Xbox One exclusive racing title 'Forza Motorsport 5'.
I'm revving up the engine of a Lamborghini Countach with a gold finish gaudy enough to make the iPhone 5s look drab. The go signal is given and I speed off.
During the first turn of my first lap on the Laguna Seca raceway, I spot a familiar name in the car next to me. In a multiplayer race, this is naturally a normal event, but I'm enjoying a trip through the offline Career mode.
That familiar name behind the wheel wasn't racing at all. Instead, it was his digital persona racing on his behalf in my playthrough. It's the Drivatar, one of a smattering of features introduced in Forza Motorsport 5, another robust, thrilling entry for Microsoft's longstanding racing series.
Before players even start their Career, they get a taste for the fast life by driving the sleek McLaren P1. This serves as a tutorial to get virtual drivers comfortable behind the wheel.
Once complete, racers dive right into their Career mode, buying cars from dozens of manufacturers and competing in a variety of events and challenges to boost their driver ranking. Players also get an Affinity boost the more they drive a specific model of car. This nets additional earnings used toward car upgrades and new rides.
As usual, Forza is a feast for the eyes. The cars glimmer brightly, while the views of mountainsides in the Bernese Alps or downtown Prague are breathtaking.
The key addition is the Drivatar, Forza's twist on artificial intelligence that replaces a computer-controlled driver with an avatar based on real players.
Leveraging the cloud through Xbox One, Drivatars are created based on a player's tendencies on the track, then uploaded and dropped into other players' events. Those Drivatars will also earn players money when they're not playing. So, next time a player starts the game, they will have modest rewards waiting for them.
The Drivatar system works well, especially since players can tailor the challenge to their liking. Players can race average Forza drivers or more experienced racers depending on their skills. Players will continue to have access to Assists such as steering and braking help and adjust those to earn additional money and experience. The game also brings back Rewind, allowing players to turn back time in case of mistakes. But it will cost a piece of your earnings.
Of course, if you really want to test your skills against real drivers, there's always multiplayer mode, where players can drive against other humans online.
Access to custom paint jobs -- one of the best components of Forza -- have been tweaked, bringing more options to players ahead of purchase. After purchasing my first car, I not only received the standard selection of colors, but custom designs created by players and uploaded to the game.
Most of the standard bells and whistles of a Forza video game are available here, too. Players compete in a series of events ranging from standard races to passing challenges requiring a driver to overtake a set number of opponents. The hit BBC show Top Gear is involved once again, adding events such as Top Gear Bowling and one-on-one races with the digital version of show character The Stig.
But in its quest to become a racing game that almost anyone can pick up and play, developers at Turn 10 Studios have made an interesting change: no longer are players required to finish in first place to snag gold. As long as you finish in the top three, you earn the top prize. While it does take the pressure off of leading the pack, it's too bad the game doesn't offer more bonuses for legitimately winning.
Despite that, Forza remains a top-notch racing game to add to any Xbox One library. It's a game that invites players to tinker to enjoy the racing experience they prefer, whether they are racing rookies or expert road warriors.
Developer: Turn 10 Studios
Platform(s): Xbox One
Rating: E for Everyone
Release Date: November 22
Score: 3.5 out of 4 (a 88/100 score on news10.net's scale)
- by Brett Molina, USA TODAY