Tag Archive: turn 10

After I got my hands on the first two hours of Forza 6‘s new Career Mode, I sat down with Turn 10 Studios’ Content Director John Wendl, and learned just what adding rain to Forza Motorsport 6 will do to gameplay.

Along with this, my discussion with John touched on changes to the game’s economy, Career Mode, and new additions like Mods and Drivatar AI tuners and what they will bring to the game.

If you want to see more uncut gameplay from our session with Forza 6, check out our qualifying races video.

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

Kicking the tires

The ideas of open-world exploration and story aren’t usually synonymous with racing titles. A spin-off game from Microsoft’s popular Forza franchise, Forza Horizon, bucked the trend, though, and delivered a fun, fresh take on the genre back in 2012. It was welcomed back then as a breath of fresh air, so it’s no surprise that high hopes surrounded the follow-up, Forza Horizon 2.

Primary developer Playground Games committed themselves to making sure Horizon 2 was bigger and better in almost every possible way. Moving from the Rocky Mountain roads of Colorado, the Horizon music and racing festival has now set up shop on the Italy-France border, creating a fictional space that’s not only far larger than the first game but also more diverse. Whether it’s the beach resort town of Nice, France or the fields and old-world charm of Castelletto, Italy, each of the game’s six regions feel unique and exude an authentic Western European vibe.

Also, as we’ve come to expect from every Forza, the cars look absolutely spectacular. The game’s cover car, the Lamborghini Huracán, the 1960s Chevy Corvette Stingray, or even something like the Volkswagen Rabbit—along with more than 200 others—have been crafted to look exactly like their real-world counterparts, and they all shine brilliantly on the Xbox One.

Each car also handles much like you’d expect they would in the real world, but a new addition to Horizon 2 pushes that handling to the limit. Along with the returning day-night cycle, a new weather system makes its debut here. Rain not only changes how your car drifts and takes turns in races and out in the open world, but roads remain slick well after the rain has stopped, providing not only a major new hazard for racers to contend with but also a little welcome variety.

Speaking of variety, each region features wide-open spaces that just scream for you to take your car off-roading and cut corners between winding roads. While you could do that sometimes in the first game, far fewer boundaries will impede you here as fields of roses, wheat, lavender, and dry brush dot the landscape. It became a guilty pleasure to carve crop circles into each respective field, racking up my wreckage multiplier, and then hightailing it back onto the road, looking in my rearview at the carnage I’d wrought. These off-roading segments are also the theme of many races and provide a true sense of freedom, since no barriers hem you in or tell you how to reach the next checkpoint (yes, there’s a suggested path, but you’re often better off ignoring it).

There’s more to do beyond just traditional racing at the Horizon festival, particularly since the game offers rewards for exploring the nooks and crannies of the map with the return of Barn Finds, 10 hidden gem cars scattered about the game world. Forza Horizon 2 also features six new showcase events, allowing you to race head-to-head against a train, several planes, hot-air balloons, and more. The most interesting addition, though, may be the new Bucket List—30 different challenges spread around the map that offer special objectives ranging from the simple, such as driving along the coast in a certain amount of time in a Ferrari, to the maddening, like driving a Bowler Wildcat through a forest back to the Horizon Festival main tent.

On paper, Forza Horizon 2 offers plenty more to keep you occupied compared to the first game, and there’s no denying that it plays wonderfully. The addition of Drivatar AI opponents even adds a little extra flair, with the knowledge that when one of my friend’s avatars tries to squeeze me into a sideboard on a track when we’re up against each other, that’s what they’d actually do if we were playing together. That said, playing the game on Medium difficulty and with only a couple of braking assists, I was still able to take first place in every race I was in and found the clock in Bucket List challenges to be far more of an opponent.

But there’s one thing missing this time around that left me horribly disappointed: the game’s heart. To begin with, the story mode is a shell of its former self. This iteration offers many more races (nearly 700 total across 168 championships, though you only need to clear about 65 races over 15 championships if you want to get right to the final race), but all the charm’s been sucked out.

Much like in the original Forza Horizon, your objective here is to become the champion of the festival. In the first game, however, you had to knock off other championship contenders who specialized in particular cars. They offered a rarity in racing games: nemeses with personality and panache. Here, they’ve been replaced by nothing more than the Horizon organizer telling you how many more races you have to win to qualify for the finale. It becomes just a mundane, soulless countdown of championships—punctuated by the same, dull repetitive commentary—that starts to feel more and more like a grind as you move from region to region, choosing which of each area’s respective 28 championships you wish to take part in.

