a controller.

There’s of course the ability to share your car designs, tuning and photos with the Forza community or search for your favorite community works to make your car a one-of-a-kind gem. Something really appreciated is the ability to use existing creations from Forza 5 or Horizon 2, in Forza 6 with just a press of a button.

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Gameplay

Forza 6’s career contains more than 70+ hours of gameplay across 26 world-famous destinations. The career has been designed to take you on an automotive journey across the game’s diverse race types. As you race through events in your career, you’ll unlock Showcase events, which are a collection of specific race types and are hosted by famous race car drivers and automotive celebrities. The Showcase events dramatically increase the diversity within the career and will expose you to unique areas in the world of Motorsport that you never knew existed, all while giving you the freedom to follow your own path.

Mods

Probably the most poorly named system in Forza 6 is Mods. When you think of mods and cars, you think of vehicle modifications, not race modifications. Forza 6’s new Mod system allows you to unlock new mods that help you in race. These can range from 1-time use Mods that earn you extra XP for performing perfect drafts and corners to unlimited use Mods like restricting you to in-car view for extra XP. You can select up to 3 Mods to apply for any given race and unlock new Mod packs as you compete. There is an option to buy your way to new Mods, but don’t be lame, just earn them.

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Damage

Almost without exception, one of the first things I’ll test in a new game is the damage engine. We’ve seen some titles in the past call themselves ‘driving simulators’ that don’t contain any more than a texture map that changes when you collide with walls.

What we want to see from a modern racer is the ability to hit a sand trap sideways and roll, have the windows smash, the roof dent, and vehicle performance be impacted appropriately by collisions. There’s also the topic of tyres.. sure they should wear out during a long race, resulting in a loss of traction, as well as the ability to snap off a tyre if the impact is sever enough. In the case of an open wheeler especially, but even the capability of popping a tyre with a solid burnout should be possible.

In Forza 6, you can’t pop tyres (I tried, hard) you can’t make wheels fall off, but you can flip the cars and smash their windscreens (and sunroofs) by crashing into walls hard. While that’s certainly not where I expected it to be, the mechanical damage is. With the Assists for damage set above cosmetic, you can absolutely impact your suspension, drivetrain, handling and more by being too aggressive. Full damage would have been the icing on the cake here, but this will have to do for now.

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Weather

Turn 10 Studios are super proud of what they’re calling 3D rain. As part of their new ForzaTech engine, the developers established what racing through standing water feels like. To achieve this, they interviewed race car drivers, researched the hell out it.

The game now has fully simulated puddles with accurate drag properties, this means not just slowing your whole vehicle, but slowing the wheels that hit the water. This means you bust through standing water with the right-front wheel and you’ll be on your way to a severe spin. If you’re skilled enough, you can catch the spin before it ends in disaster, but this is hard.

When water stretches the track you’ll have little choice but to cross it. If you’re on slick racing tyres, good luck, hydroplaning is super severe, even when your pointed straight.

In my opinion, the effects are a little overdone, they seem to disregard the weight of the vehicle and the fact road tyres can disperse a lot of water quickly and not have that effect. If you hit standing water sideways, fine, you deserve to spin and you’ll quickly learn to avoid it, but hitting something straight on should slow you, but not end your race with a fist bump with the nearest tyre wall.

The rain is really well done and the refraction in water droplets is sensational. I do think the windscreen wipers and their ability to disperse water from your vision worked better in Project Cars. It is strange there’s still no ability to adjust the wiper speed, real cars have this.

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Night racing

Racing at night is new for the Forza franchise and if you enjoy scary movies this fright will probably be right up your alley. Visibility is pretty terrible with headlights giving you just a short glimpse of the very fast road coming towards you. It is a crazy thrill of speed and danger, so you’ll be well served to learn the track in the daylight first. Again, like the wipers, cars have two modes for headlights, low beam and high beam, but there is no in-game representation of this. 

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Artificial Intelligence

When your racing, you want to win, but you don’t want that to be easy or the race is boring (just ask Lewis Hamilton). in Forza 6, you race against opponents trained by Forza players all over the world, including your friends. Using machine learning powered by the Xbox Live cloud, Drivatar opponents exhibit the same driving tendencies as the real life players they’re based upon.

This means you’ll often see cars do really normal, naturally dumb things like crash and spin which adds to the realism, instead of having your rivals roll around on rails.

As a cloud-based system, data carries over from one game into the next while gaining the benefits of new advancements both on the client and in the cloud. In fact, if you played Forza 5 or Forza Horizon 2, your Drivatar is already racing in Forza Motorsport 6. Also if you’ve played previous games, you’ll likely start Forza 6 with some vehicle gifts to say thankyou for your commitment, a nice touch.

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Multiplayer

There’s a brand new multiplayer feature in Forza 6 called Leagues. These are scheduled multiplayer race series where players are organized by skill level and temperament. You can experience 24-car racing online, against the world with players in your Division who are your skill level and drive like you do. With the all-new spectate mode, players can jump into open multiplayer races, watch the races unfold live, and broadcast them on their favourite streaming partner.

I haven’t spent enough time in Multiplayer as the experience pre-launch to post-launch will be considerably different after the server loads arrive. Only then will we know if there’s any problems with lag, skill matching, finding races and the like.

