Forza Motorsport 6 review: feedback loop

Game Info
Box Art N/A
Platform Xbox One
Publisher Microsoft Studios
Developer Turn 10 Studios
Release Date Sep 15, 2015

On paper, Forza Motorsport 6 seems specifically intended to address complaints leveled at Forza 5. That game was accused of a dearth of tracks, where Forza 6 has added 10 completely new locations (as well as a rebuilt Indianapolis after the track was renovated last year), for a total of 26. Forza 5 had around 200 cars at launch; Forza 6 has 450.

But for a series hitting its sixth official release, more isn't more enough, especially when last-generation installments eclipsed the raw numbers on offer in this newest game. Forza Motorsport 5 muscled through in part because of sheer technical proficiency on new hardware, but we're two years into the Xbox One's lifespan, and it's time for developer Turn 10 to up their game.

There are easy ways to see how it's done just that, with the addition, finally, of night and weather to Forza proper. But it's in some less obvious ways that Forza Motorsport 6 pushes the series forward — even as it loses its place in others.

It would be easy to write this new Forza off as "more" — just more stuff for an already solid existing game.

That would be more of a good thing, at least. I liked Forza Motorsport 5 a lot, and after about 20-30 hours with Forza 6, the improvement in variety is noticeable. I feel like I've only scratched the surface of what the game has to offer, despite the loyalty rewards previous Forza players will find waiting for them (a free car for every Forza game played). There are also some brand-new additions to the series, like the debut of Formula E racers and circuits.

Remarkably, despite the wall of vehicles available, I found myself instantly invested in certain manufacturers lines by virtue of Forza's affinity system. I wasn't married to the fastest, most expensive cars available. Instead I leveled up certain manufacturers, favoring BMW and Honda and Aston Martin.

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None of this is particular to Forza 6. Affinity has been there for a while, and the progression system is largely unchanged. Turn 10's latest does mark something of a return to the level of comprehensiveness the series had found by the end of the Xbox 360's lifespan, combined with the stunning visual upgrade that came with the move to Xbox One. But the big improvement I experienced was where I least expected to find it.

Mod packs

One of Forza Motorsports 6's other main additions come in the form of "Mods," which should be familiar to anyone who's played a competitive multiplayer shooter in the last 8 years. Mods come in the form of cards which in some way alter or augment your driving, which can mean lots of things, including better tire grip, a faster top speed, or more sweeping improvements — or handicaps. And if you choose to handicap yourself, there's a commensurate credit reward, which gives you in-game currency to buy new vehicles and upgrade them.

Some mod packs are single use, and some can be used as many times as you want, and each has a varying level of rarity. If this all sounds like loot, that's because, at a very practical level, that's what it is.

You can earn packs by purchasing them with credits or hitting affinity levels with different car manufacturers, and you can also win them from the spins you earn after hitting a new driver level. However, I hardly used them. I like being challenged in Forza. I turn off all the assists save transmission; I want to struggle against the tracks and learn how to read the cars I'm driving, and altering that with mods didn't really fit with my experience.

I didn't see a way to buy credits with real money, but that doesn't mean that can't be added before Forza 6 launches.

Forza Motorsport 6 is the most force-feedback-driven console game I've ever played. The amount of information relayed by the Xbox One controller's various forms of vibration is striking. It's trivially easy to know exactly how your car is doing at any given moment, how much stress your tires are under, how close your brakes are to locking up, what kind of road conditions you're on, all via the rumble traveling across the controller and through the triggers. The pair of previous Xbox One Forza releases took advantage of the system's so-called "rumble triggers," but Forza 6's implementation is in a class by itself (and will in turn punish your controller's battery life; I estimate I got maybe half the usual charge time while playing for review as I have any other game in the system's lifespan so far).

I needed that feedback desperately, as Turn 10 has placed an emphasis on the physical relationship of whatever car you happen to be driving and the surface it's on. This isn't as simple as inclines or turns or tire friction, or even the grass or sand you'll find on courses like Laguna Seca. Instead, the imperfections and second-to-second variations of every road are a vital gameplay element of Forza 6.

This, more than any new cars or any new tracks, revives Forza in a meaningful way — though some excellent positional audio also helped. I felt like every time on a track was a little different, a new learning experience.

If not for the series-defining rewind feature, this would just as easily be a source of fury and gnashing of teeth, but with the level of forgiveness Turn 10 provides, it's the next logical step for the series. The same could be said for two of the biggest additions to the game, longtime fan requests: night races and inclement weather. But as with most things in Forza, neither is a strictly cosmetic bit of variety.

