In many ways, Forza Motorsport 6 is a game that – on first impressions, at least – does a lot to right the wrongs that corrupted its controversial predecessor.
The dreaded ‘Tokens’ microtransaction mechanic from Forza Motorsport 5, for instance, is no longer present (even though the cynic inside me wouldn’t put it against Microsoft to add them in at a later date, as the publisher did with Forza Horizon 2), instead replaced by an in-game economy that’s far more generous in the currency and content it rewards players with as they steadily progress through the game.
And that content itself is far more widespread than it was in Forza Motorsport 5, too. With 461 cars and 26 locations, not only is Forza Motorsport 6 stuffed to the brim in comparison with FM5, but it also has the largest on-disc car and track rosters to ever feature in a Forza game.
Factor in the less aggressive Drivatar AI system and a more predictable handling model, and you have the makings of what should be the king of racing games on Xbox One. Yet, having finished the first few races in the game’s starter career mode volume, I haven’t been immediately grabbed by what Forza Motorsport 6 has to offer.
Though it’s hard to pin down any specific reason why I feel this way about the game, the fact I’ve yet to click with Forza Motorsport 6 is slowly making me feel worried. Even Forza Motorsport 5 felt for-the-most-part enjoyable to play once you grew accustomed to it after the first few hours, so it’s strange that I haven’t reached that stage in its objectively superior successor.
Part of that could be down to Forza Motorsport 6 being a far more restrictive game in comparison with its predecessors, especially when it comes to the singleplayer components. Whereas Forza Motorsport 5 and Forza Horizon 2 let you participate in any series that accepted a car you owned, Forza Motorsport 6 instead funnels you through a linear, ‘volume’-based series of events where the really juicy stuff (bar what’s available in a majority of the showcase events) is only eligible after hours of grinding away in the lower tiers.
The fact you can only finish a series by scoring a podium finish in every single race is again a drastic change from the previous Forza games on the Xbox One, to the point where Forza Horizon 2 (a game that, less we forget, uses a mostly impractical music festival as a premise) has a more autosports-authentic championship setup than a Forza release with the term ‘Motorsports’ in its name. Heck, even Gran Turismo 6 has less stingent singleplayer progression requirements.
Which is a shame, as the rest of Forza Motorsport 6 is a considerable improvement over its predecessor. The trackside scenery is far more detailed than it was in Forza Motorsport 5 (the impressively rendered pit lanes seen in every event intro loading screen are a personal highlight), and it’s far easier to control the car with all the assists off on a gamepad this time around.
The night and weather effects also impress. Having them all baked in does mean the challenge of wet weather racing does diminish once you memorise where the more slippery areas of track are, but hustling dedicated racing cars around Le Mans with only your headlamps guiding you along the way is a terrific experience, regardless of the fact that such a thrill can also be replicated in Gran Turismo 6 and Project CARS.
And yet Forza Motorsport 6 still leaves me feeling cold – even with its impressive track roster, more predictable physics model, new feature additions and a car list that should send every car enthusiast weak at the knees.
It’s likely this is due to me being too accustomed to the open-ended career mode structure found in a majority of the racing games I’ve played recently, and I’m confident my opinions on Forza Motorsport 6 will change as I progress further through the singleplayer volumes and sidequest-esque showcase events.
At this moment in time, though, I’d hesitate on calling Forza Motorsport 6 ‘2015’s best sim-centric racing game release’.