Issues and Problems

Cars missing in UI
There are bugs in this game, it’s not perfect and if you read sites that give it 10/10, they’re wrong. There’s always room for improvement and Forza 6, as great as it is, doesn’t escape that. There are many times where selecting my car, I found the 2017 Ford GT wasn’t displayed. The title and info yes, but the actual car model wasn’t. You can select it and drive it fine (it’s amazing by the way) but the model in the menu is broken.

Another is the 2014 Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge that also doesn’t appear in the ‘My Cars’ UI.

Turning sharper than 30
I was driving a lot using the Thrustmaster Ferrari 458 Spider wheel and pedals while reviewing Forza 6. For the most part this works great, but I have one serious problem that I just can’t resolve. Turning the wheel turns the tyres by after turning the wheel more than about 30 degrees, with basically any car in Forza 6, the tyres start to squeal like they’re locking up.

Obviously hammering into a turn to fast there is a point where you’ll understeer and the tyres should complain, but this is almost everywhere. I’ve tried a bunch of settings and configurations, but this seems like a bug because I should be able to put on far more steering lock (especially at low speed) and not hear the tyre squeal. This took me out of the experience a bit, while in other driving games like Project CARS and F1 2015 I haven’t experienced this.

Music and audio controls
There’s no control over the music, none, one or off, that’s it. No playlist, no radio channels and worst of all, if you do want some music, you can’t decide how loud items like your engine or pit crew is audible.

Weather and Time of day is baked
Rain and night time races certainly are a welcome introduction, but the big disappointment here is the lack of variability. It’s either day, or night. It’s either wet, or dry, nothing in between. This is clearly due to the computational requirements (and limitations) of the Xbox One, and having that level of detail meant they had to bake the lighting and weather models into to level load. It’s ok, you get a pass this time Turn 10, but Forza 7 better have dynamic weather, only then can weather-related pit stops become a reality. 

No Porsche
Not sure who’s to blame here, but a despite having a long list of cars, a massive omission is Porsche. This is particularly strange given some tracks have Porsche sponsorship signs. Its not really acceptable for Porsche to be left out, especially given they make one of the top 3 hypercars on the planet, the 918 .

Skid marks on the grass
When your skin pan skills run out at you leave the tarmac, you really shouldn’t be leaving the same black rubber marks on grass. A number of times where i was having a bit of fun, I noticed this was the case in Forza 6. Hopefully this is addressed with a patch. Sure knock the grass over, disturb it somehow, but don’t just use the same tyre marks from tarmac, that’s the easy, not realistic way out.

Over all these are mild complaints about a pretty stunning game, so if you can live with these, definitely read on.

Price and Availability

The game is set for release on September 15th in Australia, but just be very mindful of what a massive game this is. Of all the games I own on the Xbox One, this is the 2nd largest at 45.8GB, only beaten by Call of Duty: Advanced Warefare (inc expansions) at 52.1GB.

This means you’ll definitely want to purchase the game in advance and start the download days in advance (connection dependant). From the time I hit go, to the time I could play, was around 14 hours and I have ADSL2+. If you decide to buy, the bits will download before the launch date, then unlock when the clock ticks over.

The exception to the release dates, are those who pre-order the Ultimate Edition who will be granted early access to play Forza Motorsport 6 on 10/09/2015.

Release date:

  • Sept. 10, 2015 (early access available via Ultimate Edition)
  • Sept. 15, 2015 Americas and Asia (Except Japan & China) – inc Australia
  • Sept. 17, 2015 Japan
  • Sept. 18, 2015 Europe, Middle East, Africa

Price:

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Overall

This is seriously one of the best driving games I’ve driven, it could be the best ever. At a time when we’re spoilt for choice, Forza Motorsport 6 delivers a seriously deep driving experience. The strong vehicle catalogue is matched by it’s new and refreshed tracks that often distract you with how gorgeous they are.

The technical efforts to achieve this on a console shouldn’t be underestimated, but Turn 10’s hard work pays off bigtime, with full race grids. As an Aussie, the V8 Supercars are a massive success and could only be improved by having all cars available out of the gate, but that will almost certainly come, possibly through DLC, but almost certainly through a community effort.

To hear the announcement that Formula E would be included in the game excited me greatly, given its only the second season. After driving Formula E, it’s a delight to experience something brand new, as new categories are few and far between. At first you absolutely miss the noise of the F1, especially seem F1 2015 still gets a lot of my attention. That said, the all-electric category does feel like you’re getting in on the ground floor of the future of motorsport.

In every Forza, you quickly reach a point where you’re in the middle of career mode and you feel like you’re just grinding out race after race. It stops being fun for a while, but the mixture of Showcase events in Forza 6 is a welcome break away, even if each category is only 6 races long at most.

You can beat the diverse race types in Forza 6, however there’s a distinct lack of drift and rally events on the calendar. Strange considering drift legend Tanner Foust does some of the voice work.

The game plays to many potential audiences and with DLC from the Fast & Furious franchise, it’ll also get fans of the movie franchise involved as well. It’s not Christmas yet, but it certainly feels like Santa came early this year.

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