With less than a lap to go I can see the tail of the brilliant red Ferrari at the end of the Mulsanne Straight from the windshield of my GT40 MK II. Moments later the Ferrari scuffs the brake zone at Arnage and I pass him. I’ve just achieved a great moment in motorsports history, courtesy of Forza 6. I also feel like I’m about to barf.
No, it’s not the very obvious Ford product placement that’s making me queasy. To the game’s credit they give you the choice of racing as the Ferrari 330 or the Ford GT40, but picking the Ferrari is like rooting for Iago in Othello.
The problem is we’ve unfortunately crossed a point in game development where racing games are so realistic that they make me feel nauseous when I play them for too long — a feat heretofore reserved for first-person shooters. Or maybe it’s fortunate. I was getting tired of those eight-hour Forza Horizon jags where I wake up caked in a paste made of Oreo dust and my own tepid urine.
But I’m getting distracted.
A review. This was supposed to be a review.
When I tested Forza 5, I felt like the graphics were somewhat hyperreal and too perfect. While Forza 6 doesn’t feel that much aesthetically different, it must be because it’s definitely playing with my mind. Speaking of playing, they’ve definitely learned a lot from Forza Horizon 2 and have incorporated a lot of the features from the open-world universe into Forza 6.
Don’t freak out sim-wannabe players, they’re mostly good features.
For one, all the grinding that you’ve had to do in former games has been supplemented with a lot of special showcases. You can go autocrossing at a Bob Bondurant racing school or relive great moments in motorsports history like the aforementioned Ford vs. Ferrari at Le Mans. You can take unrestricted GT cars around Watkins Glen or dice it up with pre-war F1 cars.
There’s a special Top Gear mode where you can race The Stig. However, possibly due to recent controversies, The Stig is introduced by Tanner Foust. It is unintentionally hilarious. (It’s worth noting that both James May and Richard Hammond both provide voiceovers). Even Matt Farah shows up at a few points.
So, if you’re like me, you grind long enough to unlock some driving levels and then you’re off to race vintage F1 cars around Hockenheim or do terrible awful things to Joseph Newgarden’s IndyCar at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
You also don’t have to grind that hard to make money as there’s now driver reward bonuses similar to Horizon that allow you to “win” money. In my case I won something like 2,000,000 Credits in the first five “spins.” Either I’m on some next level Michael Larson shit or they’re just tired of people complaining about how long it takes to earn money.
One thing you will have to earn is your Driver Level, which you do by completing various races on a career that takes you on a path through “Stories of Motorsport.” This begins with Super Street cars (everything from Miatas to Fulvias) all the way through to F1 cars and prototypes. Your racing is definitely on rails but they do give you a choice of cars, which is nice.
For instance, you open with a series that gives you a preview of what to expect (and, I think, for the game to assess your skill). Weirdly, they had a blue Volkswagen Golf R just like the one we took to Lime Rock to drive.
It actually felt similar in terms of line and positioning. I even held my breath a little as I floored off No Name Straight and onto the uphill. And sure enough, around another corner was the Lime Rock Driver’s Club sign.
Until another Gran Turismo or Project Cars comes out, this is probably the best way to experience racing without actually racing or getting a huge Sim rig in your basement. It’s a platformer so there are limitations to how real it feels, but it at least looks right and the tire physics continue to be annoying more realistic (i.e., if you cook them too hard you’ll end up in a wall).
Alas, after the novelty of racing the exact same car at the exact same track I’d recently been to, I realized I was stuck with the Golf R for the next three tracks. It’s not a huge deal as I actually quite like the Golf R, but in all these first races you’re stuck for the full series in the car you chose at the beginning. This isn’t the case for the rest of the races if you exit out.
The best feature of the racing, though, was not the verisimilitude. In fact, quite the opposite for me. Usually when I’m on track it’s in a situation where there aren’t that many cars around (open lapping days, press events) and yet, in the latest Forza, there are up to 24 “Drivatar” drivers based on people I know running on the track.
There’s a definite thrill to having that many cars on track and, while my XBOX Live friends are all apparently all jackasses like me and tend to lump up in a Rat King of cars at the beginning, it’s more fun passing 23 vehicles than 11.
The weirdest thing about the experience is the “Mod Packs” that they’ve added to the game. Rather than just buying upgrades to your car, you now buy these card packs and you can randomly use whichever ones you like.
One upgrade, for instance, was for a Grip Expert that adds 6% grip and 6% extra power on Yas Marina. Another one was for a “Dare” card where the suggested line is off and it’s only Cockpit Camera only but you earn 20% more credits. Another one is a “boost” that includes things like turning your car into a Ghost that can’t collide in the first lap.
You can ignore these entirely if you like and, generally, I like to. They also give you the ability to adjust your tuning setups for the races (including aero, gearing, braking, damping, et cetera), which I also generally ignore. If you want to tune the vehicle yourself it’s now a sub-menu but it’s there.
These are extra features and, for the most part, don’t distract from racing itself, which remains fairly good. The game is clearly made for and by people who love racing. There’s a nice thud when you hit a puddle at Silverstone and there’s BBQ smoke coming out of the Bog at Watkins Glen.
It’s hard to complain about anything when you’re racing the IDx Nismo Concept in full BRE livery around Indy or lapping Daytona in a Ford GT during a “passing challenge” that’s basically you trying to avoid planting your nose in the back of a slow moving vintage Beetle.
The big question for me is: Will I keep playing it? I’m way more likely to pick up Horizon and tool around in a Baja-ized RX-7 than Forza 5, will I still feel the way about Forza 6?
I’m only a few hours into the game so it’s probably too early to tell, but for now it’s worth going back to. I want to race old Trans-Am Mustangs and Camaros. I still want to hear the ferocious high pitched wail of a flat-12 NART Ferrari 512 BB.
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