Back when last year’s Porsche Expansion Pack was officially announced for Forza Horizon 2, the big news wasn’t about Stuttgart’s superb sports cars being featured in the open-world racing game. Instead, the big news was that Porsches were also confirmed for Forza Motorsport 6.
As exciting as it was to see Porsches roaming Forza Horizon 2, though, it’s likely that many were more eagerly anticipating the arrival of racous rear-engined road and race cars in Forza Motorsport 6. Porsche is, after all, a firm that’s been involved in auto racing to some degree since it first started building cars out of an old sawmill in Austria seven decades ago (even earlier than that, if you count founder Ferdinand Porsche’s involvement in the Auto Union grand prix car programme of the pre-war years), and the various race winners that have worn the Porsche crest over the years would make sublime additions to a track-centric driving game.
That’s not to say the implementation of the Porsche Expansion in Forza Motorsport 6 is without fault. However, there’s no denying that it’s an at-times immensely enjoyable addition to the game, and worthy of consideration regardless of how deep your adoration of the Porsche brand is.
Jerry Seinfeld Would Be Proud
One of the biggest criticisms we had of the Porsche Expansion for Forza Horizon 2 was that it was quite pricey for the amount of content on offer. Yes, paying £7.99 for ten cars perhaps isn’t too egregious on paper, but there wasn’t actually that much you could really do with them outside of the modes in the standard game. Not exactly ideal, when you’re billing this piece of DLC as an ‘expansion pack’…
Things have changed for the better this time around, though. Yes, at £15.99, it’s twice the price of Forza Horizon 2’s similarly-titled premium content drop, but you are getting more than double the content in return. A prime example of this can be seen in the car roster amassed for this expansion: a total of 21 unique vehicles are included, three of which are brand new to the Forza franchise, and covering 60 years of Porsche’s history.
Whilst there are what some may seem to be blatantly obvious omissions (it’s surprising to not see any variant of the iconic 917 in the expansion, in spite of the car being one of the most frequently-requested by the Forza community), the collection of Porsches included in this pack is well-rounded and, with one-third of the vehicles included being dedicated racing cars, offers a decent balance of representing the firm’s more noteworthy road and competition models.
It’s also worth pointing out that all 21 car models included in the Porsche Expansion are unique – unlike the similar pack for Forza Motorsport 4, which included identical RS Spyder and 911 RSR models that were only differentiated by a paintscheme. Yes, it is admittedly a small aspect of the pack to place an emphasis on, but it was something I was pleasantly surprised by upon seeing the full content listing of the Porsche Expansion.
From Saw Mill To Sports Car Dominance
Much like the ‘Stories of Motorsport’ template that forms the bedrock of the standard game’s singleplayer content, the Porsche Expansion has its own dedicated ‘Anthology’ structure that sets out to educate the playerbase on what makes the Porsche brand and the cars associated with it so special and unique.
For the most part, the format applies itself well to an interactive lecture on Porsche’s heritage. The intro VTs and their hushed voice-overs lend the Anthology series a reverential feel that’s eerily reminiscent of the tone undertaken by Polyphony Digital’s ‘Ayrton Senna Tribute‘ content for Gran Turismo 6. Admittedly, it can come across at times as an infomercial, but it does its job of providing the playerbase with a basic understanding of Porsche’s ever-evolving place in the automotive landscape well.
This is further enhanced by the pre-event commentary from three highly succesful Porsche racing drivers from across the years: Patrick Long, Hurley Haywood and Derek Bell (the latter of the trio being perhaps the only driver that many UK-based players will be familiar with). Whilst the dialogue they recite can come across as bland and sterile when they’re clearly reading prescribed lines, their off-script recollections offer a brief-yet-tantalising glimpse at what made their racing careers and the Porsches they drove to various successes to special and memorable.
A special mention goes out to Derek Bell’s voiceover work, which is embued with a personality that’s, for the most part, absent from the lines recited by Haywood and Long. Perhaps it’s the subtle inflections in his dialogue, or the dry, almost off-beat remarks about the handling quirks of particular Porsche models, or maybe just because I was more aware of Bell’s racing career prior to the Porsche Expansion’s release, but there was something about his commentary that made it so much more interesting to listen to in comparison with his American peers featured in this pack.
