What began as mere speculation has now been all but confirmed. The Forza Motorsport franchise – once used as an Xbox exclusive to lure gamers into purchasing microsoft’s home console – will now be coming to Windows 10 via Microsoft’s revolutionary new “cross-buy” system. Those who purchase future copies of Forza Motorsport 6, or the upcoming Forza Horizon 3, will receive a Windows Store code for a PC copy of the title at no additional charge. Essentially, PC sim racers will be buying an Xbox One copy of Forza Motorsport 6 solely for this bonus code, and proceeding to gift the spare copy of Forza to a friend with an Xbox. That’s pretty cool.
It may not feature the Steam integration everybody wants, and the forced upgrade to Windows 10 may upset the conspiracy theorists like myself who believe the critically acclaimed operating system installs unwanted backdoor spying functionality, but many will see these as necessary sacrifices to bring Forza to the PC. The biggest hurdle Turn 10 currently faces is implementing all relevant hardware compatibility options to ensure the success of the PC version. Hardcore sim racers are a remarkably different crowd than the laid-back audience currently on Microsoft’s Xbox One, and a quick and dirty port just wont cut it here. As Milestone learned with Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo, building the best rally game of all time means fuck all if nobody’s shit works on PC. Sim racing thrives on unique hardware upgrades, and if you want to see total chaos on launch day, tell the drift guys their handbrakes aren’t compatible.
Yeah, that won’t fly.
As a racing simulator, Forza faces an extremely challenging task when migrating over to Windows 10. The negative stigma surrounding the Forza franchise will divide online racing communities in ways never thought possible, as most sim racers previously abandoned the series due to their needs no longer being met by the popular console entry. A simplistic tire model, exaggerated tracks, and emphasis on career progression has traditionally planted the physical driving experience solely in the rear view mirror. Instead of expanding on the actual gameplay experience, Turn 10 have given customers more ways for them to not play Forza. The rewind button coupled with other assists became a crutch, demolition derby modes like Car Soccer or Cat & Mouse encouraged mindless bashing, livery design competitions grew into communities, and the abundance of wreckers online chased away all serious racers. Save for a few serious online leagues, Forza Motorsport ended up being less about the racing, and more about dicking around with cars.
Yet compared to the two most popular modern PC racing sims, Forza Motorsport 6 has the potential to be something special when it inevitably launches on Windows 10. Objectively, Forza 6 is a more feature-complete title than Project Cars or Assetto Corsa, and those who once dismissed the Forza series may indeed find themselves crawling back to it. To illustrate how competitive Forza 6 will be out of the box compared to Version 9.0 of Project CARS, as well as Version 1.4 of Assetto Corsa, I’ve prepared a few sleep-inducing charts which demonstrate that Forza Motorsport 6 is the superior game on paper – and sim racing elitists should at least give it a chance.
We start by comparing the overall list of content across all three titles. While Forza obviously has the edge in the sheer amount of cars included in the vanilla release, the game earns extra points by also ensuring the cars and tracks within the game are pieces of content that sim racers are familiar with. With Modern GT3 entries and Historic Grand Prix rides routinely attracting the most virtual drivers in the world of PC sim racing, Forza has all of the essentials covered – and then some. Those who loved the laser-scanned Nurburgring in Assetto Corsa, or can’t get enough of GT3 cars at Spa in Project CARS – Forza will make them feel right at home. What’s also important to note is that Forza’s managed to bag the big three supercar manufacturers that often play hard-to-get with video game developers: Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsche. The end result is that the list of content in Forza Motorsport 6 compared to PC sims is a pretty one-sided affair; Forza’s got basically everything you’d expect to find in your standard racing sim, and then throws an additional 350 cars on top of that. Even the third party mod connoisseurs who routinely spend hours digging for more Assetto Corsa mods will struggle to inflate their game to the size of what Forza 6 offers by default. And that’s something to really get excited over.
Next, we proceed to compare the Game Aspects between the three most popular racing sims. Now, what exactly is a “Game Aspect,” you might ask? In short, it’s the shit you can do that fleshes out the on-track experience. Modes, features, options, functionalities… That sort of thing. And again, this is a pretty one-sided affair. Forza and Project CARS both offer a full single-player career mode compared to Assetto Corsa’s pitiful “here are some themed races you can do” campaign, but Forza steadily chugs into the lead as you dig further and further into the title. The sheer depth of performance and visual upgrades opens up entirely new ways to play Forza, ones not seen in it’s immediate competitors. The ability to sit down and build an amateur track day entry out of any of the 350+ production cars in the game is something truly unique to the world of sim racing, and will surely extend the lifespan of Forza once sim racers tire of the default array of race-prepared vehicles.
