The lights are on
Microsoft and developer Turn 10 Studios have worked very hard to get the Forza Motorsport series to the forefront of the sim-racer sub-genre, but that doesn't mean Forza 5 will start out on Easy Street. We'll find out whether the game is next-gen worthy when it comes out alongside the Xbox One on November 22. In advance of the launch, we post five questions that Forza 5 must answer if it wants to achieve greatness.
Drivatars have been in previous Forza titles, but Turn 10 is hoping to take them to the next level in Forza 5. The game will create drivatars based on players' driving proclivities, and everyone's single-player experience will then be populated with these drivatars (which are also updated).
While Forza 5 also comes with standard AI-driven cars created by Turn 10 and you're free to not use other people's drivatars, the concept is perhaps the main feature of the game and is an example of how a next-gen title is trying to get the most out of a system's online connection.
However, it hasn't been proven that video game AI can replicate human behavior. And even if it could, Turn 10 also has to show that it can truly cull what is quintessential about a driver's actions and what to avoid. After all, who wants to their single-player game to be populated by a bunch of morons who don't know how to use their brakes and drive recklessly?
The current generation of systems had the power to not only show good-looking car damage, but also have it affect how your car handled. However, it often seemed to lack subtlety. Either it was visual only, or the damage was too binary; your car was fine or it was undrivable.
Forza 5 and the next-generation of systems in general have a chance to change how car damage is done in video games. Turn 10 hasn't talked about this aspect of the game other than to say it's in Forza 5, but I hope that it's something more than just a visual wrinkle. Car damage could include everything from fenders causing tire rubs, overbraking causing flat spots in tires, broken windshields, and weight-distorting exterior damage to mechanical failures like dropped cylinders. Clearly there's a line where you don't want to make the game no fun to play, but I feel there could be improvement in this area.
Forza 4's use of the Kinect for the Autovista showroom mode was fun to play with for a few moments, but I didn't think it added to the overall value of the game. Forza 5 lets you get detailed info on every car in the game, but the Kinect itself doesn't seem to have any new features attached to it. Turn 10 says that the new generation Kinect has better head tracking fidelity and voice command menu navigation, but it remains to be seen if the peripheral is a viable control option, for instance.
NEW ONLINE RACES
The Forza series has excelled with its multiplayer component, in everything from the different kinds of races it offers (like Cat and Mouse) to the way it surfaces friends' accomplishments. I'm very excited to see what the developer has in store for us in Forza 5. Turn 10 says that it's done more work to make the game's matchmaking better, and that it still hasn't revealed everything regarding multiplayer. It will be interesting to see if the studio's plans are more geared towards offering new race types or towards building the community, like the way the car decal feature has taken off. Hopefully, Turn 10 will attempt both at the same time.
THE NUMBERS GAME
Many racing developers shy away from getting bogged down in the number of cars and tracks they have, saying that kind of back-of-the-box bragging is irrelevant, but it's still something that fans keep track of. Turn 10 has been mum on the exact number of cars and tracks it has, but it's saying it has hundreds of cars. As for tracks, only a handful have been revealed - Laguna Seca, Spa-Francorchamps, Bathurst (below), and a circuit through the city of Prague. Certainly there will be more than just these tracks, but it also brings up the larger question: Should we expect more cars and tracks due to the increased power of the Xbox One? I don't need more cars, but I would like to see more tracks.
By way of comparison (if slightly apples and oranges), Gran Turismo 6 on the PlayStation 3 - and later on the PlayStation 4 - says it will have 71 different layouts of 33 tracks and 1,200 cars.
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