Why first place doesn't matter in Forza Motorsport 5

By Andrew Yoon, Nov 06, 2013 9:15am PST

One of the most significant changes to Forza Motorsport 5 is the removed focus on being first. While that may seem sacrilegious in a racing game, series director Dan Greenawalt explained that removing the need to place in first makes for better racing.

"In most racing games, Forza included, the goal is to finish first. So you set the difficulty to a place where you can get in first some point in the game, and then you sit in first until you get bored," he explained. "We've changed it in Forza 5 so that you’re trying to get on the podium."

That means in Forza 5, you'll get just as much money for placing in 2nd or 3rd as you would for placing in 1st. Knowing that you don't always have to reach for pole position encourages players to tweak with the settings, which enable you to earn more. By turning off various assists and enabling simulated damage, you can earn additional cash bonuses. In my hands-on time with the game, I found myself turning off nearly every assist as I was able to get 3rd or 4th place in every race. The 25% boost in cash was certainly appreciated, and the racing was more thrilling by constantly trying to break through the pack.

Forza's cloud-based "Drivatars" go a long way to make racing satisfying. True to their promise, they do behave in ways that AI typically do not in racing games. "They act like people," Greenawalt proclaimed. "You're going to see some crazy shit. I saw a Drivatar double-fake me. It went to the outside, went back inside, and went underneath me in the corner. They're going to show off incredibly complex behavior, which makes the racing really good. But they're also going to make mistakes. They'll go on the grass, they'll hit other cars."

"The reason why we're focused on making you aim for the podium as opposed to first, it's so that you're always in great racing. Because shit happens in racing. For some reason 'shit happens' doesn't happen in racing games. In most racing games, it's usually a scripted group of cars racing around. You're not going to see that in Forza," he added.

And shit does happen. I saw cars bump into one another, take corners too hard, and become active hazards you have to avoid while racing. It certainly made passing other cars a far more interesting task.

Yet another tweak that fans will appreciate: every career route now earns the same amount of money, meaning you can continue developing a relationship with a car you love. "The career is no longer pushing you to the faster cars all the time. You can make the same amount of money in an early sport compact as you can in a GP. So, if you like the GTI, stay in it. If you like the Ferrari, stay in it. We're not telling you to like a car and then throw it away," Greenawalt said.

Of course, while cars may be able to earn the same amount of virtual money, cars are still priced differently--meaning those super-cars will still take quite a bit of effort to unlock. However, with every class of car able to earn the same amount, and players no longer needing to reach first to get the most amount of money, it should be easier to unlock more of Forza's impressive garage quickly.

Forza Motorsport 5 will be available at launch on Xbox One.

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