From shaky beginnings, Microsoft’s exclusive driving franchise has improved steadily over the years, now providing an answer to the question: “Why should I fork out £429 on an Xbox One?” From the moment it opens, with Jeremy Clarkson intoning a paean to the fetishism of all things four-wheeled, you’re left in no doubt that next-generation gaming has arrived, thanks to jaw-dropping visual fidelity and some very tricksy lighting effects.
But it isn’t just eye-candy. It’s massive and meaty, with countless racing series to enter, the world’s finest tracks (from the Top Gear test track, adorned with obstacles based on a tourist’s idea of London, to Spa, via Bathurst, Le Mans and so on) and machinery that can only be described as automotive porn – it starts you off in a McLaren P1, and you can even have a go in James Hunt’s old McLaren F1 car. It’s beautifully structured, with an XP system that rewards turning off driver aids, eschewing rewinds and finishing high up in race series, but doesn’t demand that you win everything. And the computer-controlled drivers are a revelation – they actually make mistakes.
Then there’s your Drivatar. Hiding behind its horrific nomenclature is a great idea: Forza Motorsport 5 learns your driving style and then sends a virtual version of you out to race other real people online, earning you extra XP. Of course, you can race other people’s Drivatars, bringing bragging rights even if they aren’t online, or just dive into a huge multiplayer setup which caters for all abilities.
Forza Motorsport 5 isn’t perfect. Cheekily, it invites you to purchase cars you can’t quite afford using real money, which is a bit rich given that it costs £50, plus the small matter of requiring an Xbox One and Xbox Live subscription. And it often goes overboard with the lens flare. But if you fancy a beautifully made, satisfyingly substantial game that demonstrates what the Xbox One is all about, make sure you pick up a copy of Forza Motorsport 5.
Reviewed by Steve Boxer