Tag Archive: racing


If you look at today’s racing game landscape, it’s clear that simulations rule the roost, with franchises like Forza, Gran Turismo, and Project CARS at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Sure, Mario Kart or an old-school tribute to more twitchy arcade racers like Fast RMX still dot the landscape and do well when they emerge, but games like those have become the exception and not the rule. However, developer Supergonk believes that arcade racers are just laying dormant, and is ready to usher in a new age of fast, frantic fun with their unique twist on the genre that gave us games like F-Zero back in the day.

Trailblazers is set in a futuristic world dominated by hover cars piloted by up-and-coming racers looking to soar to the front of the pack. Winning won’t come from just memorizing the best racing lines across the game’s 10 tracks (each with four possible layouts), though, as Trailblazers is unique in that players can change the course by painting on it.

Yes, painting—as if Supergonk crossed Wipeout with Splatoon. Each racer has a meter that fills up over time, and by dropping your team color’s paint on the track, you can create your own boost zones—and from this comes myriad emergent strategies. Do you sacrifice some speed early in the race to paint as much as possible and boost to the finish on the final lap? Should you paint a less-traveled route to minimize the risk of an opponent painting over and nullifying your paint on a more apropos racing line? How about utilizing your paint meter’s offensive capabilities, and fire forward to spin out a nearby opponent but paint less of the course in the process? When playing co-op with friends, will you try to perform some Talladega Nights Shake ‘n’ Bake and have one person paint the path the rest of the team will follow, in order to slingshot into first?

All of these possibilities and more are viable across the variety of game modes in Trailblazers. You can learn a lot of basic strategies in the single-player campaign mode, where you start off as a fresh racer named Jetstream. From there, you’ll meet the eight racers in the game, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and over-the-top personalities while getting the chance to try them out to see who best suits your needs. Campaign also offers challenges in each race that could be as simple as getting in first place, or might be more involved like beating a time trial or painting a certain percentage of the track. There’s also a local split-screen Custom Race option outside the campaign if you want to play Trailblazers with a friend, where you can tweak a cornucopia of options to make the race of your dreams.

The single-player campaign is also a great way to learn the other major difference between Trailblazers and all the other racing games out there: its scoring system. Players earn points for how much they paint or boost on a track, for taking out opponents with offensive maneuvers, for how well they drift around some of the ridiculous hairpin corners the game offers (which work doubly to keep you on your toes while racing!), as well as where they place when the race finishes.

The scoring system particularly becomes important in team play modes, and can usually see lower-ranked racers flip-flop as time goes on. You get so many points for winning the race that it’ll be pretty hard for second place to overtake first on points alone, but in several of the races that I played during my hands-on time, I saw fourth place and fifth place swap, for example, based on painting versus finishing bonuses.

Once you’ve learned the ins-and-outs of the game offline, the real meat of Trailblazers appears in its online modes. There’s the 3-on-3 Team Racing mode that I alluded to earlier, where you’re not only trying to work as a team to earn the best spots on that racing podium, but the team score at the end will determine which trio comes out on top. There’s also Partner Battle where it’s three teams of two competing, and an All-versus-All mode where six racers are all in it for themselves. There’s also a unique mode to Trailblazers called Gate Chase, where players can only paint the course by hitting special gates on each track, and for the less competitive players out there, there’s an online Time Trial mode where you and up to two friends can work together to try to set the fastest times.

As fun as my time playing with Trailblazers was, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the game is also absolutely gorgeous. You’d expect a game revolving around futuristic racing and painting to blow you away with its visuals—and it absolutely does. With art direction from BAFTA winning animator Will Milton, Trailblazers is a beautiful mix of neon skylines and primary color paint-covered tracks that absolutely jump off the TV. Each track also has a unique song, licensed from indie artists on Spotify that only cement the fun, future vibe Trailblazers is going for.

Although my time with Trailblazers was short, it channeled a lot of the strengths of old-school arcade racers, blending them perfectly with the game’s own unique twists on the genre. It punished mistakes on the track, but never stopped being fun even when I ended up bringing up the rear of the pack. Because of this, I’m looking forward to seeing what Trailblazers can deliver on the whole when it drops sometime in May for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, and Linux.

Update: We added the latest gameplay trailer to this preview. You can see it right here:

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Need for Speed once led the pack in terms of the arcade racing scene. In recent years, though, it has lost what made it special while simultaneously being eclipsed by other racers in the genre. A reboot two years ago was supposed to pave the way for the series to once again find traction within the racing world, but whatever hopes EA had have likely been dashed with Need for Speed Payback, which serves as evidence that the series may just be too far off course to comeback at this point.  

Need for Speed Payback follows a small racing crew in Fortune Valley, a fictionalized version of Las Vegas built on sin and street racing. Tyler specializes in drag and traditional races, Mac in off-road and drifting, and Jess is their runner, great for getting away from the 5-0 when they crack down on the trio’s driving antics. The game starts with Tyler’s crew getting an offer from an old friend named Lina that they can’t refuse: help steal a supercar and get a payday that could set them up for life. The only ones being set-up, though, are Tyler and gang. Now, they’re out for revenge against Lina and her boss (the mysterious Collector), but will have to work their way up through Fortune Valley’s 10 car gangs to even have a shot at Lina—and maybe getting that big payday after all.

Looking to their contemporaries and racing movies for inspiration, Need for Speed Payback tries to tell a revenge story we’ve seen almost a half-dozen times already—it’s just missing Vin Diesel giving some stupid speech about family. That said, its major story beats, which mark the conclusion of each of the narrative’s five acts, are actually a lot of fun and keep things moving in an entertaining direction. Ridiculous car chases, sudden perspective switches, and Michael Bay-worthy explosions will have you slowly inch forward in your chair. And, of course, everything looks gorgeous as usual in the Frostbite engine. The cinematic approach to a lot of the scenes worked, and the only times they didn’t—when you forced other cars to wreck—is now an option that can be thankfully turned off if you’re like me and hate taking your eyes off the action. Unfortunately, it’s everything around those major beats that really let this game down.

From a story standpoint, the hardest part to get behind is the cast of characters. The bad guys were infinitely more interesting than the good guys, and I’m not sure if the voice over sessions for this were done during the recent voice actor strike, but I think you could’ve walked down Hollywood Blvd and randomly asked people to audition for this game and gotten better performances. What’s worse is it sounds like several of the actors had to perform numerous roles (which is more common than you might think), but none of them even tried to do a different voice, resulting in long conversations where it almost seems like characters are talking to themselves.

And speaking of talking to oneself, the writing in-between the major story beats is the worst kind of filler, trying desperately to distract you from the grind of the gameplay. Some of the banter between Tyler’s crew is entertaining, but most of the time you just get a desperate attempt at filling time in the quiet moments driving from mission to mission, with each character at random times seemingly breaking the fourth wall and talking to the player for no good reason. It only further illustrated from a narrative standpoint that all Ghost Games really had here was an interesting skeletal structure and not much more.

