With all these cars, you're going to need a bigger garage.
Forza developers Turn 10 don't have it easy. Since the series' birth ten years ago, the studio has produced consistently brilliant racing games that push their native consoles to new heights of graphical excellence. Forza Motorsport's biennial release schedule is unusual for a racing franchise, and fans have come to expect an excellent handling model and stellar visuals year on year, so each generation of Forza needs to iterate in different ways to make each new release essential. Forza 5, the first entry in the series on Xbox One, was once again lauded for its precise handling, but was criticized for its lack of content. The release was light on cars and tracks, something Forza 6 more than addresses.
The full roster in Forza 6 is made up of over 450 cars from all around the world: sleek supercars from Italy, powerhouse muscle cars from America, and one seat track toys that weigh next-to-nothing. There are even Mini Coopers and VW Camper Vans in here. The scope and breadth of the car selection is staggering. Even more impressive is how each vehicle has been given the same level of attention. The VW Beetle is just as detailed as a Lamborghini Gallardo and the detail is not exclusive to the exteriors either. All the cars have fully modelled interiors which makes the cockpit view even more enticing for those of us who like to see the whole car while driving.
As good as these cars look in your virtual garage, they are astonishing on the track. Turn 10 has once again managed to achieve 1080p resolution with 60 frames per second. Watching these cars zoom around the precisely replicated tracks whilst their glistening metallic shells reflect the tarmac is something to behold. The tracks themselves are no slouches in the looks department either. The city stages of Rio and Prague are particular standouts, but all the tracks have a tantalizing draw distance that gives the races a grandiose atmosphere.
With such a significant increase in content, Turn 10 could easily have rested on their laurels; instead they implemented some of the biggest features since the series' inception. Weather and night driving make their debuts in Forza 6, and they are more than just cosmetic changes. Rain makes cars more difficult to handle and puddles on the track can easily cause your car to spin out. These wet courses require a new approach: braking distances change, racing lines need to avoid the more waterlogged areas and, of course, overall speed needs to be taken into account. It's in these wet races that the rumble features in the triggers really shine. They help you feel when the brakes lock and when the traction control is at its limit, it's an extra layer of immersion only available on the Xbox One and it's good to see a game making great use of it. Unfortunately, not every track has a night time, or wet variant, so you won't be driving through a rain-soaked Rio or Daytona by night. The weather and time of day aren't dynamic either. It would be fantastic to see the sun set on a mountain course or race lap after lap at Silverstone in increasingly heavy rain, but it simply isn't an option.
Having such a wealth of content requires a certain amount of curation and Forza has good and bad ideas in regard to how you experience everything it has to offer. Cars can be purchased at any time using in game currency called "CR." You unlock this by completing races, and you'll get more if you're loyal to a certain car manufacturer. You can earn experience and level up which gives you a wheelspin where you can win big pots of CR or even cars. As a consequence of all these methods, I was never short of cash and I was quickly able to afford top tier motors.
The bulk of the game is in the career mode; here you progress through a linear set of championships working your way from more modest cars all the way to superfast hyper cars. This means if you want to get your hands on the game's fastest vehicles from the get go you either need to race for hours in slower ones or go to the game's freeplay mode where you can drive any car on any track, but lose out on gaining CR and XP. It can be just as tense and exciting racing a Volvo Estate as it is a Bugatti Veyron, so having players progress from slowest to fastest cars is arbitrary. With the exception of track order and car type, each championship and race therein are the same. The player starts in the middle of the pack and must finish in the top three to qualify. There's never any opportunity to improve your position on the grid and the winning conditions are never any stricter. The inclusion of a qualifying lap would give some sense of control over the race ahead and could present a different challenge, starting from the back for example, or holding the lead from starter pistol to chequered flag.
Completing career races unlocks Showcase Events, and it is here you'll find one-off challenges focusing on specific eras and cars. These events feature the game's more imaginative goals, such as trying to overtake as many cars as possible in one of the game's fastest vehicles, or bowling in a BMW. These special events provide some relief from the rigid championship races and provide some of Forza's greatest thrills.
Another way that Turn 10 has introduced some variety is with Mods. These card packs are purchased with CR and contain a random selection of crew cards, boosts and dares. Up to three different cards can be selected before a race: crew cards add a permanent boost to a core stat like power or braking, boosts provide a one use only increase to how much XP or CR you can accrue, but it's dares that are the most interesting. Some of these dares simply hinder your ability to drive by decreasing one of your cars attributes, but some invite you step out of your comfort zone by removing your HUD or restricting you to a cockpit view. Completing the race with these restrictions will net you a healthy pot of CR, but challenging you to play in a new way is the real reward.
Turn 10 are always up against a task. Forza's excellent pedigree has created a demanding fanbase who need more than just a cosmetic update every two years. Thankfully, Forza 6 offers so much more: more cars, and tracks than ever before, a mode rich multiplayer and inventive showcase events. Forza 6 is the best game in the series to date. It is a game crafted by racing fans for racing fans, and to anyone who loves breakneck speed, hairpin turns and that unmistakeable growl of an engine at its limits, it's absolutely a must-have game.
This game was reviewed on Xbox One with a digital version provided by Microsoft.
Images courtesy of Microsoft Studios and Turn 10 Studios.