We reckon that we can do away with the preamble with this review, given that if you aren't aware of what the Forza series is by now, you probably never will be. With this sixth iteration (if you forget the Horizon interludes) being a pretty important title for Xbox One as a platform as it heads into the holiday season, let's cut right to it.
Straight out of the gate, Forza Motorsport 6 is absolutely stunning in terms of visuals. Running at a rock solid 60 frames per second in full 1080p, it delivers everything that developers Turn 10 have promised over the last few months. Note that when we say "rock solid", we absolutely mean it. It doesn't drop so much as a noticeable frame or throw in any screen tearing, even with 24 cars in view during heavy rain. As for whether or not that makes it the best looking console racer of all time is up for debate and will undoubtedly come down to personal preference, but it's certainly a contender with a darned good claim in that particular two-horse race. As well as the jump in framerate, new licks of paint have been given to familiar locations. Street tracks such as those in the Bernese Alps and Prague are revitalised in the form of more detailed texture work and better lighting while more traditional venues like Spa-Franchorchamps have new life breathed into them via the same treatment. Indeed, it feels that everything old is new again and that roster of tracks is bolstered by new inclusions in the form of Brands Hatch, Circuit of the Americas, Daytona, Lime Rock Park, Monza and Watkins Glen. Hockenheimring and Sonoma return after taking a break for Forza Motorsport 5 and Rio de Janeiro – which was showcased in the playable demo of the game - is unrecognisable when compared to the track that previously appeared in the franchise's début entry. A number of pleasing environmental touches are in place as well, such as smoke coming from the cart of a hotdog vendor in the infield, or fog banks breezing across the track when the rain is coming down.
In terms of vehicles, a massive 460 of them are on offer from the 1939 Maserati 8CTF all the way through to the game's cover car, the beautiful 2017 Ford GT. In between those two are pretty much every type of car you could feasibly expect to see, from the bullet-nosed grand prix cars of the 60s through to the 70s GT racers, off-roaders, consumer vehicles, vans, supercars, Formula 1, Formula E, Indy cars, tourers, muscle cars and more. There's something here for everyone and the chances are that if you ever fell in love with the roar of a particular engine, you'll be able to find it and race it – or at the very least, a variant of it. Once you've picked your weapon of choice for any given event, you can take it into the bodyshop to test out the robust customisation suite, giving it a coat of paint and applying a few decals, or you can just download one of the utterly beautiful creations that the community has (already) come up with. If you've got art assets saved in the cloud from Forza 5 or Forza Horizon 2, you can import those to apply to your new ride, too. Once you're done making it sparkle, you can fit some upgrades or head to the garage to work on your baby's setup, tweaking and changing every little thing until it's playing all the right tunes and purring in that way that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. Again, tuning setups are available from the community if you don't have the inclination to start twiddling gear ratios. If you like, you can take your car onto the track for a test drive and live tune it as you go, so you can see how your changes affect things directly.
When you've got everything set up as you want – or if you just want to jump in with a stock vehicle - you've a number of options to choose from in terms of competition. While similar in stature to those found in the last game, the multiplayer modes on offer have been strengthened to make for a more enjoyable experience. You can jump into different "hoppers" to take on specific classes and disciplines of racing – including simple drift and drag events – or jump into a League, which is a new feature this time around. Leagues are essentially timed, themed events where you take part in as many online races as you'd like during the competition's entry period, picking up points for your finishing positions. Once the league closes, you can be promoted or relegated to a different class so that the next league you play in is better suited to your skills, plus you'll receive a payout based on your position. It's a nice addition to the multiplayer features that are on offer, but it certainly isn't anything massively groundbreaking and possibly doesn't go as far as some would like in terms of creating competition. During the opening week, the "Grassroots" division (where you start) has nearly 5,000 entrants in it, so you're just one name floating in a sea of them. Although this figure will come down over time based on promotions and relegations, it just feels like a timed leaderboard rather than a superbly innovative new feature. As we say, the other multiplayer options are all still in place and are all as wonderfully engaging as ever.
If online play isn't your bag, a full single player career that will take a couple of dozen hours to complete – a hundred dozen if you want to truly complete everything - is of course on offer, complete with Drivatar opponents to take on.
This is where Forza 6 misses a gear change a bit, though.
While the game is essentially a supremely large toybox that lets you more or less do what you want from early on, there's something of a lack of creative structure about the single-player career mode. In fact, the structure is almost harks back to racing games of the 80s and 90s. You basically get 83 races to take on. In each one, you start in 12th place. In each one, you have to finish third or above or be forced to restart it.