A weak narrative could’ve been overcome had the gameplay been good, but yet again, Need for Speed Payback falters almost right from the get go. Fortune Valley feels comparable in size to other Need for Speed games, but when compared to its competition in the genre like the Forza Horizon series or The Crew, things feel small. Although the world does have a nice bit of diversity with the urban downtown area, and some evergreen mountainous paths, it all feels artificially segmented at times, with so much desert serving as an unusual border for it all.

There is a lot to do in this world, though. Blatantly borrowing from Forza Horizon, Payback adds Derelicts (barn finds without the barn basically) that can be found throughout the world, built up, and customized in your garage. There are now also speed traps, drift challenges, and jumps all around the world for a way to earn “Rep,” Need for Speed’s take on an in-game leveling system that rewards you each time your status increases. You can also earn Rep points—similarly to Forza Horizon—simply by performing tricks in the world or smashing things up.

Still, the core for Payback tries to remain the racing, and moving up in Fortune Valley and knocking off the 10 gangs isn’t easy when each gang specializes in something different. Drag, drift, traditional racing, and off-road serve as the core of the story experience, with additional runner challenges available with Jess that try desperately to set up a backstory for the world—what with EA already (sadly) talking about bringing many of these characters back for a sequel.

In order to be able to compete with these racers, you need to have the right car—but complicating your attempts is the fact that those cars handle a little too loosely, especially compared to other games currently within the arcade racing genre. So, it can require a lot of time to get used to each car because of this. However, the stock cars themselves won’t do you much good for long. Your first three cars are given to you, but after that, you need to either get parts to increase your cars’ ranking (100 is the minimum, 399 is the maximum) or buy new cars outright, with many of the best ones in each category only unlockable by winning races to begin with. So, finding new parts is the way to go, but actually getting those parts is where Payback’s most frustrating feature becomes prominent.

There are tune-up stores scattered around Fortune Valley, and in these stores you can buy and equip different parts for your cars in the form of Speed Cards. As you win races, you’ll earn a random Speed Card, which you hope will offer a better part than something you already have, thus raise the ranking. If that doesn’t work—and it usually doesn’t—you can also take in-game money you earn from winning races and buy new parts at the tune-up stores. Unfortunately, these also rarely offer you anything much better than what you currently have, and if they do, they’re exorbitantly expensive compared to your usual race winnings. This leads you to one of two routes.

The first is that any race you beat, you can re-race for more money and more random Speed Cards, and this becomes an obvious grind. It’s such a grind that what should’ve been a 10-12 hour experience ballooned to almost 20 hours for me by the time I reached the game’s end. It’s a horribly cheap way to force you to keep playing a game, especially with all the side content crammed into Payback that you might rather spend your attention on. It’s such a grind that there’s even an achievement/trophy for “grinding” through another race.

Of course, there’s also a way around that grind. That’s right, it wouldn’t be an EA-published game if it wasn’t polluted with microtransactions, and these might be some of the worst yet. When you get a Speed Card you don’t want, you can either sell it for in-game currency, or exchange it for what is called a Part Token. Three Part Tokens will allow you to spin a slot machine (yes, the mechanic is literally a slot machine) with you locking in one of the three spinners—car part (engine block, gearbox, etc.), manufacturer, or boost (nitrous, braking, acceleration, etc.)—and then crossing your fingers. With luck, you’ll get just the part you need and it’ll be a higher level than what is currently available to you in either the store or through races.

Payback does offer myriad ways to earn Speed Cards and Part Tokens. Leveling up your Rep or finishing Daily Challenges that are available will earn you Shipments, which usually carry a vanity piece for your car (colored smoke for when you burn out, novelty horns, etc), some in-game currency, and a few Part Tokens. Three Tokens per spin, though, can see you burn through Tokens quickly. So, there are also Premium Shipments that you can acquire by spending real world cash. If you don’t do this, you’ll end up like me, grinding for extra hours in a system that is purposely balanced to tempt you into those microtransactions. Oh, and to add insult to injury, when you reach the halfway point of the game, you need to buy brand new cars and do the entire building process all over again if you aren’t using a Derelict.

It’s a broken system and it’s offensive that they didn’t even try to hide the fact that it’s all one big slot machine. The Speed Card/Part Token system is by far the worst part of this game—it makes the game almost unplayable—and the alternative grind is so frustrating that I literally started to grind my teeth so badly while playing this I needed to put in a mouth guard.

What’s really sad is once you do raise your car’s level, the races themselves aren’t that difficult. They’re only challenging if you’re not at a level equal to what is recommended; I tried avoiding the grind and absolutely could not win. You also develop a familiarity with the tracks due to the aforementioned smaller world, where by the end of the game almost all the locations repeat. So, you’ll learn the best ways through a particular track, but likely end up a little bored racing through it over and over again.

Also, I found the AI to be sorely lacking. I played the game on Medium, but as long as I had a car worthy of the race, I saw the AI go haywire more often than actually try to give me a competitive challenge, almost giving me the win. Sometimes my opponents would even take themselves out of the race by making weird turns and drive themselves off cliffs; other times I saw them so focused on trying to just ram me off the road that I could easily pass them and cruise to the finish. Of course, in the runner missions against the cops, this was their primary directive, and sometimes it would be frustrating to get rammed through a barricade that was supposed to be impenetrable, leaving me unable to get back on the right side of things to finish my getaway.

All of that leads me to the glitches. Even with a day-one patch that seems to have smoothed a few things out and added some nice UI enhancements, there were still plenty of glitches to be seen. Whether the aforementioned pushing me through a barricade I wasn’t supposed to go through, or cop cars randomly spawning right in front of me, there were some moments where I wrecked and there was simply nothing I could do. I once even saw two cop cars literally spawn right on top of each other, riding each other like some horrific nature documentary.

The worst glitches came when respawning after a wreck, however. One thing Need for Speed didn’t borrow from Forza Horizon was the rewind feature; instead, when you wreck, the game puts you back on the road, usually at a speed close to what you were going before your crashed. Unfortunately, when this occurs on tight turns, sometimes you’ll spawn going at top speed right next to the wall or oddly-placed rock you initially crashed into, and then keep crashing into it. Repeatedly. So much so that you have to restart the race because there’s simply nothing else you can do to escape this infinite loop.

If you do make it through all of this, one of the few decent things about Need for Speed Payback is the multiplayer. If you’ve done enough grinding to earn yourself a top-tier car (ranked matches require cars 300 or above, casual matches can be any level), you can join the online Speedlists, a popular returning feature from 2015’s Need for Speed’s final update. This was actually a lot of fun, because it was just four to eight players going through a series of five races from the main campaign, with points being dished out a la Mario Kart at the end.