Staying toe-to-toe with Project CARS through the list of Game Aspects, Forza pulls ahead with the inclusion of the storefront – allowing racers to purchase car setups, liveries, and custom decals with the in-game credits they’ve earned. While Assetto Corsa needlessly complicates things with an external server tool, creating a custom online lobby in Forza 6 is all done through the in-game multiplayer menu with relative ease. Lastly, automatic updates allow those with who don’t own all of the game’s premium DLC to still participate in events with each other.Everywhere you turn in Forza 6, there’s something to do, and PC sim racers will lose several hours exploring every nook and cranny.
On an unrelated note, this list of Game Aspects unintentionally demonstrates how much the title by Kunos Simulazioni lacks when compared to other Xbox One racing sims; foreshadowing the overwhelmingly negative reception Assetto Corsa is likely to receive when released on next-gen consoles in April. There’s a demonstrable lack of things to do.
But now it’s time for the big debate – the Simulation Value argument. The truth is, not one of the three biggest racing sims on the market today can be labelled acceptable, as they’re all missing more than a few aspects integral to a complete simulated racing experience. For starters, Project CARS doesn’t let you save more than one car setup per track, and often throws you into multi-class events with cars that are in no way compatible with each other. Assetto Corsa’s graphics engine doesn’t allow for more than one light source, ruling out night racing altogether, nor is there any functionality in the current consumer version of the game that allows for false starts or pit stops in offline races. All three titles strangely lack the presence of a safety car, and Forza omits flag rules altogether in favor of dirty lap time penalties and sticky grass. While the abundance of game modes may make some temporarily forget that Forza doesn’t offer much in the form of authentic racing rules, some of this stuff would be really nice to have given how fleshed out the rest of the title is. Though some elitists will undoubtedly knock Forza’s lack of Simulation Aspects, it’s a pot calling the kettle black scenario. From an objective standpoint, no sim racer can honestly shit on Forza Motorsport 6, because as displayed above, the two most popular PC titles aren’t much better. In fact, they’re all over the place.
What bothers me about Forza Motorsport 6’s lack of Simulation Aspects from a personal standpoint, and will be an issue I consider crippling if it’s not rectified in time for the PC release, is the outright lack of a seat position adjustment for the game’s atrocious cockpit view. Look, I’m on a 24 inch monitor and would prefer to be using as much of that surface area as possible to view the road ahead. I’m already holding a steering wheel in my hands and need to look at the apex rather than the random buttons in the cockpit; I don’t need both cluttering up my screen. Like, I’m sorry, but this is just totally useless. 70% of the monitor is spent on shit you will never be looking at.
Of course, two most important aspects are areas of the game we can’t measure via simple comparison charts. It remains to be seen how Forza’s admittedly simplistic tire model and overall physics engine will stack up compared to the more established PC racing sims. My personal prediction is that Forza 6 will surprise me and closely resemble the driving model in Assetto Corsa, but receive a significant amount of unwarranted hate elsewhere in the early days of the PC release. As we’ve gone over before here on PRC.net, the majority of sim racers simply can’t drive, yet have no problem taking to various sim racing message boards voicing their “expertise” on vehicle dynamics. Regurgitating marketing buzzwords and nonsensical adjectives while scrutinizing tire model performance, I’m eagerly anticipating the release of Forza 6 on PC to see comments from backmarkers claiming they dropped the title after an hour and went back to iRacing – a sim with an equally underwhelming tire model.
As a sim racer that’s been largely let down by the current crop of racing sims, I’d love for a proper Forza release on PC to shake things up, and it appears we’ll receive just that. However, Forza won’t revitalize the genre just by showing up – Turn 10 must optimize the game for PC sim racers who need the extra level of functionality provided by dedicated PC racing sims. Many secretly want a Forza release to be successful on PC, but a rough console port could push the game’s overall reception in the completely opposite direction. I think the best move for Turn 10 at this point is to become active on a variety of high traffic sim racing forums, and assertively ask what needs to be done to ensure Forza 6 is compatible with as many configurations as possible. If the prospect of dealing with rabid fanboys is too much to handle, I’d draw up a document myself – as long as it doesn’t fall on deaf ears.