While Turn 10 Studios have repeatedly shown that they know how to make great racing games with their Forza Motorsport series, they were actually usurped last year when Playground Games absolutely nailed the controls (well, for arcade fans, that is) for the Forza spin-off Forza Horizon 2. But now Turn 10 have stolen the crown back by bringing those great controls, and a whole lot more, to Forza Motorsport 6 (Xbox One), which is not only the best Forza game yet, but one of the strongest games of the year as well.
For those unfamiliar with this series, Forza Motorsport 6 has you driving high-end sports cars, street legals, and racing cars on real tracks, closed-off city streets, and fictional courses that could probably be made into real race tracks if you had enough money and the right zoning permits. It also boasts a deep career mode that has you driving a series of mostly multi-lap races while driving specific classes of cars, as well as an equally robust slate of competitive online multiplayer options.
What sets Forza Motorsport 6 — and, in fact, all of the recent Forza games — apart from other racing games are its optional assists for the brakes, steering, and traction. By turning them on, and to varying degrees, you can chose whether to play this as a Need For Speed: Rivals-esque arcade racer, a Gran Turismo 6-style driving sim, or something in-between. Though it’s the former style where Forza Motorsport 6 really shines, as this has the same improved traction of Forza Horizon 2, which made every car in that game feel like it just got new tires.
While the importance of Forza Motorsport 6‘s improved handling cannot be understated, what makes this one of the best games of the year is how it really puts your mastery of those controls to the test. For starters, all of the courses are expertly designed to have numerous turns, but none of those curves are awkward in their severity or in how they relate to each other. The game also does a great job of giving you a real sense of speed, even when you opt for the “chase far” camera.
Forza Motorsport 6 also now features rainy days. But while other racing games have had inclement weather before, the rain actually has an impact on how the cars handle. Like in real life, it makes the tracks rather slick, and the cars prone to hydroplaning, so you have to give yourself more time to hit the brakes. As a result, these events are noticeably tougher than the rest, especially for those of us who prefer the arcade-ish controls, since the slippery roads make it feel like someone switched turned down the assists when we weren’t looking.
Along with the rain, Forza Motorsport 6‘s career mode also adds a system called “mods,” which are optional bonuses that can give you more money if you win, improved performance for your cars, or better placement in the starting grid. You can even get some that “dare” you to meet certain conditions to get a bonus. Bought with in-game money, and only available in packs, some mods only work once, while others are permanent (well, as long as you have them applied). But while we’ve seen similar systems in other games — Titanfall comes to mind — Forza Motorsport 6 does one unique trick by letting you sell off any crappy ones you get.
Oh, and don’t worry, competitive types, “mods” don’t work online.
Speaking of which, besides regular online races, Forza Motorsport 6 has a second multiplayer option called “Leagues.” In it, you’re matched up against other drivers who are on a similar skill level, and races are set-up by car types and can have such rules as “no collisions” (which turns competitors’ cars into ghosts you can drive through, rather than slam into). Do well, and you move up to the next level and race against tougher real-life opponents. But while some will appreciate this mode, serious racers might think it’s a bit gimmicky.
There are also changes to your computer-controlled competition in Forza Motorsport 6‘s career mode. Like its predecessors, this game employs what the developers cleverly call the Drivatar system, which bases the skills and driving patterns of your A.I. opponents on the driving styles of your Xbox Live pals and other real Forza players. But while this system annoyingly made races in Forza Motorsport 5 feel more like bumper cars than professional racing events, Forza Motorsport 6 gives you the option to stop the Drivatars from being jerks. Which is why, after making some adjustments, events in Forza Motorsport 6 feel more like races and less like a demolition derbies.
While Forza Motorsport 6 is an improvement over Forza Motorsport 5 and Forza Horizon 2, it’s not without it’s problems. For starters (no pun intended) Forza Motorsport 6, like so many racing games before it, won’t let you pause when it’s counting down to the beginning of a race. Instead, you have to wait for the race to begin, and then pause, which is really annoying when the pizza guy shows up at just the wrong time.
There are also a handful tracks in the game where the courses aren’t clearly marked, and thus it’s easy to go the wrong way. Nothing a few orange cones couldn’t fix, and the steering assist will always point you the right direction…eventually, but it’s still annoying when you lose first place because you made a right turn at Albuquerque when you should’ve gone left.
Forza Motorsport 6 also has a problem so annoyingly common in games these days that I now just cut and paste this same paragraph into many of the game reviews I write: the type is too small. If you sit at a reasonable distance away from your television — y’know, like your mama told you to — you’ll have a hard time reading the car descriptions, the menus, your lap times, or the standings.
Similarly, because the text in the HUD is white, it sometimes makes it difficult to see how many laps you have left and what place you’re in if you just quickly glance over.
As annoying as these issues may be, though, they don’t detract much from the fun of Forza Motorsport 6. Especially since this is such a solid racing game otherwise. With twisty tracks and tons of options, this has everything you’d want in a racing game. But by smartly employing Forza Horizon 2‘s spot-on controls, Turn 10 have made the ultimate driving machine.