At the end of a five-race circuit comprised of either off-road or regular races (each race is voted on beforehand), the winner gets a currency and Rep prize that can be carried back to the single-player campaign. (So, this could be another way to grind, too.) The online was entirely stable in my time playing it today during the game’s launch, and the races against people were fun because actual humans performed way better than the AI did. As great as the online competition was, however, considering the narrative revolves around three best friends, it sure does feel like campaign co-op not being included was a missed opportunity.

Need for Speed Payback feels like a haphazard mess. The core of this tire fire is the progression system that tries to funnel you into microtransactions—at best, it’s a cheap way to inflate the playtime required to beat the game, and at its worst, it’s a desperate cash grab from a floundering franchise. The world is littered with glitches, the characters created are uninteresting, and the racing itself still needs work when compared to the contemporaries in the genre. The only saving grace is the major story beats at least provide a cheap adrenaline rush to wake you up from the lull the rest of the game will settle you into, and the multiplayer—if you can get a good enough car—works well, and racing human players is way more fun than grinding against this AI for 20 hours. As I crossed the finish line for the final time, though, Payback was nothing but another disappointing chapter from a once great franchise.

Publisher: Electronic Arts • Developer: Ghost Games • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 11.10.17
4.0
Need for Speed Payback might be a new low point for the franchise. A horrendous progression system compounded by uninteresting characters and terrible AI only illustrates how far behind this series has fallen compared to the other arcade racers out there. The multiplayer is solid, but that’s like saying at least the car wreck didn’t cause a fire, too.
The Good Speedlists work great for multiplayer.
The Bad Small world, weak characters, and the progression system is an awful grind.
The Ugly When you accidentally drift into oncoming traffic.
Need for Speed Payback is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Electronic Arts for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

When you start up Gran Turismo Sport (after a massive day one patch), you’re treated to an opening cinematic that takes you through the history of car racing. There’s no narration here—just a simple, yet elegant classical music piece over the moving montage. This opening movie serves as a perfect metaphor for the game, really. Gran Turismo used to be the pinnacle of racing games franchises, and is a key contributor in the genre’s long history. I, like many others, still fondly remember playing Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec with my friends on the PS2. Much like the footage in that opening movie, however, it’s all in the past. After waiting so long to finally get a proper GT game on the PS4—GT6 launched only on the PS3 at the very end of that system’s life—GT Sport feels like it’s leaning far too heavily on its brand than actually delivering anything new. And, like the classic music bed underneath the movie, it has a very limited appeal when considering modern audiences.

Part of the reason that appeal is so limited is that most of the game’s focus is on preparing you to race online. GT Sport is recognized by the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) and thus has legitimate prizes and trophies surrounding the game and the online competitions it will hold. In order to rank up online and have a chance of competing for the fantastic prizes, you need to do two things: win a lot, and win in a sportsmanlike way. The game even goes so far as to make you watch a pair of “tutorial” videos before it lets you online the first time and how to be a courteous driver. It warns against crashing or taking turns too quickly; better to race smarter and safer. Of course, in the handful of races that I took part in—with official races being held every 20 minutes in order to be counted towards potential advancement—that didn’t stop most people from launching themselves like missiles when it best suited their needs. There were no issues connecting online at the very least, and that’s a good thing, because GT Sport needs to always be online.

Yes, one of the most annoying things a game can do is at the core of GT Sport. If you don’t play the game online, you can’t save your game, and most of the game’s features—only single arcade races are available offline—are locked away. It’s another way that GT Sport tries its damnedest to force you to participate in their ongoing online tournaments.

Even if you are online, but don’t want to participate in the online races, there is extremely little content to enjoy anyway. I can’t remember the last time I saw such a bare-boned racing experience. There is no offline career to speak of in GT Sport; instead, the “campaign” is three modes meant to help you learn how best to drive in GT Sport and how to quickly learn the game’s limited track selection. So, in the hopes you do go online, you’ll be able to perform at your very best without maybe embarrassing yourself.

The first offline mode is Driving School, which is exactly as it sounds in that it starts off with how to accelerate and moves up to taking difficult turns and maneuvers. Then there are Challenges, which give you some oddball scenario on occasion—like knocking over so many cones—but usually just drops you into a race midway through and asks you to win. Finally, there is Track Mastery, which focuses on specific tracks and sections of tracks to help you learn the less than 30 track configurations in the game. GT Sport isn’t a racing game folks—it’s a super-advanced Driver’s Ed program.

From a technical standpoint, I wouldn’t say GT Sport is the best the series has seen either. It feels like Polyphony Digital spent most of their development focus on how this game looked, because—credit where it is due—the game looks gorgeous. If you don’t have a 4K TV it’s going to be hard to fully appreciate the visuals, but even still, it looks really good. Of course, when you only have one-eighth the cars from your last game, it’s easy to focus on the little things. That’s right, there are only 160 or so cars (if you count all the variants) in GT Sport, a far departure from the nearly 1200 in GT6. Throw in only three camera angles to use during races, and ridiculously long times, and you wonder what the heck took so long for this game to come out.

Not everything in GT Sport appears to be a bust, however—the cars do handle well. It’s easily the strongest aspect of the game, and at least that wasn’t sacrificed in this latest entry. The menus of GT Sport are a bit of a mess to navigate, but there are also all the expected driving assists you can turn on or off depending on your driving preferences. Gran Turismo prides itself on being more simulation than arcade, so everything seems to work best when the assists are off—another reason why the game focuses on teaching you everything.

The game also handles surprisingly well in VR, where you can play one-on-one races against the computer or inspect your cars up close and personal. Racing against the computer was exhilarating here, because you could look in your mirrors like you would in a real car, and see where your competition is on the track. However, after a few races, I admit all the twists, turns, and high speeds started to wreak havoc on my stomach a little. Still, playing in VR was supreme fun while it lasted, even if it’s all a bit gimmicky.

The only other aspect where GT Sport competes with its contemporaries is the customization. Not only can you customize your cars, but also your driving suit and your helmet. You can’t choose to be a female racer, though—so close GT Sport, so close. You can save your various liveries and share them with the community online as you place decals and paint everything whatever color your heart desires. You can also earn more cars and gear via the game’s two in-game currencies earned from winning races or completing challenges. Thankfully, there are no microtransactions here, so if you want to pimp your ride, you need to get driving.

For as long as fans of the series have been waiting for Gran Turismo to finally debut on the PlayStation 4, Gran Turismo Sport under-delivers. The game looks nice, and has a few neat bells and whistles like its VR capabilities, but there’s absolutely a dearth of content here that makes it hard to recommend. With everything trying to funnel you into competing online, there’s little room it seems now in the GT universe for anything but the most hardcore racing game fan—and, ironically, that puts GT Sport squarely behind all its competition.

