No matter whether you’re a fan of the Xbox-exclusive racing game, it’s hard to argue against Forza Motorsport 5 having a fairly divisive post-launch reception.
Whilst many critics and console gaming enthusiasts have gone to great lengths in putting forward their argument that it’s the finest Forza title to date, an equally valid set of opinions are available to counter that claim. The NeoGAF thread and Martin’s column on Forza 5’s“monumental rip-off” token system and the not-exactly-100%-positive review of the game by our partners over at Eurogamer are but the tip of the proverbial FM5 backlash iceberg.
Having never played the retail-ready at time of writing, I can’t comment on these conflicting points as a back seat driver so to speak; as a mere casual observer like we all were before the press embargo was lifted.
And, from the perspective and mindset of a spectator, there’s one aspect of Forza Motorsport 5 that’s been overlooked in the response from the gaming press and the debate over the game’s questionable economy model. It’s only a minor improvement in terms of game design, but it’s something I believe to be more significant than any cloud-based AI system or experimentation in triple-A business practices:
The racing line assist.
Granted, nothing's been radically overhauled with regards to the tool's implementation or how it works, as you can see in the embedded gameplay video above. The feature's still intended to be used as a reference tool by both the inexperienced players and the avid racers who are figuring out how best to tackle tracks they've never come across in a racing title before, and you still get an in-game Credit payout boost if you partly or completely turn it off in races.
That simply wasn’t possible before for players with this condition without having to invest hours of their spare time learning the right way to set respectable times around circuits, and countless more minutes spent identifying how they apply to cars of night-and-day differences in terms of performance and suitability to track work.
Not directly linked to Forza Motorsport 5, but an excellent example from PC Gamer as to how adding options for colour-blind players can noticeably improve a game
Going on personal experience, it was incredibly frustrating for me when I was relying on the racing line to navigate Forza 4’s brand new (and 100% fictional) Bernese Alps track. A combination of having no real-life reference point and a racing line I couldn’t completely comprehend meant I’d either brake too early and lose precious lap time, or fail to notice the transition from green to yellow, out brake myself and crash into the trackside barriers.
Whether or not other deuteranopic players also had incidents like this is an unknown to me (though do drop a comment or *SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT* hit me up on Twitter if you’re a fellow colour-blind racing game enthusiast who’s had similar problems with past Forza Motorsport titles), but Turn 10’s decision to change the assist’s colour scheme is one I think should be applauded.
Especially as the genre itself doesn’t seem to acknowledge this disability (or, indeed, do most people working in visual and graphic design, though that’s a debate I won’t delve into here…) – out of all the racing games in my collection, the only studio to have also jumped onto the “how about we use two completely contrasting colours in our racing line assist?” is Polyphony Digital, with its more recent entries in the Gran Turismo series, including the soon-to-be-upon-us Gran Turismo 6.
It’s that design decision by Polyphony that’s helped make even the hit/miss Gran Turismo 5 one of my favourite racing games available on consoles (and I hope it’s a point mentioned in the upcoming documentary ‘Kaz’ if Polyphony CEO Kazunori Yamuchi was directly or partly responsible for that feature being associated with his legendary gaming series), and I hope it’ll also allow me to equally love Forza Motorsport 5 should I ever have enough disposable income going spare in the near future to justify spending almost £500 collectively on the game and the console it operates on.
In fact, now that two of the biggest racing game franchises have now adopted blues and reds in their racing lines, whilst the rest are still using the oh-so-last-gen greens and yellows (I'm looking at Codemasters Birmingham and their licenced F1 games in particular…), will mark a shift in how the racing game industry perceives the disability that is colour-blindness.
After all, according to the Colour-Blind Awareness organisation, 3% of the world’s population suffer from some form of colour-blindness. Given that equates to roughly two-hundred-and-ten-million people, that’s a huge chunk of the potential gaming market to alienate, especially in a day and age where this genre of entertainment is more popular than ever, and studios are becoming increasingly keen to get as many less hardcore players hooked as possible.
And, if Forza Motorsport 5’s shift in racing line assist design does indeed end up marking a turning point for the racing game industry, and the world’s gaming press in years to come still fails to attribute this feature as one of the most important improvements to the franchise, it really will be the most overlooked improvement to the Forza franchise…