The popularity aspect of single-player portion has also been removed. In the first Horizon, you had to perform tricks and win races to move up in the popularity standings of the festival. This was another way to prove if you were worthy of a championship run. Here, in order to help streamline the seamless transition to multiplayer, you have a pair of XP bars that can be filled in both single-player and online. As you gain levels from tricks, you receive skill points that can be spent on unique upgrades—of which there are only a couple dozen, and they aren’t nearly as satisfying to acquire as moving up the popularity leaderboard. As you gain levels from winning races, you get new wristbands, just like in the first game. In the original, though, these opened up new races; here, they do nothing except change the color of your XP bar—a sad attempt at carrying over aspects of the first game that have now lost all meaning.

I will say, at least, that the multiplayer transition is impressive. Mind you, it should be noted that I played with only a handful of others online, and it worked fine, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens with the servers when the game actually launches with, I’d imagine, many more people populating them. The idea, though, is that with a simple button press from the menu or map, you can start searching for online games. When you find enough people, it becomes an impromptu race to one of the game’s six regions if you select Road Trip, or you can simply Free Roam with your friends and challenge others on the fly.

If you do Road Trip, when everyone gets to the destination, you begin a series of four events to determine the winner and see who takes home the online championship. You can also play the returning Playground Games, a group of offbeat multiplayer challenges that are less about racing and more about surviving—like Infected, which declares that the last person to be hit by an “infected” car wins.

In many ways, it’s clear that Forza Horizon 2 is definitely bigger than the original. It’s a great racer in terms of gameplay and chock-full of content that could potentially keep you busy for months on end. But gutting the story—and taking away one of the key pillars that made the first Forza Horizon so special—to blur the line between single- and multiplayer left a sour taste in my mouth. If all you care about is getting behind the wheel and scenic European vistas, though, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better experience.

Developer: Playground Games/Turn 10 Studios • Publisher: Microsoft Studios • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and up • Release Date: 09.30.14
Bigger doesn’t always equate to better. Forza Horizon 2 definitely delivers a gameplay experience a step above its predecessor, but gutting story mode leaves the single-player soulless and more akin to a grind.
The Good A larger, more beautifully detailed world to explore; seamless multiplayer integration.
The Bad The story is nearly nonexistent.
The Ugly Tons of new music tracks—and still nothing good on the radio.
Forza Horizon 2 is available on Xbox One and Xbox 360. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Microsoft for the benefit of this review.

Getting off-track

Before last week, if I had to make a bet on which game would be the strongest overall release during the next-gen console launch, Forza Motorsport 5 would’ve been my pick. You’ve got a first-party developer in Turn 10 Studios with a well-established pedigree and a ton of past success, plenty of time between entries (Playground Games was the primary studio behind last year’s spin-off, Forza Horizon), and excellent access to the Xbox One hardware. But, as is often the case when I gamble, I’d have been walking away from that table a poorer man.

Forza Motorsport 5 feels like the extended demo of an incomplete game. It looks great, it sounds great, the cars all handle wonderfully, and the physics are absolutely phenomenal. But after a couple of hours, I realized there weren’t nearly as many cars as previous years and barely a dozen tracks–with classics like Nürburgring and Suzuka­ notably absent–which got very old very quickly. The new features like Drivatars and an expansion of the relationship with the BBC’s Top Gear are both welcome additions, but the game just feels unfinished.

Now, I know that the tracks that are here have been completely remodeled for greater detail, along with the 200 cars in the game (compared to 500 at launch for Forza 4, mind you) so that they can all be seen in Forzavista, and 60 more cars are coming down the line via DLC, but Forza’s always been a series that provided a lot of content for gamers right out of the box. It looks great on next-gen, but quite honestly, I couldn’t care less about the damn upholstery of a Honda S2000 if it means I’m losing out on actually racing several other cars because of it. By providing such a small selection of racing locales and cars in Forza 5, it feels like Turn 10 is banking on players falling in love with a vehicle, drooling over the interiors, and tuning it up and down the class ranks while taking on the game’s various championship series.

Speaking of the championships series, Forza’s Career mode has been changed considerably, and not for the better. Instead of working your way through different racing tiers over the course of several calendar years, all the championship series in Career are unlocked from the start as long as you can afford the cars necessary to race in them. You’re given enough credits for your first car in the first series, and where you go from there is up to you.

