The 8 Things That Are Wrong With "Forza Motorsport 6"
The Forza games are great, but they have their problems. This is what we hope to see fixed.
Since the first day I roamed the streets of the fictional Colorado portrayed in the original "Forza Horizon," I have been an avid player of Forza games, chasing leaderboard times, tuning cars, painting them, and, on rare occasion, photographing them. I have put hundreds, if not thousands of hours into the Forza games because of the tremendous variety of car-related activities I can indulge in. Drift, cruise, or race your way around the world's roads or grandest racetracks, in the car you want, with almost any modification you can dream of, and decorated as anything from a historic rally car to a pin-up girl.
But you know what? That idyllic world of cars isn't perfect. Both the Horizon and Motorsport series have their respective problems, with randomly generated AI traffic ruining your race in Horizon games, or dirty drivers challenging your patience in Motorsport. I've played enough of Forza over the years that I feel I can say with confidence that I know what's great as-is and what needs attention to make the next Forza Motorsport title more pleasant to play. I'll focus mainly upon the problems that exist in "Forza Motorsport 6," which I hope never to find myself bothered about when I play "Forza Motorsport 7."
1. The single player experience is bad
Starting "Forza Motorsport 6" anew forces you to slog through a dull introductory set of races, in which you have limited control over your own assists, control scheme, and car selection. Once you're free of that, you are still faced with driving against the "Drivatar" AI, which are an utter nightmare to share a track with. Even on their highest difficulty setting, they provide little competition for a half decent driver, because they know as much about how to take a racing line as I do about how to butcher a cow.
Furthermore, the idea that they are based upon the racing habits of actual players is only believable in the context of imitating the worst habits of actual players. Cars will attempts overtakes that would get you black flagged from every racing series on the planet, they'll rejoin the track haphazardly after going off, and they treat the first lap of most races like the last lap of a session in a rental kart, ramming into anything remotely in their way. Things improve, but not adequately, with the Limit Aggression option toggled on. Of course, the easiest way to avoid the whole Drivatar unpleasantry is to race online, which brings me to my next point...
2. The online multiplayer is hit-or-miss
Racing online, against other players, adds a whole new dimension to the menace posed by other cars on track, in that the threat of competing drivers is now posed not by a disappointingly-programmed AI system, but by a 14 year old with a vendetta toward anyone who gets past him. Players will slam into the back of you for their own amusement, and if their kamikaze attacks fail, they'll just cut corners with no penalty to catch back up to you for another chance to ruin your race. Things are no better in competitive League lobbies—I have witnessed just as many bad sports in League play as I have in random lobbies. Corner cutting is rampant, as the game only rewards who finishes first, regardless of how they got there.
There are no ways to get back at these clowns who treat track limits as rules to be broken, either. Nobody online uses the kick function, and in order to report a player, you must go through the process of saving the replay from the last race into limited local save space of eight replays, watching it, finding the moment when you were wronged by an opponent, recording it with the Xbox DVR in a way that shows the opponent's name, uploading it to the internet, then logging into the official forum, and sending a link to the video to a Turn 10 employee whose name evades me in a private message.
3. Hot lapping isn't about being the best driver
You must be thinking by now that the only safe haven from all this bad AI and poor sportsmanship must be the single player hot lapping time attack mode, wherein it's just the player, their car, the track, and a clock. Nothing standing between you and success but your own limitations and your car's tune, right? Again, not quite so. It's not a meritocracy where the best driver in the most carefully-tuned car is fastest, due to the inconsistent track limits, unfair "dirty" lap marking, occasionally wonky terrain, bad wet weather racing, and faulty PI system. Allow me to explain...
4. The anti-cheat systems are inconsistent
The track limits are a problem both online and off. Some circuits, such as Abu Dhabi and Watkins Glen, are notorious for allowing unscrupulous players to go wide or cut corners without penalty, allowing them to gain tremendous advantage. While this will typically mark the player's lap as dirty, and disallow it from the leaderboards, it has no effect on players online, whose numerical finishing position is more important to them than a good race.
Sometimes, you will start a lap, only to find it marked dirty, as part of Turn 10's anti-cheating system for preventing players from gaining an advantage on the lap prior to their timed lap. If you do anything that marks a lap as dirty, which includes making contact with another car or the wall, drafting behind an opponent, or running wide, in the last timed sector of a track, that's it. Your next lap is dirty too. Doesn't matter if you're still three or four corners from the end of your lap, the game thinks you have an advantage going into your next lap and disqualifies your time.
