The fourth instalment of the RaceDepartment Big Mid Season Report is here! In this sim racing review article, we shall have a closer look at Xbox One's Forza Motorsport 6 and the series franchise debut on Windows 10, Forza Motorsport 6: Apex. Big shout out to RaceDepartment's own Lorenzo Bonder for the help reviewing Forza Motorsport 6 in this edition. As our very own self-styled "Bad Ass Driver of RD", we just couldn't help getting the man involved and sharing his thoughts on this great game. Cheers Lorenzo! Forza Motorsport 6 The Forza Motorsport series is a long running smash hit for Microsoft games consoles, and Forza Motorsport 6 pulls together all the years of experience acquired by Turn 10 Studios to produce the largest, most polished edition of the franchise to date. Labelled by some as more simcade than sim, Forza have taken large strides in recent years to develop a more detailed and believable tyre model in order to bring the driving experience closer to those found in the more simulation orientated driving games. Although the Forza series has some way to go in order to match PC simulators rFactor 2 and Assetto Corsa, the driving experience in Forza 6 is noticeably improved from earlier iterations of the game. Driving aside, one of the main features that let Forza stand apart from other driving games you may be familiar with is its extensive career mode and car garage, improved and enhanced yet further in Forza Motorsport 6. A slickly designed game, with impressive visuals and chock a block full of content, Forza Motorsport 6 plays to the strengths of previous releases within the franchise whilst at the same time, just doing everything that little bit better than they have ever managed before. Content - The sixth instalment of Forza Motorsport was launched last September after a two year development gap. Turn 10 came back with a content fiesta providing right off the bat with over 460 cars available on release plus an additional 142 available through constant DLCs that the company have thrown out eventually. Once again, like its predecessors, all cars in Forza have a highly detailed cockpit camera and more importantly all cars are more polished due to a PBM (Physically-Based Materials) system, that allows more realistic lighting and car reflection. Cars are divided in multiple categories, from Vintage to Hypercars and Basic Touring Cars to Open Wheelers, split between 67 different manufacturers from around the world. Porsche makes a welcome return to Forza Motorsport 6 a short Sabbatical in Forza 5. Another positive note is the that the track size has significantly improved from its predecessor. While this matter was somewhat criticized in #5, Forza 6 brings 28 different locations, two of which can be found in additional DLCs (Virginia International Raceway and Homestead Miami Speedway), blending Real World race tracks with fictional locations. Fan favourite tracks such as Tsubuka Circuit and Maple Valley Speedway sadly don't make it into the game, Forza 6 does well to bring back a lot of (laserscanned) tracks like Hockenheimring, Sonoma Raceway and the fictional Rio from previous iterations. One topic that could be of a interest is "Career Mode". The Forza Motorsport 6 Career Mode gives you sort of a driver career progression, going from low tiered street cars to the high categories of racing such as WEC or Indycar. Career Mode in Forza 6 is substantial, potentially giving upwards of 50 hours playtime, I believe that it's kind of a grind and doesn't fully catch and hold the player, even though it will entertain you for a long time. And racing with other 23 AI cars next to you, powered by the Drivatar, which I'll talk about later, does give you a sort of race atmosphere and immersion. Features - OK, this is where Forza 6 main point of focus is, trying to bring in new features to players that already a Forza veteran or a newcomer to the series. Now races can either be raced day and night or during a sunny, cloudy or rainy day. Let me tell you: I have a new king of night racing, Forza 6 night racing is just plain SPECTACULAR looking. Yes, Project Cars has night racing and it's outstanding from a graphical standpoint, but Forza 6 unbelieveable. BecauseFM6 is a console game, with a standard technological architecture to adhere to, Turn 10 Studios get the night racing atmosphere just right. Other games should look upon Forza as an example of how to implement static night racing the proper way. Rain throws a different feel into Forza, but somehow I didn't like it very much. Of course, Turn 10's interpretation of rain driving hits somewhat the right atmosphere direction, but we can't control how much rain we'll have on track, 99% of the races are in downpour-like conditions and I believe the puddles of water, while they throw a different factor on how drivers take on the tracks and actually offers a aquaplaning effect on cars, they're just too regular in quantity and will eventually take the fun away from the driving experience. Multiplayer is back once again (hurray), now offering 24 player grids, though the same issue in console gaming persists, the car hitting-mania reminds me of driving in the public servers in Projects Cars and Assetto Corsa. The solution would find a close racing group as we have here in RaceDepartment for you to have a pleasure in online racing. Other than that, if you like playing bumper cars, Forza 6 is the game for you. However, Turn 10 and Microsoft are starting to have a stronger focus on multiplayer racing with the newly introduced Forza Racing Championship. FRC looks to bring some of the best Forza 6 drivers from the world together for a chance to win a variety of top level prizes. Kudos to the companies for this step forward towards upping the level of online competition within the Forza Racing community. Drivatar? Yes it's back and you can tune it just like you could in Forza 5, but I believe the fine tuning done to the AI has been excellent, and for not so experienced drivers, you will get a challenge and in the upper levels even more. Today I race