It isn't necessarily presented as brutally as all that due to the fact that races are subdivided into sets which can be taken on by one of six different classes of car and which can be repeated. The eventual goal is to beat the career mode six times in total before it's considered to be truly complete. When the only challenge is to finish third over and over, the repetition can become a bit much. There are 87 "Showcase" races available to break things up a bit, featuring the likes of car bowling, overtaking challenges and one-on-one events, but these are absolutely entirely optional and are only really even mentioned in career mode when you unlock a new one. Indeed, by the time we had beaten the last race of the career, we'd only taken on one showcase.
What makes the career mode structure so galling is how basic each race is. They're fun to drive, but there are no qualifying laps, no fuel management, no pitstops, no championships, no team racing and no working your way up in your career to bigger and better things, or even any sort of variation in each race's goals. Even the disappointing F1 2015 said "Hey, we know your car isn't the best in the field, so just try to improve your starting position by a couple of places, OK?" There's nothing like that here. There aren't even any hotlap, time trial, drift, or drag events to mix things up – all styles of racing that are represented elsewhere in the game and that you have to imagine wouldn't have been too difficult to drop in to career mode here and there. The game does insist that you're gradually getting access to faster and faster vehicles as you progress, but you'll find that doesn't ring true when before you're halfway through, you're told that you can take on a set of races in a Bugatti Veyron. All that happens as you proceed through is that races get longer either in terms of lap count, or by taking place on the full version of the circuit in question.
Things may have been spiced up a little with a consistent roster of opponents or an increasing level of difficulty, but neither is on the cards. You can complete the career mode by finishing 3rd 83 times, after having taken on each race with the easiest opposition setting and with full assists. With the opposition made up of Drivatars, you might pip SuperDuperKilla999 to the post in one race and fancy that a bit of a Hunt/Lauda rivalry is coming on, but he won't even be in the field in the next, let alone fighting for the win. In fact, the Drivatars have more problems than that, we're sad to say, although we have to be clear and say that those issues may be irrelevant by the time you come to play the game.
You see, we started playing our review copy a week before the game was released to those who pre-ordered the Premium Edition bundle. At that timel, the opposition felt like it was taking part in a game of Out Run or Super Hang-On. Right off the line, three cars would always just whip unrealistically into a ridiculous lead, meaning that once we'd ducked and weaved through the pack, the rest of the race was essentially a chase to reach those three leaders. If it was a four lap race, we'd chase for the first three laps without making a dent in that gap, only to win when they inexplicably slowed down on the last circuit. This was brought into stark relief when we made the mistake of choosing the Formula E class for the Redline Series of races. 10 laps around the Indianapolis oval in an electric car that tops out at 140mp/h and that can make all the turns without applying the brakes even a little should be the ultimate leveller, you'd think. We moved to the front of the pack by the end of the first lap. The second and third placed cars were right on our tail, to the point that they were both in view when playing from the chase camera. When lap eight rolled around, they were still there, locked to our rear wing, then – despite all three of us sticking to the same racing line and not having any sort of collisions - something triggered and they started falling away. Our car breezed across the finish line over half a lap ahead of second place. The game had just decided that the AI opposition weren't allowed to offer a challenge anymore, so slowed them down. The same thing was happening when we were chasing. At times, Drivatars make utterly bizarre decisions – such as crawling around a 5th gear corner in 2nd – essentially blocking your path – or applying the brakes on a straight when the next corner is miles away.
However - and this is a big "however" - continued play has showed that these problems are actually lessening quite a bit. There's still obvious rubber-banding going on with the AI where you amazingly catch them up on the final lap, but it's gradually becoming less pronounced. We're pretty sure that this is due to players coming online and fleshing out their Drivatar's "personality" by actually racing in Forza Motorsport 6, as opposed to them being represented by data that comes from Forza 5 or Forza Horizon 2. What we are absolutely unable to say, is whether or not the rubber-band effect will disappear entirely. Therefore, this review is of how the game stands at the time of publication and it should be noted that things may be different when you come to play. We can tell you that the ability to limit Drivatar aggression will be something that you'll use. It's massively annoying to be side-by-side with an opponent on a straight, only for them to – without any thought for their own race position – just swing into you. Turning on the aggression limiter pretty much prevents this from happening and makes for a far more enjoyable game.
