Forza 5: Hands on at the Xbox One Tour event in London

The Xbox One Tour hit London last week, and I was lucky enough to get hold of a ticket for the Shoreditch event.

At the event, Microsoft showed off the new Xbox One console and a selection of launch title demos, all of which were playable, including Forza 5, Battlefield 4, Ryse, Dead Rising 3 and Killer Instinct.

I was able to have a some hands-on time with the Forza 5 demo at the event. The demo appears to be the same one that Microsoft featured at this year’s Gamescom event, in Germany.

Unfortunately, I was only able to try the game using Xbox One gamepad, rather than the new Mad Catz wheel. However, this gave me the opportunity to try out the new pad’s features, such as the “dynamic impulse triggers”.

The game looks sharp and smooth, running at a native 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second. I noticed no slowdown or other graphical anomalies, although there were only 4 cars on the track in the demo. The new lighting model is also impressive, with (often blinding) lens flare and realistic shadow rendering in the cockpit view.

Of course, the quality of the car models has improved, but also the cockpit modelling in the R18 was very impressive, with lots of detail. Accurate and detailed cockpit views are something that previous Forza games have sometimes struggled with (almost certainly due to restrictions caused by the aging Xbox 360 hardware) but by the looks of the demo (and also recently released direct feed videos) this issue appears to be a thing of the past.

Selecting the Audi R18 caused the game to generate a one lap race, with identical cars. Leguna Seca was the only playable track, but this did at least give Turn 10 a chance to show off the newly re-modelled track, which did feel slightly different from it’s previous Forza iterations. Of course, the track has also been given a graphical make-over as well, as is befitting it’s next generation status.

A couple of things were not possible to judge, namely AI (which appeared to be on the “easy” setting) and audio, as it was too noisy at the venue to properly hear the game’s sound.

The meant that the things that I did get to judge, other than the game’s looks, were the handling and feel of the controller.

As I previously stated, the demo appears to be the same one that was featured at Gamescom and this meant that the new Calspan physics data is present in the demo (unlike the E3 Prague demo).

When setting up my races I selected no assists, simulation steering and manual gears, as this is the same set-up that I am used to using with Forza 4. I was also pleased to see, when setting up the game, that simulation tyre wear and fuel use was also indicated, giving hope that these factors will play more of a part in Forza 5 than they did in it’s predecessor.

The first thing that I noticed was the lightness of the R18′s steering. This was not to say that the game feels “floaty”, it just means that I had to quickly moderate my steering input, as I initially found myself weaving from one side of the track to the other (and often off the track altogether). I also found that using my usual braking style often caused me to overshoot corners and end up in a gravel trap.

After a few laps. I became accustomed to Forza 5′s handling and started to enjoy the new feel of the game. What was immediately apparent was that the complexity of the handling model has risen by quite a margin (since Forza 4) and the physics engine provides some great feel and feedback to the player. Whether the game is a true “sim” or not remains to be seen (and will be a question for others to answer), but I can reasonably say that Forza 5 has one of the most complex handling models that I have experienced in a console racing game.

The new controller feels immediately familiar, although some of the ergonomic changes will not be liked by all (for instance, the side of the triggers is now concaved, which divided opinion among some attendees). Overall though, I like the feel of the new controller.

However, the feature that I was most interested in experiencing, in relation to Forza 5, were the new “dynamic impulse triggers”. I noticed the trigger rumble mostly under braking, when locking up the brakes the trigger would vibrate, when depressed to a certain extent. I felt the effect was a little like the feeling that you would get through the pedal of a car during ABS braking, although ABS was switched off in the demo.

In my opinion, the jury is still out on the new trigger rumble, although it is true that they give another level of feedback to the player. What I would say though, is that once I had become used to them they certainly did not detract from the gaming experience. I can imagine that they will be loved by some and loathed by others. What I would also say is that, when I first experienced “rumble” on a gaming controller, I felt much the same way and now I would not be without it.

To sum up my experience with Forza 5, I would say that the game’s looks and handling are unlikely to disappoint fans of the series. If Turn 10 can extend this quality to all aspects of the finished game, then they will have created a solid launch title for Microsoft’s new console. Questions will remain regarding steering wheel compatibility and the lack of night racing or weather, but by getting the basics right, Turn 10 are on course to deliver a worthy addition to the Forza series.

Thanks to Singularity69 for shooting the embedded video.

Forza 5 releases worldwide on November 22nd.

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