So in my quest this year to become a more well rounded gamer the first place I branched out was to a genre I haven’t touched in over a decade. A racing game. Specifically the simulation racer. Granted my choices were a little limited at launch and I was getting a “free” game with the Mountain Dew promotion but it was still a branching out process for me because the old me would have gotten Dead Rising 3 for free as my launch game.
I came into Forza 5 having played exactly zero Forza my entire life. I maybe played a few hours of Grand Turismo over the years but the majority of my racing time has been in the Mario Kart verse, where to my credit I do dominate pretty well, but it is a far leap to a game like Forza. I booted up the game with zero expectations or research and dove in, within 5 minutes I was driving some Subaru around the Swiss Alps. Or at least it looked like I was driving around the Swiss Alps. See in Mario Kart you don’t really use the brake all too often because you can power slide any corner in the game, so with this mentality I hammered down the gas going into the first hairpin turn of the game. As I was getting ready to figure out my brake button on the fly to engage a slide with the car, something strange started to happen. My car automatically slowed down and gently went into the curve just barely scraping the guard rail at 30 mph. At first I was confused but I just kept driving, then I realized on the 2nd turn my car did the same thing. I had inadvertently discovered the game’s “Driver Assists” that basically make the game playable for a newcomer like myself who is used to barreling around corners at full speed with no consequences. About this time I noticed the driver assist line on the pavement that snaked and turned with the course showing me the best line my car should be on for optimal time as well as the changing color code of the line according to when I should press the brake, if I actually needed to press the brake…which I didn’t because the game was braking for me.
At first this all rubbed me in the wrong way. After about 3 races I turned every assist off in the game and fired up a race to which I promptly spun out multiple times, hugged guard rails on straight aways and started to get lapped by the computer controlled AI. Apparently for me driver assists were going to be mandatory for awhile until I actually learned to drive. Kinda like your driver’s ed teacher having that foot pedal connected to your brake. You don’t have to brake and your teacher will do it for you, but you’re not really learning how to drive then, plus you’re probably failing the class. I turned everything back on and raced a few more races with this mentality of doing my best with my assists doing the rest and I felt like maybe I was learning to drive a little bit.
At this point I had earned enough money to buy a new car so I went out and bought the same make and model of what I drive in real life, a Cadillac CTS. There is an ample amount of what I’ll call car porn in this game. Every cutscene or transition shows your perfectly washed and waxed vehicle from multiple angles, the gleam of the chrome, the iridescence of the paint, and its all super pretty on the Xbox One. What really impressed me though was when I purchased the CTS and took the car into “Garage Mode” and looked at the interior it was a perfect 1 to 1 match with my own car. Right down to the stitching on the seats or the silk screening on the center console stack. No detail was spared and I figured it must have been this good for every one of the hundreds of cars in the game.
I raced a few more circuits with the CTS, bought a Dodge Challenger named “The Wolf” that had been custom skinned with a timber wolf howling at the moon. Then I bought a Mini Cooper that I custom skinned with the Union Jack. I felt like I was making progress, but what I really wanted was what everyone wants in a racing game and thats speed. I had my eye on the Lambos and the Porsches and some of the more exotic super cars but unlocking some of these cars is a real grind when you’re earning in the thousands of dollars per race and the fanciest cars are costing in the millions. It does give you something to work for though and one of the coolest parts of the game I liked was that your car races for you when you’re offline in a “drivatar” mode. My friends that also have Forza see my CTS show up in their races once in a while and depending on how it does in that race using the power of the cloud and my driving tendencies my “drivatar” will earn me some money towards that next exotic.
I still haven’t unlocked one of those exotics but I’m getting closer. I’ve slowly been turning assists off 1 by 1 as well instead of all 12 at once and the game rewards you with a higher payout the more real driving you are doing. Its actually a pretty neat little system that has been programmed into the game and gives you a chance to play a simulation racer from day 1 even when you don’t know what you’re doing. I probably won’t go out and get the next Forza 6 (if there is one) but I’d be happy to play at a friends house when the time comes. Thats probably my relationship with simulation racers and thats OK, but make no mistake Forza 5 is a good one.