I’m not the world’s biggest car guy, but I love Forza.
I enjoy driving my wife’s Prius, which I understand is something you’re not supposed to say out loud around “gearheads.” But my lack of appreciation for real-life pistons and struts doesn’t hold back the enjoyment I get from playing Forza Motorsport 6. This is a damn fine game for people like me and for anyone who adores automobiles.
What you’ll like
A palpable love for cars and racing
The first thing I noticed about Forza 6 after booting it up is its reverence for cars. Of course, that’s probably a prerequisite when making a game like this. But developer Turn 10, however, doesn’t just say it — I mean, it does say it in a rather eye-rolly intro movie — but it also puts that love into every menu, every turn, and every curve of each automobile.
When a game loves its subject matter this much, it makes it easier for players to buy into it as well.
And when a British television presenter comes on the screen to tell you all about why “hot hatchbacks” are important and only a little absurd, you listen. You absorb that love and then project it onto your own digital Volkswagen hot hatchback.
Once you’re actually out on the course, Forza Motorsport 6 comes to life.
Any game with a physics system is like jazz. And the team responsible for tuning the simulation friction, gravity, and momentum of Forza are like Thelonious Monk or Miles Davis.
The different combinations of cars and courses are like different notes and instruments all telling a story without words. You have to react fluidly to the other players around you, and a good driver is as creative as they are accurate and capable on the wheel.
You get all of that while playing a Forza game, and it’s never been better than in Forza Motorsport 6.
I had one race — I think it was on the Prague course — where I wanted to challenge myself. I had already turned off most of the assists, but I also shut down the stabilization and turned up the difficulty of my drivatar opponents. My first time through this race in my hot Fiat 500 Abarth was a disaster. I finished outside of the top three for the first time ever, and I was relying on the rewind button — which takes you back to a point in the race a few seconds before a crash or mistake. But I didn’t give up.
In my second time through the race, everything came together. I better understood how my car handled without the stabilizer assist, and that’s entirely thanks to the games incredible visual and control feedback. When things are starting to kick out and lose traction, the Xbox One Gamepad vibrates and the on-screen vehicle begins to shimmy slightly.
After one race, I learned all of those tells and was able to immediately put those lessons into practice. My second time through the gorgeous Prague city streets went much better.
I made several crucial passes early in the first lap that helped me get ahead of the pack, then I was able to pass the top two cars with a number of “perfect” turns.
And maybe that’s what I love most about Forza 6. Driving a car seems like more of an art than a science, but when you nail a turn, you know it — and the game knows it. Several times I expertly piloted my speedy vehicles around impossible bends while maintaining control and velocity. As I did this, I would congratulate myself only to then see the game pop up with a “perfect turn” notification right afterward as well.
That loop between action and feedback is the center of most games, and Forza 6 is better at it than any other racing game.
New weather system
The Xbox One probably doesn’t have a better looking game than Forza 6 — especially when you have to drive in the rain.
It’s not just the picture-perfect pools of water that accumulate on the roads. It’s the way the drops hit the camera in the third-person mode — or the way you know your car is going to hydroplane through a puddle that you spot a 20 yards ahead.
Probably the best part is the way all the cars around you spray mist into the air. This limits your vision in a realistic way, and it makes the rainy levels feel so dramatic and dangerous.
Driving fast is difficult in perfect conditions, but it’s even scarier when you cannot break quickly or see what’s happening more than 75 feet in front of you.
What you won’t like
Career mode is dull at times
While Forza looks beautiful and has that deep appreciation for the horseless carriage, its career mode is missing something to keep players driving ahead.
Forza 6 is primarily about racing so you can get more money so you can buy more cars. Sure, it throws your friends names on their “drivatars” so that you build up rivalries, but that’s not really enough.
I want a create-a-racer mode or something along those lines to give me a bit more ownership over my successes and failures.
Games often do this thing where they make you love a subject that you previously didn’t care as much about. That’s not exclusive to video games — just look at the way people who don’t speak any English learn to play Scrabble at a professional level.
Forza Motorsport 6 is definitely that kind of experience. I care more about cars because I play Forza. I’m still not gonna run out and learn about engines, but I will turn my head when I see souped up Golf GTI rolling down the road.
At the same time, Forza could turn into a series that runs out of excitement. But Microsoft is doing an admirable job of avoiding that situation. It’s an annual franchise, sure. But the arcadey Horizon gets one year and the simulation Motorsport gets the next. And the series hasn’t had a miss since it started this release schedule. In fact, it’s the opposite. Forza Motorsport 6 is probably the best game in the franchise yet.
Microsoft provided GamesBeat with a downloadable review copy of Forza Motorsport 6 for the purposes of this review. The racer is due out September 15 exclusively for the Xbox One.