When you’re not awkwardly conversing with booth models or starting fistfights in the media lounge, the E3 experience primarily consists of playing video games from the future.
As such, I’ve had the opportunity to try quite a few upcoming current gen games, as well as next generation titles being played on the Xbox One and Playstation 4.
Let’s get started with the first title I had the luxury to play: Forza Motorsport 5.
Forza Motorsport 5
While I was blown away by my experience with Forza 5, unfortunately almost none of the hype came from the game itself. Instead, I was largely impressed by the tactile feedback offered by the new Xbox One controller. Haptic engines in the gas and brake triggers gave me a completely new level of immersion in this racing title… I could feel the strain of my tires from the starting line, and knew when I was cornering too hard. In some ways, the technology was more immersive than using a racing wheel accessory.
The game itself was largely a continuation of previous Forza titles, which is good and bad. The controls, UI, and presentation are all slick, but they’re not particularly evolved beyond what we’ve seen in Forza 3 or 4. The graphics, while decidedly better than those on Xbox 360, are nothing special. The cars look gorgeous, as is expected, but background elements like buildings and human beings are lacking – low geometry counts and lazy textures are easily spotted if you slow your car down long enough to observe the details.
By contrast, car damage in particular looks impressive… though I surmised from speaking with Microsoft that it’s not dynamically generated. That is, giving your Ferrari a light tap on the passenger side will always create the same scraping pattern. It’s not a big deal, but it does take away the sense of immersion after multiple plays.
Apparently, the social aspect of Forza 5 means your friends will get to race against NPC versions of you in their single player campaigns. Your “driveatar” will carry over your driving style, not just your times, so if you’re the kind of ass who uses other cars to make tight turns, you can expect your virtual twin will do the same to your pals. That said, the reps assured me that the feature could be turned off, or simply modified by difficulty settings.
There’s no information about which brands will be showcased in Forza Motorsport 5, only that this title’s lineup will be “the most diverse in Forza history.” Presumably that means we’ll see more marques than ever before, but don’t expect to see ten versions of your favorite supercar.
For all its issues, Forza 5 will stand apart from Playstation 4 games on the merits of the new Xbox One controller alone. If you’re skeptical, I understand, but it really is something that must be felt to be believed. Whether or not that’s enough to convert Gran Turismo aficionados is yet to be seen.