'Forza 6' Made My Dream of Driving a 15-Year-Old Nissan Come True
A game like Forza 6 is hyped and sold by featuring the most unattainable, stratospherically rare cars it can, even if that misses the point entirely.
My beloved Silvia.
I wanted to be a race car driver when I was a kid. (Still do, if you're hiring.) I've picked up snippets of that dream wherever I could: car shows, magazines, the all-too-rare burnout/drift/powerslide/what have you. But these days, living in Brooklyn without a car and little desire to own one again in a land of bump parkers, the dream feels less real than ever.
Forza Motorsport 6 invokes that dream in every way it can. The latest Xbox One edition of Turn 10's long-running Xbox racing franchise is an overwhelming tribute to the world of racing, one that's mostly hair-raising (wait, did I just get Niki Lauda's Ferrari 312T2 sideways while passing a gaggle of McLarens and Lotuses?) but occasionally scattered (wait, why do I need Magic-style mod cards again?).
We'll get to the long in a minute, but the short is that if you're obsessively into the minutiae of cars—if you know why putting Work Equip 01s on a Countach is insane but also probably awesome; if the sight of Eau Rouge makes you wonder if your car needs a bigger splitter—then you'll probably lose your shit over the latest Forza. If not, be prepared to spend a lot of time driving in circles.
A game like Forza 6 is hyped and sold by featuring the most unattainable, stratospherically rare cars it can, even if that misses the point entirely. Sure, drive a dazzle-camo McLaren P1 as recklessly as possible if that's your jam. But the fun of Forza 6 is in making the dream that's just on the horizon—buying a car that's just out of your price range and driving it just a bit faster than you ever could—feel more realistic than ever.
The most enjoyable car I have in my garage right now is a lightly modified 2000 Nissan Silvia Spec-R, which, after a decade of watching grainy videos of Keiichi Tsuchiya and his Kei Office S15, remains my attainable dream car of choice. But because that model was never sold in the US, video games are so far the closest I've ever gotten to driving one.
It's certainly batshit insane fun to drive a modern LMP car with zero consequences. But, presuming I haven't dropped enough automotive clichés, the old adage that it's more rewarding to drive a slow car fast than it is to drive a fast car slow rings true. And this, orgiastic car porn aside, is where Forza 6 shines: Driving the goddamn doors off a car you could actually own, and reveling in the possibilities.
I only cared about one thing when I started playing: How the cars drive. And that is something Forza 6 pulls off with perfection. Spend enough time driving and tinkering with a half-century worth of cars, and you'll start to see all the little things the game does so well—which all add up to the sheer engrossing realism of the game.
70s Formula 1 cars are pure brilliance. The graphics quality is noticeably bad in this video because Forza's video sharing functionality won't be turned on until its Sept. 15 release. Instead, I had to upload this video by recording an in-game recording with the Xbox One screen capture system.
Driving at Silverstone in the rain, you feel puddles yank the car if you dip a wheel in, just like I remember while muddin' as a teen, and I swear the rain gets louder as you go faster.
You'll feel the back end get light and chatter as you mash the brakes at the end of a long straight in a softly-sprung RX-7, and can use that to help yourself rotate if you dare. I then spent all my money maxing out the upgrades on said RX-7 and turned a beautifully-balanced driver's car into a useless garbage heap made partly of burnouts and mostly of crashing.
If you hit the gas on Audi's R18 e-tron quattro halfway through a turn, you can feel its prodigious aero pile on grip and carry you through. (Side note: the in-car driver animation for hitting steering wheel shift paddles is asinine—the paddles exist precisely so you DON'T have to take your hand off the wheel!)
Whipping up the transition from the infield to the banking at Indy in my Silvia made me pucker up as the car got unsettled, a feeling I didn't expect while driving a cheap sports car in a video game. And here's the secret sauce: following a hairy trip around the bumpy, true-to-life mess that is Sebring, I dove into the Nissan's suspension, trying to figure out how to make it work a bit better in rough conditions.
I don't think I'd ever deign to fiddle with an F40's suspension in my home garage, but I have had no problems fooling around with far cheaper machinery in the past. That a game could recreate that feeling without feeling chintzy surprised me.
