Forza Motorsport 5 review: auto-topia

Forza Motorsport 5 simultaneously captures the simulation racing experience and the arcade atmosphere, thanks to its Drivatar system that successfully brings a multiplayer experience to nearly every aspect of the game.

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There's no sensation quite like stepping behind the wheel of a new car for the first time. You never forget the first time you rev your new ride's engine and, likewise, I won't forget the first time I took control of my first car in Forza Motorsport 5. Developer Turn 10's Xbox One launch title comes across as a true passion project, seamlessly combining many of the racing genre's best qualities.

First impressions are everything, and Forza 5 wastes no time in dazzling with its crisp, luminescent visuals. I'm not a car junkie by any means, but the attention to detail and the Top Gear narration made it hard not to become one.

Beyond shiny next-gen graphics, perhaps the greatest addition to Forza 5 is the new cloud-based Drivatar system. Turn 10 proudly boasts that there are no AI racers--only opponents that adopt a player's driving style and habits across tracks they've participated in. Though I was initially skeptical, I found some distinctly "human" behaviors throughout my time with Forza. For example, certain drivers would overshoot turns and make mistakes in calculating corners.

Of course, what the Drivatar truly adds to the racing experience is that you can no longer predict exactly what your opponent will do. Think you can take the inside track and pass opponents on a long turn? Chances are someone else has had the same idea and it will show up in their Drivatars. Think you're on the right path by following the helpful guideline laid out on the track? Get ready to fight other drivers for that space. Drivatar racers prove to be every bit as ruthless as humans, recklessly plowing into you and trying to spin you out. They can be overly aggressive, which seems like an accurate portrayal of how other players approach the game.

Through Drivatars, I always felt like I was in the middle of a multiplayer session, finding no real difference between driving against real humans in Multiplayer. In fact, I found myself gravitating back towards the career, as it proved to be faster than waiting for multiplayer's long setups and lengthy intermissions.

The Career is structured with numerous leagues, each taking a different class of car. While I wasn't able to take my starter car into every league, I quickly amassed enough credits to purchase cars eligible for different leagues. While there were plenty of options to choose from, however, I don't think the game did a good enough job in explaining which cars best qualified for which league. For example, I jumped into a "B" class league, where I saw a notification that I could afford a car that would qualify. When I went into the interface to buy a car, there was little help on which car would qualify or why it would be best suited to this league. For newcomers like myself, this process proved a bit intimidating.

However, once I got acclimated to the Career mode's layout, I enjoyed the five and ten race sets, as well as the option to participate in unlockable bonus races. In continuing to utilize the Drivatar system, each race encouraged me to chase after the game's leaderboards, assigning me rival Gamertags with lap times to beat. It really helped further bring the multiplayer atmosphere to a single-player game mode.

The more I ran through Career, the more I was able to marvel at Forza's immersive environments. Real-world environments are captured in great detail. However, as much effort as Turn 10 put into each track and into capturing the sunlight-driven visuals, it's unfortunate that Forza 5 doesn't feature night racing or weather effects. I'd be interested to see how the studio could apply its talents to moonlight and storm effects, but sadly, every race in Forza 5 is perfectly bathed in sunshine.

Once I stopped racing, I had a chance to purchase cars and take a grand showroom tour of each one through the Forzavista mode. This mode helps demonstrate how much love Turn 10 has for cars, offering players a chance to explore every aspect of their vehicle and even hear fascinating narrated facts about each car. Anyone with a passing interest in cars will find this intriguing and it encouraged me to unlock as many cars as I could.

Unfortunately, unlocking a bulk of the cars in Forza 5 is a truly daunting task. There are well over three dozen cars that exceed the cost of 1 million in-game credits. To put that number into perspective, I'd only earn about 6,000 credits for each finished race and my Drivatar would bring in another 5,000 or so each night. With cars costing such an outrageous amount, getting access to the higher-end cars becomes a tremendous grind, unless the player wants to shell out real money for tokens, a separate currency entirely that relies on real money. With the token exchange rate at 100 for every dollar, unlocking a 6 million dollar car for 9,800 tokens becomes insanely expensive. The microtransaction route is especially egregious, given that this is already a full-priced retail game. Only the most devoted of players will be able to unlock top-tier racing vehicles, but Microsoft and Turn 10 have made the idea of completing an entire car collection impossible, unless significant amounts of additional money is involved. This idea is unsettling at best and utterly abusive at worst.

The game's microtransactions are a blight on an otherwise excellent-playing game. Forza Motorpsort 5 is a true visual showcase for Xbox One, regardless of your interest in cars. Drivatars prove to be a winning addition to the franchise, ensuring every race is thrilling. Stepping into the virtual cockpit of these spectacularly detailed cars, Forza 5 is a love letter for car enthusiasts. It's a shame, really, that most players will never be able to see everything the game has to offer. [8]


This review is based on early Xbox One code provided by the publisher. Forza Motorsport 5 is now available for Xbox One at retail and for download on Xbox Live for $59.99. The game is rated E.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty

  • reply
    November 27, 2013 11:30 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Forza Motorsport 5 review: auto-topia.