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment • Developer: Polyphony Digital • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 10.17.17
6.0
Gran Turismo Sport purposely limits itself as it revolves solely around getting players racing online in various competitions. The VR gimmick and customization options are nice, but otherwise there simply is not enough here for anyone but the gamer that wants to turn video game racing into a potential career. GT Sport is a shell of what we expect from this series, and will disappoint anyone looking for any significant content in its offline modes.
The Good The cars look and handle spectacularly.
The Bad An overall lack of content and always needing to be online.
The Ugly How much I loved the VR aspect of the game—and how quickly it started to make me nauseous.
Gran Turismo Sport is a PS4 exclusive. Review code was provided by Sony for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

In recent years, Forza has surged to the head of the pack in the racing genre. Basically going annual with a steady rotation back and forth between its main series and Horizon spinoff, Forza has become synonymous with top-notch racing. Forza titles have come to be known for delivering highly customizable gameplay that caters to a range of audiences, no matter whether they’re looking for an arcade racer or sim-heavy experience—while also innovating with features like Driveatars. However, with the latest main series release in the form of Forza Motorsport 7, the franchise may have been caught looking in its rear-view mirror at the competition hot on its tail, taking its eyes off the road long enough to make a couple of costly errors that might let that competition close the gap.

Forza Motorsport 7 features a suite of offline and online modes meant to engage players like never before. The game touts 32 tracks—the most ever in a Forza game—with more than 200 different configurations. The game’s only completely brand new track, Dubai (highlighted by features like sand blowing across the asphalt), is joined by dozens of returning tracks from Forza 6 as well as fan-favorites Suzaka, Mugello, and Maple Valley (brilliantly re-created for the first time on this generation of console after being last seen in Forza 4). This balance of tracks from throughout Forza’s history goes a long way to keeping the experience feeling fresh, as players know it’ll be a while before they might see the same track twice.

You’ll get to tackle many of those track configurations in the new single-player campaign that tasks you with climbing the ranks in six different championships, culminating in the Forza Driver’s Cup. There are a variety of different circuits in each championship—usually themed around familiar motifs seen in other Forza games like Hot Hatch or Classic Muscle cars—as you try to collect enough points to stand atop the podium and unlock the next championship. Each championship also has a few Showcase events that will test your driving skills in different and exciting ways. Some, like the car bowling featured in Top Gear, return from previous games; others, like besting professional rally car driver Ken Block in a head-to-head race in identical cars, adds a more personal twist to a familiar racing mechanic, as Block gives you some narration before the race as to why you’re racing those particular cars.

I will say the commentary is a bit weak this go-around from the Forza folks. Whether it’s the game’s general narrator droning on, one of any number of professional racers who sound like they’re definitely more comfortable behind a steering wheel than a microphone, or even some Top Gear magazine editors who are taking themselves a bit too seriously, I’d usually try to skip any audio introductions and get right into each race as quickly as possible.

Fortunately, the rest of Forza 7’s presentation is stellar as usual. The game’s 700 cars—including a ton of Porsches after Microsoft’s latest partnership deal, and some other cars admittedly ported directly over from Forza Horizon 3—still look absolutely stellar on the track. And, to no one’s shock, each car handles as you would expect, with it feeling like you’re fighting to keep some cars on the track as they hit 200 MPH, while others corner like a dream even though their top speed is nothing to write home about.

Also making its way over from Horizon 3 is that game’s dynamic weather system. Night and rain are nothing new on Forza tracks. However, having the sky suddenly open up on a track three laps in on a four-lap race, or starting a race at sunset and having the sky turn pitch black over eight laps at Daytona, is a nice addition to the mainline series here.

Forza Motorsport 7 also upped its game when it comes to personalization. Not only is its vaunted car customization suite, which allows you to paint and modify the look and tuning of your car, back and bigger than ever, but you can also now customize your driver to a degree. Over 100 different track suits are available in the game, and you can make your driver (male or female) wear any of them to really send a message about who they (and, thus, you) are. I’d still love to see this taken to the next level at some point, where we can customize our suits to a level of detail that we can the cars we drive, but this is another step in the right direction for the series.

Not everything that has been added or changed about Forza 7 has been a success, though. To try to lower the barrier of entry into the series even further, a brand new Easy Mode has been added that simplifies the controls to the point where you’re barely even controlling the car anymore. While I don’t mind adding this feature for folks who might feel they really need it, I do mind the fact that the old system of rewarding more credits for those of us that like bumping up the game’s difficulty and turning off any number of assists has been abandoned. Considering how difficult it can be sometimes to purchase the really high-end cars with in-game currency, this change feels like it’s only increasing the grind.

This all leads us into the new Mods system. Mods were introduced in Forza 6 as a way to challenge yourself even further when you played the game. Some Mods would give you speed boosts, but it would come at the sacrifice of handling; others might kill your acceleration, but improve your cornering ability. Each card could be used as many times as you wanted, and were a neat little optional addition that experienced players could use to further enhance their playtime. There were also some limited-use, super-rare Mods that would modify your driving ability, but also reward credit or XP boosts.

Now, all Mods fall into this category. Every Mod you use only has one to five uses depending on rarity, and can reward you with credits or XP, and even occasionally both. In order to get these Mods, you have to spend in-game currency to open loot boxes—the more currency you spend, typically the rarer the Mod. So, you start spending in-game currency to earn more in-game currency, to spend in-game currency, to earn more in-game currency, to spend in-game currency, to earn more in-game currency, and the cycle continues. Unfortunately, it typically costs a lot more to buy those Mods than the credits you earn from using them, especially when you don’t know how many credits a given race will net you. Using a Mod that gives you an additional 30% credits at the end of the race is great, but if you don’t know if you’re winning 10,000 credits or 5,000 credits for a first-place finish means there’s also a bit of a gamble when you use the card. All in all, it makes you wonder why you would even bother with the Mod system at all at this point.

But then, there are also loot boxes that give Mods plus cars or track suits (some of which are only available in said loot boxes). So, some of the fanciest cars and prettiest track suits—not there’s that many of them—are behind this randomizer. You won’t need them to beat the game or hop online to play friends, of course, but if there is a car you really want stuck in a loot box, you’re in a pretty tough spot. There is also a new leveling system for your garage, where buying certain low-level cars will help you unlock high-level cars faster. This all seems to really try to pressure you in some not so subtle ways to buy into the game’s microtransactions system.

Also, surprisingly, a lot of online features for Forza 7 aren’t available at launch. Forza Leagues and, curiously, even the Auction House still aren’t up and running even at the writing of this review. Turn 10 says they’ll get them up soon, but we’re kind of in the dark as to when specifically. The microtransactions and store also aren’t up and running, so we can’t accurately judge how they might tempt people into spending real world cash—just that, like those other features, we know they are coming, like one of those dynamic weather storms I mentioned earlier. The rest of Forza 7’s online features seem to be working fine, and you can still easily race up to two dozen other players online at any given time with no lag thus far in our experience. Beyond that, you can upload race screens from Photo Mode or replays of your races, as well as all of your custom car designs to Forza’s servers with no issue.