Nighttime races have severely limited visibility, sure, but they also feature tarmac with a significantly lowered surface temperature that changes the dynamics between your car's wheels and the road on the track in question. The addition of rain is even more dramatic. Far from obstructing vision alone, rain makes the entire road slick, with various levels of water making even straightaways and simple turns feel unpredictable. The real enemy is hydroplaning; water gathers in puddles of varying shapes, and though they may seem shallow, they might as well be chest-height for how much of your car's traction and grip they destroy.

Possibly because Forza 6 calculates physics per wheel, or because Turn 10 are monsters, hitting a puddle with just one tire, or, heaven forbid, two can cause you to spin out wildly. On the one hand, a whole new set of considerations for every kind of car in Forza is a great thing, and races in the rain are always unpredictable and exciting. On the other, these races in particular call attention to two systems in Forza Motorsport 6 that feel like they haven't gotten as much attention as I'd hoped.

First, Forza's other trademark, the driving line, is less reliable than ever. The color-shifting line drawn on the road (which can be turned off, like every other assist) shows an ostensibly ideal path through each of Forza Motorsport 6's courses. But there are many times where my experience showed otherwise, especially when the driving line piloted exactly half of my car through a massive puddle on the side of the track, causing me to spin out to the tune of four or five full rotations.

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It's trivial to rewind at most of these moments and try again — unless, say, you're in a distant second and first place has crossed the finish line, in which case you can't rewind anymore — but it can occasionally make for a frustrating guessing game on whether the line is "lying" or not. But the driving line wasn't my biggest nemesis in Forza Motorsport 6.

Drivatars have now appeared in three Forza titles, and I've reached the point where I wouldn't be sad to see them go, or at least have the option to disable them completely.

This is counter to my initial reaction to them back in Forza 5. It's not that they're without any merit. I felt much more of a competitive impulse racing against cars with the gamertags of friends, colleagues and even Xbox Live followers appearing above them. That injection of a spark of identity and personality is still effective. But the novelty of racing against a species of AI that perfectly emulates people driving like assholes has worn off. If Turn 10 intended to make me horrified at the driving behavior of these people, it's succeeded beyond my most optimistic projections.

But crappy, scarily irresponsible driving from AI opponents doesn't really fit with everything else I get from the Forza series, and Forza Motorsport 6 in particular. The option to disable "aggressive" behavior in the options menu this time around reduces the occurrence of on-track contact a bit, but I was still frequently rammed out of a turn or smashed into a wall — and, since this is a new game with new hazards, shoved into puddles going 130 miles an hour in a Formula E racer.

Other problems persist as well. There's still no way to improve your starting position before a race. With the increase of on-track racers to 24, there's even more early chaos for anyone not in the top three positions, meaning you'll have to survive a series of early turns straight out of a George Miller movie on most tracks, and then make up a ton of time on the leader if you want to come in first. If they have a faster car, then even second or third will feel like an achievement.


At the time of review, Polygon hasn't had the opportunity to properly ascertain the multiplayer experience within Forza Motorsport 6 in a real-world scenario. Assuming everything works, it follows much of the rest of Forza's trajectory, with a significant increase in the number of players per game — up to 24 — and the addition of league support. We'll check things out once the game goes live and update this review if it affects our overall opinion of the game.

While Forza Motorsport 6 has a nice, escalating sense of progression that offers a lot of in-career options as you move forward, some of the better presentational aspects of Forza 5 are gone.

Given the almost overnight fall of the BBC's Top Gear dynasty in the last year, it isn't surprising to see the formerly prominent Top Gear branding largely removed from Forza 6, but it does hurt. It isn't just Jeremy Clarkson's droll delivery that's missed. Top Gear provided a unifying sense of car culture love to the franchise. While James May and Richard Hammond do both make appearances, providing much less of the same key historical and cultural context to parts of Forza Motorsport 6 — an informational approach that also provides site histories and slick video dioramas detailing the philosophy of motorsports — Top Gear is otherwise relegated to Stig challenges and some of the goofier Top Gear scenarios from the show.

I don't blame Turn 10 for minimizing Top Gear. I get it. And I also get that despite Clarkson's history of controversy, the implosion of the show six months before the launch of Forza Motorsport 6 is the game development equivalent of an act of God. But the sense of personal attachment evident everywhere in Forza and the expressed love of car culture that wrapped everything together previously has faded somewhat.

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Wrap Up:

The loss of Top Gear doesn't prevent control improvements from making their mark on Forza

With the loss of some of its personality, Forza Motorsport 6 sometimes feels like a little less than the sum of many much improved parts, and there are certain quality-of-life changes that feel increasingly overdue. But these are only distractions, bumps in the road that make Forza feel "just" great when looked at from a distance. And in the playing, Turn 10 feels like it's found its line even more effectively.

Forza Motorsport 6 was reviewed using a pre-release "retail" download token provided by Microsoft. You can find additional information about Polygon's ethics policy here.

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