Feature Article

Metal Made Beautiful: My Hour With Forza Motorsport 5

Car passion.

I freely admit that I am not a gearhead. I can't identify a 1973 Ford Mustang by sight, or tell you offhand how much horsepower resides in the engine of a Ferrari Testarossa. Heck, I don't even really know what horsepower is.

But I am not unsentimental about cars. When I own a car for years, and it takes me on mundane trips to the grocery store and on epic journeys along the open roads of the American Midwest, I form a connection to it. It becomes part of the tapestry of my life. Of course, Forza Motorsport 5 has all of the technical detail about its vehicles that anyone who's enthusiastic about automotive engineering and technology could hope for. But what immediately pulled me into Forza 5 was the way that it celebrates not only the machinery of cars, but the humanity of cars as well. A short film that opens the game, warmly narrated by Top Gear personality Jeremy Clarkson, begins by touching on the roles cars play in our everyday lives, before moving on to talk and images of high-performance racing machines. And because it took that moment to celebrate that emotional connection we can form with cars, something I can understand and appreciate, I immediately felt like Forza 5 was a game that was catering as much to someone like me as to someone who reads each issue of Road & Track.

A race through Prague in a McLaren P1 is the dramatic opening to Forza 5.

The game begins by giving you an opportunity to inspect and admire the powerful McLaren P1, which you then drive in a dramatic race through the beautiful streets of Prague. After this taste of one of the more glamorous vehicles in the game, you choose from a number of more modest vehicles to take you through your first career series, a five-race modern sport compact championship. I selected a Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track, and was whisked off to the Bernese Alps for the first race.

The second event is less scenic but more memorable: a race around Top Gear's test track that's cheekily described as an accurate simulation of actual driving conditions in London. You speed past majestic cardboard cutouts of double-decker buses, Big Ben, and the London Eye, and the asphalt is strewn with garbage cans (or "rubbish bins" as they're called across the pond) and other objects. I've sometimes felt that the Forza series has taken itself, and cars, very seriously, to the point that it has bordered on stuffiness, so this event was a welcome bit of lighthearted fun.

A kind of automotive beauty even I can't help but appreciate.

As I progressed through the remaining races in the series, I felt myself developing a closer connection with the car. By the fourth event (in Bathurst, Australia), I had a much better sense of how it handled, and was learning how to guide it through turns efficiently. If Turn 10's talk about its cloud-hosted "drivatar" system is to be believed, my drivatar might have been getting better, too. A screen of text after an early race stated that while traditional racing games have artificial intelligence, in Forza 5, "you will be racing against real people. Trained in the cloud, Drivatars recreate real human speed and style." After a few races, I was informed that the game had collected enough data to create a drivatar based on my racing behavior, and that this drivatar would now serve as an opponent for other players and even earn me credits based on its performance while I wasn't playing.

I wondered if Turn 10 wasn't perhaps overselling the concept of drivatars by describing them as real people and distinctly not as "artificial intelligence." I was also concerned. Playing on my own, it wasn't unusual for me to muscle my way ahead of other cars with some pretty dirty racing, but I didn't want my drivatar ruining the experience for other players. I asked Turn 10 creative director Dan Greenawalt about this, and about how the game determines which drivatars populate which races. He explained that drivatars are split into seven tiers, each of which corresponds to one of the game's seven difficulty levels, which determines which pool of drivatars your opponents come from. When my drivatar is used in races with strangers, it won't be with my livery, and there will be safeguards to ensure that it doesn't grief those players. However, when it races against my friends, my livery will be displayed, and it will mimic the dirty aspects of my racing behavior more closely.

After I made a respectable finish in the fifth and final event of the modern sport compact championship series, the world of Forza 5 opened up to me. I didn't have much time left with the game, but for my final race, I selected a vintage American muscle car event. I loved the way that the personable, Top Gear-flavored introduction to this class of car enthusiastically captured the era that produced those cars, and I felt my heart stir with a sense of appreciation for the big, beautiful American cars of the early 1970s. I realized that by putting these cars in their historical context, it was actually deepening my own interest in them, and I thought of what Turn 10 community manager (and former GameSpot editor) Brian Ekberg described in the above video as an unofficial motto of the Forza Motorsport series among the development team: "We want to turn car lovers into gamers and gamers into car lovers." I'm not about to subscribe to Road & Track, but during that hour I spent with the game, it made a car lover out of me.

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Discussion

249 comments
TexasAnMGrad2K
TexasAnMGrad2K

I just wish that something like the G27 would be available for the XB1 for this game.

Keivz_basic
Keivz_basic

I won't miss the black crush of FM 4. Couldn't get rid of it no matter how much I messed with my settings.

moesuir
moesuir

not a huge fan of racing sims, but at least X1 "WILL HAVE" a racing sim at launch ;)

charlieholmes
charlieholmes

You certainly don't have to be a gear head to love and appreciate speed, power, and beauty in cars! I'm getting a PS 4 first but am really hating that I'll have to wait awhile to get an XBONE to play Forza. Love and have all their past versions. They do it best in my opinion, better than Polyphony with Grand Turismo. GT just brings huge size in cars and tracks and often to its detriment.

Subaru1980
Subaru1980

Always been a die hard Forza Motorsport fan, I spent hour and hour with all three games on the 360. FM5 looks impressive. However it's sad to miss night racing with all the power Xbox One is delivering. A day/night cycle at Le Mans or the Nürburgring could have been epic.