Forza Motorsport 7 has done everything you’d want from a racing game sequel—more cars, more tracks, and the return of that tight gameplay—showing why Turn 10’s efforts remain the leader of the pack. The new Mod and in-game currency systems, however, really detract from what is otherwise another great racing experience—and might make you want to think twice before jumping into the driver’s seat again if you’re not big on grinding for those credits.

Publisher: Microsoft Studios • Developer: Turn 10 Studios • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 10.03.17
7.5
Forza Motorsport 7 is a really great racing game—it’s just a shame that changes to the game’s currency system undermine a fair amount of what it does right. It’s made racing feel more like a grind than in years past and no amount of new tracks or cars will change that.
The Good Game looks great and the cars all handle superbly.
The Bad Changes to how you can earn credits and the mod system increase grinding and feel like they’re paving the way for some awful microtransactions.
The Ugly A lot of these new driver suits. Yuck.
Forza Motorsport 7 is available on Xbox One and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Microsoft for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

It’s never easy to try to find a foothold in an established field like racing simulators. Despite entering a market already dominated by Forza and Gran Turismo, however, the original Project CARS was able to not only compete from a technical perspective in terms of the racing experience it provides, but offered up a unique enough take on how you would approach races to carve out a slice for itself amongst gearheads. Building on that initial success, Slightly Mad Studios went to work on a sequel, and after my hands-on last week at CXC Simulations here in Los Angeles, Project CARS 2 is primed to move into the pole position of this genre.

It needs to be prefaced that my time with the game will likely not be quite indicative of the final experience most people will have, since I got to try the game out via Oculus VR on a $50,000 simulation rig that CXC offers to professional racers to prepare before big races. (That was the beauty of this demo, however.) Already loaded and ready to go for us was one of the brand new tracks featured in Project CARS 2, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, just days ahead of the actual race itself was to be held. While being jostled around as if I was taking hairpin turns at breakneck speeds was definitely new, the immersion I felt from the VR was even more intense, showing off the meticulous detail Slightly Mad has given to this new track.

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I also got to run the course in two different cars—the Acura NSX GT3 and the Dallara Honda Indycar—and moving from one car to the other was a tremendous extreme. It was hard enough learning a brand new track in VR (although I was able to adapt after a few laps), but the Acura’s top speed paled in comparison to when I sat in the driver’s seat of the Indycar, as turns came up faster and I had to be far more cognizant of my shifting as I reached higher speeds more quickly. But while new tracks and cars are always expected with any racing sequel, it was the last machine I hopped in that was particularly exciting.

Projects CARS 2 unveiled Rallycross mode to us for the first time. Yes, the off-road sprint-oriented series of races will debut this go around in Project CARS 2, and that means not only even more new cars and tracks, but new paths for your career drivers to take and brand new surfaces to drive on. Gravel and dirt will combine with asphalt on these tracks just like in real life, and although Rallycross tracks are smaller that most other tracks, the shifting terrain combined with how differently the cars handle will provide entirely new challenges for players to overcome—and I can speak from some limited experience.

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If going from the Acura to the Indycar was night and day, going into a rally-fitted Honda Civic Coupe was like going from April to August. Drifting at high speeds is a must here, and as unintuitive as it may be, taking corners almost sideways can actually be beneficial (and even preferred) in order to best position yourself for the next straightaway. But knowing how to take those turns is only the beginning, as your car will handle completely differently on dirt than gravel or asphalt—and it’s extremely easy to spin out if you’re not careful or underestimate the ground beneath your wheels.

When you combine this new mode with the realistic tire degradation and fine vehicle tuning of the first game, you’re starting to get into the grittiest of details that will have you almost smelling the engine grease on your hands. Adding Rallycross on top of new tracks and cars is a huge boon for Project CARS 2, and if Slightly Mad gives this mode as much attention as they gave everything from the first Project CARS, then this racing series will have more than earned its place at the table alongside Gran Turismo and Forza—and may even be in position to get ready to overtake them.

At this point, we know that the Wii U had a ton of shortcomings. If there was one good thing to come from that console generation for Nintendo, however, it was when they really threw their doors open and welcomed indie games full-bore. We can look back at titles like Runbow and Shovel Knight and know those wonderful experiences helped solidify Nintendo’s indie-friendly stance. None may have been more impactful, though, than Fast Racing Neo—a sequel to the Wii’s Fast Racing League—that gave gamers everywhere the closest thing we’ve had to a new F-Zero in what feels like forever. The love for that game made it a no-brainer then for developer Shin’en Multimedia to continue the franchise and deliver us Fast RMX on day one with the Switch.

In a lot of ways, Fast RMX is Fast Racing Neo 1.5. It touts all 24 tracks Neo had with its DLC, but with six brand new ones also in tow, upping the total to 30. Meanwhile sharper graphics, Switch functionality, and a new “Hero” mode help beef up the experience of this hardcore anti-gravity racer. There isn’t really more than that, but that’s perfectly fine in my book. You just hop into the cockpit of one of three different vehicles (there’s 12 more to unlock as you race) and aim for the finish line. Depending on where you place gives you points, similar to Mario Kart, and the racer with the most points at the end of the three-race circuit is the champion.

The hook for the racing is in the name. Every vehicle averages top-speeds well over 1,000 MPH as you soar through locations both terrestrial and beyond. There is a bit of strategy here as well as different-colored speed strips—activated by changing your exhaust stream with a press of a button to match the color—which can give temporary boosts. Collecting power orbs also allow you to fill up your personal boost meter, giving you that necessary edge in long stretches without speed strips, and again placing a pure emphasis on going as fast as possible. Playing smart and finding the perfect paths between boosts is a must.

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And, if you’re going fast enough, you can bump your rivals out of the way too. Fast RMX should be commended for never pulling its punches with its AI; right from the first race, you’ll be fighting all the other racers and jockeying for pole position, as your opponents will use boosts just as much as you while definitely not being afraid of bumping you off course. All of this means that, as the game progresses, unless you pull off a near-perfect race you’ll be more and more likely to lose. I’d never been so happy over a third-place finish before by the time I had reached the Platinum circuit.

You’ll find the 30 courses in the game take place in myriad settings, cutting through rainforests and glaciers here on Earth or zipping around space stations and asteroid quarries. The course locations are absolutely gorgeous, with the amount of detail surrounding each track hinting to a spectacular future where these circuits can take place while also taking your breath away.

If only the tracks themselves were as consistently inspirational. Some definitely take advantage of the anti-grav future premise the game is built around, and will make you audibly utter “wow” as you swirl around the course’s curves. And, if you’re not careful, you can fly off an edge, crashing and burning just as easily as soar ahead of other racers for a victory. There are plenty of shortcuts to be found on some courses, and knowing your vehicle’s capabilities as well as the track could lead to shaving precious seconds off your lap times.