It's been a long time since I sat down and played any video game for seven hours straight, but I spent that much time driving just yesterday, mostly in my 15-year-old Nissan. It's not that the game's narrative is particularly addictive: You start out as someone scooting their daily driver to the occasional track day, and work your way up through your career with a variety of vehicles. (Career levels have multiple groups of cars you play through with.) It's simply satisfying to continue progressing.
Side races include a heavy dose of nostalgia, putting together period races, such as the Ferrari-McLaren-Lotus 70s Formula 1 extravaganza mentioned above, and experiences that include racing a modern Indy car at Indianapolis—the soundtrack below doesn't include me repeatedly shouting "holy shit!" but suffice to say it was an intense car to handle in my first or second hour of playing the game.
This Indy experience was WAY too intense. The graphics quality is noticeably bad in this video because Forza's video sharing functionality won't be turned on until its Sept. 15 release. Instead, I had to upload this video by recording an in-game recording with the Xbox One screen capture system.
Take, for example, Forza 6's approach to modifying cars. On the basic end, the game allows you to "quick upgrade" your car to the maximum allowable potential for whichever class you're aiming for, which saves time but takes out a lot of the fun of buying new brakes and turbos and camshafts (camshafts!!!!!) in a bid to try to eke out as much of an advantage allowed by your class.
While the quick upgrades are useful, I found the game's new Mods system antithetical to the core realism of the game. The Mod system paradoxically does not involve modifying the car itself as I initially thought, but instead is modeled on a tabletop card game like Magic: the Gathering where you buy cards that give you power-ups, some of which only last for a single race. There's an element of chance to what you get—"rare" cards are a thing—but for someone who wants to tune a car in minute detail and then drive the piss out of it, adding in wacky multipliers and spending money on random chance card packs seems like nonsense. But as our games reporter Emanuel Maiberg told me, every game these days needs a card system, apparently.
Compare a—wait for it—super rare brake engineer card to the case of the R34 Skyline GT-R I bought to advance in career mode. As opposed to the Silvia and the Mercedes-Benz 190E Evo I was previously driving, the all-wheel drive GT-R had an understeer problem, even with traction and stability control off. Having read Mike Kojima's ultimate suspension guide roughly 25 times in preparation for this very day, I made a slight toe adjustment and increased the rear spring rate to see if such a small change could make any noticeable difference. In the next race, the car seemed to rotate better and generally felt easier to drive.
Forza 6's dynamics and physics are truly impressive. It's not simply a matter of being able to feel a car unload enough in a turn to do a (luck-assisted) reverse drift at Laguna Seca, my favorite track, for the hell of it. If you know that if a car you've driven before feels this realistic, then it's a hell of a lot easier to believe that the unattainable cars really are that mind-blowing.
At one point, Motherboard managing editor Adrianne Jeffries walked in right as I was beginning a challenge where, while driving Rahal Letterman Racing's 2009 BMW M3 GT2, I had one lap to pass an entire fleet of historically significant BMWs, which had each been given an appropriate head start based on their outright speed. It's an awesome concept for a challenge. I'm not even really a BMW guy, but I was sitting there in front of a 90-inch screen listening to the wail of V8 in surround sound, basically pulsating in nervous giddiness. Pretty much the only thing preventing the room from being a full-blown den of gaming nirvana was Mario 3's Angry Sun swooping down to shout "Are you not entertained?!?"
"Is this supposed to be fun?" Adrianne asked, genuinely (and fairly) skeptical of whether using a full-on race car to run down slow old beaters is even remotely enjoyable. I very quickly felt like a nerd.
I could have launched into a long car dork 'splainer about the significance of using the currently pinnacle of BMW M3s to chase down its generations of celebrated predecessors—I cringe at the thought of the lectures Forza 6 will spawn—but I'd have been a dumbass, or at least more so than usual. Her point is entirely valid.
Forza 6 is a delightful game and one I imagine I'll play for a long time. Its depth is astounding, and I felt less cynical than expected about its manic approach to dropping as many touchstone automotive references as possible. But I keep coming back to my Silvia, a car that's never been available in the US, and the joy of making it mine and putting it to use. So is Forza 6 fun? Yes, but only if you already spend your waking hours daydreaming about how blessedly fun living a pedantic, compulsive automotive lifestyle could be.
Forza 6 is released on Xbox One on Sept. 15, 2015. A download code was provided for this game review by Turn 10 and Microsoft, and played on Motherboard's office Xbox One, which was provided for reviews by Microsoft.
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