John Walshe puts Microsoft’s new driving sim through its paces.
One of the best things about the next generation consoles from a gamer’s perspective, particularly an impatient gamer, is that you don’t have to wait for a game to download fully to your hard drive before you can start playing. Thus, while I’m waiting for the latest instalment in Microsoft’s hugely respected driving sim to load, I find myself behind the wheel of the McLaren P1, racing through the cobbled streets of Prague, rattling over the Charles Bridge and along the narrow thoroughfares of the old city, hurtling through a thronged Old Town Square, with no chance to marvel at the Tyn Church or the Astronomical Clock, as the city is reproduced in exquisite detail.
Indeed, you soon realise that while every effort has gone into perfectly recreating real world environments, much of it has been wasted. Sure, the city of a thousand spires looks almost as magnificent on-screen as it does in real life, the Swiss Alps are breathtakingly beautiful and the Top Gear track is just as it appears on the telly, but the game play is so tense that you won’t have time for sightseeing, and it’s pretty much impossible to focus on anything beyond the car in front and the next bend.
The cars, and there are plenty of them, look great, sound realistic (although one engine pretty much sounds like another to these uneducated ears) and, most importantly, handle like their real world counterparts. Thus, the vintage touring cars might not corner quite as smoothly as their more recent descendants, but they’re so much prettier and so more fun to drive.
The graphics, as mentioned, really are incredible, even down to the realistic reflections on your windscreen and the perfectly irritating low winter sun that seems to always catch you as you’re about to negotiate a particularly tough chicane.
There are plenty of single player events to keep even avid racers happy, from city races to track events, time trials etc, but there’s also a real sense of community at play here. Even when you’re racing in single player mode, the game automatically times you against other real world drivers on Xbox Live. Perhaps the most innovative feature, however, is that rather than competing against computer controlled drivers, your fellow racers are ‘drivatars’, modelled on other human players, and your own personal ‘drivatar’ is out there in cyberspace, ramming other players off the track (ahem), and earning you XP points as it does so.
Forza Motorsport 5 is, quite simply, the finest game in the series to date and possibly the greatest driving game ever released.
Platform: Xbox One