I appreciate Turn 10 allowing us to have more choices in the way we compete, but they’ve taken away much of the value of Career mode in the process. Forza no longer offers bonus rewards for finishing a series. You don’t even get a new car anymore—since so few cars are featured in the game, they can’t afford to give them away, after all. So, by making you have to pay for all the cars—either via the game’s real-world money-exchange system or digital cash earned by racing—you’re more likely to keep playing (or paying) to flesh out your collection with different car types to take on different series, since the game itself won’t reward you for your skill. Nearly all sense of accomplishment has vanished. You don’t even need to get first place in most races, just finish in the Top 3 to get the most XP and credits.

The counterpoint to all this, I admit, is that Forza 5 offers more championship series in Career than any previous entry. Forty are available in all, including many classic car and exotic options. But with only a dozen tracks, you’re driving the same courses hundreds of times if you want to beat Career mode. This option—once one of the biggest draws of the franchise—now sees you literally driving around in an unending loop, and it’s a shell of its former self.

Despite this major issue, Forza 5 isn’t a burned-out clutch of a driving game—and a few new welcome features show why this is still a racing franchise to be reckoned with. The new Drivatar aspect is a nice way to earn credits offline, since your digital imprint can travel to your friends’ single-player modes, and it only takes three races before the game can make a general outline of how you drive. Obviously, the more you drive, the more detailed the profile can get, and the better decisions it can hopefully make. The idea of racing 15 of your friends at any given time instead of just ghosts or randomly generated computer cars does instill a little greater sense of competition.

Also, Forza 5’s expanded relationship with the BBC’s Top Gear definitely adds to the enjoyment. Not only do hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May provide humorous dialogue introducing every championship series, but the game also includes Top Gear challenge races. Not every championship series has them—and they’re unfortunately few and far between—but they’re the most entertaining objectives, hands down. Whether it’s racing against the digital cousin of the Stig or using your car to knock over giant bowling pins on the show’s famous test course, the tiny bit of diversity in Career mode comes right here.

In fact, I almost wish there were an entire mode—if not an entire racing game—devoted to Top Gear after seeing how Turn 10 seamlessly implemented the show elements into Forza 5. While the game offers a few other challenge types that don’t feature the Top Gear brand (like passing challenges or racing on a track with pedestrian traffic), much like the regular circuit races, they grow old quickly.

I look back at the Forzas that have come before, and I can’t help but wonder if the ever-growing push for interconnectivity is part of the reason why the Career mode is so sparse here. Just like in all Xbox One games, you can take screenshots and videos of your exploits and upload them to the Forza community, along with custom paint and tuning jobs. The multiplayer is a direct extension of the single-player, where you can race whatever cars you’ve earned against your friends in head-to-head competition—but if you all can’t agree on the car tier, you may have to pony up some cash to buy a new one, since maintaining a diverse garage is far harder now.

But when you finally do get on a track, Forza Motorsport 5 maintains the tradition of providing great control along with some stunningly realistic graphics. For all my complaints, this is still Forza, and the actual act of zooming down a virtual raceway is still top notch. The issue is simply this: When you slap down $60 for this game (and possibly another $50 for the DLC Season Pass), you’re not getting nearly as much out of it as you did with previous entries. Career mode has been unnecessarily dumbed down, and the lack of tracks gets boring fast, overshadowing the game’s positive additions like Drivatars and the still-stellar racing mechanics. If you’re in it for the social features, the multiplayer, and just plain driving, then this is still a solid pickup, but if the new grind of Career mode isn’t what you’re expecting, then you should steer clear.

Developer: Turn 10 Studios • Publisher: Microsoft Studios • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 11.22.13
Forza Motorsport 5’s Career mode is a shell of its former self, giving little reason for players to keep coming back. Couple this with a dismal launch lineup of cars and tracks, and this is a surprising step backward for the Forza franchise as it helps kick off Microsoft’s next-gen console.
The Good One of the best looking and handling next-gen games; the Top Gear cross-promotion fits seamlessly into the experience.
The Bad No sense of accomplishment in Career mode; an obvious lack of tracks and cars at launch.
The Ugly Laguna Seca’s corkscrew turn.
Forza Motorsport 5 is a Xbox One exclusive.

Peace, Love, Horizon

Forza has been one of the premier racing series for quite a while; the franchise has constantly provided top-tier physics, an impressive lineup of elite cars, and a variety of options to help personalize your driving experience. The setting of the game, however, has never really strayed from enclosed tracks and menus asking you where you wanted to race that day.

Enter Forza Horizon, the first open-world entry for the franchise. Horizon is set in a semi-fictional slice of Colorado where many real-world roads from the Centennial State cut together to form a twisting, turning spattering of insane driving roads along beautiful mountains, a rural expanse, and a suburban outcropping. So, what’s the reason all the in-game racers have gathered at this perfect storm of road racing? The (fictional) Horizon Festival, the Woodstock of car racing. And, naturally, you play as the young, up-and-coming nobody looking to make a name for himself and be crowned king of the festival.

