As the series celebrates its tenth anniversary, Forza Motorsport 6 demonstrates that Turn 10 has found the ideal balance of sim gameplay and accessibility.
Ever since the first installment of Forza Motorsport launched in 2005, it was clear that the franchise was a very particular effort on the part of Microsoft to compete with Sony’s Gran Turismo. As of Forza Motorsport 6, however, the premier racing experience on Xbox consoles has managed to establish its own identity.
The difficulty in developing a sim racer comes from the fact that, by definition, this sort of game isn’t going to be as immediately satisfying as its arcade counterpart. These games are frequently more technical than the lighter racing games out there, which can be off-putting for the novice player. However, while the intricacies of a game like Gran Turismo can overwhelm a driver just starting out, Forza Motorsport 6 smartly gives the player a massive amount of control over their experience. Everything from steering assists to ABS can be enabled or disabled to make sure that the sim experience is tailored to the abilities of the individual.
This means that players can tweak things to be a bit more forgiving if they are new to the series or the genre, then gradually alter settings as they become more confident in their abilities. Difficulty options are directly tied to the credits players receive while completing races, which ties their progress to tangible rewards.
That’s all par for the course for the Forza series, but the latest installment adds a new wrinkle to proceedings with the introduction of mods. Earned through a timely booster pack system — one that’s completely viable without the use of real-world money — these mods leverage the game’s massive set of difficulty options to produce new challenges. For instance, one mod might offer the player a 10% increase in their winnings so long as they commit to ‘immersive’ settings, where the cockpit camera is the default and the racing line display is turned off. Many players might dodge these options in normal circumstances, so offering them as a one-off test of skill makes a lot of sense.
Mods give players a reason to try out different difficulty options, as well as offering other tweaks on the game’s driving mechanics — both benefits like increased grip and impediments like increased weight. They might seem like a small addition to the game, but the mechanic offers up plenty of potential for replayability. However, that’s not to say that there’s any shortage of content in Forza Motorsport 6. With more than 450 cars to take for a spin around some 25 tracks, there’s plenty of driving on offer, with a hefty campaign mode spanning five different types of motorsport acting as the centerpiece.
That being said, the game’s Showcase Events deserve special attention. In the franchise’s sister series Forza Horizon, these challenges often seemed like more of a graphical showcase than a compelling bit of gameplay — players were typically challenged with racing an unusual rival, like a hot air balloon or a train. But here, things are a lot more engaging. One Showcase Event might put you behind the wheel of a super high-end race car and challenge you to compete at high speeds, whereas another might find you in a hatchback navigating a more technical cone course. There’s plenty of variety, and some really gripping challenges to be found.
These events also feature some Top Gear branding and use of The Stig from the popular BBC show. Earlier this year, the company had a well-publicized split with the program’s hosts, so their appearances in this game are divorced from any references to Top Gear as well as possible. It’s rather awkward, but it’s understandable given the context. In fact, the hosts’ spoken blurbs on the various different types of car available add a great deal to the impressive presentation that permeates Forza Motorsport 6. From a very modern opening sequence that puts the player straight into the action, to the well-designed and easily navigable menu system, this is a very polished game throughout.
That visual appeal carries over to the title’s gorgeous graphics. A game like this is always expected to be a showcase for the console it’s being played on, but the fidelity on offer here is more than just ego-stroking for the Xbox One. The realism it contributes helps produce a wholly engrossing driving experience. Seeing raindrops hit the car’s windshield as it speeds around a track offers great immersion, and the feeling of hitting a deep puddle reflects that on the gameplay side of the equation. Forza Motorsport 6 looks terrific, but that’s backed up by driving that’s just as impressive.
This is a game that’s sure to satisfy longtime fans of the series — but it also has the potential to grow its audience considerably. If players have never been able to get into a sim racing game before, Forza Motorsport 6 is a great place to start, but there’s plenty here to test an expert as well.
Forza Motorsport 6 releases September 15, 2015 for Xbox One. Game Rant was provided an Xbox One code for this review.