The lights are on
The team at Turn 10 is demonstrating Forza Motorsport 5 behind closed doors at E3, elaborating on the game's "Drivatars", and discussing what cloud computing power means for players.
Turn 10 is intent on creating the most complete racing experience to date with Forza Motorsport 5, and today I got a glimpse of the game in action, in addition to information about how the game is using cloud networking power to help better the game experience for players.
The game has always focused on a wide selection of cars, and Turn 10 says it will feature "hunderds" of rides, from ultra-high end machines like the McLaren P1 and Pagini Huayra (which retails for over $1.3 million). You'll be able to explore your garage more closely now, because the Forza Vista mode, which allows you walk around and inspect in the exterior and interior of your vehicle, is now available for every car (not just the four of the previous game). While we didn't get to see it, Turn 10 says that the integration of content of the popular Top Gear television series will be even greater, and the game will now have all three of the show's hosts.
The cars come from all across the spectrum of the automotive world -- and will now feature open wheel cars from Indy and F1 racing. To make competitive balance better and more organized, Turn 10 has actually divided up the over 50 championship series into eight categories: Exotic, Racing, Vintage, Grand Touring, Sport, Specialized, Sport, and Compact. All in all, the developers promise over 60 hours of career mode content, including bonus events.
Graphically, the game impresses, running smoothly at 60 frames per second at 1080p resolution -- something Turn 10 worked with Microsoft's Xbox One design team to make sure was going to be possible. Throughout the show, Turn 10 has emphasized its new physics based materials system, which means that car materials like carbon fiber, steel, and paint all degrade and show wear realistically, right down to the scuff marks on a brake rotor. According to Turn 10, these slight imperfections help decrease the "uncanny valley" effect it feels plagued previous Forzas.
Cloud and networking technology also plays a major part in Forza 5. Cloud technology will track all your in-game behavior, from driving tendencies to purchasing and customization experiences. The goal is to provide the player with a truly tailored experience. If you like one livery or paint color, the cloud will remember and suggest other similar popular colors or designs. This is also true for car purchases, helping you to more quickly sift through the hundreds of options to find a vehicle you like. User created content will be pushed heavily, and free to download. Content creators will receive payment based on downloads of their work, however.
Dedicated multiplayer servers should ensure that online races are smooth and stable, and will enable advanced matchmaking that will help you find races where you will be evenly matched. In fact, if you are entering a race where you might have a disadvantage, the cloud will analyze your opponents, and suggest performance and tuning enhancements that will help even the playing field.
The biggest way in which the game uses the cloud is in the new Drivatar system, which essentially creates an AI version of the player. As you play, the game will track your tendencies -- how you take turns, how you handle the brake, etc -- and embed those traits into an AI likeness of you. When other players are logged in and playing single-player matches with AI opponents, your Drivatar will actually be populated in those matches, acting exactly as you would if you were actually playing. Your Drivatar will actually win credits even win you are logged in, which are then available to you in-game.
The heavy emphasis on cloud technology brings up the inevitable question: Do you have to be connected to the Internet to play Forza 5? The answer to that question is no -- with a slight catch. The game must log in to Xbox Live at least once, but when it does Forza 5 caches car and race data necessary for offline play. So, after that initial connection, you will be able to play Forza offline.
Seeing the game in action was impressive, it's as good looking a racer as we've seen, and moves extremely fast with little aliasing. Forza has been a dependable series over the years, and the fifth installment should provide all everything you've come to expect and much more. Whether the Drivatar system is just PR hype or the next step in AI remains to be seen, but it's certainly an interesting experiment.
Did i miss something? Regardless of the lame name for my drivatar ( i think I'll call it Ishtar for short), i thought the xbone required a daily check in to play games. So even if forza5 doesn't require it to play offline, I'll still need to check in anyway...
That game kicks sony's gran torismo' s ass in all respects.....but then again forza's been doing that for years now.