Adavanter
Adavanter

Jeremy Clarkson is on the record for believing cars have a soul... and as silly as that is... can you deny it? There's something to be said about a car that's done and been through so many decades of use. I may be an atheist but sometimes the world still has a sense of awe to it. A history that just overwhelms you if you stop and really think about all that's come before.

Forza captures the spirit of this very well and I love Top Gear to boot! Can't wait for the 22nd. Thankfully the 15th will help pass the time :D

LexLas
LexLas

I'm a car guy, and a gamer. I did not see any muscle cars, thats one disappointment. Crash impact needs major improvement, i must feel that crash, glass shaterring on the screen, rubber tire pieces all over blowing out, ect. Wheres the car modification ? tune ups, color, tire upgrades, ect. Definitely cool game, and lots of extra good stuff, but needs more to impress, thats my opinion. But it does look good, just can be better in my opinion. Thats what i expect from a next gen any who. Cheers !

kkecan
kkecan

Hey guys what cars is at at 4:53-4:55. Dont recognize its interior but looks cool

timthegem
timthegem

Wait, isn't one hour long enough for Petit to complete a game and give it a stellar review? It worked for Gone Home and The Stanley Parable.

Molekh
Molekh

Everyone is assuming she was tasked with this preview, perhaps she just decided to try the game and share the experience, nothing wrong with that.

Disturbed_88
Disturbed_88

I love these kind of games because i love cars and racing in general.

Nice preview by Carolyn, but I can't believe Gamespot couldn't find someone who loves cars and/or racing to preview this...

punkpunker
punkpunker

just saw the full car setlist, dissapointed and probably the weakest of the bunch imo, not a system seller.

Addict187
Addict187

I love this site they get a person who has no intrest in cars to preview a game that is all about cars. She try's way to hard at sounding like she loves these games

Lord_Sesshy
Lord_Sesshy

If Forza had day & night cycles and off-road racing (I don't know why it doesn't, it already has so many 4x4 cars and trucks) I think it would be on par with GT. Don't get me wrong I like both games and even though Forza has a much better "campaign" I like all the extra type of races you get in GT

Mista4oewun4oe
Mista4oewun4oe

More hate? When I went to the X1 tour in my city the game looked fantastic. I'm starting to think that some of the people in the comments hasn't played this game at all or just spreading false information. 

DPYourLife
DPYourLife

I played this a couple of nights ago at an Xbox event in London, it didn't look great or wow me, looked like it could have been played on the 360; unless there was something wrong with the settings on the TV.

Dannystaples14
Dannystaples14

My problem with past Forza games was the fact that it was almost too clinical. 

I mean on Forza 3, you could turn the assists off and drive on Easy difficulty, strip past everyone at the first corner and win every time. Put it on Normal and you would strip past everyone at the second corner. Put it on Hard and you would be seeing tail lights the entire way through in last place.

Forza 4 did away with this by simply removing difficulty settings which kind of sorted this out a little but it was still a matter of fight for the front and if you have any general control over the car you stay there for the rest of the game. And that made it really boring.

The balance between a racing simulator and a bad difficulty system kind of ruined it overall. It is almost as if the realism of the game has up to this point over taken the ability to make a game truly realistic.

Halloll
Halloll

but does it have a moon rover?

lonesamurai1
lonesamurai1

@moesuir It's a great game but, it's not a racing sim it's a racing game racing sims are PC racers consoles are "Sim/Cades".

XxAK47xX
XxAK47xX

@Subaru1980 i would live to see day night cycles and weather(snow, rain, windy)

jT415Gz
jT415Gz

@LexLas Try the Need for Speed franchise for destruction.

sammoth
sammoth

@LexLas Wut ? Did you even watch the Launch Trailer ? There are also Car Packs.

Burgershtein
Burgershtein

@kkecan I think it is Lamborgini Aventador. Or Reventon. As far as i remember from Forza Horizon.

MigGui
MigGui

@timthegem didn't play them, but maybe they're, i don't know, shorter?

xxYetterxx
xxYetterxx

@Disturbed_88 Really, you can't believe it?  Who on gamespots roster seems like a gearhead to you?

Molekh
Molekh

@mertol871 And why are you still allowed to open your moronic mouth???

ray1man2hot
ray1man2hot

i didnt think injustice was a good game either when i got online people would let me beat them. it was too hard to get a win so i think it was a boring game because i was costantly losing. i should have to get better people not sit and cry about its too hard.

Lord_Sesshy
Lord_Sesshy

@Dannystaples14 Well hopefully with Forza 5's Drivatar thing (it downloads peoples actual driving characteristics close to your own into your game so it will be like you're racing online to keep it from getting predictable and boring but not to hard) it will fix the difficulty problem. (I felt the same way)

Halloll
Halloll

@Dannystaples14 Forza isn't exactly a racing sim though. it is more like a racing game with sim elements. Gran turismo is more sim than a game, maybe you should give it a try.

Dannystaples14
Dannystaples14

@Halloll I don't own a PS3. The last one I tried was A-spec and I must admit it was awesome, chance are if I already owned a PS3 I would already have tried it but Forza was all I had to choose from. I've seen my brother playing it but I've never sat down and actually played it myself.