If the first Forza of this generation was all about the Turn 10 team getting up to speed with Xbox One technology, the second is all about content. Hugely expanded over its fifth outing with more than 450 cars, 26 tracks with well over 100 different configurations, and a myriad of racing activities to participate in, Forza Motorsport 6 sees the series return with a game that feels comprehensive and sprawling. It's also a technical tour-de-force.
Presented in full 1080p and running at 60 fps, the silky smooth Forza 6 looks absolutely stunning. There's so much more detail this time around. Whether it's morning mist floating above the racetrack or flocks of birds taking off as you drive past, this is a racer that's quite simply the best-looking game of its type. There's a certain crispness and intricacy about Forza 6's detailing that puts its competitors in the shade. Buildings look realistic, and they feature modeled interiors, sometimes lit from the inside. Trackside objects are totally convincing, trees and other foliage look completely natural, and the lighting and shadows are spot on. Even the crowd looks impressive.
Like the environments, the car models are also absolutely top-of-the-line. From the humble, boxy lines of the '65 Mini Cooper S to the swooping glory of the new 2015 Ford GT, all the cars are exceptionally well presented in meticulous Forzavista detail. Apart from a few tiny nitpicks here and there – the lights on some of the older cars can look a little on the flat side – the car models are without doubt the best I've seen in any racing game. Most look truly fantastic.
Matching the exteriors are the cars' exceptional interiors. The modeling here is once again exquisite. The dials and dashboard look very convincing, and the way the light interacts with them makes them feel solid and realistic. Even detailing like the reflection of the steering wheel can be seen in the windscreen, depending on lighting conditions. There's just so much attention to detail that helps create a game that is totally immersive, and tricks your brain into thinking it's looking at something real.
But then I'm not exactly surprised at this. Indeed, it's what I expected. With two years of development behind it, and with its predecessor already looking outstanding, it was a foregone conclusion that Forza 6 was going to be a stunner in the looks department. What I'm most interested in is what it has going for it content-wise, and, I'm happy to say, the game also excels here.
The big headline additions this time out are night and wet weather racing. While the rain isn't quite as torrential as the monsoon-like conditions of Project CARS - and conditions also don't change during a race - Forza 6 is a phenomenal wet-weather racer. The friction modeling on puddles is really quite uncannily realistic, and when there's standing water - and in the case of Brands Hatch, impressive-sized lakes – on the racing line, you really have to drive carefully to avoid hydroplaning off the track. The end result is that Forza 6's wet weather conditions deliver some serious white-knuckle racing that feels truly exciting. Picking your way around a wet track is quite challenging: running one of your tires in a puddle will see your car being pulled to one side, and hitting a pool of water while cornering results in a temporary loss of grip that, depending on your entry speed, can see you coasting way off the apex and potentially off the track. This feels like true wet weather racing - not just a regular track turned slippery
Night racing is a little less exciting, but no less technically polished. Here it's all about the lighting model, and again, Forza 6 delivers. From the glow of braking lights to the headlights reflecting on trackside objects and other cars, night racing feels exceptionally realistic. Under certain conditions, even multiple shadows are cast by different light sources. It looks astonishing.
Career mode now expands across five different chapters. Each one represents a different level of racing, starting with street cars, which includes categories like Hot Hatchbacks and Sport Compacts, and goes all the way through to professional racing, which incorporates the likes of Indycar and Formula 1. A chapter comprises three race series (which run anywhere from four to six different races apiece), and there's a choice of six car categories per chapter. That means that to finish the career mode, you need to take on 15 race series, which comprise around 80 individual races. Once you’ve finished that, you can then go back and race those series again with different car choices, which means that without repetition, there are essentially 90 race series to participate in. Quite impressive.
But that's not all. There are also Showcases – racing events where you drive specific cars in a wide variety of challenges. There are ten categories of these, and each features between five and thirteen different events. Examples include Factory Spec Racing, Track Day Shootouts, Moments in Motorsports, which is basically historic car racing, Top Gear challenges, which includes crazy stuff like car bowling, Autocross events, and even Stig challenges where you race his royal Stigness himself.
Career Mode and Showcases combine to deliver a huge volume of content, and it's not quantity over quality. This is all interesting and varied stuff. Made even more so by the fact that you can set the level of Drivatar challenge to suit your style and level of expertise. Whether you're a beginner, or want to try to see if you can best the "unbeatable" level of Drivatar, you can set the game up to deliver the kind of challenge you want.
Drivatars are generally great. I've had a lot of fun racing, and they're about as good as it gets AI-wise. At high levels they drive very intelligently, and yet still occasionally make very realistic-looking mistakes, like braking too late, or over-correcting. It's this slight randomness that makes the AI opponents feel very human-like, and helps keep the racing interesting. Definitely better than following a parade of cars that are doggedly following a preset course.
If you don't fancy racing against computer drivers, there's always Rivals. Here, there's a compendium of leaderboards that spans everything that the game has to offer: every track configuration is represented, as is every level of car. All you have to do is pick a vehicle, download a rival ghost - whichever one takes your fancy - and have at it. I was playing this mode earlier today, and I had an absolute blast racing at the lowest E–level, trying to beat the time set by a Ford Lotus Cortina at Lime Rock. I was using an almost stock Mazda Miata, and ended up failing, but only by a few tenths of a second - but it was truly exciting racing. I intend to go back later and see if I can beat it with a highly modified '65 Mini Cooper S.
As well as a full compendium of leaderboards for every track and class of car, Rivals also features specific rotating challenges to keep things interesting. I'm not sure how often these are going to be changed, but right now there's a decent roster of different racing challenges available, from hot laps to a one-lapper from a standing start. Bottom line, Rivals is as comprehensive as it's ever been, and if you enjoy lapping against ghost cars, Forza 6 is about as good as it gets.
Those who like multiplayer activities are also extremely well catered for. Like Rivals, there is a series of rotating events, and you're also able to set up a race series tailored to your own specific tastes.
The new Leagues are another multiplayer feature that I'm really impressed with. Basically, players of similar temperament are put together in a constantly rotating series of races. When I tried it, because I was new, I was put in at grass roots level, which doesn't have any collision detection. Assuming you're able to win races and rank up, you're promoted to higher-challenge leagues that have more stringent rules and, obviously, much better drivers. It's a novel idea, and one that I'm definitely interested in spending a lot of time with to see just how far I can progress. What I like about it is that it's essentially a self-balancing system that lets players eventually find their own level of racing, providing the perfect level of challenge for each player.
If you're a creative type who loves car design or taking photos, Forza 6 will be very familiar to you. Neither mode has changed much since the last time out, and barring a few refinements in photo mode, it feels largely business as usual. I did mess around with taking some pictures, and I must admit I was extremely happy with the results. There are a variety of different filters and a host of camera options to play around with, and I can't imagine anyone being disappointed with what's on offer.
In terms of other details worth mentioning, Forza has some amazing-looking presentation screens, and there's interesting introductory narration for each of the race categories and career chapters, supplied by automotive journalists James May and Richard Hammond. It seems that Jeremy Clarkson didn't make the cut this time around, probably due to his face-punching shenanigans. Doh!
Oh, and I almost completely forgot about mods. Basically, you can buy packs of cards – mods – that create different effects while racing. Some are temporary, and some are permanent, and you can use up to three at a time per race. For example, one of the mods I have reduces the weight of my car by 10%, and increases its braking by 5% - a very powerful card, it must be said. I use that every race, since it's the best "Crew" mod that I have. I also have a Crew mod that boosts the power of my car and lightens it, but it's not quite as effective as the weight loss mod I always use.
There are also "Dare" mods that give bonuses for having certain assists turned off, or for having a penalty applied to your car. I use one that adds 4% weight to my car, but gives me a 10% credit bonus payout every race. There are other, more powerful Dare cards that give you even more of a bonus payout for, say, using the cockpit view only and having your HUD turned off, or – the best Dare card I have – having both traction and stability control turned off, and 15% less grip to boost payout by 50%. I imagine I'll use that eventually, but not until I'm really up to speed with my Forza driving.
There are also plenty of one-off "Boost" cards that can be used. These cover things like improving your grid position for that race, turning off collision detection for the first lap, or even the entire race. Bonus payouts can also be earned from Boost cards, such as one that gives you 4000 credits for every time you make a perfect corner. There's a similar card that gives you the same bonus for each perfect draft you can do in a race.
I've spent quite a lot of game credits on mods, and basically kept buying the most expensive packs until I got a couple of cards that I was really happy with and then just used them all the time. Your mileage may vary of course, depending on your luck with cards, but I think mods are an interesting new addition to the game that will become a regular Forza feature.
At this point, I've been effusing greatly about Forza 6 with little in the way of negativity. So is it perfect? It's definitely getting there, but I do have a few complaints here and there. Still no Porsches, unfortunately. No RUF either, which is a shame. Sorting through cars can be a little cumbersome and slow, but most of the other menus are pretty straightforward and well designed. The loading time for some menus and races is a little on the slow side, but understandable considering what's being loaded. Oh, and unless I managed to miss them, where are the wet tires? If the game has wet weather conditions, there should be the option for wet weather tires, unless they're automatically put on for you. However, I didn't notice anything telling me that.
And those are pretty much all the complaints I have about the game, which just goes to show how well buttoned-down this latest version of Forza is.
So far, I've managed to complete the career mode at the most basic level, and am now working through the showcases - and I'm having as much fun as I've ever had in any race game. Whatever I'm in the mood for, Forza has something for me, and I think that's the game's biggest strength: it is just so incredibly comprehensive. It has an exceptionally varied roster of cars that literally has something for everyone. Forza 6's selection of tracks is absolutely fantastic too, running the full spectrum from short sprint tracks like Rio and Brands Hatch Indy to epics like Le Mans and the Nurburgring. Add in the night and rainy conditions, and you have a game that can deliver pretty much whatever racing experience you want.
The real magic of Forza 6 is that it transports you into what feels like a real racing environment. It just looks and sounds so convincing, and drives so incredibly realistically that it delivers a genuine white-knuckle experience. Whether it's finessing an oscillating muscle car around a tight corner, or driving a wound-up Indycar around Daytona at full chat, Forza 6 offers a smorgasbord of racing that few other games can compete with. With an expansive and interesting Career mode and the bonus Showcases, its massive Rivals mode, Leagues, and free play mode that enables you to race whatever and however you want, Forza 6 is broad, deep and utterly, utterly brilliant.
Sorting through cars can be ponderous, but for the most part, the interface is very well designed to get you around the game quickly and easily.
A myriad of activities lie in wait, from a comprehensive career mode to the vast rivals leaderboard system. And there's the brilliant multiplayer and league options too.
Astonishingly realistic sound. Some of the car engine effects noises can almost raise the hairs on the back of your neck.
Crisp, clear and meticulously detailed. This is the best-looking racing game out there bar none.
As technically polished and fully-featured as any racing game out there, Forza Motorsport 6 transports you to an incredibly realistic racing world where there's a huge breadth of choice in terms of cars, tracks and types of driving experience. Pretty much whatever you're in the mood for, Forza Motorsport 6 has you covered.