    Forza Motorsport 5 simultaneously captures the simulation racing experience and the arcade atmosphere, thanks to its Drivatar system that successfully brings a multiplayer experience to nearly every aspect of the game.

    • reply
      November 27, 2013 11:50 AM

      I'm not a big simulation driving fan, but I'm enjoying Forza 5. It is frustrating that I'll never get to enjoy some of the expensive cars because I'm not going to play it enough and I'm certainly not going to spend tens of dollars on a single car.

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      November 27, 2013 11:56 AM

      Nice review Ozzie I agree. For me Need for speed rivals is way better(I play it on the PC maxed in multi screen), I think Need for speed rivals is amazing racer and is racer of the year no question, the details, options, day and night, weather cycles, gameplay, graphics, progression, two factions, open world, AI, sound, basically everything is amazing. Most importantly once you start playing it is very hard to stop.

      What do you think Forza 5 or NFS R? Which do you prefer?

      Odd I would of thought Forza would of blown me away but it didn't NFS did in so many lvls.

      What is it with all the third party games being better then first party games? Is it just me?

      Also what the heck is up with MS trying to push micro transactions in most of their first party games, had no idea they where going to do this(maybe I missed the memo). Stop that shit EA got slammed hard core for it in DS3 I hope we all don't excuse MS for it. Micro transactions makes me want to just not get any game that has them, it really sucks when the game is designed around it.

      I hope they remove the MT.

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        November 27, 2013 12:00 PM

        HAY GUYS WHAT IS BETTER NO PHYSICS FULL CONTACT HOCKEY OR BOBSLEDDING, YOU MUST CHOOSE ONE ONLY!

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          November 27, 2013 12:09 PM

          Uh there is a lot of physics in NFS what are you talking about, sure it is not the same type of physics lvl as a precision sim racer but it has a lot come on, man.

          Is there something wrong with comparing the overall experience of a sim with a arcade racer?

          They are both racers if you play both of them I am sure anyone will like either one better, if your hard core sim you may hate arcade racers but if you enjoy both then you might prefer one over the other or maybe you love them both.

          No one said you had to pick one, dude relax.

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            November 27, 2013 12:22 PM

            Which do you like more? Sounds like you only want him to pick one.

            They are both racers One is an arcade combat racer. GRID is an arcade racer.



            You can like one over the other, you can say one is a better experience for what you like, but you can't say one is a better racer than the other. That's like saying Street Fighter has better level design than Fight Night.

            Wat.

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          November 27, 2013 12:45 PM

          Um.. Forza isn't a sim. Unless its an arcade racer sim.

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            November 27, 2013 12:50 PM

            Forza is sim-lite at worst. That's when you compare it to GPL or iRacing. Compared to full F1 or GTR sims, it too, would be a sim.

            Arcade racers typically have additional game elements that simply don't exist or make non-efficient driving faster than realistic racing.

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              November 27, 2013 1:19 PM

              To me it's a sim or it isn't. Call it sim lite if you like but to me its casual.

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                November 27, 2013 1:21 PM

                That's a quite arbitrary decision to make. Either it is or it isn't? Come on.

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                November 27, 2013 1:46 PM

                A real sim has a dunk tank below you for the moments when you crash into water and you have to escape the vehicle.

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                November 27, 2013 2:10 PM

                Well, let's see what Forza has:

                Accurate tire modeling: Toe/camber affects wear, accurate heat mapping based on contact patches, contact patch simulation, tire deformation
                Accurate physical modeling: 4-point suspension simulation, applies to all players and AI cars, dynamic model with rigid and soft physics simulation, different model for chassis vs suspension and g-force persistence, and telemetry data.

                So, what exactly is not sim about Forza?

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                November 27, 2013 4:30 PM

                black and white are the only shades of grey!!

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          November 27, 2013 1:11 PM

          I am also passive-aggressive about dumb shit.

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        November 27, 2013 12:07 PM

        They're two different experiences, as NFS:R is all about chasing down your friends and purposely wrecking people, whereas Forza's more about who's the better racer. I love them both.

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          November 27, 2013 12:16 PM

          Cool, they are different for sure but both good.

          [In NFS] Didn't you play the main faction none cop in SP like Forza where it is pure racing and you out race the opponent. If you try and smash the opponent you will loose it doesn't help(I tried that is not the mechanic they have). In the cop campaign that is a totally different story, you have to take down the racer which is very challenging not only do you need ace driving skill you also need to acquirer car take down skills which are far from brainless, it is tough.