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Other courses are very straightforward, however, and don’t push the envelope nearly as much. What’s worse is when it felt like the game tried to make more simple tracks far more difficult by adding obstacles—particularly around blind corners. For example, one track is observed by giant, insect-like robots, which randomly decide to cross the street with no rhyme or reason, crushing your vehicle. It didn’t make the game more difficult as much as it felt cheap at times as a crash all but guaranteed a less-than-stellar finishing position and likely some forced replays until you learn where everything is by heart.

In terms of the game’s modes as well, I wish there was a bit more depth. You start with your standard series of championships and classes. There are 10 three-race championships to start, and three different classes ranging from Subsonic to Supersonic. Although having all 30 tracks available in a single race class was a lot of fun at first, it quickly became repetitive with the minimal increase in difficulty change once it was time to move up in class—and my motivation was lacking since I had already seen all there was to see. It would’ve been better had some championships been relegated to each class, giving a sense of identity to them, and marking a more obvious increase in difficulty between courses.

There’s also the noticeable absence of time attack mode. What could’ve been a great way to learn tracks for championships and improve your times will be patched in later as free DLC, but it being absent at the moment is disappointing to say the least. In its place is the mentioned-above new Hero mode. This is meant more for after you’ve already learned the courses, since your boost meter is also your shield meter here, and it’s much easier to crash—and if you crash in Hero mode, the race is over. If—for some reason—you want Fast RMX to be even harder, this mode is for you.

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It’s not just racing against the computer all day in Fast RMX, however. There’s a local multiplayer option that supports up to four players, with each player taking a Joy-Con and linking it to the Switch. There’s also online multiplayer, which works fine at this point, but it lacks certain amenities like online friend support that Shin’en has again said will be patched in later.

Fast RMX is the better version of an already good racing game. If you’re looking for something that will challenge your reflexes and get those competitive juices flowing, then this is a great game for you. The fact that some modes missed launch is disheartening, as is the inconsistent track quality, which can lead to as much frustration as fun at times. We may not ever get another F-Zero game, but the Fast series is doing a great job at trying to make claims to the title of its successor.

Publisher: Shin’en Multimedia • Developer: Shin’en Multimeda • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 03.03.17
7.5
The fact that some of Fast RMX’s modes like Time Attack missed launch is a bummer, and track design can be a bit inconsistent in terms of quality, but if you’re looking for a pure arcade racing experience, this heir apparent to F-Zero will definitely do the trick.
The Good A constant challenge from the first race. Each racing location is absolutely gorgeous.
The Bad Time Trial mode is absent at launch. Course design feels a bit uninspired. There are only incremental differences between cup modes.
The Ugly Just clipping an obstacle and watching as your racer careens off a cliff in a fiery heap.
Fast RMX is a Nintendo Switch exclusive. Review code was provided by Shin’en Multimedia for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

When Forza Horizon first launched four years ago as a spin-off of Forza, many of us were pleasantly surprised by how it was able to tone down the seriousness of the main series while still making an extremely competent racing game. As time has gone on and we’ve fallen into an annual cycle of Forza followed by Forza Horizon, what once was a spin-off has now turned into a series all its own—one that now rivals its parent in every way. And, with the release of Forza Horizon 3, it may even surpass the mainline series in key areas.

For those who might be unaware, the Forza Horizon games are set up around a traveling fictional festival called Horizon that’s like a cross between Woodstock and Top Gear, and this year’s game is headed to a land down under. Whereas the original saw you rise up the ranks to dominate the event, and the second one had you as king of Horizon from the start, Forza Horizon 3 basically just makes you the festival’s God this go around.

From what radio stations can be heard at the festival’s hubs throughout Australia, to what part of Australia Horizon will expand to next, all the decisions are yours. You can even customize your license plate and what your assistant will call you via a list of names. Yes, I admit I enjoyed the fact that my assistant actually called me Ray and all my cars’ license plates said “Carsillo” on the back—it’s a little thing, but that added hint of personalization was a nice touch. Unfortunately, it also made the fact that you can then only choose from a dozen or so generic, hipster-looking avatars to represent your “face” just as disappointing as the license plate customization was fun.

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These are only minor details, however. The heart of Forza has always been the cars, and Horizon 3 does not disappoint. Over 350 cars are available at the game’s launch—the most in Forza Horizon history—and, as always, plenty of car packs will be coming in the future. The game also maintains the series’ high standard of stunning car models that contrast terrifically against the picturesque backdrops inspired by an amalgamation of Australia’s coasts, forests, and deserts. The big additions this time around aside from the usual list of new supercars are dune buggies. Since a quarter of Horizon 3’s mashed-up rendition of Australia is the Outback, dune buggies are great for crossing the desert terrain at high speeds and pulling off crazy stunts to fill up your score meter.

At first, the buggies took some time to get used to, because they handle completely differently from any other car in Forza’s long lineage. By the time I was done with the game, though, I was hooked. I couldn’t get enough races inside these off-road masters, bobbing up and down through the countryside, and was actually disappointed when I was placed back in a luxury car or sporty speedster depending on what race I was doing.

Speaking of racing, it remains at the core of what you’ll be doing in Horizon 3. There are 63 tracks set up across the game for you to unlock and play through, with more unlocked by expanding and growing the festival. This is done by earning fans, which you can do through winnings races, completing one-off special objectives in 30 brand-new bucket list courses, winning showcase events against unusual race opponents like speed boats and fighter jets, and completing “PR stunts” like daredevil jumps and burning rubber through drift and speed zones.

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Each individual race location not only has the standard single race, but later you can also unlock three-to-five race championships with new themes for each course. For example, a single exhibition race in the Outback might have you racing off-road trucks like the Ford F-150 Raptor, but the same course’s championship might be themed around rally legends like the Suburu Impreza, giving each track more replayability as you race different vehicles.

If that wasn’t enough, Forza Horizon 3 also introduces the new Blueprint feature to both racecourses and bucket list events, which allows you to set your own stipulations that you can then share with the Forza community. You could create a perfect storm of racing nothing but high-end supercars like the Lamborghini Centenario along the curving coastline, or punish people by sticking those same sports cars on an off-road track in the rainforest and see if they can’t maintain their traction. The same goes for the bucket list Blueprints, but like most other games where you can create your own courses, you have to be able to beat your own challenges before uploading for others to play. In theory, you could have an endless stream of fresh content coming into Forza Horizon 3 long after this initial launch window.

Another major addition to Forza Horizon 3 comes in the form of its online multiplayer. You’ve always been able to take on friends head-to-head, but Horizon 3 adds it so that you can now experience the construction of a Horizon festival from the ground-up together. Campaign co-op, which is also available in cross-platform play, allows you to join a friend’s game or vice versa in order to help each other complete objectives or find hidden bonuses like landmarks or barn finds to fill out your worlds. Any progress made in each other’s games carries over to your single-player game as well, so there’s no need to do something twice if you don’t want to.

