Forza 5 is a superb demonstration of what the Xbox One can do, only let down by annoying in-app token purchase malarkey.
Forza 5: On the plus side
Hang on a minute. I’m not a petrolhead. What on earth am I doing reviewing a serious driving game?
I feel as though it’s quite important to get that qualifier out of the way upfront, because it’s a very important distinction when you’re talking driving. In the real world, a car to me is a functional device that gets me from A to B. Some are a little nicer than others, but I’m in no way a fanatic.
Nothing wrong with being a fanatic, I hasten to add. I’m passionate about technology, but plenty of people view their computers and smartphones as simple tools. I’m that way about cars, is all I’m really saying.
This mostly follows through to video games, too. You’re far more likely to see me playing a Need For Speed title than a Gran Turismo, or for that matter a Forza game to date. To give some context, the last “serious” driving game that I was especially passionate about was Formula One for the Playstation One.
Good times. But that was a long time ago.
It’s a testament to the overall quality of Forza 5 that I’ve spent so much of my gaming time over the last week playing it while slowly being buried alive under a growing pile of next generation games. Logically speaking, I should be spending far more time finishing up Dead Rising 3, for example.
Instead, I find myself time and time again gracing the tracks of Forza 5, although not all that gracefully. Again, remember; I’m not a “realistic” driving game player, although Forza 5 somewhat skates around that given the large number of driving assists on offer, as well as the general modelling and racing model. It’s not quite hardcore serious all the way stuff, but it’s equally not exactly an arcade style either.
The presentation is excellent throughout. If you’re after a game to wow somebody with what the Xbox One can do, Forza 5 is definitely it, whether you’re talking the car porn of sweeping around the vehicles in your garage, the Top Gear voiceovers for each driving class, or the attention to detail in every scratch, ding and scrape that your car ends up with at the conclusion of each race.
Again, that could just be the way that I drive, but this also highlights one of Forza 5’s interesting innovations; the Driveatar. A silly word, no doubt, but the idea is that it analyses your driving style and creates a virtual clone of you that pops up in races for other players. It’s an extension of multiplayer that doesn’t require you (in theory) to actually be present, with what appears to be a strong focus on your friends list first and foremost.
Forza 5: On the minus side
It’s at this point that I’m unsure about whether I should apologise for the appalling driving I’m sure my Driveatar is doing right this minute in somebody’s game.
According to the ingame stats, it’s driven in more races than I have, and I’m sure it’s a pretty terrible driver. I do have to reserve a little judgement here, though, because most of the Driveatars I’ve faced, including a couple from journalist colleagues who I’m certain are far better virtual drivers than I am have been mostly woeful drivers. Perhaps that’s a matter of getting more AI information onboard, or perhaps it’s a question of appropriate skill levels. It’s hard to say, but hopefully the Driveatar concept isn’t all hot air and hype.
Then there’s the question of content. I’m aware that Forza 5 has fewer cars and tracks than Forza 4, apparently because of the desire to make it a launch title. It’s a little galling then, that some vehicles are day one download content. I’m not a huge fan of day one DLC, simply because it’s hard to feel as though it’s not double dipping. In Forza 5’s case, though, the double dipping is more persistent than that.
The very first time I went to buy a new car, the game asked me if I wanted to buy it with credits, or with tokens. Credits are earned in-game for racing well, winning, continual usage of a particular brand of vehicle — basically playing the game, in other words.
Tokens are virtual currency that you buy, although following the model provided by drug dealers everywhere, you get a few tokens upfront to get you hooked.
It’s at this point I’d like to grab a digital copy of this site, roll it up, grab Microsoft and Turn 10 by the nose and give them both a solid whacking.
NO! BAD MICROSOFT!
Now, go and sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done. Oh, stop whining.
You can also use tokens to accelerate your driver levelling, so it very much is a case of “pay money to win”, and that’s not a good thing, especially in what is, before you forget, a full priced game.
What’s that, Turn 10? EA does this all the time with its sports games?
Well, yes, that is true, but if EA jumped off a cliff, would you do it too? Get back in the corner.
Update: It’s been pointed out to me that previous Forza titles also had unlock tokens. I’m reminded about an axiom relating to the number of wrongs needed to make a right.
On the very minor niggles front, if you don’t like Clarkson and company, you’re a bit stuck, because their narrated bits play every single time you start their events. Also, I’ve already beaten the digital Stig. This should not, logically speaking, be possible.
Forza 5: Pricing
Forza 5’s retail price is around the $89.95 mark in Australia.
Token pricing ranges from $1.35 for 100 tokens all the way up to $139.95 — yes, that’s right, quite a bit more than the RRP of the game itself — for 20,000 tokens.
Forza 5: Fat Duck verdict
On the one hand, Forza 5 is easily the standout Xbox One launch title, and I say that from the perspective of somebody who isn’t a huge real world driving simulator fan. It’s fun, it’s well balanced to keep you hooked, and it looks superb. I probably would have finished Dead Rising 3 and got a lot more sleep this week if it weren’t for that fact.
On the other hand, that tokens business feels very much like the next-gen thin end of the wedge. It’s one thing to have virtual currency and IAP in a low-cost/no-cost game. Having it in a full-priced game from the get-go shows how these models are becoming hybrids. It probably makes sense on a beancounter’s spreadsheet somewhere, but it’s bad news for gamers. You don’t have to buy tokens to progress at least, but it’s very strongly encouraged — and I do wish it wasn’t.