The Good: Fantastic visual experience, the best car models in existence, huge selection of cars, controls like a dream, Forza Vista is a revolutionary way to view cars, Top Gear narrators add character to an otherwise dull experience, auto-tune for cars clears away the stale air of manually tuning, plenty of assists, infinite rewinds makes the game less of a grind, community liveries are fantastic
The Bad: Only a few tracks drags the entire game down, small line between too easy and overly difficult, not much to do outside of racing, livery tool is daunting and requires a huge investment to make anything decent
The racing simulator has always been a tough one to win. Lately the series has somewhat died with Gran Turismo under performing since the fourth entry and losing the crown. Games like Dirt, Project Cars, and various other indie PC titles have taken over for the most part. Forza has been the new champion for quite a while and Forza 5 takes the genre to a whole new level of quality and love. This is the best racing sim I have ever played and that's coming from a die hard Gran Turismo fan.
My first racing simulator was Gran Turismo for PS1. It taught me about cars, and how to drive them, but it also taught me patience and how exciting it was to finish 100 laps in one sitting and win a million credit prize pool. It taught me to be a perfectionist and go for nothing but the gold. I have played many racing sims since that day in 1998 and haven't found one like it since. My first Forza game was Forza 3 as I didn't have an Xbox during the first two outings. I was happily playing Gran Turismo 3 and struggling with GT4. Forza 3 was okay to me and the same was with Forza 4. Nothing really stood out and both entries felt the same. Fast forward several years later and Forza 5 blew me out of the water.
It's not just the fidelity of Forza 5 on Xbox One, but the love and care that went into each car. This is the most realistic racing game I have ever even touched with perfectly modeled engines, being able to get into the cars, open the trunk, look at the dashboard etc. It's an exhilarating feeling and gets you giddy to actually start racing. Forza 5 has hundreds of cars to buy and I found myself buying a good 30 before I called it quits (more on why later). After getting into my first car I was astonished at how smooth the controls were, how easy the menus were to navigate, and how I was quickly advancing through each series.
Before entering each series, Top Gear hosts talk about that series and the famous cars within. It's wonderful to watch, listen, and learn as cars are fascinating to me and I love the history behind them. Once I got into my first car I was scared I had to tune it. Thankfully you can completely forgo this tedious chore and just have the game auto-tune your car to the required class limit. I never once had to step foot into the tuning section of the game which is fine with me as I feel this can be a chore if not done correctly. Some purists may get upset about this feature but it allows millions of other racing fans to be able to enjoy the game who otherwise wouldn't.
Once I got on the track I felt like I was driving in heaven. The cars handled so realistically and smoothly; the best racing controls I can ever remember. Gone are the kudos system of previous games and instead there's more of a regular race here where you just earn credits. There are unlimited rewinds for crashes which is a blessing as I get tired of restarting races because I screwed up. Purists may also hate this, but it's a welcome addition to racing sims as of late. You also only need to get into third place to get gold which seems like blasphemy but once you play you will realize that you don't always need first. I get tired of the racing sim grind of always needing first and this is a nice change of pace. Or course, higher difficulties require you to get gold so don't worry too much.
Once I finished a series I could complete extra races which range from 8-10 extra. Honestly, these become a chore as there's less than 12 tracks in the game. Repetition sets in before you finish the first league of races because you want gold all across the board. Earning XP for each manufacturer gives you more credit bonuses at the end of each race so you can buy cars faster. If you do these extra races in each series you won't ever have to worry about not having enough credits to buy cars. I was always able to buy exactly what I wanted and it was a nice change of pace from the racing sim grind.
Forza has been known for community input and in Forza 5 this includes liveries which are always awesome to put on your car. There are endless possibilities as Forza 5 has a huge tool to create your own looks on your car. It's deep and nearly endless when it comes to what you can create, but it's very daunting and requires dozens of hours of practice and an artists touch to create the best. If they are good enough you can even sell them on the marketplace which is interesting. When you buy a new car the top liveries are usually listed and I always found something to make my car stand out and look awesome.
Outside of Forza Vista (viewing the cars in real-time), Top Gear narrations, and driving each track there's nothing really left to the game. There's enough here to keep you busy for dozens of hours, but the track fatigue sets in fast and I got bored with the game after about 20 hours. I wanted to trudge on but the series started to feel the same after a while and I could NOT pay attention to driving tracks so I would space out for 7 minutes just to come back and flip through menus to space out again. That's usually not a good thing which had me coming back several hours a day to forcing myself to play once a month.
Forza 5 looks fantastic, in fact it's still one of the best looking games to date despite being on a console, but there's just not enough content to justify spending 50+ hours to perfect every event. There's plenty of cars, but non of that matters if there's not enough tracks to play on. There aren't even DLC tracks which is a real shame. My only other gripe is that after you turn off so many assists to make the game more challenging you hit a wall. Either it's too easy or way too hard. I turned off just enough assists to get some extra credit bonuses, but them I started upping the difficulty and turning more stuff off and it became a chore after that. Every car spun out of control and was terrible to drive unless I went and fine tuned each car for no assists. This start teetering into unfun territory for someone who just wants a realistic racing game without the chores tacked on.