With the hullabaloo of the next generation console launch pretty much over, we’ve had some time to sit down with the launch games and actually play them. The overall quality of the launch games is patchy, but if I had to pick my favorite, it’d be Forza Motorsport 5. That accolade comes with a huge disclaimer of course; I’m a major car geek and I've got a soft spot for racing games. That huge grain of salt aside, FM5 is easily one of the best looking launch titles, and if you enjoy spending time just gawking at the cars on display, you’re in for a treat.
The handling model feels similar to previous games, it’s certainly more simulation minded than other racing games, but it’s not crushingly realistic. Surprisingly, one of my favorite additions is actually related to the hardware. The LT/RT trigger specific force feedback in the Xbox One Controller is great and actually helps to better communicate the cars’ traction during heavy braking and acceleration.
Autovista has become Forzavista, and unlike FM4, every car in the game can now be explored. While it remains a bit of a novelty, it’s still entertaining for car geeks like myself that love packing their brain with auto trivia. Strangely, the voice over for a lot of the new cars in Forzavista isn’t handled by the Top Gear crew anymore, and even stranger, much if it is extremely generic. A few of them don’t even mention the car you’re looking at, instead opting for a dry reading of the make's history.
If you’re wondering what exactly Jeremy and company are doing to earn their check, look no further than the race series you participate in. Most of the race series are now introduced by one of the Top Gear cast members. For example, the old school hot hatch race is preceded with a brief explanation of what a hot hatch is and some details about the cars you’ll be racing in the series.
The Drivatar system, while amazing on paper, isn’t a revelation, mostly because the vast majority of your friends drive the same way, that is, poorly. Most races become a game of bumper cars until you pull into the top 6 at which point there’s enough breathing room for you to actually drive. It’s also difficult to tell how accurate the Drivatars really are unless you spend large sums of times watching your friends play. The vast schedule of DLC vehicles on their way is also easy to criticize, especially given the game’s already severely reduced roster.
So, is Forza Motorsport 5 the best next-gen launch game? It’s one of the few launch titles that really looks, and feels, like a next-gen experience, and while mechanically it’s not a huge leap forward for the series, it sets some incredibly solid groundwork for things to come. And together, that’s enough to make it the best in my book.