It’s incredible to think that in just six days we’ve had two major racing game announcements in what is a pertinent period for the genre. Last week saw the reveal of Gran Turismo 6, but today it was Microsoft’s turn to show their hand and announce the next installment to Gran Turismo’s arch rival: Forza Motorsport 5.
The announcement came during the unveiling of the Xbox One, Microsoft's entry in the next generation console war.Unlike Sony’s PS4 which is marketing itself as a dedicated high-end gaming machine, the Xbox One aims to be an all-in-one entertainment system, packing in motion and voice-controlled television, movies, communication and internet browsing. Oh and games too, believe it or not, – it wasn’t until halfway through the show that the game announcements slowly started to pour out.
I’ll be the first to admit that I had hedged my bets on Project Gotham Racing 5 being tonight’s big reveal. Evidence has been mounting up on a series reboot for the long lost Xbox-exclusive arcade racer, with rumours hinting that Liverpool-based Lucid Games have been preparing PGR5 as a launch title for the next Xbox. There's also the fact that PGR has traditionally been a launch title for Xbox consoles in the past, but Forza has become a much more popular and profitable franchise for Microsoft, and will no doubt be instrumental when it comes to shipping new units. We know PGR5 is coming at some point, but a launch title now seems very unlikely, sadly. Maybe next year.
So, what did we learn about Forza Motorsport 5? Not much, to be honest.
Unsurprisingly, details are being kept closely under wraps until E3 early next month. However, we know that Turn 10 are back in the driving seat after handing over the keys to Playground Games who developed last year’s open world spin-off Forza Horizon. FM5 will also be a launch title when Xbox One is released later this year, which will be a first for the long-running franchise.
While details were scarce, the announcement kicked off with a reveal trailer featuring two mighty McLaren’s battling it out across the cobbled streets of what looks like a circuit set in Prague. And in case you are one of the many who were sceptical of the video and assume it was surely comprised of phoney CGI footage, a designer from Turn 10 has since confirmed on Twitter that what we’re seeing is indeed running in real-time.
The trailer confirms two cars that will feature in FM5’s roster: the legendary McLaren F1 and its contemporary successor, the forthcoming McLaren P1 which makes its video game debut in FM5. The P1 has also been confirmed as FM5’s cover car – Forza’s cover cars have always been a perfect snapshot of contemporary landmark cars at the time of release, and Turn 10’s timely choice of car for FM5 is once again spot on.
It’s also worth noting that the trailer features commentary provided by real life motorsport commentator John Hindhaugh. FM4 featured the voice of Jeremy Clarkson, and while it’s likely that Hindhaugh was only casted to narrate the trailer in order to heighten the intensity, it’s still not entirely implausible that voiceovers from famous figures in the automotive industry could be in the final game.
Graphically, FM5 is still in a relatively early stage of development judging from the trailer. But that hasn’t stopped me from drooling profusely. From the immaculately-rendered metallic paintwork and improved particle effects seen in the sparks and exhaust backfire, to the visible tyre wear, FM5 looks staggeringly sumptuous.
Of course, many will compare FM5's dashing good looks to its direct competitor on PS4: DriveClub. I would go as far to say that, in some aspects, FM5 looks superior – car detail looks predictably phenomenal, but it’s the environments where FM5 currently has the edge from what we've seen so far. Time will ultimately tell, but both games will no doubt differentiate themselves with drastically different driving physics and social integration.
Speaking of comparisons, there’s an elephant in the room we simply cannot ignore: hello Gran Turismo 6.
Releasing Forza Motorsport 5 as an Xbox One launch title comes as a complete contrast to Sony’s strategy of releasing Gran Turismo 6 for the PS3 (at least for the time being) and allowing new IP DriveClub to steal the spotlight. Utilising the Xbox One’s advanced next generation tech ultimately puts FM5 at a distinct advantage against GT6 in the race to victory, which could spell danger for Sony's series in the long run.
Indeed, you have to wonder if history is about to repeat itself between the two competing franchises. Turn 10 have constantly evolved the Forza franchise with each new iteration, and FM5 will be no exception with the potential to be the next generation's flagship racing game thanks to its headstart. Polyphony on the other hand are still clinging to the past by releasing GT6 on current hardware. Consequently, GT6 is in danger of looking outdated as soon as it leaves Sony’s showroom – just as GT5 did when FM4 was unleashed.
Fortunately for Sony, Gran Turismo’s mammoth following on PS3 should save it, but there’s no denying that Forza has amassed a significant following of its own that could make FM5 a formidable system seller. Either way, it should be an interesting battle when both titles go head to head, which should make for an eventful E3 next month.
While we wait to hear exactly how FM5 will evolve the franchise, set your sights on the first official screenshots that showcase the game's cover car, the McLaren P1: