Forza Motorsport 5 has received a lot of buzz since its first unveiling as one of the upcoming Xbox One’s most important launch titles. We’ve seen promises of amazing visuals, stunning car models, clever SkyNet powered A.I and more.
Now, while the majority of gamers are taking a good look at what’s on the carbon-fibre-weaved surface of Forza’s next-gen instalment, hard-core Forza fans, petrol-heads and racer-junkies like me are more concerned with what’s happened where it matters most… under the hood.
Fresh out of a real track day at the Kyalami GP circuit a week prior, I got some hands-on time with Forza Motorsport 5 at rAge 2013 with our hands on, and all the assists off to determine how it stacks up to its predecessor as well as the real deal.
So, after picking up the new Xbox One controller, ogling the pretty cars in the selection menu and loading up the track, I finally got to do something I’ve wanted to do since I first saw Forza 5… turn the assists off and see what it looks like when it doesn’t look like it’s being driven around the track by a robot.
For the sake of our test, I was able to get not one, but three laps of the Mazda Laguna Seca race circuit and to get the best feeling of the new physics system; I did all three laps in completely different kinds of cars.
I chose to drive the Ford Focus ST, known for its understeer in corners, the Mercedes 300SL which as a classic would give a good feel of a heavier, older rear wheel drive sports car and then finally, the Ferrari F12… agile, aerodynamic and loaded with enough horses for us to film a couple of epic spaghetti westerns. Best of all, I have access to this same track and these same cars (with the exception of the F12 which I swapped out for the 599 GTO) in Forza 4, which I then drove to compare with FM5 once I was back at my own setup.
What I’m going to try really hard to do in this article though is to not harp on about how incredible the new feedback-enabled triggers are on the Xbox One, and sing about the massive difference that they make to your driving experience by feeding extra information into your brain via your index fingers. I’m not going to do any of that, OK? OK.
Putting Rubber Down
While Forza has always leaned more to the side of a sim, it was always pretty well known that the cars, while close to their real-life counterparts, felt like they had just a bit more grip than they should have and even proved it when put it up against real life lap times and its rival GT5 in a brief test we did a while back. If you have ever been around a real track in a car that was fitted with semi-slicks rather than its standard road tires, you will know exactly what I mean.
On my first outing, I dove into the first left hander of Laguna Seca with the Focus, making sure that I got on the brakes light and early so as to not go flying off of the track with the large rAge crowd behind me watching (you need to show the crowds you’re a pro at times like this). So after making my way out of the sand trap that I was deeply and embarrassingly embedded into, I realised that we weren’t in Kansas anymore. Upon braking into the corner, my mind was temporarily stunned by the amount of information travelling up my fingers through the new Xbox One triggers, letting me know that I had just locked up my front wheels and was now tearing up a strip of the rubber attached to them. Honestly the amount of feedback I received from the trigg… ahem, sorry… let us carry on.
The new physics system feels significantly different to previous titles, that’s for certain. In the Focus it was now much more difficult to carry the right amount of speed through the bends to not understeer (fading outwards while cornering) into the corners but then also not suffer massive amounts of torque/under steer out of the bends when putting the power on. This was something that plagued early Forza games, especially during the earlier parts of the career modes, as the slower cars let you mostly flatten the accelerator pedal and just coast the car around most corners of the track without any real fear of losing it.
This subtle new balance is nothing short of a pure delight for true racer fans, because it means we have new levels of balance and finesse to perfect when lapping our favourite circuits. If you want to turn all of the assists off, then be prepared to put on your big-boy-pants and concentrate. Understeer is now a much bigger factor, thanks to the fact that in all of the cars, there was a much higher feeling and even visible amount of force on the cars that caused them to get unsettled while cornering. Again, if you have ever lapped a track in a real car as a driver or a passenger, you will know that you start really feeling the limits of a car when you realise that all four wheels are doing this light jiggle underneath you while under load. Finding the balance that keeps the car fast and settled is a big part of what makes lapping a car so enjoyable, and from what I felt in the demo the physics are able to deliver a much more satisfying and realistic feeling of force, weight, suspension load and that all too important feeling of rubber to the road, especially thanks to the feedback you get from the new Xbox trigger feedback. Oh, those wonderful triggers.