I was lucky enough to have a cane on a near complete build of Forza Motorsport 5 a few days ago, to suss out for myself this quantity versus quality business.  To start with I ran through a sort of guided demo.  To start off there was an intro movie narrated by Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson, who along with his co-presenters provides a lot of voice work for the new game.  Love him or hate him, Clarkson understands what it is that makes petrolheads love cars, and can even be halfway articulate when he tries.

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After the obligatory introductory race in some shiny new supercar with all the assists turned on, I was given a range of C class cars to choose from, and used it in a series of races.  I chose the Subaru BRZ, bastard twin of the new Toyota 86.  With the assists disabled and the Drivatar difficulty set to average, I got stuck in. Drivatar is the new AI driver setup that I was assured over and over again isn’t AI.  This thing waddles, quacks, and appears fairly well waterproof, but I’m assured it ain’t a duck.

The BRZ quickly turned out to be a tailhappy, oversteering mess.  Precisely as advertised.  I realised I’d been lured in by the impressive stats in the car selection screen.  Rookie mistake. 

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The new Prague circuit has been seen in plenty of the promotional material, and is a fast, flowing track with some spectacular scenery.  Bernese Alps return, looking rather similar to Forza 4, though that circuit was the FM4 poster track, and already looked rather sharp.  The Top Gear test track at Dunsfold Aerodrome was in there too, in this case littered with obstacles to simulate a crowded London street.  Vastly better than the ridiculous bowling pin mode from FM4.  The spectacular Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi is as fun to drive as it is pretty to look at.

This was all very encouraging.  I was coming to terms with the Subaru’s wayward back end, making good use of the Xbone’s new, smaller thumbsticks.  The haptic feedback in the triggers is superb for racing.  You can feel as soon as you lock a wheel (or ABS kicks in), and back off the pedal to maintain retardation.  The handling model is the familiar compromise between realism and playability, with the rear drive Subaru quite happy to get into a brutal tank slapper if you get it wrong on corner entry, or snapping back for an inside spin if you counter steer too aggressively.

After coming second in the informal Bathurst laptime challenge with my silly Subaru, I fired up the Xbox One Holden Commodore V8 Supercar that ran so well at Bathurst in real life last month.  The V8SC class has been demoted to S class from R3, putting my in a field with mostly road-going supercars.  Now that was a blast.  I had a go on Bathurst and Prague before I ran out of time.  I was still racing as the PR guys were packing up the other Xboxes.

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The upshot of all this is that Forza drives as well as ever, and looks even better.  The new tracks are spectacular; Bathurst is as amazing as I’d hoped, and the new controller works extremely well.  Can’t wait to get my hands on the full version.

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