All of the thrill, half of the drive

Jon Mercer
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Forza Motorsport 5
Xbox One

In a perfect world, “Forza Motorsport 5” would be an absolute must have for the Xbox One.
It’s of a pedigree that some would argue actually supplanted Sony’s “Gran Turismo” franchise as the go-to games for simulation racing on current gaming consoles.

A screenshot from the game "Forza Motorsport 5." — Submitted image

The last iteration, “Forza 4,” was released on the Xbox 360 to nearly universal acclaim from the critical community. So, it should go without saying that Microsoft would be presenting their latest ode to motoring with its hair combed neatly and dressed in its Sunday best.

Normally this would be where a big “but” would rear its ugly head, and while I do have some reservations about certain foibles in “Forza 5,” I cannot deny that the game does much more right than it does wrong. I just wish there was more of it.

On a positive note, “Forza 5” is probably the nicest controlling racer I’ve ever played without the use of a Force Feedback steering wheel that costs nearly as much as a game console itself. It’s on par with “Forza 4,” but that was probably the finest simulation racer I’ve played in 10 or more years.

There are tonnes of options to make racing as smooth or as realistic (i.e. hard) as one prefers. Assisted braking, traction control and all of the other bells and whistles that automotive luddites such as myself have no idea about are present, making driving feel like a complete package.

A very cool addition comes in the form of independent feedback to each of the Xbox One gamepad’s shoulder triggers. It’s hard to describe, but you can actually feel the tremendous power of the engine and the grip of the tires as you enter into a curve at too high a speed. It’s as big of a thrill as the first time gamers ever experienced a controller rumbling.

If you’re in the market for a racer that looks as good as the machines on the track, your search for the time being is over: “Forza 5” is a visual beast!

The level of detail is, for lack of a less cliché term, staggering. Vistas spread out past the racetrack with dizzying clarity. The textures are amazing — especially in Autovista Mode, where a car can be fully explored to appreciate the design and engineering responsible in designing the beast.

Unlike “Forza 4,” every car in the list is now available; and even better, Autovista is narrated by the three hosts of the worldwide phenomenon BBC motoring program, “Top Gear.” It’s a pleasant touch.

On the downside, the level of attention paid to every car on “Forza 5’s” roster means it is nowhere near as expansive as the last iteration of the series.

In fact, “Forza 5” feels like it features less than half the content of its predecessor. It tops out at just over 200 cars and 14 tracks, roughly 50 per cent of what “Forza 4” had to offer.

This loss is compounded by the constant reminders in game of DLC and Microtransactions to speed up the unlocking of additional vehicles and features.

It’s gotten to the point where there are onscreen options to pay real world money to cut down the amount of XP needed to acquire a new car.

Just as an example, in an hour’s worth of playing, a gamer might have acquired $100,000 in credits, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the million plus cost of most of the nicer vehicles up for grabs.

For all the bellyaching the gaming community gave EA over the microtransaction debacle from last year’s “Dead Space 3,” I sincerely hope Microsoft catches nine shades of hell over this egregious slap in the face to anyone who shelled out $60 for a brand new game for their $500 console, only to have the publisher’s fingers in their face, rubbing together in the universal sign for cash money.

This is sad, because what Microsoft and developer Turn 10 Studios have accomplished with “Forza Motorsport 5” is nothing short of art; a loving celebration of not just racing, but the simple thrill of driving.

That sensation of freedom that — despite years of scraping ice from our windshields, and lumbering through long commutes to work — never goes away; of just turning the key, hearing the warhorse sing to life and taking her out on the road for another go. It just doesn’t feel like as jubilant a celebration as last time out, and the nagging for extra cash after gamers have already filled up the tank has taken a step beyond mere annoyance to a level of being a genuine detriment to the game.

Luckily, at its core, “Forza Motorsport 5” is a solid enough title to still perform, even if she could have used a little more work.

Platform: Xbox One

Developer: Turn 10 Studios

Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

Release Date: Nov. 22, 2013

Rated: E for Everyone.

 

To reach Jon Mercer,

email  thejonmercer@gmail.com.

Organizations: Microsoft, BBC

Geographic location: Autovista Mode

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