Starting off in a crappy 1995 Volkswagen Corrado, you’ll race in beginner events in the hopes of earning credits to not only obtain better cars, but also to work your way up to stiffer competition until you’re finally ready to take on the champion in standard racing game fashion. Unlike previous entries in the series, Horizon offers many other ways to earn extra credits: illegal street races, promotional events where you take on unconventional vehicles like hot-air balloons or biplanes, and even racing for slips against the game’s seven bosses. In total, you’re looking at hours upon hours of racing outside of the 70 festival-sponsored races in single-player alone.

Along with the robust racing choices and the game’s main plot, there’s also the underlying quest to become popular. Yes, it does sound like something you may have had to do in high school, but in Horizon, this extra quest to do tricks or cause destruction in the environment to earn popularity points helps keep the long drive between some races entertaining as you look to move up from 250th amongst the racing fans to becoming the number one driver in their hearts. And performing enough of these tricks also adds to the in-game achievements where you can unlock more credits by performing specific stunts and maneuvers.

These new elements are all well and good, and when you jump into Forza Horizon to start, this new take feels original and exciting with the atmosphere of the festival, the radio DJ’s script, and the phenomenal soundtrack adding even more life to the scenes before you. But, as you get deeper into the game, if you’ve played any racing series besides Forza, you start to realize you’ve actually seen many of these tricks before.

Forza still does what it is known for very well in terms of physics, car choices, and customizing the driving experience. And the plot and quest for popularity are very enjoyable. But as an open-world game ,it still needs a bit of work, and the minor annoyances start to add up. The fact that the game doesn’t present a clear difference between what’s breakable in the environment and what isn’t particularly grinded my gears. I could smash up some fences but not others, and I’d be able to drive through some foliage only to be stopped suddenly by a single piece of lone shrubbery in the wilderness.

Another aspect of the open world that bothered me, especially later in the game, was how the area outside of the main festival felt like a ghost town. I loved how expansive and detailed the world was, but it barely felt like there was anyone else in it; much of the civilian traffic felt more like more random obstacles than actual people in the world. Many of the tracks also start to repeat themselves toward the end of the game, which was puzzling, considering how much unused open road there was. I also would have loved some character customization or at least some depth to the character you’re forced to play as. If I got called the “Mystery Driver” one more time, I was just gonna drive off a cliff!

All in all, Forza Horizon is a fine new take on this venerable racing series. It has a few quirks that come with the franchise’s first attempt at an open-world game, but at its heart, it’s still a solid Forza title. I can see Horizon being the start of a continuing bold new direction for the franchise, and with a bit more polish, I can even see it becoming the Forza standard. If you’re a Forza fan, this is definitely worth checking out.

SUMMARY: A different turn for the Forza folks maintains the high level of racing the series is known for, but their first open-world attempt falls flat in some ways.

  • THE GOOD: Same tight Forza physics and handling.
  • THE BAD: The open world feels empty and hollow.
  • THE UGLY: Starting the game off with a Volkswagen Corrado.

SCORE: 8.5

Forza Horizon is an Xbox 360 exclusive.  

Originally Published: September 6, 2011, on EGMMAG.com

THE BUZZ: Turn 10, the developer for Microsoft’s Forza franchise, has teamed up with 343 Industries to provide a unique experience in Forza 4. A special Halo 4 Warthog Easter egg will be featured in Forza 4’s brand new Autovista mode, which allows gamers to get a detailed look at some of the game’s super cars, and will provide fans of both franchises a chance to get up close and personal with the iconic all-terrain vehicle like never before.

WHAT WE KNOW: Turn 10 head Dan Greenawalt made sure to point out that this was an Easter egg meaning only the most hardcore of Forza 4 drivers would likely have a shot at unlocking the Warthog in the Kinect compatible Autovista mode. And considering you can’t drive the vehicle in the game (it would get smoked off the line as its top speed is only 78 MPH, but I wonder if a Ferrari could out run the bullets from its mini-turret), only the mightiest of mechanics might even be interested in going for it. An extra special addition to the Warthog Easter egg will be Cortana providing never before heard commentary as you explore the inner and outer workings of the vehicle.

WHAT IT MEANS: It’s not unheard of for a company to cross-promote with exclusive franchises, but I think it is actually a plus that the Warthog is not a drivable vehicle because when you cross promote too much, you might turn off the audience that is only interested in the primary franchise, in this case Forza 4, to begin with.