          I wonder how Drive Club and The Crew will be next year totally looking forward to those.

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            November 27, 2013 12:18 PM

            I watched about an hour of someone playing as a cop and nothing he did seemed like it took acquired skills. Hit them with a few stun weapons then hit them going fast and they would crash.

            Not saying it's not fun because the game does look fun, just not really super skill based.

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              November 27, 2013 12:24 PM

              Yeah, cop is really easy to jump into. First time I tried it at E3, I took top honors among cops and outscored everyone in the room. If anything, though, that makes the whole deal more fun. Racers need to use their skills, while cops can play with cool toys.

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                November 27, 2013 1:22 PM

                That's the beauty of Rivals. Play as a cop on easy street or work it out as a racer. They did a good job of making it fun for all styles of play. Kudos to the developers

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        November 27, 2013 12:25 PM

        Forza has had tokens (micro-transactions) for the past two versions (FM4 and Horizon)... this is nothing new to spend real money to buy in-game cars.

        The boost thing is new as far as I can remember, but it's still not needed.

        You've never really needed to own every car in the game, except with Forza 2 there were a few achievements tied to owning all of a specific make at one time.

        Sign up for Forza rewards and you'll get regular credit bonuses and gift cars (I've already been sent two cars).

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          November 27, 2013 1:16 PM

          This is what I don't get, all of a sudden people are mad you can't own every car in the game without work. It's always been like that except in F1 and 2 and maybe 3, you couldn't pay to unlock! Why is it a problem now other than wanting to hate micro transactions which I get ??

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            November 27, 2013 2:05 PM

            It's a problem because the prices for cars weren't as bad and you would rake in, on average, $35K-$50K for 3 lap races in Forza 4. In Horizon, the payouts were even higher, when I finished the story mode, I had over $20 million in credits while already having about 30 cars.

            Sure, it would be hard to get every last car in the game, but getting most of them was doable. Aside from the DLC cars, I have almost every car in Horizon and I've only put in about 50-60 hours. I have enough money for the rest but I'm working my way through the 1000 club. Same deal with Forza 4, aside from the 5 most expensive cars in the game, every other car was reasonable without having to ruin the game experience.

            I currently have about $400K in Forza 5, but about $230K was given to me from being a Tier 5 Forza rewards member. The gameplay is amazing, it's just that the economy has been trashed.

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            November 27, 2013 2:08 PM

            People don't like it when you raise prices and decrease wages.

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          November 27, 2013 1:20 PM

          I'm sad I am only a level 3 forza reward person. I need like 600 more points to hit level 4 which gets you a free Ferrari F12 and like 50k credits.

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        November 27, 2013 12:42 PM

        It seems like the press is being extra nice to the xbone. They could destroy it if they wanted to.

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        November 27, 2013 12:59 PM

        Isn't Need for Speed Rivals locked to 30 (and if you unlock I with a command line flag the game literally plays twice as fast)?

        I saw a youtube video of NFS:R and it was hilariously bad.

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          November 27, 2013 1:03 PM

          Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDA37BmvNwM

          This pretty much made me not want to play that game.

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            November 27, 2013 1:23 PM

            If you have more fun bashing it, cool! Its a good racer though.

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              November 27, 2013 1:29 PM

              Racers need to be at 60, IMO, so even without playing it I can pretty safely dismiss it out of hand. That hilariously patronizing UI doesn't help its case (contrast with Forza, where they immediately just drop you into a race).

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                November 27, 2013 2:03 PM

                Burnout and NFS have done this with the over lays before as a way of forcing tutorials and how to play when you first start, sure that sucks but it only does it at the beginning. Yes I bitched about it too(past post), but like I said I got over it since it only happens at the start and now I love the game.

                Had I waved it off because of that I would of missed a epic racer. Put this way Burnout Paradise does the same thing(but way longer) and has a really freaking long intro that is un skip able yet everyone worships that game and don't complain so yeah...

                Just saying, up to you, what ever.

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            November 27, 2013 1:57 PM

            That dude is an idiot. I am total stickler for 60FPS that is why I get good GPUs and more than one of them, but the game plays absolutly fine in 30fps for what ever reason, it is one of the few 30fps PC games where you can't notice it or gives you a mild motion sickness if you know what I mean if you are a 60FPS snob like me.

            What ever you do don't try the commands it breaks the game it is not meant for unlocking the FPS the devs are working on a patch those commands do other things to the game it is not meant for it. I paly @ 30fps just fine.

            Well for what ever it is worth NFSR is one of my favorite racers now and I make it a point that I always play everything in 60fps. So take that how ever you want.

            Yes it stupid it does not have 60FPS out of the box no one is saying it is ok, but that doesn't mean the game sucks ballz what so ever it does nothing to your gameplay or wreck the game. Yes, @ 60FPS it will be even better but it is amazing as is.

