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    Forza Motorsport 5

    Rating: 3.5 – Good

    Top Grind

    I have a fairly limited history with the Forza franchise. I played Forza Motorsport 3 on Xbox 360, and I thought that it was adequate, though not much else beyond that. Forza Motorsport 5 is a game that I’ve owned since the Xbox One launched, yet I haven’t really dove into it until just recently. After having played it quite significantly, I can say that, again, it’s "okay", but it’s outclassed by plenty of other racing games on the market.

    Forza 5 is the eighth generation debut of the franchise. It tries to make heavy use of the Xbox Live improvements that Xbox One takes advantage of, and it also tries to use Kinect in a meaningful way as well, but otherwise it could have been a last generation game and no one would have batted an eye.

    The game doesn’t even come close to the graphical capabilities of the Xbox One. Take a look at Ryse: Son of Rome, for instance. That game is absolutely gorgeous, and is still, to this day, the best-looking console game ever made. Forza 5 honestly doesn’t look like that much of an improvement over Forza 3. That doesn’t mean that the cars don’t look insanely good–they DO–but perhaps the racing genre has hit a plateau, and there is no more significant room for improvement in terms of the visuals.

    The cars are gorgeous, the tracks look great, and everything has a real, authentic feel to it in typical Forza fashion. The level of detail has definitely been improved, and while impressive, doesn’t really mean much since you will be focused on looking ahead instead of staring at the intricacies of the inside of your car. The weather effects are absolutely uncanny, which is something that I really enjoyed in Forza 3 as well. The environments around the tracks have a lot more to them, though I did notice some pop-in issues in the especially dense areas.

    The soundtrack is lacking and the narration is also weak. The narrators in the game consist of people from the extremely popular TV show Top Gear, but since I don’t care about Top Gear, the narrators are just people that are constantly interrupting the flow of gameplay to tell me a lot of unnecessary things about the cars and tracks. For hardcore racing and Top Gear fans, this might be a cool feature, but for someone like me, it is intrusive and annoying.

    The presentation all around is lacking. The game just feels…bare. I had a similar issue with Forza 3. I’m not saying it feels bare from lack of content, but the way that everything is laid out makes the game have a vanilla sort of taste. There is actually a ton of content here, it’s just hidden away or presented in boring-looking menu tiles, which is a mistake.

    Now it’s time to address the elephant in the room–the microtransactions. Forza 5 has been heavily criticized for its extreme use of microtransactions, and I have to say that I am in the camp that also has a problem with it. Microtransactions themselves are not a big deal, but when they become intrusive, that is when they start to annoy me. Forza 5 gives players the option to purchase tokens with real money to then boost how quickly they are leveling up. Leveling up without the boosters is an extremely long process, and so the game just becomes one giant grind.

    That being said, the grind isn’t all that bad due to how fun the core gameplay is. The driving is absolutely spot on. There may not be a realer driving experience than the one that can be found in Forza Motorsport 5.

    Earlier I mentioned that the game tries to take full advantage of the Xbox One’s new gameplay capabilities, such as how it is connected to the "cloud" and how it uses Kinect. The Kinect functionality is neat but pointless. Basically, you can use Kinect to check out your car. The cloud functionality is put to much better use. Instead of just racing against AI drivers, you are racing against drivatars. Drivatars are AI that were created using data recorded from races that other people experienced around the world. The Drivatars of people on your friends list that own Forza 5 will always appear in your races, and it makes the races much more interesting. Being able to constantly see the progress of your friends and how well they did on certain races is certainly appealing and the instantaneous nature of it all is really impressive.

    The game’s achievements are all attached to the grind, which makes the grind even easier to stomach. You get achievements for earning gold medals, leveling up, and doing well in multiplayer. For achievement hunters, these rewards every few levels will keep them coming back for more. There is a certain addicting quality to earning achievements, and Forza Motorsport 5 takes full advantage of that to keep its grind-based gameplay interesting throughout the entirety of the experience. There’s also DLC available, including some awesome free DLC that fans of the game should definitely check out.

    Forza Motorsport 5 is held back by its presentation issues. The Top Gear narrations are actually detrimental to the overall quality of the product. The microtransactions are intrusive, and the game is probably a little bit too much of a grind. However, the core driving gameplay is spot on, and the game uses the "cloud" in cool ways that keep the experience fresh and exciting. There are better racing games out there, though not really for Xbox One as of the time of this writing, so if you must have your racing itch scratched, Forza Motorsport 5 will get the job done.

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