Forza Motorsport 5 Review (XONE)

First "Next-Gen" Racer Is Solid but Light on Content

Microsoft
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Buy Forza Motorsport 5 at Amazon.com

Out on the track there is no question in my mind that Forza 5 is the best entry in the series.  Off of the track, however, it is hard not to be let down a bit by what Forza 5 offers.  Some of the disappointment comes from understandable sources - a smaller car and track list than previous games is because the game had to be rushed out for launch - but other things like stripping out key features of past games and pushing intrusive microtransactions on players aren't as easy to forgive.

  Forza 5 looks awesome and plays great, but doesn't quite meet the standards previous entries in the series have set in terms of content.  See our full review for all of the details.

Game Details

  • Publisher:  Microsoft        
  • Developer: Turn 10
  • ESRB Rating: “E" for Everyone
  • Genre: Racing
  • Pros:  Great graphics; excellent sound; drivatars are awesome; gameplay is very solid
  • Cons:  Microtransaction nonsense; missing key features; small car list; small track list

Features

Forza 5 ships with only a little more than 200 cars on-disc (well, on-disc plus a huge free update you have to download).  Compared to Forza 4's 500+ cars, this is a letdown, though it is pretty understandable considering Turn 10 actually had to put in a lot of work to make sure the cars actually looked right on Xbox One.  They didn't want to do what Polyphony Digital did with Gran Turismo 5 and just re-use old models for a lot of cars (which looked awful, by the way, yeah I've played GT5) to artificially inflate the total car count.

  Turn 10 wanted to make sure every car was as good looking as possible and as accurate as possible and could only get so many done before launch.  Every car also has the Forzavista feature where you can walk around the car and look at everything, so they all had to look as good as possible.

The tracks worked out the same way.

  Forza 5 only has 14 track locations (most tracks have more than one layout, though) while Forza 4 had twice that many.  It is simply because they had to update the visuals and the geometry and everything else about the tracks and could only get so much done before launch.  I totally understand. 

Another annoyance is that some features of past games aren't present here, such as being able to use any car you want in the Free Play mode (now you can only use cars you've bought in career) as well as the Marketplace to share your custom liveries and tuning setups with other users (this will be added later).  Car Clubs are gone.  You can't even gift cars to your friends anymore.  Yeah, yeah, they had to rush it out for launch.  You still get a lengthy career mode, online play, and Free Play modes so I guess it isn't so bad.

DLC and Microtransactions

What isn't as easy to understand is the extensive DLC planned out before the game even launched.  We're already paying $60 for a game with far fewer cars than before, and now they expect us to pay another $50 for a "season pass" to get 60 more cars?  That is kind of ridiculous. 

Also ridiculous are the microtransactions that are present on nearly every menu screen.

  Basically, you can also buy "tokens" with real money that let you buy cars in-game, but the economy is all sorts of screwed up whether you're buying with in-game credits you earn through races or with tokens.  In past Forza games you'd earn millions and millions of credits and could do whatever you wanted, but that isn't the case here.  Basically, cars cost too much, and you earn an insultingly low amount of credits for winning races in Forza 5. 

The game is balanced in such a way as to make using the tokens a seemingly better option because you can instantly buy stuff instead of having to earn the credits.

  The problem, though, is that buying higher-end cars with tokens can potentially cost you an insane amount of real world money.  The exchange rate is 100 tokens for $1.  Some cars cost thousands and thousands of tokens, which translates into $20, $30, $40+ dollars of real world money for just one car.  Frankly, this is unacceptable.

You don't have to use tokens, obviously, but as I mentioned above, the economy is skewed to where you don't get paid enough credits for winning and the cars cost too much, which makes buying all of the cars in the game pretty much impossible and even buying a few dozen of your absolute favorites at the very least very time consuming unless you spend loads of extra real money to use tokens.  Forza 4 and Forza Horizon also had tokens, but they weren't nearly as bad as this.

As of now (a week after launch), Turn 10 has seen the community's reaction to the economy and token system and has made some temporary changes such as making all of the cars half-off for a few days.  They say a more permanent solution is in the works, but we'll have to wait and see.

Update:  The in-game economy has been mostly fixed.  See our article here for all of the details.

Gameplay

With all that negativity out of the way, how about what Forza 5 does right?  Luckily for racing game fans, all of the positives in Forza 5 happen out on the track, which make this easily the best entry in the series as far as the actual gameplay goes.  The handling feels better than ever, and all of the options to customize the difficulty so it is as sim or arcadey as you want are all present.

  Races can have up to 16-car fields, which really add a lot of intensity to events.

The Xbox One controller also deserves a special mention here.  The special haptic feedback feature where tiny little motors in the triggers vibrate to let you actually feel what your car is doing is simply amazing.  You know exactly when you're braking too hard or not accelerating smoothly because the rumble in your fingertips is telling you.  It is another thing that sort of seemed like a gimmick at first, but really works and adds a lot to the experience.

Out on the track, there isn't a better simulation racer out right now than Forza 5.  

Drivatars

Most important is the addition of Drivatars.  Drivatars monitor the way players race and then makes an A.I. based on their driving.  Each race (as long as you're connected to Xbox Live) is filled with Drivatar A.I.'s based on other real humans, which is awesome.  Sure, some people are just bad drivers and get in the way or play too rough and the first corner of every race is a melee (just like racing online with real people tends to be), but there is no question that the A.I. here is flat out more fun to race against than any other game out there.  Drivatars are a lot more unpredictable and interesting to square off against than typical A.I..  Your friends Drivatars will always be in races with you along with other random players' Drivatars, but there is definitely a special thrill of racing against people you actually know.  The first time you have a great neck-and-neck race with the Drivatar of a friend and have to fight it out in every corner, you'll be totally sold on the whole gimmick.

  It is really that cool.

Drivatars also have an added benefit of actually earning you credits for the races they appear in, which does sort of help to balance the economy back out a bit (not enough, though).  When you can count on your Drivatar to earn you a few thousand extra credits every day, it isn't so bad.  The more friends and followers you have means the more races your Drivatar will appear in as well, so pumping up your friends list is worth it just for the extra credits you can potentially earn. 

Graphics & Sound

The presentation in Forza 5 is pretty spectacular.  The tracks look really good, and the car models are extremely detailed and simply great looking.  When you catch the lighting just right, the game looks surprisingly realistic.  It is a bit of a letdown that we still don't have night racing or weather effects, but for a rushed first-effort on Xbox One there isn't much else to complain about as far as the graphics go.  Those things had better darn well be in Forza 6, though. 

The sound is also very good.  Forza has always had the best engine sound effects in videogames, and Forza 5 continues the fine tradition.  Strangely, there is no licensed music of any sort, only orchestral themes.  We could do without the unskippable narration before every freaking thing you do in the career mode, though we have to admit we could listen to Top Gear UK's Jeremy Clarkson talk about cars all day long. 

Bottom Line

All in all, your enjoyment of Forza 5 comes from whether you're willing to overlook its definite downsides - missing features, small car and track lists, DLC and microtransaction shenanigans - in favor of its massive, massive upsides, which is just how great the gameplay is, and how nice the presentation looks, and how cool Drivatars are.  This is the best Forza out on the track, but when you're not actually racing it is easily the worst.  My ultimate recommendation is to find a good deal and buy it for less than the $60 MSRP if you need it right now, but you might be better off simply waiting until the inevitable "Ultimate" edition with all of the DLC comes out a year from now.  If you're hungry for a next-gen racer, Need for Speed: Rivals is the better racing game on Xbox One at launch.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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