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              November 27, 2013 2:52 PM

              I'm surprised to hear you say that. Maybe they have some motion blur which smooths out the low framerate?

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              November 28, 2013 12:52 AM

              I think 60Hz is a big deal even in non-racers (the 30Hz in Killzone bugs me, if it was at least running at 720p and looking much better I would "get it", but now I feel like they sacrificed control and smoothness to make things a bit sharper which really rubs me the wrong way). For racing games though it really is a hard rule. Anything where you're expected to hurl through the world at fast speeds needs to be silky smooth so I can react faster.

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                November 28, 2013 5:44 PM

                wow. Troll harder

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                November 29, 2013 5:32 PM

                What if the input thread is processing inputs at 60hz but only rendering is running at 30hz? We're talking about modern game engines, things don't happen in lockstep anymore. All the different subsystems could be running at different rates. It wouldn't surprise me if input was running at 60hz since it's really responsive on the PS4.

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        November 27, 2013 4:37 PM

        Odd, I played NFS rivals and thought it was one of the worst driving games I've ever played... All of the cars feel sluggish and slow.

        I'm not buying Forza 5 because of the lack of respect for the players, but I would not put a NFS game (except for the Shift games) anywhere in the same ballpark as Forza and Gran Turismo. Need For Speed games are arcade racers, not driving simulators.

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      November 27, 2013 12:04 PM

      I would love to play this game, too bad its not on PS4. Too bad Forza I own 3 of your games and countless DLC's/ expansions. I'd buy it in a heart beat if it came out on PS4. Microsoft went too far with this console and you lost my purchase.

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        November 27, 2013 12:09 PM

        2 bad Forza, you assholes.

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        November 27, 2013 2:11 PM

        How did they go too far? After reversing all of their policies, the Xbox One is now near identical to the PS4 with slightly less powerful hardware and a Kinect included with every box that is now no longer required to be plugged in.

        I know the $100 was too much for people and I respect that, but to me, the functions Kinect has already are enough to justify the price variance. I'll get shit for that last sentence but it's the truth, the fact that I can control the console without ever touching the controller is amazing. It turn itself on along with my TV, it logs me in just by looking at me, and I can search for music while I doing something else.

        Bit of honesty though, Forza is what really did it for me, otherwise I would've waited until Titanfall just like I'm waiting for inFamous to get the PS4.

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          November 28, 2013 8:52 PM

          Its not the $100 its what Microsoft did, they tried to basically destroy the used game market and after getting so much flack they reversed it. I cant trust them after that and I wont be suprised when they reinstate those policy's in the future. Its close but not identical, the PS4 has better guts DDR3 vs DDR5 is night and day. Forza almost kept me with XBOX but after seeing it the PS4 is the better system. Im not American so most of that "cool" entertainment media center stuff would have no effect on me.

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          December 2, 2013 11:19 AM

          I'm just the opposite. Had pre-orders for both consoles. Between no DLNA support on the PS4 and Forza 5 (the only decent release title, imho, of the two) costing hundreds of dollars to play completely--I decided instead to spend the cash on PC upgrades. As it stands now the next-gen consoles seem to be about shaking every nickle and dime possible out of our pockets.

          At some point there will be decent exclusives on the new consoles and then it might be time to buy...

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        November 27, 2013 2:59 PM

        A Microsoft franchise on a Sony console?

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      November 27, 2013 1:30 PM

      If I had one magical game wish I would bring Forza 5 over the PS4 and then I would be back to having zero desire to own an Xbox One right now.

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        November 27, 2013 1:40 PM

        Same here :(

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        November 28, 2013 12:44 AM

        This should be on pc. The E3 build was running on Gtx 680 , I know MS has abandon PC gaming but if this was on pc i would pick it up right away. ( still wouldn't buy in game micro-transaction )

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        November 29, 2013 9:51 AM

        I am hearing from other reviewers that this game is really bad. Terrible multiplayer and broken AI so it is no fun to play either way. I hear Forza horizon being recommended while they call the new one unfinished, broken, etc.

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        December 3, 2013 7:08 AM

        After hearing about the microstransactions and lack of timer in DR3 i now have zero motivation, cheers Microsoft for saving me £500!

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      November 27, 2013 4:34 PM

      The game's microtransactions are a blight on an otherwise excellent-playing game.

      A blight. Blighttown. Blightgarage?

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      November 28, 2013 12:42 AM

      yeah $60 dollar for a single car .. not happening.

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        November 28, 2013 8:53 PM

        Its a steal, think of how much it would be to buy it in real life.

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      December 3, 2013 8:09 PM

      No way in Hades I'm buying it now.
      Goodbye Forza! You were fun prior to your programers screwing it all up by pulling an EA, releasing a game that will never be fully playable without hundreds of dollars of DLC.
      Thank you you Turn 10 for f$cking up a perfectly good franchise!