While games like The Crew and DriveClub certainly had us drooling over the possibilities of next-generation gaming systems, it wasn't until we got up close and personal with the upcoming Forza Motorsport 5 that we realized just what will be possible in a racing simulator. After a brief demo play of the new Forza, as well as a in-depth look at the title from some enthusiastic Turn 10 developers, we're more amped than ever to play the game for real.
These cars are art, complete with imperfections that end up bringing them closer to the physical world.
To start with, the graphics in Forza 5 are nothing short of mind-blowing; the game-play presentation is far and away the best we've ever seen, and the power of the Xbox One is brought fully to bear in the "Forzavista" mode. Fans of the franchise will remember that Forzavista allows one to walk around and virtually sit in a vehicle; in previous instances, this lavish presentation was only available for a select group of vehicles, but in Forza 5 it'll be on tap for every car. ("Every car" will also include open-wheel racecars, we're told, for the first time in the history of the franchise.)
The expansion of Forzavista has happened, without much doubt, as a reflection of the pride of workmanship from the dev team. Said team has used a concept called "physically based materials" to render details of vehicles that we've never seen in video games to date. Slight orange peel in body paint, grooves on brake rotors, even realistic machined edges on the spokes of wheels all stand up to close inspection. These cars are art, complete with imperfections that end up bringing them closer to the physical world. Scroll down to keep reading and see what we mean.
Perhaps even more mind-boggling than the detailed modeling of vehicles is the way in which Forza's new "Driveatar" (a portmanteau of "driver" and "avatar") works. Essentially, this is a cloud-based computer learning and modeling system that allows Forza to do away with traditional AI completely. Whenever a player races in Forza 5, the data from that race is uploaded automatically to the cloud. Each driver's style and racing choices (do you like to block or drive casually, apex early or late, etc.) is recorded. With a model of each Forza 5 player thusly recorded, the system turns each individual Driveatar into a racer for opponents across the world. So, instead of racing some finite number of responses and styles, represented by a traditionally programmed "bot," each race in Forza is essentially being run against the quirks and uncertainties of human opponents – even if those opponents happen not to be playing just then. It's radical, nearly creepy stuff that makes sense of Xbox One's "always online" functionality.
Driveatar is a cloud-based computer learning and modeling system that allows Forza to do away with traditional AI completely.
While we were only on track with this limited Forza 5 demo for one lap in the monstrous McLaren P1, and while the Turn 10 guys admitted that the physics model isn't 100-percent baked right now, we are nevertheless stoked about the driving experience. The team has been working with a super-advanced research lab called Calspan to lock-in true-to-life mechanical modeling that hasn't existed before this. Tire wear, specifically, is both elemental to the feel of a car on the road over time, and particularly challenging to recreate accurately in-game. This is largely because sort of "normal" game events – ridiculously high levels of slip angle, for instance – happen outside the normal parameters of racing and driving, and have therefore never been accurately modeled by groups at performance tire companies. The end result of all of this work is an epic experience in terms of grip under load, as well as a stronger feeling of real mass for a vehicle than we've ever had before.
The four years spent developing Forza Motorsport 5 has been time well spent.
The four years spent developing Forza Motorsport 5 has been time well spent, if our first go-round is any indication. Scroll down for a look at some gameplay video, and stay tuned for further news of the game as we have it.