We're around a month away from Forza Motorsport 6 hitting the Xbox One, ten years after it first roared into our lives.
This latest incarnation isn't just the biggest, best looking, most ambitious Forza game so far, it could well be the finest racing game ever to grace the Xbox. We've had a good look at what's pretty much the finished article at Gamescom 2015. Here's our preview.
Beauty is more than skin-deep.
Forza 6 isn't just good looking for a racing game. It's good looking, period. If you're looking for graphical prowess, you'll find it in spades here. You want 1080p? Check. 60fps? You got it. Where other game developers have perhaps toned down the resolution or locked the frame rate at 30, Turn 10 has delivered once again.
And let's not forget that's 1080p, 60fps with 24 cars on the circuit. Up from the 16 available in Forza 5. And from what we've seen on the pre-release software it's steady as a rock and smooth as silk. For comparison's sakes, Project Cars runs at 900p to maintain 60fps on the Xbox One and doesn't support as many cars in online multiplayer, either.
This is made possible by the engine running the game. It's been built from the ground up specifically for the Xbox One and with the intention of running at 1080p 60fps. And now, having worked on it with the team behind Forza Horizon 2, it's better than ever. And it's not the end, either.
More cars, famous circuits
Forza 6 boasts 450 cars. Just let that sink in for a moment. That's an insane number. And as ever there's a superb mix of regular cars, super cars and specialist race cars. The Forza Garage announcements have been coming weekly and adding more and more as we get closer to launch. Recent additions include British Touring Car Racers from Audi and Toyota, extensive rides from Ford and the Lime Rock circuit. At Gamescom, Turn 10 announced the addition of some more European circuits for Forza 6 in Hockenheim and Monza alongside Sonomo, Circuit of the Americas as well as a couple of BMW race cars.
The circuit selection was my major criticism of Forza 5. For a next-gen title, I just didn't feel there were enough of them. That doesn't look like being an issue with Forza 6. Besides the circuits mentioned above we'll have real life circuits like Brands Hatch, Silverstone, Sebring and the infamous Nurburgring, as well as the street circuit in Rio. Looking at that specifically, Rio has made a return to Forza to celebrate the ten year anniversary. While it's not an actual circuit, Turn 10 went out and picked a route and laser scanned the roads in the same way as the regular race circuits to produce something pretty special.
I've driven a couple of the circuits on offer and using Brands Hatch as an example (because I know what it looks like in real life) Turn 10 looks to have done the business when it comes to accuracy. And that includes the weather.
Make it rain
The weather is one of the biggest new challenges to any Forza 6 race. No longer will conditions be perfect for racing. As with the accuracy of the circuits, the way the bad weather affects your race has been carefully considered. The water will move around the car on the circuit, puddles will form where actual puddles would form in real life (top tip: the first corner at Brands Hatch is pretty terrifying in the rain.) Close attention has been paid to how the wet weather affects the handling and performance of the car. It's not just a linear, less grip applied all round approach.
When it rains, often the regular racing line is no longer the fastest. And this is something you'll have to figure out in Forza 6. Different lines work better in the wet to the dry, and you're going to need to work out where to put your car to maximise your times. Do you avoid the puddles and risk sliding or do you just go head on into them? You'll have to find your own way. The friction levels have been mapped on different parts of the circuit for maximum realism.
And it's worth playing in the rain just to see the drops falling on the cars. Breathtaking.
Into the night
Another new condition for Forza 6 is night racing. Going racing in the dark is more than just losing visibility, and you'll experience that in Forza 6. Some circuits infamous for night racing are included, such as Sebring, Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans, and Turn 10 has tried to create an authentic experience.
For example, when the sun goes down, the track temperature follows. As the tarmac cools, it affects the behaviour of the cars, and that's something that Forza 6 aims to recreate. And losing visibility isn't just about making it harder to see where you're going. It's about how the car headlights behave on the surface, on the world around the circuit and the other cars. It's an experience.
Night racing doesn't have to be in the dark, either. Take Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi, for example. Here, the track temperature will drop causing behavioural changes in the car, but the floodlights create a much different racing experience to hurtling down the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans at over 200mph. As with the weather effects, the experience will differ depending on the circuit, the car, and ultimately, your abilities.
Leagues, career and free play
As with previous Forza games, we've got the regular, progression based career mode. Start at the bottom, win races, championships, move up the ladder, get better cars and so on. It's a stories of motorsport approach with several "volumes" of the story inside broken down by car type. The celebrity voiceovers return, with Richard Hammond, James May and Tanner Foust all mentioned. What's also nice in career mode is that before each race you can tweak the tuning of the car.
There are a couple of interesting points to note in other gameplay modes, though. Free play is there for folks who just want to get behind the wheel and race and from the very beginning we're told every single car will be unlocked to use in this mode.
Online multiplayer has been spruced up for Forza 6 with the Leagues feature targeting every single Forza player regardless of ability. Each race will be a full 24 players, and you'll be invited to leagues based on ability, when and where people are online. If you're a Forza noob, you won't find yourself on the grid alongside a Formula 1 driver who's going digital, for example.
Forza is one of Microsoft's console selling franchises. Just as Sony has (or had, depending on your outlook) Gran Turismo, Turn 10's epic is one of Microsoft's crown jewels. With Forza 6, that's still the case, and we're looking at a genuine head turner. We've got Project Cars already available and Assetto Corsa due in 2016, but for the mainstream, Forza is still where it's at.
There's so much attention to detail that fans of cars, racing and just great games alike will love. The way the tires can bounce off the kerbs, the showcase where you can get inside the cars or look at them from every angle, and the daunting challenge that is the full 13-miles of Nurburgring in the wet. Forza 5 was good, Forza 6 is going to be even better. The King is back this September.