Forza Motorsport 6 is Forza. If that doesn't sound appealing to you, stop reading now. This isn't a game for you. I know that in your eyes, arcade racer-person, Forza looks boring, what with laps and laps where you actually have to slow down to take corners, and circuits that have less eye-candy adoring them than a Hull high-street, but that doesn't mean people can't find enjoyment in it. Yes, Turn 10's latest is more of the same, but it's as slick as sim racers come. On the surface It might look a lot like the game that launched alongside Microsoft's latest console, but Forza 6 is a much more accomplished, consumer friendly, and feature-rich release.
I enjoy Forza 6 in the same way I enjoy all the Forza games. I start off thinking it's a bit dull (usually not helped by the above mentioned choir of miserable haters), having spent most my time playing more arcade racers, but then I get into the groove, the credits start to roll in, I nail the racing line more frequently, and suddenly hours have been lost. I'd pick Horizon of the two Forza brands if there was some mass racing game cull and I could only save one, but there's no denying that Forza 6 is an excellent sim racer and certainly the best the series has been since its Xbox 360 days.
3D puddles, despite sounding rather funny, are a headline new feature. Not only do these - and the accompanying heavy rain effects - look cool; they have an impact on your driving, causing your car to be pulled over to one side and potentially lose all grip. It might sound a bit gimmicky, but when puddles are in your usual racing line, especially in braking zones, you have to approach corners more cautiously. Night racing is another nice inclusion, with the reduced visibility putting a new spin on the tracks, but because neither of these features happen organically over time (a race is either wet or dry, or during the day or at night) neither feels as neatly integrated as they might have been.
Upping the car count during races to 24 (from the 16 max in Forza 5) is an excellent step up, though, and if played on a challenging difficulty this leads to racing that feels much tighter - play on medium or lower, though, and you'll generally find yourself so far ahead of the pack that there could be 100 cars on track and it wouldn't make any difference. It's still short of the numbers found in Project Cars, but I can't say I care too much. 24 feels like enough.
One thing that is absolutely clear is Turn 10's move away from microtransactions. After the backlash against their inclusion in Forza 5, they are nowhere to be seen in 6. Even the new Mod Cards, used to give you perks during races, can only be bought using in-game credits. I have also been handed loads of free stuff, including a Bugatti Veyron that I won during one of the game's prize draws. Which is nice... kind of.
Not to sound like an ungrateful spoiled 16-year-old who's just been bought a new car in federal blue and not Oxford blue as requested, I can't help but want there to be more of a challenge in earning in-game money. It's not that I want Forza to be a massive, tiresome grind, but back in the glory days of Gran Turismo (GT3 rules!) I'd spend days earning enough credits to buy the next car on my wanted list. I felt like I'd accomplished something. In Forza 6 I feel like the most corrupt games journalist, getting so many free games through the post that I've lost all sense of value and pride of ownership.
New content, features and tweaks make Forza 6 the game we all wanted to launch with the Xbox One almost two years ago, although there are still areas I wish were better. The career mode, for example, is better than the screen of selectable leagues found in Forza 5, but not by much. This time you work through five Stories of Motorsport, each home to a series of multi-race events, with the game letting you choose a car for each - either from your garage or freshly bought with credits. This is accompanied by loads of Showcase events, where the goal isn't as simple as finishing in the top three: instead you're asked to knock down pins on the Top Gear test track or catch up to older models of the high-end car you're given.
It's all nice enough, and there's loads here if you also factor in the Rivals mode (one-on-one races) but I'd like to see something a bit more personal next time around - there isn't even a leaderboard for each set of races. You're still pretty much just working towards making your overall number go higher while getting podium finishes, which feels a bit simplistic.
It might seem odd that the section of the review that talks about the car handling is right down here, near the end, but well, I don't really know anything about cars - I just like driving them in video games and know whether it feels good or not. It feels good in Forza 6 and, for want of a more technical term, it's a bit grippier than in 5. I found myself sliding less, although that's still possible if you push too far. I'm not going to pretend I play with the assists off, because I don't. I turn off the ones that are clearly designed for toddlers, but that's it. That makes Forza 6 sim enough for me.
If the solo play in Forza is somewhat disappointing in its simplicity, the online modes go a long way to making up for it. New online leagues tailored to your skill level are exciting and add a nice competitive angle to proceedings. I've yet to play an online racer that has managed to capture the fun community spirit of Project Gotham Racing 2, but Forza 6 comes close. Although there are still plenty of idiots you'll want to avoid, in my experience most players want to enjoy the racing.
At points Forza 6 looks really lovely, the crisp 1080p visuals and smooth 60fps shining as portions of track stretch far into the distance. Add in some excellent car models, pretty lighting, great effects (such as the new rain and fog) and there's no denying this is a pretty game. But, and it's a big but, what's up with the trees? Any track that has trees adorning the side is made significantly less appealing because they're so damn ugly. Made by what appears to be a couple of flat textures slotted together, these things have no right being in a game that is otherwise quite the looker. Honestly, I'm not sure why I'm so angry about the trees, but I am. I keep pausing the game to take snaps of them in Photo Mode, just to see how bad they look!
Once again Turn 10 has decided that players only want to listen to sweeping, dramatic orchestral music, with a soundtrack that resembles that heard in the previous game. I'm not completely down on the type of music the devs have opted for, but I'd prefer a selection like what we get in the Gran Turismo series. Forza is so po-faced and sterile most of the time that a bit of lively music from a mixture of popular and upcoming bands would have given it a nice lift.
So that's Forza Motorsport 6. It's essentially like the previous Forzas but with more stuff and slightly tweaked handling. I like it a lot, apart from the trees which are absolutely awful. But yeah, if you like yourself some simulation Forza, Forza 6 is the Forza for you. Forza.
Make PGR 5
Forza needs a break. I'd happily get a second Xbox One edition of Horizon in 2016, but I'm not sure I want another sim Forza in 2017. So what do the guys at Turn 10 do to fill the gap? Easy. Make PGR 5. Honestly guys, just do it. I love Forza, but you can have too much of a good thing.