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The emphasis on co-op doesn’t end there, however. Even if your friend isn’t online, the new Convoy feature means their Drivatar can ride with you and help you, too. By winning street races against specifically marked Drivatars, you can add up to three Drivatars to your Convoy. And if you want to replace someone in your lineup, simply street race another person and fire one of the old drivers. Having and riding with a full Convoy means not only a better chance for you to find hidden secrets and earn more credits, but your friends will be earning credits even while offline.

Of course, more online-driven endeavors has meant more server strain that normal in the Forza community. Even a week after launching, there are still occasional connection issues in regards to things like leaderboards, some of the Blueprints, and finding strangers online to race with or against. Groove Music—Microsoft’s digital music streaming service that has been added to the game to allow players a chance to finally have custom music playing while driving—works only about half the time, too. I’m driving a million dollar car, and the damn radio is broken.

These online hiccups aside, Forza Horizon 3 is a racing lover’s dream. The insane stunts and off-the-wall challenges remain hugely entertaining, and being able to incorporate your friends more into that has only added a new wrinkle of replayability to the game. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more complete racing experience than this one, and in many ways has possibly eclipsed the mainline Forza series in terms of fun and enjoyability.

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Publisher: Microsoft Studios • Developer: Playground Games • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 09.27.16
9.5
Forza Horizon 3 pulls out all the stops to provide one of most fluid and enjoyable racing experiences out there. A must have for casual car fans and hardcore gearheads alike, Forza Horizon 3 may even surpass the mainline series in terms of fun with this effort.
The Good Gorgeous looking, excellent handling, and more content than ever before in one package.
The Bad Occasional issues with connecting to people and features online.
The Ugly Constantly forgetting that Australians drive on the other side of the road and getting into lots of head-on collisions because of it.
Forza Horizon 3 is available on Xbox One and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Microsoft for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

GTSport_PreviewHeader

Sony’s flagship racing franchise, Gran Turismo, has been a staple for video game gearheads for almost two decades now. The series is known for the great lengths it will go to in order to try to deliver the highest-quality racing experiences possible while keeping its finger on the pulse of today’s gaming culture. Because of this, it’s no wonder that the series’ next secondary release, Gran Turismo Sport (due out on November 15 as a PS4 exclusive) will again look to push racing in several ways. Here are the top five things you should be looking forward to in the new Gran Turismo Sport.

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#1: The game will center on eSports and competitive racing

Everyone is trying to get a piece of that eSports pie nowadays, and Gran Turismo looks to take pole position in the racing genre’s competitive scene. Teaming up with FIA—Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the governing body for Formula One and World Rally Championship racing—Gran Turismo Sport looks to usher in the first-ever FIA Gran Turismo Online Championships, with players actually being recognized and licensed by the racing group as they compete for one of two cups. The Manufacturers Cup will see racers represent their favorite car brands over the course of the year, whereas the Nations Cup will have them represent their home country, with the winners honored at FIA’s annual prize-giving ceremony in Paris. There will also be live competition components to each cup season, and various online events and components similar to GT Academy being held on a regular basis.

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#2: Brand new tracks keep the experience fresh

Although the number of tracks is only a fraction of what we see in full GT entries, the 19 tracks and 27 layouts present in Gran Turismo Sport are the most in a secondary title yet. The best part, though, is that Polyphony Digital continues to create new courses and layouts for the series. So, while there are already old real-world favorites in the six tracks revealed thus far like Nurburgring and Willow Springs (each rescanned to capture even the slightest detail on PS4), new tracks include an oval called Northern Isle Speedway (I hope you like left turns), and a high-speed urban track full of narrow corridors called Tokyo Expressway (based on the actual highways of Japan’s capital city).

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#3: Most realistic and detailed car models yet

Even with GT6 serving as somewhat of a swan song for the PS3, the series continued to push the limits on creating the most realistic and detailed car models available at the time. Gran Turismo Sport plans on continuing that tradition both by utilizing the power of the PS4 and by performing brand-new scans of the most powerful cars from every car manufacturer. GT Sport touts 140 fully remodeled cars, and although that number pales in comparison to what is available in the mainline titles of the series, it is by far the most cars from a GT secondary title—not including the PSP Gran Turismo.

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#4: New braking and driving assists are being introduced

Gran Turismo has long had the reputation as the most true-to-life racing game series out there, with minimal assists for players in order to help them better grasp just what it takes to race on the most famous tracks in the world at the fastest speeds possible. In an attempt to help expand its audience and make the game more fun for less-intense racing fans, new driving and braking assist options have been introduced to help you get into a groove before you start trying to see if you have what it takes to truly become a racing legend. While you’ll need to not use these assists if you ever want to have a hope of competing on the world stage of GT Sport, they should help lower the barrier of entry for the franchise like never before.

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#5: Sport is the deepest secondary title in Gran Turismo history

Gran Turismo Sport will feature the deepest suite of modes yet for a secondary title in the series, making an argument for being more of a full standalone title—unlike the GT Prologue games. Sport touts a time trials mode, local races against the AI, and online races with up to 20 drivers at a time. There’s also a fully fleshed-out Campaign for those simulation-loving drivers who prefer playing alone, and a Sports Mode that takes advantage of the competitive racing scene Gran Turismo naturally lends itself to. Gran Turismo Sport will also be fully compatible with the PlayStation VR headset when released, meaning you can truly feel what it’s like to be behind the wheel of a Formula One car (or the like) for the first time ever.

Leaving the competition in its dust

Forza has become the Call of Duty of racing games. Every autumn for the past five years, a new entry in the franchise—counting the Horizon spin-offs—has been released. So, I was worried this year’s entry would simply be another mediocre improvement over the past couple of games, and that it might grow boring without the open-world gimmick or festival backdrop of Horizon. I was wrong. Just like how Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, or any other annual franchise is sometimes able to overcome the limitations that inherently pop up from a 12-month release cycle and knock one out of the park, Forza Motorsport 6 similarly takes the series to new heights.

As soon as you start the game, you’ll be introduced to the first major change in Forza 6: its Career mode, which is broken up into two separate parts. The first is “Stories of Motorsport.” Here, Forza 6 takes it upon itself to explain how much racing touches our lives, while guiding us on a tour through the world’s greatest tracks and hottest automobiles. Beginning with street legal sports cars, Career moves through five separate volumes. In each, you’ll race through three different series comprised of four to six tracks before being allowed to advance to the next volume, which feature progressively more impressive and powerful cars.