Like the standard game’s ‘Stories of Motorsport’ setup, the Porsche Anthology can come across at times as an incredibly linear and restrictive affair. Though this can be explained as a design decision that further enforces the Expansion’s history lecture-esque format, it is a departure from the freedom given to players who bought the Porsche packs for Forza Motorsport 4 and Forza Horizon 2 to generally use the cars in whatever singleplayer events they wanted from the off. As mentioned earlier, it’s understandable why this direction was taken, and it doesn’t ruin the experience, but the handholding by Turn 10 can be a bit overbearing at times.
Thankfully (and, again, much like the standard Forza Motorsport 6 game), there are Showcase events that help alleviate any tedium that may set in for players speedrunning though the Porsche Anthology. Such Showcases range from the Car Bowling (that I’d expect many will only participate in once to unlock the 30G ‘Titan of Motorsport’ Achievement), to off-beat challenges such as tasking players with beating the pack in a 911 RSR racing car in a staggered-start event, to the crowning glory that is the 100-miles endurance race at the Virginia International Raceway (more on that location’s implementation in the Porsche Expansion later…) in an RS Spyder Evo LMP2 car.
Should you not be too interested in the singleplayer content, then there’s also an array of specifically-curated League and Rivals events that are tailored around the Porsches included: one such League event that commenced in the Expansion’s opening week, for instance, limited players to the three P-class Porsche prototype endurance racers included in the pack. It’s unknown just yet what Turn 10 has in store for Porsche Expansion owners who dedicate hours a week to multplayer racing, but the early signs at least do suggest the Porsche-specific leagues will be interesting and feature a fairly balanced car selection.
A Good Idea Is Often Suprisingly Simple
All in all, the Porsche Expansion seems to be a pretty good piece of add-on content that, price aside, seems to tick all the right boxes. However, there are some issues in this Forza Motorsport 6 DLC and, much like the base game it’s bolted onto, they tend to lean more towards the bizarre side of the spectrum.
Take the implementation of the Virginia International Raceway as a prime example. Even though it’s a pretty major piece of the expansion (it’s not uncommon to see posts from Forza Motorsport Forum members stating they’ll be buying the pack just for VIR), there are hardly any events curated for the location in the game at time of writing, outside of the Rivals leaderboards.
My limited time on the online multiplayer side of things means I can’t comment on how frequently the VIR layouts feature in the track rotation, but the location’s presence in the singleplayer portion of the Porsche Expansion is disappointingly mediocre. Even when factoring in the Showcase events, you hardly ever race at Virginia, and you only ever race on the track once throughout the Anthology series in a nocturnal configuration.
Which is a darned shame, as the Virginia International Raceway is a truly stellar place to race on. The whole place has the feel of being the edgy big brother to Lime Rock Park, thanks to its blind corner entry spots, a layout of corner complexes punctuated by brief sections of straight track and a final section that feels oh so rewarding and thrilling when you hook it up perfectly. It’s right up there with the likes of Bathurst and the Nordschleife as a track that, whilst certainly enjoyable when you’re memorising the route, is at its best when you’ve figured out the proper line and find yourself acing every single section of track at the limits of adhesion.
The fact that so much work has been put into recreating the Virginia International Raceway in Forza Motorsport 6 (a total of seven different layouts of the VIR are included, complete with their own daytime, nightime and wet weather settings) makes it an even larger disappointment, and it’s a shame we’ll have to wait until Forza Motorsport 7 at the very earliest to see if the track will be done proper justice in a Forza game.
It’s In The Wrong Place!
Other bizarre quirks do frequently crop up in the Porsche Expansion as well. However, whilst they do undoubtedly go some way to spoiling the experience, are more or less issues that have been carried over from the game on which it’s based, rather than brand new to this piece of DLC.
A good chunk of these issues stem mainly from the irritating AI, in both cloud-based Drivatar and the traditional pre-programmed system used predominantly in the Showcase events. Whether it’s incredibly dirty passing moves made by Drivatars (in their most passive setting, I hasten to add) to a rage quit-inducing lack of spacial awareness that’s most obvious during the first corner pile-up during the 911 GT3 RS 4.0 Showcase race at the Nurburgring GP course that’s almost impossible to navigate unscathed without the use of a ‘Ghost’ Boost Mod card.
Whilst the AI in the Porsche Expansion is admittedely perhaps the best we’ve ever seen from a Forza release that features the Drivatar AI system, it is still a mightily flawed set-up that, nearly four years since the cloud-powered setup was introduced to the Forza franchise, has still failied to convince me that it’s the revolution developer Turn 10 Studios claimed it to be during Forza Motorsport 5’s official announcement.
