With the Gran Turismo series a no-show at E3 2015, the floor was open for Forza Motorsport 6 to dominate the racing field this year. Indeed, it's a quiet show for the genre. If it wasn't for three racing games on the Bandai Namco booth, serious racers would have almost zero presence at the show.
First of all, let me talk about Forza Motorsport 6. Following a two-year gap since its day one launch with the Xbox One at the end of 2013 - and an understandably modest start to this generation in terms of the size of the game - the series makes a welcome return to its more impressive form. This time out it features more than 450 cars - all of which will have Forzavista - and 26 tracks, with around 100 variations.
Going beyond hard numbers, the game will join Project CARS in having night and wet weather racing. Having played the game in the pouring rain, I can attest to it feeling highly realistic as you drive through puddles. Doing so can cause aquaplaning, depending on which wheels enter the puddle and its depth, such is the detailing of the puddle modeling.
The career mode sounds really interesting this time out. As well as the full career mode that functions in the same way that it has in prior iterations of the game, there's also a new aspect called "Stories of Motorsport," which will span some 70 hours of gameplay. Basically, it features five sub-career modes, each of which has three racing series to compete in. The player gets to choose which type of car they'd like to drive from a choice of six, so basically you get to play the game almost however you want.
Another new feature is mods. This is a kind of challenge mode that you can activate to test your skills. An example of a mod is racing starting at the back of the pack with the rewind feature turned off. You can earn bonus money and xp for doing this, and it's a way of encouraging the player to up his or her level of skill. Speaking of his or her - female drivers are also being put into the game for the first time ever. About time too!
Showcase Events are another new addition to the game. There are 80 of these, and they're specialized events such as Autocross, Endurance Racing, Passing Challenges, and competing against Top Gear's Stig. They sound very interesting, and are yet another way to play the game.
Those who enjoy the multiplayer aspect of Forza will be glad to hear that there will be support for up to 24 cars competing simultaneously this time out. Not only that, but Leagues will be featured in the game that "will match players of similar temperament." I was not told any further details than that, but it basically sounds like there's a matchmaking system based on players' performance taken from their drivatars. Could this mean more aggressive players will be grouped together? For those who drive a little less politely, that could make for some rather interesting racing.
Technically, the game is promised to be full 1080p and locked at 60 frames per second, and judging by the silky smooth demo I played, that's no idle boast. The game looks gorgeous, and I can't wait to play the production version when it's released on September 15 this year.
Over on the Namco booth, there were no less than three racers on display. F1 2015 sees Formula One hit current generation consoles for the first time - and PC, of course. It features an all-new engine built from the ground up for the latest generation of machines, and I must admit that it looks very impressive. The detailing of the cars is quite extraordinary, and the track that I raced on was very nicely detailed. I tested out the game, and it feels extremely fast and smooth. I don't think F1 fans are going to be disappointed by this very new-generation-feeling game, especially considering that it will be supported by regular content updates that will keep the competition and rosters current.
Switching to two wheels, Milestone's MotoGP 15 also made a showing at this year's E3. The third game in the series, and the second to appear on current gen consoles, it's looking slightly more refined and realistic than last year's game. However, I criticized MotoGP 14 for playing well, but feeling a little weak graphically, and I feel I'll probably level the same criticism at this year's version too. The game still doesn't quite have that current generation feel as of yet: it looks good, but isn't outstanding. Still, despite being a little weak graphically, I spent time lapping the Argentinian course, and the feel of the game is good. It's damn challenging too - just like last year's version.
The third racer on the Bandai Namco booth is also created by Milestone - and turned out to be quite a surprise. Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo takes you to the dirt roads of rally circuits and looks quite impressive. I drove the PS4 version using a steering wheel, and the handling felt quite realistic; almost sim-like. The game will feature around 175 miles of track, as well as five rallycross tracks and the Pikes Peak road course. Cars? Expect to be able to play with around 50 rally vehicles from the past and present.
I'm not sure how many people in the US will be interested in this European-developed game, but I'm looking forward to testing it out properly to see how it stacks up against the likes of DIRT. So far, it's looking promising.