Farewell to Forza

forzaboxWell after 2 weeks of Forza 5 I think I’ve slaked my thirst for simulation racing. Last night I hopped over to the PS4 and Need For Speed: Rivals and all I could think of was “Wow, this is so much more fun!”

I think Forza 5 is a very good game but it’s a game that really requires dedication if you want to enjoy it over a long period of time. You can start out by turning on all the assists and doing pretty well in races, to be sure, but honestly that doesn’t require a lot of skill. And enjoying Forza is all about becoming more skillful.

I started the other way. I turned off a bunch of assists and was doing OK while driving the less expensive cars (the C & D class cars). As soon as I jumped into my first B class car (a Jag) I just couldn’t keep the thing on the road. Punching the throttle would cause the back end to spin out, the slightest bit of oversteer would cause me to fishtail back and forth down the track.

I turned a bunch of assists back on and started finishing in the front of the pack again, but I couldn’t help but feel like the Xbox was playing more than I was. What I really needed to do was practice, practice, practice using the controller to drive. I needed to learn to feather the right trigger (throttle) rather than mashing it all the way down, and same with brakes (though I did have ABS on which made braking less of an issue…earlier in my career I’d hit the same issue with braking and ABS eliminated the need to learn to feather the brakes).

Problem is, I just wasn’t motivated to do that, for a few reasons.

First, Forza 5 is a slow moving game. You load up a track and that takes a while. Then you race a 2-3 lap race which doesn’t take very long. Then the game goes into the post race routine where it slooowwwly shows your (probably battered) car rolling to a stop from 3 different angles. Then it slowwwwwly counts up your winnings, then makes you stare at them for a good 10 seconds. Then it slooowwwwwly shows your experience and affinity gain, and again makes you stare at these for much longer than you’d ever want to. Then finally you get to the post-race screen. When you hit continue it takes a good while to unload the current track, then another while to load the next track.

I haven’t measured it but it feels like I spend more time watching loading/unloading screens than I do racing. I’m pretty sure that isn’t really the case, but it’s how it feels. I find myself impatiently mashing buttons on the controller hoping to find a magical combo that will speed up the post-race routine. I’m sure the pacing is so some kind of number crunching can finish in the background… but after a while it starts to get under my skin.

Second, the replay cameras kind of suck. I play the game from the in-car view so often I’ll get slammed into and not really know what happened, so I go to the replay. There are a few camera options there but none of them gives a good broad view of the race. I want a camera that follows my car from a few hundred feet above and behind it, so I can see how issues in a race developed. If there is such a camera I haven’t found it. There is a “replay” camera that shows the race from certain fixed points but there are huge gaps on the track where there’s no coverage and the “replay” camera defaults to a view from the front bumper, which is totally useless since that’s more or less the view I was driving from.

Third, I like a healthy dose of CarPG in my racing games. I love earning credits/cash and using it to upgrade my cars. You can do this in Forza 5 but generally you do it once per class change and that’s it. Every car has a numerical rating and classes start at the hundred marks. So if Class B starts at a rating of 501 (going by memory here) then in order to be competitive in Class C your car better be rated between 490-500. When you move from Class D to Class C (assuming you just don’t buy a Class C car) you’ll upgrade everything to bring that car up to spec. And Forza 5 gives you a 1 button upgrade to maximize all of this.

Four is a lack of variety. Forza 5 is all about circuit racing. Once in a while you’ll have some goofy challenge at the Top Gear test track (like driving through bowling pins) but, as far as I’ve seen anyway, there’re no rally courses, or drift competitions, or Kart racing to break things up.

Now there’s a lot to Forza 5 I haven’t taken advantage of. There is an elaborate painting/design system that people use to create pretty amazing paint jobs. I don’t really have the patience for that but I appreciate being able to access the great work other players have done.

There’s a whole Tuning system that you can use to customize how you car handles. Sadly I’m just not knowledgeable enough to make use of it, and this is probably my Forza Achille’s Heel. Maybe that Jag wouldn’t be so squirrely if I tuned it properly. I could learn about this, and I know that people do learn about car tuning just to play Forza better, but that’s where the dedication requirement kicks in. At the end of the day, it’s just not that important to me. That’s my problem though, and not a problem with the game.

And there’s online racing against real players. I feel like I suck too much to get into that, but I suppose I should try it sometime.

As I said, Forza is a good game, but for a casual racing fan like me, it requires too much dedication and too much patience for long-term enjoyment. That said, I’ve played it every single night for the past 2 weeks so I don’t regret the purchase one bit. I’ll probably leave all the assists turned on so I can go back and enjoy it from time to time just to marvel at how amazing everything looks.

And I hope the company makes a Forza Horizons 2 for the Xbox One. From what I hear, the simulation aspects of Forza Horizon are dialed back, but it’s still a looker of a game. So a ‘next gen’ version would be very welcome.

Until then, I’m back to waiting for the arrival of Drive Club and The Crew while I continue to trick out my Mustang in Need For Speed Rivals.