Polished, Beautiful Forza 6 ews Still the Racing Game to Get
I’m sitting in my Audi S3, looking out at the woods that surround Lime Rock Park in northwest Connecticut. I’m staring at the asphalt leading up to the first corner, far up the main straightaway. I have the track to myself. But I’m frustrated because no matter how many times I try, I can’t seem to beat my friend’s lap time around the 1.5-mile course. The seven turn layout seems simple enough, but like a really good crème brûlée, perfection is evasive.
Forza Motorsport 6 is the latest, most realistic racing game from Turn 10, the Microsoft-owned studio that has been making driving games for a decade. It’s been two years since Forza 5 was released alongside the Xbox One. Forza 6 is an evolution of that game in every way. Everything is a bit sharper, more responsive. There are a million different ways to play, and it’s incredibly realistic.
The result is a cacophony of engine noise, tire squeal, and numbers. 460 cars, 26 racing locations (including 10 brand new tracks) and 24 simultaneous racers, both online and off. It’s almost enough to make you want to give up driving your real car. And it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than taking your car to a real race track.
The game goes on sale September 15th in the US for $60, $80 or $100, depending on whether you want to pre-purchase a number of monthly downloadable car packs, as well as a special VIP status that allows for accelerated leveling up and a few other perks. Buyers of the $100 Ultimate edition also receive the game five days early, on September 10th.
Like real-world racing, there is ample capacity here for both joy and triumph as well as hard crashes and endless frustration. Only in Forza, you don’t need to cough up tens of thousands of dollars (not to mention a lot of time in the hospital) when something goes wrong. You just rewind (press the “Y” button and “time” goes backwards), and try again and again until you get it right.
Bedroom Wall Poster Territory
The single-player mode runs for more than 70 hours, the longest career mode ever in a Forza game, across a ton of different races and “Showcase” challenges. It starts you off easy, with street cars that you might actually be able to afford—I began in a BMW 235i. But before long, you’re moving up into bedroom wall poster territory. Once you’ve mastered the Ferrari 458 Italia and the McLaren P1, you’re thrown into purpose-built race cars.
Thanks to Forza’s “Drivatar” system, racing is always exciting. Drivatars are digital players that drive like humans, not precise, predictable robots. Even better, they drive like specific human players, taking their behaviors from the real players you’ve encountered online. They imitate the hard to notice things, like how a driver takes a tight corner, whether they lock up the front wheels under braking, how aggressively they jump on the gas coming out of a corner, or what they do when the rear end begins to fishtail.
You might find yourself texting a friend because they ruined your race, even though they didn’t actually ruin it—their virtual counterpart did.
Drivatars debuted two years ago in Forza 5, but they have been upgraded for Forza 6. Players can turn down the aggressiveness of single-player Drivatars, keeping them from unrealistically smashing into corners or other drivers.
The Joy of 3-D Puddles
Forza 6 adds nighttime racing, as well as glorious racing in the rain. Driving in the dark adds a new dimension to familiar tracks, but racing in what feels like a hurricane is where the game really comes alive.
“We have physically-based 3-D puddles,” says Dan Greenawalt, creative director at Turn 10 Studios, the guy who signs off on every Forza Motorsports title. “Tires will individually hydroplane based on the simulation.”
And he’s not freaking kidding. Driving on a course like Brands Hatch, the popular British circuit, with puddles everywhere and in a drenching, visibility-inhibiting downpour, can be a nightmare. The racing line becomes a joke. You have to react and adapt so you don’t hit the puddles; if you do find one, you’ll hydroplane and find yourself off in the grass. Or the wall. It’s wonderful.
And, unlike a multiplayer shooter game like Call of Duty where someone else takes you down, in Forza you have no one to blame but yourself.
The physics of Forza are incredibly close to reality. The Turn 10 team has spent countless hours scanning around 1,000 cars, making laser-accurate scans of more than two dozen locales, and testing 150 different surfaces to determine friction coefficients in any number of weather conditions and times of day.
Some elements of the game can look a little jagged occasionally, but the 60 frames per second rate never seems to drop, even with 24 cars on screen in the rain. And at 180 mph, everything is whizzing by too fast to notice anyway.
Like every other Forza Motorsport title, there’s something here for any racing gamer. The lengthy single-player career mode takes drivers across every circuit in the game, in all manner of weather and sunlight conditions (not every track can be raced in the rain, nor at night, depending on what is realistic).
Then there are showcase races, where the game assigns you a car and sends you off on to recreate a particular era in motorsport or a certain race. There are even Top Gear themed events like car bowling or racing against The Stig’s digital cousin. Or jump in a Le Mans prototype and race 300 miles around a rainy Sebring Raceway—that’s 85 laps, a real endurance race.
There are endless tuning and painting abilities for players to get their cars set up just right, or make fantastic designs and liveries to sell to other players on the in-game marketplace.
For those wanting a little more competition, there are 24-player online multiplayer matches, including a new ranked League play where drivers are matched with others at similar skill levels.
Finally, there’s the Rivals section where you can race against friends to see who can get the best lap time on a particular course and car. That’s where your Audi S3 at Lime Rock Park comes into play.
There’s a new “Mod” system that seems to have been borrowed from the ingenious “Burn Card” setup in the futuristic shooter Titanfall. Players receive “packs” of digital cards as they level up that can be used in races to improve a car’s performance, or make things artificially easier or harder to make more money and experience.
Playing with the standard Xbox controller is fine, but the real hardcore players create elaborate wheel and pedal setups, recreating what it’s like to drive a car.
Do it enough, and you might even learn something that you can use in real life.