Another serious detractor that’s carried over from the standard game is the inconsistent execution of the cars in terms of the implementation of their respective physics. Whilst it’s not something that plagues the Porsche Expansion in the same way as it does Forza Motorsport 6, the disparity between the cars is perhaps more apparent here by the fact this irregularity is spread out over a vastly smaller selection of cars (just 21, over the 450+ found in Forza Motorsport 6 on launch day).
Thankfully, many of the cars do at least handle with the aplomb and verve that you’d expect from their real life counterparts. More modern 911s like the GT3 RS 4.0 and GT2 RS only truly come alive once you cater your driving style to the quirks of their powertrain layout (i.e. aggresively trailbraking into corners in order to keep the weight transfer shifted more in favour to the front axle), and the Le Mans-winning Porsche endurance prototypes are all fantastically enjoyable to hustle along at the limit – even if the 962C can feel particularly sketchy and twitchy in low grip scenarios with the steering set to its most responsive ‘Simulation’ setting.
Others, though, don’t fare quite as well, though admittedly to varying levels. The 718 RS60 and 918 Spyder, for example, feel more like they’re pivoting into turns rather than beeing steered into it, which is a sensation that’s amplified even more on tracks like Long Beach that require full steering lock in order to navigate the turns (it’s perhaps telling that the one track where the 918 felt most comfortable on was the Bernese Alps – a route where smoother and less aggressive inputs often result in a substantually faster lap time).
That said, the only car I truly found uncomfortable to drive in its stock format was the RS Spyder Evo LMP2 car. Whilst the driving experience in the RS Spyder did undoubtedly get better once the vehicle’s aero, differential and suspension settings had been tweaked, it never fully quashed the car’s instability in slower corners that place a greater emphasis on mechanical grip – more often than not, the Spyder would either wash wide or suddenly snap into oversteer as I started feeding on the power. It’s not Lotus E23 F1 bad, and the more unpredictable handling quirks of the car weren’t enough to reduce the aforementioned Virginia 100 endurance race to a frustrating chore, but the Porsche LMP2 certainly ranks up there as one of the least intuitive cars to drive in Forza Motorsport 6 in its stock configuration.
It’s that pervading sense of “hopefully it’ll be done that little bit better next time” that perhaps best sums up the Forza Motorsport 6 Porsche Expansion – tweak a few bits here and there, file down some of the rougher parts, actually make some decent use of the headline track addition, and you might just have a Porsche-themed DLC pack that finally manages to be better than the equivalent offering for Forza Motorsport 4 from 2012.
What we have instead is something that, much like the core game on which it’s based, is pretty good for the most part when it’s not being spoilt by its own oversights and shortcomings. Some of them are bearable and fairly simple to gloss over (being a die-hard Porsche fan, it was quite disappointing to find out the ForzaVista commentary for the Porsche Expansion cars was little more than repurposed, generic summaries of the era, car type or motorsports discipline they’re most closely associated with) to severely frustrating and nigh-on game-breaking faults such as the God awful AI in the Showcase events – with the incompetent spacial awareness of the NPCs in the GT3 RS 4.0 race being the most clear cut example to racing game developers the world over of how not to do racing game AI.
In spite of the flaws the Forza Motorsport 6 Porsche Expansion contains, either inherited from the standard release on which it’s bolted onto or making their FM6 debut through this pack, it is still a piece of DLC that’s worth considering if you’re still heavily invested in Forza Motorsport 6. Yes, it will likely force you to the brink of rage quitting when it’s really driving you up the wall, the approx. 10 hours worth of curated singleplayer content means it’s not as easy to recommend to players on the wrong side of the Xbox Live paywall and there are some parts of it that, like the core game, will make you question what Turn 10 Studios’ collective thought process is.
But when it’s firing on all air-cooled horizontally-opposed cylinders, though, the Forza Motorsport 6 Porsche Expansion can be an enthralling and engaging experience that keeps you yearning for one more race or encourages you to shave off another tenth or two on another Rivals mode hot lap. Much like the standalone game, when the Porsche Expansion comes good, it’s quite impressive.
Had it been a bit more consistent in its execution, then the Forza Motorsport 6 Porsche Expansion may very well have been the first must-own piece of Forza Motorsport DLC since the original Porsche Expansion pack for Forza Motorsport 4. As it stands, this premium content addition is one that seemingly wishes to emulate the Porsche 911 sports car that features so prominently in this pack – an automotive endeavour that succeeded in spite of its drawbacks and the stubborness of its creators – yet just falls short of being the great and enthralling experience it could have been.