Forza Motorsport 5 is easily the best launch title for the Xbox One whether or not you happen to be a petrol head
Forza Motorsport 5 is a weird launch title for the Xbox One. That's not to say that Turn 10's racing sim – one of the only games of this type to hold its own against the Gran Turismos of this world – doesn't look the part. Far from it; Forza 5 is a lush visual spectacle and it's the Xbox One launch game that arguably shows off Microsoft's cloud-gaming the best. It's just that Forza is a hard franchise to love unless you're a bona fide petrolhead or racing sim nut. Or both.
Forza Motorsport 5: Drivatar
In the interests of full disclosure, we have to confess to being neither and we're also rather rubbish at racing simulators in general. When we do pick up a driving game it's usually an arcade racer – such as the Need For Speed series – because racing sims are more a perfectionist's beat. It's great to note, then, that most of the gamers in our friend list are also pretty shonky at playing Forza 5.
How do we know this? A little feature that Turn 10 has introduced called the Drivatar. Essentially Drivatars are virtual reconstructions of everyone playing Forza 5. The game collects data on each players driving habits, style – whether they're aggressive, sneaky or solidly pro – and skill.
After about three races, it constructs a Drivatar based on this data, uploads it to the cloud and this virtual racer is let loose to grind for its owner.
In other words, you don't race against the AI in Forza 5. You race against the Drivatars of other players. Forza 5 just tosses them into any race you decide to take part in. This is how we know that a lot of our friends are about the same skill level as us, because not only do their Drivatars land up in many of our races but they, like us, don't exactly shy away from colliding with other drivers.
Forza Motorsport 5: Gameplay
This may be bad news for purists. After all, the Drivatars lend Forza 5 a bit of a rough-and-tumble atmosphere. If you're someone who enjoys taking hair-pin bends and corners smoothly and carefully, you may find the Drivatars a bit of a pain, because they're just as likely to shunt you out of their way as they are to close the door on a pass attempt. They also make their fair share of mistakes, too.
The controls are absolutely sublime and the Xbox One's control pad's rumble filters really convey the power of the machines in the game. The controller buzzes and shudders every time you hit the gas and there's even a little give during gear changes.
If you're intimidated by the notion of dropping into Microsoft's racing sim, don't be; difficulty can be pared right back for newbies (like me), but aid can also be turned off for those elite players.
Forza Motorsport 5: Features
Those who do crank the difficulty will inevitably get more out of Forza 5. Not only will their Drivatars improve exponentially, but they'll earn more in-game credits and tokens, which are vital for buying new cars. Yes, the cars need to be bought rather than unlocked and a lot of them are pretty expensive.
To get hold of them, players either have to grind away in the game, or they can purchase tokens from the Xbox One Store with real-world money – and yes, that's as cheeky as it sounds.
However they open up their cars, players are also given the opportunity to leer over nearly every inch of them through the Vista feature and Top Gear's hosts are on hand to provide the odd bit of banter and commentary.
Forza Motorsport 5: Presentation
The production values of the game deserve special mention because they are absolutely mind-blowing. Turn 10 has always made pretty, pretty games but it's outdone itself here. The game's bespoke engine renders every scuff, crack and chink in the liveries of the cars, and the bump to 1080p makes screaming down a straightaway exhilarating.
The soundtrack too, is a your usual mix of note-perfect engine roars and tyre screeches, but the musical is awe-inspiring; during races it follows the player's progress, rising and soaring as they advance towards the head of the pack.
Forza Motorsport 5: Verdict
Forza Motorsport 5 is easily one of the strongest launch titles that the Xbox One has at launch and arguably the game that best shows off the next-generation tech of its console. Its micro- transactions are a bit off-putting between its gorgeous presentation and easy learning curve, it's a racer that any new platform adopter should try out – even if you're not a petrolhead.
Forza Motorsport 5 release date: 22 November 2013
Forza Motorsport 5: price: £49.99