Like most of you, I find myself in the position where I just don’t have enough cash to splurge on a shiny new McLaren sportscar. Understandably, this saddens me. It also denies me the opportunity to cruise the mean streets of Finchley in an open-top sports car to clearly communicate to all and sundry that I’m on the verge of a mid-life crisis.
Accordingly, I have to get my high-octane kicks elsewhere – that elsewhere being on my sofa with an Xbox controller in hand. For a while now, the Forza series has been my go-to racing franchise to sate my petrol-headed automotive fantasies. So, understandably, I was more than thrilled to hear that Forza Motorsport 5 would be a launch title for the Xbox One; and I frankly needed a change of underwear when I found out that I’d be able to get my hands on a preview build at Eurogamer Expo.
• Developer: Turn 10
• Publisher: Microsoft Studios
• Previewed on: Xbox One
• Release Date: November 22nd 2013
Forza Motorsport 5 has been positioned as a showcase title for the Xbox One since Microsoft announced the next-gen console, touting everything from graphical horsepower to Drivatars that are brought to life by, you guessed it, the power of the cloud. It’s also taken pretty much as a given that FM5 will feature the same customisation options and community-building aspects of previous titles, but little has been heard about this to date.
The preview build that I got to play at Eurogamer Expo was a two-lap race around the famous Laguna Seca racecourse, in your choice of a range of cars that ranged from a Ford Fiesta to a McLaren and, should you feel the urge to drive around in a Trilby, a 1960’s Mercedes SLS. Each of the cars being shown off at the Expo had markedly varied characteristics and, reassuringly, these differences were palpably present and correct when it actually came to hooning them around a track.
FM5, from a handling viewpoint, is very much an evolution of the rock-solid mechanics of previous games in the franchise; you truly feel connected to the car as you drive it and get a wonderful feel for when you’re at the absolute limit of your car’s performance. One of the aspects of the handling that Turn 10 have absolutely nailed is the sensation of the car’s weight shifting as you manoeuvre; much like actual racing, getting a car to go round a corner is making sure there’s enough grip to keep its momentum in check. The feedback that you get from the engine powering FM5 allows you to finely judge how far to push your car without feeling unfairly punishing.
From a driving mechanics viewpoint, FM5 doesn’t disappoint – and it more than holds its own insofar as visual flair is concerned. Although the jump in graphical fidelity going into the next generation of consoles is nowhere near as vast as that from the previous generation to this one, the sheer graphical flair of FM5 is truly something to behold. Admittedly, this fidelity is the net result of a number of subtle tweaks and effects – in conjunction with a couple million more polygons per second – that are simply beyond consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. What really blew me away (and no doubt some of you will think I’ve gone a little soft in the head for this) were the little touches such as the imperfections in a car’s paint reflecting light differently. It really is the little things that make a difference – but the rock-solid frame rate of 60 fps doesn’t hurt either.
Playing FM5 was also the first time that I got to get to take the rumble triggers of the Xbox One controller for a spin. Microsoft have made a fairly big deal about this particular aspect of their next-gen controller, with many dismissing it as a bit of a gimmick. I must admit I was a little sceptical about how well the haptic feedback of the One’s controller would work in practice, but it truly adds a whole other level to the experience whilst playing a game such as FM5. The left trigger pulses as your anti-lock braking system (ABS) kicks in and rumbles when you lock your brakes, whereas the right trigger subtly lets you know when you’re pushing the engine that little bit too hard. Again, it’s the little things.
As the Eurogamer Expo preview build was resolutely single-player, I can’t comment on how the multiplayer aspects of the game are shaping up; nor can I pass judgement on the Drivatar system. The driver AI in this build seemed largely unchanged from Forza Motorsport 4, insofar as the tendency for your opponents to drive like the more tiresome aspects of Xbox Live’s community are concerned; hopefully this will be tweaked in time for the final version of the game, or even be supplanted by the AI-human hybrids that are Drivatars.
Forza Motorsport 5 is shaping up to be a great launch title for the Xbox One and is a game that will keep petrol-heads such as me glued to their shiny new next-gen boxes for the next couple of months.