5. Is this a racetrack or the Baja 1000?
Curbs and bumps on many tracks make them unpleasant to play. Some curbs at Silverstone and Brands Hatch sentence you to a spin if you dare touch them, whereas corners before or after them can be cut without penalty. I've seen (and experienced) spins on Silverstone's pit straight just because we hit the curbs in a way the game's physics don't like. There are some tracks, like Rio, that are bumpy enough to send a real person's spine shooting through the top of their skull, but being a video game, all they do is make the race unpleasant.
6. Racing in the rain makes me cry
Rain just makes the game unpleasant. Don't get me wrong, I like racing in the rain, and I think I'm pretty good at it. That said, every track with rain has puddles so vast that I swear I've seen boats 300 cubits in length floating in them, complete with two very confused instances of every animal on earth. These puddles would get every racing series on the planet red flagged, and they lie in places like the braking zone, or on the racing line, making them particularly hazardous. Rain races on Silverstone are a misery that I wish upon nobody; half the grid will start on the soaked right hand side of the pit straight, where their race is compromised by virtue of starting on the wrong side. You're better off starting 11th than you are 2nd in "Forza Motorsport 6"'s rendition of a rainy Silverstone. This goes without mentioning the flooded braking zone in the third sector, which causes wrecks in every race I've seen.
7. Not all cars are equal
The PI system: every car is given a PI (Performance Indicator?) number that gauges how fast it can (probably) be around a track. Every 100 PI moves a car up a class, and in theory, the system works great, taking into account everything from tire width and compound to chassis rigidity, power curve, and braking efficiency. And yet, even if you find yourself in a car you love, tuned exactly to your liking, odds are good that you will never see the top of the leaderboard. Why? Because some value, which I suspect to be center of gravity, is not correctly weighted in the PI system, and multiple car classes are dominated by one type of vehicle. C class races are over before they start if someone drives the Civic Type R, and the same problem is replicated in B class with the Alfa 33 Stradale, and in A Class, with the BAC Mono.
8. There's not much else to do
Once you give up on racing, you're left with painting, tuning, photography, sharing your finest races, and other community-related events. Unfortunately, Turn 10 did not show much dedication to enthusiasts of this portion of the game after launch, and have given no new replays the spotlight since the day after launch. Seriously. The most recently uploaded replay was a demo by Turn 10 from 9/16/2015. They have at least given screenshots some love lately, but one Turn 10 test screenshot from 8/27/2015 remains up. They haven't run any community lap time challenges for rare "unicorn" cars since early last year, where I nearly gave myself a heart attack trying to lap Brands Hatch in the Rolls-Royce Ghost faster than Turn 10 for an Aston Martin V8 Vantage.
And no, I didn't get the car. Just some stiff hands.
For all that I have that's ill to say about "Forza Motorsport 6," I am confident that Turn 10 Studios is capable of turning things around, and I know just how they can improve things. The early-game grind can be made less unpleasant by allowing players to do a quick difficulty and assist tweak prior to the introductory race if they have previous "Forza Motorsport" save files on their Xbox One or a cloud-stored save. Drivatars can be fixed by having whoever programmed their behavior read up on the FIA's rules regarding overtaking, and incorporate that knowledge into their work.
For online play, Turn 10 has already announced that there will be a penalty system for dirty drivers online, where cutting corners will give drivers time penalties. They have not elaborated much on this penalty system, so there may be more to it than that, but as it stands, I must admit that it is an improvement, and I hope more penalties exist for the worst offenders, such as those who use your car as their brakes, or people who don't understand what is and isn't a good time to overtake. A simple "report player" button would do online play a world of good, too, with another for commending an opponent— I've had times when I desperately want to congratulate someone for a great race, and a message just isn't enough.
Hotlapping can be fixed by correctly tailoring the on-off zones of the track to what they are in reality, and by adjusting the anti-cheat system to only disqualify the player's upcoming lap if the player offends within the space of the last corner or two. Rain can be made better by just having fewer puddles. Some tracks have poor drainage, I know, so I don't expect rain racing to just be a slick version of racing on dry pavement, but I do expect not to be forced to race in red flag conditions. Adjustments to the PI system, as we see in every game, are almost certain to balance out the game's cars better, and make success less dependent on what you drive than how you drive.
The community interaction problem is solved with a couple simple solutions: make the community run their own events, or hire an intern to handle that for you. Kids will do anything to feel important in a game community. I'd know; I was one of those kids.
I'm excited for "Forza Motorsport 7," I really am, but I have things that I want to see improve for my $60 to be worthwhile. I have my other gripes, like how I think game progression happens too fast, or how I'd like to see more tracks, but those are minor complaints, maybe for another time. "Forza Motorsport 7" launches in five weeks, and I'll be ready to tell you if things have improved this October.