Forza 6 feels like a moment of self-reflection for developer Turn 10. Many of the alterations applied here are evidently a reaction to the negativity that surrounded Forza 5's scaled-back design, with the focus once again very much geared towards exhaustive depth and an intimidating number of race events. From road tracks to purpose-built circuits, hatchbacks to Le Mans racers, quick sprints to endurance and online events, there's no way you're going to be stuck for something to do.
And, yet, despite the volume of content and the sharp precision and attention to detail levelled at everything from visuals to audio, Forza 6 can oftentimes feel like the standard bearer of a bygone age. On the one hand it's a mechanical wonder, but on the other it's firmly rooted in ideologies and design tropes of the past.
It was impossible to fully comprehend at the time, but by comparison it's easy to see just how much Project Cars has spoilt us. Its open career structure means that you forever feel in control of your own destiny, your time spent learning a new track or car and planning which motorsport route is going to cement your legacy as the kind of racer you want to be. In short: it's the racing that you're concentrating on.
So much can't be said for Forza 6, which adheres to a career progression model that now feels archaic and, frankly, obsolete. Rather than focus on your career trajectory, much of your time is instead spent working out which races you need to win in order most rapidly build up the cash required to buy a new car. Subsequently, you can then enter the championship you've been waiting to compete in. Repeat until there are no championships left to enter.
It's a formula that works in that it facilitates driving in many different cars, but it's not one that leaves much room for motor racing power fantasies. How many professional drivers have to worry about purchasing their own vehicles for an upcoming race? At times it's easy to think that this is a game about buying and selling assets at the right time more than it is about racing, with a poorly judged purchase setting you back in your quest to race in the best competitions.
Turn 10 might have been rightfully stung by the reaction to Forza 5, but the decision to fix things by rehashing an older structure is poorly judged. For a series that has always doggedly pursued labels of 'innovation' and 'progress' this kind of conservative, backward step will come as a shock to long time veterans.
Thankfully, the core racing housed within this ancient structure of progression is of the highest order - so long as you're able to stomach the protracted loading times. The handling model is perfectly pitched to allow you to liberally throw the car around the track, removing much of the stress when it comes to getting behind the wheel of that all-powerful supercar for the first time. There's a raw, guttural sensation to tearing through a corner in a higher end road car such as a BMW M3 with the assists turned off - the rear tyres screaming for grip as you carefully feather the throttle in an effort to prevent the rear end fish tailing out too far.
It's always tempting for a game like this to throw out adjectives such as realistic, authentic and genuine. However, cars don't really drive like this in reality. Perhaps the best way to think about realism in terms of Forza 6 is to imagine yourself driving one of these cars in a dream. Everything about the vehicle is exaggerated by the artistic license employed by your subconscious. The engine is louder, the paint work shinier and the tyres capable of retaining grip despite an impossible combination of speed and cornering angle. That's what it's like to drive a car in Forza.
This is by no means an arcade racer, and anyone thinking that it is is in for a rude awakening, but it's also not a wholly accurate driving simulator. Forza 6 is a mainstream game aimed at a mainstream audience, hence it concentrates on fulfilling the fantasy of what it's like to drive the world's sexiest cars, rather than the reality.
Such drama is further enhanced by the addition of night and wet races, although the two are only available on specific tracks. The attention to detail applied to every puddle acts as a stunning example of how dedicated Turn 10 is to creating the perfect racing scenarios, although the small number of wet/night tracks also hints at the studios desire to strictly manage those scenarios. Wet weather changes a track enormously, most readily in how it reduces your vision and forces you to take alternative racing lines in order to avoid aquaplaning across standing water.
It would have been nice to see such effects available across all tracks, but the handcrafted nature of the wet weather here means that such a provision would likely have taken much more time to implement. Yes, it's a shame that only some tracks ever see rain, but at the same time it's eye-opening to experience just how much more impactful weather can be when the time is taken to craft it in such detail. Certainly, it's a superior proposition to a catch-all rain effect that can be easily applied across all circuits.
Where structure and racing combine into a successful, unified whole is in the online multiplayer options. The difference between a worthwhile race and a waste of time continues to be dictated by the mindset of your opponents and how willing they are to race dirty in a bid for a podium finish, but if you can find yourself a good group then online racing is where the legitimate rewards are found.
Beating humans is always more meaningful than besting the AI, not least after you've carefully tuned your car to make it as suitable as it can possibly be for the track in question. One of the best feelings to be found here is in racing against an adversary in the same car as you and beating them; partly because of your driving skills, partly because you set up your car better. You win both on and off the track.
Forza 6's many online options support this kind of victory with every race and, should the mood take you, you can enter leagues and use those individual successes to climb your way up the ladder and into the top divisions.
It's a shame that Turn 10 has chosen to rely upon a single player progression model that is of questionable value in 2015. Something more open and less obsessed with building cash reserves would have been preferable, but it's easy to forget such irritants once you're on the track and behind the wheel.