As I stated back in my original Review-in-Progress report, I haven’t really been getting on with Forza Motorsport 6. It was hard for me to pin down why exactly, but I thought at the time that it was mostly due to the linear career mode that, instead of coming across as carefully curated, felt more like a restrictive check list of things to do before you could take the more exciting stuff out for a spin.
Having sunk enough extra time since then to now be just over two thirds of my way through the game’s career mode, I can happily say that the restrictive singleplayer progression hasn’t morphed into the grinding slog I feared it would. In actual fact, I’ve found it to be rather enjoyable – even if I would have preferred the more open-ended structure seen in Forza Motorsport 5 and Forza Horizon 2 to have been retained.
Though you do, for some arbitrary reason, need to finish no lower than third in each race in order to progress through the various series, you are at least given a relative amount of freedom in choosing which car you want to race in. Total variety is quite limited in the first volume, with there being quite a lot of crossover in the classes, but the automotive model type niches and sub-niches do expand as you progress through the chapters.
Having such a broader car list over previous eighth-gen Forza games means there are plenty of vehicles to choose from, too. As a result, players who (like myself) prefer to race cars in their stock configurations won’t be restricted to a handful of automotive offerings should they wish to race against the AI, without having to substantially drop down the difficulty in order to remain competitive. However, it’s worth pointing out that not every car can be fielded in the ‘Stories of Motorsport’ career mode – players whish to race the fan-favourite Ford Country Squire offline, for instance, can only do so in Free Play.
Showcase events also expand on the idea that has until now been a staple of the Horizon sub-series, along with bringing a diverse range of challenges that change the pace from the more serious races in the career mode. A handful of these are a bit gimmicky, and the Top Gear Power Lap challenge in particular did feel to me like a bait and switch (intro segment suggests you’ll be attempting to match The Stig’s times around the TG Test Track; instead you’re in a one-lap race against a field of high performance sports cars), but a majority of the events I’ve completed so far have been enjoyable to participate in.
It’s from here onwards, though, where things do start to go increasingly downhill for me, with the main reason for this being that I haven’t really been enjoying the racing in Forza Motorsport 6. A good chunk of that has been down to the Drivatar system , which become more irritating to compete against once you reach the faster cars.
Even with the aggression limit turned on, it’s still been far too common in my experience to have a race ruined by AI drivers making kamikaze dives into corner apices, completely oblivious to whether I have the racing line or not. And, whilst this perhaps isn’t as much of a problem on slower cars, it becomes a nightmare on higher tier cars (I’ve lost count of the times I had to restart the Formula E Long Beach showcase event, due to my car being crippled by T-bone collisions from AI drivers outbraking themselves into the first and last corners).
Mercifully, though, the NPCs often become far less bombastic by the end of the first or second lap, and the races do seem to get progressively longer in later volumes. As such, I can spend less time on the track worrying about the AI drivers behind once I’ve cleared the initial opening lap carnage, and instead focus on closing the gaps to the leading pack.
What’s really irritating me about Forza Motorsport 6, though, is that I haven’t found all of the cars to be that intuitive to drive – in the worst cases, the car will grip around a corner, only for the rear end to suddenly lose all adhesion to the road surface. Understandable in a vintage grand prix racer on radial tyres and with most of the weight over the rear axle, yes, but not on, say, a Lotus E23 Formula One car around Monza’s Parabolica….
Granted, I haven’t found this lack of feedback to be as much an issue as it has been for Alan (for the most part, I’ve only had this perceived absence of lateral grip to be an issue for me on the older racing cars and a handful of the motors I’ve driven so far that are rated in S and R Class), but it is off-putting to drive cars without being able to clearly see where the boundaries of traction are.
For me, the margin for error is often so slim that I frequently struggle to feel confidently on top of what the car is doing. And, whilst some players may relish in the challenge that comes with mastering something that requires finesse and the deftest of touches in order to get the maximum out of it, I struggle to see Forza Motorsport 6’s physics model being that appealling to players who – like myself – prefer the weight transfer and tyre slip simulation to be less sudden and abrupt than it is in Forza Motorsport 6.
This lack of clarity is made even more concerning when you consider the Xbox One controller I’ve been predominantly testing Forza Motorsport 6 on should be ideal in giving me a clear picture of how the car is interacting with the track surface. It probably says volumes that I can get a better understanding of where the limits of grip are on Gran Turismo 6 whilst using a battered DualShock 3 with busted rumble motors, than I can on Forza Motorsport 6 with a gamepad embellished with more advanced feedback features.
Whether this will have a dramatic effect on the conclusion for my full review, though, remains to be seen – this handling issue does seem to be isolated to just the top tier vehicles, and I’ve personally been having a blast with the more conventional road cars that make up a sizeable proportion of the game’s extensive vehicle roster.
Going on what I’ve experienced and reflected upon so far, though, I would still hesitate on calling Forza Motorsport 6 ‘2015’s best sim-centric racing game to date’.