A nice touch in helping to get the message across is the history you’re given of the cars you’re driving, why they appeal to people, and what to expect over the course of your circuit—all narrated by guest commentators ranging from Top Gear’s Richard Hammond and James May to winners of IndyCar or the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I came to look forward to the little tidbits of info each intro gave me before a race, like Watkins Glen holding the first pro race post-WWII in the US, or that the tower at Circuit of the Americas is 251-feet tall.

Stories is a great twist on Forza’s Career, and the loose narrative really helps pull you through the mode—especially when the same tracks start to repeat. For me, though, the real fun began with the second part of Career: the new Showcase events. Showcase events originally debuted in Horizon as special one-off races in ridiculous but fun scenarios where you’d race planes, trains, as well as automobiles.

In Forza 6, the Showcase events are actually 10 different series of themed challenges. Some, like those inspired by Top Gear, are more light-hearted, such as bowling with a Jaguar F-Type or racing against the “Digital Cousin” of the Stig. Others are more purely race driven, such as passing challenges or turning trials inspired by those you’d see at the Bondurant High Performance Driving school. There are even endurance challenges where you’re asked to go literally dozens of laps in one race. Similarly to Horizon’s showcases, each of these special challenges will put your skills to the test in ways that are anything but dull.

Forza 6 didn’t just focus on the single player when it came to changes, however. Multiplayer remains a big aspect of the game, and it starts by making the online experience a lot less intimidating for folks. While there will always be those in the online community who care more about crashing into other players than actual racing, Forza 6 is trying to help serious racers find better-quality races through a new online mode called Leagues.

Leagues run races over a period of time and will be broken down into a variety of car types. The more you race in a given league over the time period it’s open for, and the better you place, the more likely you are to win the league and get a nice payout of credits. The main difference between Leagues and traditional multiplayer is that everyone in these league races are ghosts. You are still racing live players, but the fear of an untimely collision costing you a pedestal position is gone. Leagues offer players a chance to still play other like-minded racing fans, but the competition falls squarely on how well you can or cannot drive, without affecting anyone else around you.

This is a brilliant move for Forza, and should only help the competition aspects of its online features. Leagues also shouldn’t affect the traditional multiplayer audience too much, as they’re locked into certain car types when created. Traditional multiplayer, meanwhile, will let you customize each individual race on the fly, still giving players a sense of freedom—even if all they want to do is see a BMW M3 T-bone a Corvette.

These changes to single- and multiplayer should add a lot of replayability to the game. But, they’re only one part of what makes this a great racing package. Forza 6 continues the series’ legacy of great driving physics and gorgeous graphics. Plus, the game is launching with 460 cars and 26 tracks on disc, far more than were available at release for Forza 5. Each race can now support 24 cars both in online and offline modes, making for some epic 24-player multiplayer League sessions—which I tested and saw working without any issue whatsoever. Of course, this was a week prior to the launch of Forza 6, so it’ll be interesting to see if everything holds up on day one.

The most impressive part about the gameplay now, though, has to be the night and rain aspects. Although both were introduced in Horizon 2, they’ve been revamped for Forza 6 in ways to make each track that supports them feel completely different in those variants. Puddles now accumulate on asphalt, forcing you to brave plowing through them or altering your course to steer clear, as hydroplaning is a legitimate concern. The gleam of headlights in your rearview mirror at night can become a distraction, with light sources acting dynamically in ways we’ve never seen from a racing game before. And different surfaces will react in distinctive ways to each one, as dirt becomes muddy in the rain, and track barriers may throw off unexpected glare depending on what angle your headlights catch them at. For those tracks where these new options are available, driving in the rain or at night keeps the experience feeling fresh, and makes each track variation feel like an entirely brand new course.

Not every track supports rain or night, however—and since many tracks are being carried over from Forza 5, you’re likely to get an unwelcome case of déjà vu with courses like Laguna Seca that remain entirely the same. Sure, some such as Rio have reverse versions, and it’s more realistic since not every track will run at night or in the rain, but it would’ve been nice to pull back on the sim a little and give every track at least one of those variations.

Speaking of toning down the sim, also returning is the bevy of assist options to help customize your racing experience, boosted with two major additions. First, you can now adjust Drivatar AI when racing offline. This means that if you don’t feel like facing particularly aggressive drivers, you can now dumb down the Drivatars so you have a more civil racing event.

The other major addition comes in the forms of Mods, which can be purchased as packs in the same way as you would new cars. Some Mods make the race more difficult, like lowering a car’s stats but rewarding you with more credits and XP at the end of a race. Others give cars boosts to stats or improve payouts. How you utilize them is up to you, and depends on what experience you’re looking for.

And while on the subject of credits, the final major change we see in Forza 6 this go around is with the game’s economy. There are no microtransactions at launch; whether or not this means they’ll be added later is another story, but at the very least, everything you get on day one is earnable in Forza 6. And with the Horizon 2 prize spinner coming over—now with a Press Your Luck game show flair instead of a slot machine motif—it’s easier than ever to earn credits, with huge bonuses coming your way when you level up both your driver and your car affinity. Admittedly, it still takes some time to grind for those really expensive, seven-digit price tag cars like a Bugatti Veyron or a Chevy IndyCar, but it’s not nearly as bad as it was in previous games.

By taking and improving on elements from the Horizon games, re-vitalizing the Career mode, introducing new modes like Leagues, and adding night and rain to the gameplay, Forza Motorsport 6 is without a doubt the best game the series has seen yet. If the franchise continues to grow and change at this rate, then it’ll be a welcome sight on the annual list of autumn game releases for years to come. For this season, though, Forza 6 is a must-play for all racing game fans.

Developer: Turn 10 Studios • Publisher: Microsoft • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 09.15.15
9.5
Forza Motorsport 6 is a welcome shot in the arm for the series. Easily the best entry the franchise has produced, Forza 6 introduces tons of new online and offline gameplay that should make players want to stay in the driver’s seat for as long as possible this fall.
The Good Rain and night provide enough variation and new challenge to forget about the repetition in tracks. Superb graphics and physics.
The Bad Can still feel like a bit of a grind when saving up for the most expensive cars.
The Ugly Having someone other than a member of the Top Gear team introduce The Stig.
Forza Motorsport 6 is a Xbox One exclusive. Review code was provided by Microsoft for the benefit of this review.

When you start up Forza Motorsport 6‘s Career Mode for the first time, you’ll have to prove that you’re ready to handle the tracks it’ll throw at you by taking part in three qualifying races.

These races will show off the game’s newest features, while also giving you a prime chance to get those tires warm again and earn some easy credits to start filling out your garage with the 460 cars that will be featured at launch. Here are those three races, as I ran them, in their entirety.

If you want to learn more about Forza 6 before it comes out, check out our interview with Turn 10 Studios’ Content Director, John Wendl, as we got to talk about how rain affects the gameplay, the new Mods feature, and more.

Forza Motorsport 6 will be available exclusively for Xbox One on September 15th.