There are two types of people in this world: car people, and everyone else. I happen to be one of the former, and thankfully, so are the folks at Turn 10, the car aficionados responsible for the Forza series, including the upcoming Forza 5 for Xbox One. Their unfettered adoration of automobiles has defined the series, and even in a noisy convention hall packed with journalists and industry types queued up on endlessly snaking lines, their passion for these fire-belching metallic beasts shines through with immutable clarity. If it's a mandate that a successful console launch needs a title that proves the new hardware's worth, MS could do far worse than Forza 5.
Though it's practically redundant to mention how gorgeous the car models look in a triple-A racing sim, I'm still going to say it. Call it fetishistic, call it car porn, call it “lovingly crafted” if you like, or whatever other overused hyperbole you can think of — it won't be sufficient to describe how a vehicle in Forza 5 looks. We're down to the grain of the paint job at this point, folks, which is fairly preposterous when you'll have so little time to take in the majesty of a Bugatti Veyron or the aggressive, beligerent angles of a Lamborghini Aventador when you're whipping one around Nürburgring at death-wishing speeds. (Wait, what's paint again?)
But that's what the redone Autovista mode is for. Renamed “Forzavista,” it now allows you to get up close and personal with every last car on the roster instead of just a select few. Whether you want to pop the suicide doors on the dreamiest exotic, or just see the dash on a car you could go out and buy next week, you'll be able to experience it down to the minutiae. But while it's easy to lose hours ogling these four-wheeled marvels, the road is where they're meant to be, and it's here where Forza 5 defies expectations visually.
Most racers pour the bulk of their platform's power into making the cars look immaculate, leaving barely any juice to make the world around it look any better than passable. Forza has been as guilty of this as any franchise through the years, possibly more so than most. But with all the extra firepower under the hood of the Xbox One, Turn 10 has put an end to the trend.
I've said again and again that lighting and effects are going to be the true identifiers of next-gen visuals, and Forza 5 offers compelling proof to the point. The waning light of a setting sun creeps between the pillars supporting the overpass I'm driving through, begging me to slow down and take it in. The sheer spectacle of it all is only half of the achievement, though. Just as impressive is the way the lighting works with the surfaces on my car to make it truly look as if it's a part of the virtual world rather than a visitor plopped down into it.
But who cares? I mean, you paid four-hundred and ninety-nine U.S. dollars to have the Xbox One on day one, so it better melt your face graphically, right? What you probably didn't expect to get for your hard-earned money, though, is a controller that not only brings the series' razor-sharp precision controls to the next level, but also adds a whole new level of immersion as well. No, it's not a goofy plastic steering wheel or some kind of Kinect-based motion control tomfoolery, just the sick new triggers of the basic Xbox One controller.
Not only do they sport smoother, more uniform travel from top to bottom, but they now each have a small force feedback motor directly below them. This isn't some generic rumble either; these are highly articulated devices, and Turn 10 has leveraged their sophistication to give players detailed and believable information about the state of their vehicle under braking and accelerating. You'll feel a subtle buck under your left trigger when you rev that V12 too far without upshifting, and on your right, the ominous pulsing of your ABS brakes engaging when you slam them too hard late in a turn. Anyone who's ever tried driving a car to the edge of its grip knows that you can feel when the tires are about to get wild, and the Xbox One controller conveys that sensation with a nuance and believability I would expect from a peripheral custom-built for the purpose.
After buying and playing four Forza titles, I thought I might start suffering from fatigue, but after just a handful of races on the same track, Microsoft's PR people practically had to pry me off the demo unit. The needle-point precision of the controls, the tactile experience afforded by the new controller and the mouth-watering visuals make it the title to watch for hardcore racing fans.
Forza 5 will be available on launch day for the Xbox One.