Forza Motorsport 6 Preview - E3 2015
Simulation racing franchise adds night time and rain effects
The Forza Motorsport franchise has been a dominant force in the genre of simulation racing ever since its inception. Being an exclusive franchise for Micosoft's Xbox platform has also likely helped the team at Turn 10 to fine tune the experience with direct support from the console maker. From deep integration with Xbox Live to the Kinect-focused Forzavista feature, this racing franchise has been going steady with appearances every two or three years. At E3 2015, we got to check out the latest entry – Forza Motorsport 6.
Our demo was hosted by Bill Giese, creative director on the game, although franchise vets Brian Ekberg and Dan Greenawalt were also present. FM6 was said to be the result of two years of work at Turn 10 – since the more arcade-focused Forza Horizon franchise is primarily developed at Playground Games. The game uses the latest iteration of the Forzatech engine, with the goal of running at 1080p and 60fps, but this time with the added environmental effects, as night racing and rain are being introduced. More on that a little later. Forzavista mode will return – this time with an impressive score of over 400 cars. Players will be able to walk around and interact with all of these vehicles, and it's a big jump from FM5's 26 cars.
FM6 promises to be the biggest game in the franchise so far, as the developers have taken time to learn from player feedback and provide as much gameplay diversity as possible – from career mode to multiplayer to free play. Over 80 car manufacturers are in the game, and there will be 26 unique destinations to race at.
The new career mode, dubbed Stories of Motorsport, plays out as 5 different volumes, each being essentially a standalone campaign experience. Each volume includes 3 race series, and each series has various divisions of cars. As has been the case, the developers want to provide the freedom of choice to the player - so you have a number of different car options for the same division. Then there's the Showcase events, one-off races that you can complete at any time which focus on specific cars or manufacturers. There's over 80 such events to undertake, ranging from a passing challenge to trying to beat The Stig's times.
Another new feature is called Mod Slots, which are various challenges that the players can take on. For example you could start in last place or play without rewinds, and if you still succeed, a bigger reward awaits. This optional feature hopes to give players more reason to return to the game and discover something new. You can also still customize your driving assists to ensure that the game is tailored to your desired difficulty.
Rain has been at the forefront of FM6's promotional material, as the developers know it has been a highly requested feature for a while now. After last year's Forza Horizon 2 included rain, it was in the cards that the simulation series will also adapt it. The challenge with adding rain to FM6 was to keep the game running at high resolution and framerate, while also making it look good and simulating its effect on the tracks and cars. Each puddle on the track is said to be simulated, so cars traveling through them will be dynamically affected. Even the strips on the side of the track go from sticky when dry to slippery when it's raining, The developers said they have worked to create unique properties for each surface in the game, of which148 are driveable.
When adding rain into the game, the goal was to recreate the thrill of racing not only against other opponents, but against nature itself. As the water droplets on your windshield move faster as you drive faster, or that moment when you start to lose control and feel the car slip – that's the kind of thrill developers are hoping to recreate. When we got to go hands-on with the game, the huge puddles on the tracks were indeed impressive and looked rather realistic. According to the developers, the team actually took the time to see where the puddles would form on the real tracks, and added that to the game.
As for night racing – it doesn't necessarily make the actual racing more difficult, but the strain on the driver certainly increases. There are various levels of darkness as well – some tracks such as Daytona are very well lit, while the back long stretch of LeMans is completely pitch black. Developers also say that the tarmac will be cooler at night, thus producing a different level of grip, enough to affect your lap times.
Driveatars, Forza's virtual AI opponents, continue to evolve in FM6. Everything that the team has learned of player behaviours from FM5 and FH2 will be brought into the new entry. Player tendencies, such as late breaking or early acceleration, will be used to further recreate the nuances of a real opponent. Due to fan requests, Driveatars will also be made more professional, thus less likely to knock you off the track – even if your friend usually would. There will be a setting that you can adjust to ensure the AI doesn't become overly aggressive.
The multiplayer segment continues to be a priority, offering a variety of events and ways to play with others. There will be new competitive Leagues - restricted championship events for all skills levels that aim to provide strict rules and ensure a level racing field. With up to 24 cars per race, things are sure to get intense. But if you'd like to engage the community in other ways, Turn10 will allow the import of car designs and tunes from FM5 and FH2.
We got to play through a couple of races in FM6 using the new Xbox One Elite controller (which feels quite nice, by the way). The racing itself was fine – the fine tuned gameplay in Forza hasn't exactly ever been a cause for concern. We did a daytime race in Rio with the new Ford GT, and then a rain race with an Audi TT5. On the wet track, you can certainly feel the difference in handling and the nuances of grip that the developers have tried to recreate. Going off-track spells certain doom as it's very hard to recover from. The rain and puddles did look quite good and felt realistic when the car interacted with them.
Following the somewhat underwhelming Xbox One debut for Forza Motorsport 5, we are hopeful that FM6 will be an improvement. All that we saw of the game at E3 certainly points to that – the new rain and night time effects, the simulation, the racing itself – it's all looking very promising indeed. As long as the team at Turn10 can avoid some of their career mode and economy missteps from the previous game, Forza Motorsport 6 may well be the true first entry for the franchise on the new console generation when it launches this September only on Xbox One.