Review: Forza 5

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“Xbox One – Show me that horizon…”

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I’ll get this out-of-the-way early on; Forza 5 is big enough, good enough and fun enough. That’s it. Whatever the gripes are about “lack of courses”, “lack of cars” and microtransactions; I’m just interested in Forza 5 – the game. And you know what, for a driving game on brand new hardware – it’s bloody good.

In terms of content, it pales in comparison to Forza 4 or Forza Horizon – but it should. Those games were built on solid foundations towards the tail-end of a well-known and tapped console. Forza 5 has been built from the ground up, on shifting specs, in less than 2 years. In terms of gameplay mechanics – how the cars look, feel and sound – Forza has never been better. And then there’s the Drivatars.

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Oh boy, Drivatars! At first dismissed as a silly next-gen buzzword, Drivatar is the real deal and will change the way the racing genre (and potentially others) is played and built. You should know the tech by now – after experiencing a number of races, the Xbox One uploads your driving style on to its cloud servers, allowing your digital self to race in your friends single player games – all the time learning and improving them from the races you actually play in. Not only does your Drivatar earn credits for each race it partakes in (allowing you to buy more cars), it means you feel like you’re actually racing against friends (and not AI sticking to a racing line) every time.

It’s certainly a game-changer, and it’s an exciting one. It’s also a lot of fun. I get regular tweets, texts and messages on XBL from my friends telling me how much of a dickish driver my Drivatar is – how it takes shortcuts, how it slams into other drivers, how it wildly careers around corners – and that’s brilliant as that’s exactly how I drive in Forza 5 (not real-life, thankfully). I’ll leave you with this – if the tech is good now (it is), imagine it in the inevitable open-world of Forza Horizon 2. You have my permission to drool.

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Elsewhere, the game is as solid as ever. It’s all about amazing looking, fast cars in beautiful locations for people who appreciate amazing looking, fast cars in beautiful locations. Car porn, basically. The involvement of Jeremy Clarkson and his Top Gear motley crew has been taken up a notch in this installment, and while your mileage may vary on this, it adds a level of authenticity and class. Clarkson knows his cars, after all. The game sounds great too; a new score replaces the licensed tracks (possibly a way to save a bit of money in the budget, but it works for me) and the cars sound louder, and more authentic, than ever. You’ve seen the screenshots and, yes, the game really does look that good in motion. The Prague track, in particular, is breathtaking.

You already know if you’re going to like Forza or not. It all depends on if you’re going to love it. This is the start of a new generation after all. Some might say Forza 5 is the interlude to a bigger Forza Horizon 2 or Forza 6, a way to get that new Drivatar tech out into the open – and some people may be right. What you ARE getting, though, is a driving simulator up there with the very best – with next-generation graphics (at 1080p, 60fps), exciting next-gen tech and a level of polish that you’ve never seen in a driving game before.

8.5/10

– Dave Green @davidpgreen83

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