Also of note is Forza Motorsport 6's issue with currency. Since the poor decision to include micro-transactions in the last game was pretty much shot to pieces by the fanbase, Turn 10 have desperately been trying to make amends by showering players with credits and cars. We're at the point where they've gone too far the other way and made the financial side of things nonsensical, to the point of rendering the new mod card feature pretty much useless. Mods can be applied to your car before each race. "Crew" mods that change the car's properties (such as improving braking or power), "Dare" mods that set you a specific challenge and provide credits as a reward for completion, and "Boost" mods that increase your payouts are all on offer. The problem is that with the exception of the crew mods, there's no point in using them thanks to the fact that you pretty much don't need to earn money. Every time you level up, you win a prize from a prize board that contains anything from the price of an old banger to a brand new Formula 1 car. By the time we'd hit XP level 5 – which is only a handful of races into the game – we'd already won about 1.5million credits. That sort of money means that taking on a dare where you're limited to only using the cockpit cam in a race to win an extra 3,000 credits or so, is completely redundant. Add that to the fact that you get a payout for increasing your affinity level (which is very easy to do) with each manufacturer and that if you've played previous games in the series, you could be already sitting on (literally) millions of credits from the Forza Rewards program before you even install the game and the issue becomes clear. It just isn't particularly well thought out.
It's to the developer's massive credit that the issues with the career mode structure, finance, and Drivatars don't affect how much fun it is to actually take to the track and drive in this sixth iteration. The game is as customisable as it always was with regards to handling, so you can go for the full simulation-style approach to try to top the laptime leaderboards, or take a more relaxed view of things and play with a more arcade-like setup featuring multiple assists. Both are catered to equally well with cars generally feeling as if they have a little more grip in all configurations than before. Whichever way you choose to play to take on one of the major new additions – racing in the rain – you'll be happy. Turn 10 is the first developer to make driving in the rain feel just right. Standing water sets up on the track in the form of puddles and if you so much as clip a wheel into one of them, you could find yourself aquaplaning into trouble. Not only that, but the apexes and off-track areas become massively treacherous when the skies open, too. Cars don't often grip soaking wet grass and you'll find that's the case here. If your million-credit racer gets two wheels off the track, you'll be pulled into a slide that you pretty much won't get out of. It isn't a full weather system – rain doesn't stop or start all of a sudden, it's either raining or it's not - but that doesn't really matter. Some will say that the puddles have been added in a bit of a heavy-handed way. The professional F1 racing circuit at Spa-Franchorchamps simply doesn't have massive potholes in it that would accommodate track-wide ditches of water, but that isn't necessarily a negative. In fact, it's something of a positive given that it makes racing in the wet all that more treacherous and compelling. You'll notice that the sprays of water become larger the longer you race, too, as the track becomes more and more submerged.
The expanded fields featuring up to 24 cars make a lot more difference than you'd first assume, too. Some tracks become intensely claustrophobic as the entire track is blocked by a wall of vehicles that leaves you nowhere to go. This has the effect of pushing the pressure levels up through the roof as you try to negotiate your way around, taking note of the fact that you have to brake early into bends to make sure that you don't ram into anyone when the corners are backed up. The new lighting effects that are present make night racing more of a concern than it's ever been in a racing game before, too. Try taking an Indy car (which has no headlights) out around Spa at night for a test run and you'll see exactly how little light there is. It sounds like a dumb thing to say, doesn't it? But in other racing games, you're always given enough light to navigate with when, frankly, that isn't really realistic. Your headlights are massively important, rather than being an afterthought that you could probably get along without. Turn 10 say that they've approached night-time lighting for each track in a different way to make sure that the best experience can be had, as opposed to just removing the simulated sun from the equation and throwing in a bit of ambient light in the same way every time.
This attention to detail when it comes down to you, the track, the engine, and the rubber on the road is enough to set Forza Motorsport 6 apart, even if it isn't perfect.
Some of the off-track functionality in Forza Motorsport 6 is sometimes surprisingly lazily implemented but you'll tend to forget that when you're in a battle with the elements, trying to shave a tenth of a second off your laptime in your newly-tuned favourite racer, or simply gawking at the outstanding visuals. Time ebbs away when you're playing. "One more race" becomes "one more series" and then you just pop online to have a quick League race, then you just have to take on a rival's laptime real quick…and soon it's 5am and you realise exactly how much game you get for your buck. Warts and all, this is well worth the investment.