Forza Motorsport 5
The launch of the Xbox One may seem like a fitting place to host the newest Forza game, but five titles in, the franchise itself is not a newcomer. As such, the expectations for Forza 5 are high; it needs to exhibit the new power of the system and continue the series' ascending trajectory. By those criteria, Forza 5 succeeds on one hand and falls short on the other. This is the most fun I've had racing in a Forza title, and yet it's not the most complete entry in the franchise.
Forza 5 is the prime example of how useful the Xbox One controller's rumble triggers are. The gas and brake triggers vibrate when your wheels are slipping or skidding, respectively. This valuable feedback displays true progress in the genre, because it communicates how your car is performing and adds a sensory depth to what you see on the track. The trigger rumble doesn't make Forza 5 a one-trick-pony, however. The physics mean that racing these cars is an incredible sensation that dares you to attack every curve, imbuing the belief that you can always snatch victory even as defeat approaches at high speeds. The cars are responsive, and their performance and power is conveyed. A cockpit camera subtly shakes at high speeds, and dips and bobs with sudden braking or hard turns. Speaking of your head, Forza 5 uses the Kinect for headtracking as well as voice-based menu commands. Neither feature is a great boon, but leaning your body from side to side to move the in-game camera is kind of cool.
If your system is online, Drivatars created from the racing habits of real-life gamers populate all your races in single-player, and the game pulls off the feature with aplomb. Drivatars react unpredictably enough to add excitement to each turn, but they don't drive as out-of-control as I know some of us do. When collisions occur, the damage system strikes the right balance. It punishes you with a variety of afflictions, but it's not ticky-tack. You can nurse a car home with a few knocks instead of constantly restarting or rewinding.
As dynamic as most of the game is, restructuring Forza 4's excellent career setup is a mistake. Instead of presenting you with races based on the car you've picked, Forza 5 follows the staid format where you must buy a car in accordance with pre-determined gauntlets of races. This shifts my desire to buy cars from those I want to those I need. Perhaps to emphasize each individual race – and the Drivatars in them – the overall racing structure is watered down. Where you finish in a race is broken down into XP tiers, making your specific placement less important. Thus, second and third place are interchangeable, since they are both in the same tier. Similarly, multi-race series are empty since your results aren't aggregated from race to race.
Experience points and credits can also be racked up in multiplayer, but even this is not the slam dunk you'd expect. At launch, the multiplayer race modes show a lack of smoothness in bigger races, and previous race types like cat and mouse or tag are missing. I'm confident that developer Turn 10 will add race modes as time goes on, but I don't like having to wait for the game to open up. In another roadblock for the online community, car clubs are absent.
Forza 5 takes a big step forward only to be held back by what it has removed. I'd rather not have to be subject to such a tradeoff, but then again a racer's fortune is always made out on the track.