Currently Forza Motorsport 5: Racing Game Of The Year Edition is free on Xbox’s “Games with Gold” and what better justification to play a video game than to write a review? I downloaded the game a few nights ago and have maybe put five hours into it since. While I raced, customized, and scrolled through the menus I took some notes and told myself I would be done with it after the first night but I found myself playing more the morning after. What can I say, I’m obsessed cars! However, even taking into account that this game came out in (very late) 2013, I can’t help myself but to be a little critical of some of the choices Turn 10 studios made with this game. I haven’t played Forza 6 or Horizon 3, and I know Forza 7 is just around the corner, but I have played Forza 1-4 and Horizon 1 and 2 which makes me somewhat of a veteran on the topic.

First, the good stuff. The most exciting thing about a new racing game is, as always, finally being able to jump behind the wheel of new cars! Car enthusiasts spend weeks ogling over everything that was revealed at Geneva or NYIAS earlier that particular year and anticipate the racing games that will follow. Forza 3’s featured vehicle was the then new Audi R8, Forza 4 donned the Ferrari 458, and Forza 5’s hero car is one third of the “Holy Trinity”: the McLaren P1. This was the first game that would let fans drive a P1 and it fronted Turn 10 Studio’s marketing campaign. The hype was real.

Forza Motorsport 5 - Short Shift (5)

So here I am nearly four years later playing it for the first time. When you start the game up, you’re greeted by a live action video narrated by a familiar Top Gear…er Grand Tour host named Jeremy Clarkson. This was a good sign because if there was anything I loved about Forza 4, it was the new addition of the three (ex) Top Gear hosts hosting your gaming experience and bios on your favorite cars. As a car lover, something I will never get bored of is more Top… Grand Tour in my racing games.

Next Forza 5 wants to throw you right into the best it has to offer. It wants to wow you. So much so that it shoves you right into a bright orange McLaren P1 for a quick lap on their latest crown jewel of a track: Circuit de Prague in the Czech Republic. Keep in mind this was an Xbox One day one release game so they needed to scratch that 1080p and 60fps itch gamers had. And boy does it. The car is super fast, handles sublimely, and the new track is gorgeous. As you blast through old cobblestone roads and neighborhoods, you get a sense of the Xbox One’s new power. There’s even a turn at the edge of the course where you catch a glimpse of an entire, beautifully crafted city. Hook, line, and sinker.

Forza Motorsport 5 - Short Shift (3)

After the mesmerizing McLaren P1 opening you get an introduction to the game and then it’s literally Forza business as usual. But there are still quite a few upgrades in this installment that I like. All of the tracks have greatly improved graphics, with sharp detail stretching out even further. Trees look lush, ambient lighting feels real, and partly cloudy overcast and morning/evening races blind the driver. Hell, in certain lighting you can even see the reflection of your hands in the windshield! But there are a few shortcomings. The crowds still look two dimensional and they haven’t quite figured out how to make wheels and tires look as real as the cars. These are only minor graphical complaints for an otherwise gorgeous game.

Forza 5 also kept the Bernese Alps track from 4, one of my all time favorite maps, and added two more new tracks: the gorgeous Circuit de Prague, and the even more stunning Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. There’s even more Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May voice work than the previous game, and where they’re missing the lovely lady narrator steps in. Last, but not least, there are no more AI opponents. That’s right, you’re always racing other human beings that have actually completed the track before you. As you progress in the game new drivers will also be competing against your best times!

The last thing that’s definitely worth mentioning isn’t something you see, it’s something you feel. For the first time, thanks to the Xbox One’s new controllers, the triggers are now completely independent of each other. That means when you pull the right trigger for gas, you get the tire feedback only in that trigger. When you brake, you can feel the ABS kicking in on the left trigger. And when you crash, well, the whole controller vibrates. This haptic feedback really helped me get to know each different car and improve my lap times.

Forza Motorsport 5 - Short Shift (2)

Now, the bad. And there’s really only one thing wrong with this game but it’s a doozy. Typically when gamers wait 1-2 years to buy a Game Of The Year (GOTY) edition of a game, the cost includes all of the content that has been released for that game from day one until they stop releasing it. This may include bonus levels, special guns, different characters, or, in the case of Forza, more cars. This is not true for Forza 5: Racing Game Of The Year Edition. I did the math, checked it twice, and, even 4 years after its release, buyers only get 17% of the extra cars released for F5:GOTY

I sat down and counted the number of free cars that came with F5:GOTY and the number came to 19. Three of of the 19 were a Rolls Royce Wraith, a Hummer, and a Ford Transit Van. Why the heck would I want any of those for a track racing simulator? But the number of cars that you still have to purchase today is astonishing. There are still 90, yes 90, cars that you have to buy with real money via various “car packs”. What’s worse is what’s in that list of 90 that should automatically be included in the GOTY edition. Cars like the Datsun 240Z, Mercedes A45 AMG, Lamborghini Veneno, 8 Ferraris, and over 20 classic American Muscle cars. These are all cars that would make me want to still want to purchase a dated game and I feel bad for anyone who bought it with that expectation.

At the end of the day, Forza Motorsport 5 was an excellent console release game that provided tons of fun and graphical/technical upgrades. There are still improvements to be made such as ambient weather, interior lighting and displays being on like they are in real life, and dialing in the realism. I have no doubt that Forza 6 made many improvements on 5 and that the upcoming 7 made just as many on 6. I hope to get my hands on 7 while it’s still relevant but in the mean time I’m having a blast with Forza 5!

*All screenshots were taken from Forza Motorsports’ website.