'Forza Motorsports 6' Is Back in the Race

For all its glorious eye candy, "Forza Motorsport 5" was a disappointment. The series had plenty of momentum going into the Xbox One launch, but the 2013 entry lacked the robust content the series was building toward. If it were a car, you could say the franchise stalled out in the transition between console generations.

This year, Turn 10 Studios returns with the follow-up, and from the start, it's obvious that "Forza Motorsport 6" has regained the drive that made it one of the best racing games on any platform. It weighs in with 460 vehicles and 26 racing locations around the globe. That's more than double the automobiles of the previous game, with nine more tracks to boot.

That could be enough for a normal series, but with "Forza 6," that just scratches the surface. The latest iteration tries to satisfy the different communities of players who have grown up with the series over the past 10 years. Most of the compelling bells and whistles show up in career mode, a good introduction in which players build their car collection and explore the new tracks.

In this iteration, Turn 10 Studios took a more structured approach with how players progress. The career mode is divided into volumes that take players through the world of racing. The volumes run through competition that involves everything from street cars to prototype endurance vehicles. Along the way, it gives fans a taste of two new types of driving conditions.

One major addition is night racing, which presents its own hurdles. In the pitch black, course memorization and awareness become more important. The pavement may narrow unexpectedly, and if players aren't paying attention, they may crash into slowing racers ahead of them. Aside from those obvious adjustments, there are also hidden changes. Just as in real life, the cooler conditions make the road harder for tires to grip, amplifying the danger of wheeling around blind corners and zipping through straightaways.

Although it may not be a welcome sight for commuters, rain brings in another exhilarating feature. The precipitation transforms once-familiar tracks into booby-trapped obstacle courses. The fog and spray from screeching tires obscure visibility, and at the same time, players have to be worried about puddles collecting on the curves and sides of the track. They're like land mines that can cause cars to hydroplane and spin out. The wet conditions bring an added sense of unpredictability.

Creative director Bill Giese said that each "Forza" effort is influenced by what the team played, and that touch is evident with the inclusion of Mod Cards. This is a "Hearthstone" element, where players open packs and collect cards that power up vehicles or add challenges that bump up experience points or credits if they win. It's not as game-changing as the other new elements, but it does add spice to the single-player experience.

An even bigger impact is seen in the Showcase events. With "Forza 6," Turn 10 expands on these tailored races. Inspired by the narrative-driven games they've played, the team brought that form of storytelling to these competitions. Some may pit players against a cyber version of "Top Gears" iconic racer The Stig. Other races explore the history and important moments in motor sports. These experiences are unlocked over the course of the career mode, and they break up the monotony.

When it comes to online competition, there are plenty of opportunities. A rivals mode pushes players to beat each other's lap times or drifting feats. Multiplayer races can be a bumper car-filled crapshoot, with those avoiding wrecks gaining a huge advantage. It will make players yearn for the sanity of the AI-controlled Drivavatars, but there's a thrill to beating live opponents. Leagues are a new form of multiplayer mode that's more structured, with players competing against like-minded competition with a bigger payout at the end.

Although these new elements are great for veterans, they could be a lot to take in for beginners. Occasionally, a longtime series should look back and find ways to cater to novices. With this in mind, a tutorial mode explaining the ins and outs of racing would have been great. Other than that, it's hard to argue with the improvements to the latest edition of "Forza." The 2015 model gets the venerable series back on track.

Contact Gieson Cacho at 510-735-7076 or gcacho@bayareanewsgroup.com. Read his blog at http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei. ___

(c)2015 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

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This article was written by Gieson Cacho from The Contra Costa Times and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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