in professional (+45% of normal level), and I get a challenge to get good laps, because if I don't have a good race pace I'll stay mid packs. Also the Drivatars are more prone to errors, having a more human behaviour, taking wrong lines sometimes, but still offering a good offline racing experience nevertheless. Two unfortunate things from the title are a lack of day to night and sun to rain transition, as this feature is not available in this instalment and you'll have to content yourself with driving in one specific weather and time setup throughout the entirety of the race. Hopefully the next Forza Motorsport game will see time and weather transition, breathing some needed fresh air into this acclaimed racing series. The other unfortunate thing is the lack of a race weekend vibe in FM6, you simply jump straight into races and do your laps. There's no practice, qualify or warm-ups, you just join a race and pronto, race begins and good luck. If Forza really wants to be a sim (and Turn 10 repeatedly says that), please implement this. Physics - This is where the conversation can get a bit twitchy. Forza is meant to be accessible to all kinds of drivers, from casual to serious racers. I don't have a steering wheel, so from the controller perspective this game is REALLY good for racing game, where each car has different behavioural traits. But the more realistic perspective isn't sometimes seen in some of the cars, like the GT3/GTE and open wheelers. I felt also that sometimes some low-spec cars (D-C class) has too high grip levels within the corners, even in stock configurations, the cars can feel so glued to the track you'd think you're driving a LMP2, LMP1 car. Night driving and rain racing are well done and this is where Turn 10 did a really good job. You can feel the grip loss in the rain and you'll have to rethink your racing plan and night racing the cold tyres effect is in play, where your tyres will take a little bit longer than usual to be in the optimal running temperature. Compared to Forza 5, I do see improvement, and a large one, from Turn 10 to bring this game into a more simulation type of game. Unfortunately, road improvement is not present in the game so the track will be always in the optimal grip levels, so you won't feel the tyre heat build-up well and grip gain as well. Sometimes cars feel all too equal, since this a console game and is, once again, meant to be accessible to all, so accuracy (or an emulation of it) isn't always the top priority in the dev list, but that's understandable. We can't always get what we want right? One positive note is the refinement in the controller force feedback, where the refinement on the grip loss or curve overdriving is better felt in the sides of the controller when taking a curve. Brake lock-up effect is somewhat refined too, but only Forza veterans might notice it. Sounds - All cars have their respective car sounds, in a very good job done by Turn 10, but I believe this is the area where would be the weakest for Forza 6 of all reviewing areas. This is where it least improved, if it improved at all. I still believe that the game car sounds are a bit muffed, it isn't as wild or alive as you'd hear it in person or in the high quality, high fidelity YouTube videos. While the atmosphere sounds are cool and sort of feels like a race environment, I still think it's flat compared to its arcade counterpart, Forza Horizon 2 and ultimately, Forza Horizon 3 will bring. Those arcade games are really good in that sense, the Forza Festival, humans NPCs partying, with the DJ playing the song in the background while you drive or just look around. Motorsport 6 brings the excitement of a race, with crowds cheering, the other car sounds around you buzzing, it's all cool, but I believe it can get better. RD Score 8.5 out of 10 Forza Motorsport 6 makes # 5 look like a tech showcase as this new game is a whole big leap forward for the acclaimed Forza racing series. It's been 11 years since the first game came out and look how big and well received it has become. The inclusion of day and night, sun and rain racing bring more immersion and diversity into the players races, the 24 driver grid enhances and give more charm into both offline and online racing, with the latter still being a bumper car fiesta, though Microsoft and Turn 10 are taking a step in the right direction making investments in MP tournaments and the rumoured Forza Academy to rival its Playstation counterpart, Gran Turismo. While content is still pretty deep, Career Mode does lacks some sort of a bang to pull drivers in and the car physics talk is still an ongoing subject amongst fans ever since Forza 2. The discussion whether this is a simulation, simcade or arcade still goes on and divides opinions all around. Mine: a glimpse of simulation racing game, but still this a console game, physics still hinder Forza from being a full time sim. But all said and done, Turn 10 are once again is back on track. Forza Motorsport 6: Apex Whilst Forza Motorsport 6 went on to sweep all before it in the console gaming wars, Turn 10 Studios and Microsoft quietly worked behind the scenes to finally bring the franchise over to Windows PC. Obviously aimed at attracting more subscribers to the Windows 10 platform (Apex and subsequent Forza games will be W10 version of PC only), Apex was a first stab at the well-established PC racing game market. More of a tech demo than fully fledged release, Turn 10 and Microsoft took the decision to release Apex free of charge through the Windows Store, no doubt aiming for a wider a spread of the racing audience as possible prior to a full release of the next Forza game. Sadly the initiative seems to have backfired on the studio, as Apex was pretty much dead on arrival due to its chronic lack of content and, critically, lack of proper wheel support. On a more positive note, despite the abysmal attempt at enticing PC players with Forza Motorsport Apex, Turn 10 did succeed in proving a full Forza release can work, and work well, on PC going forward. If a marketplace used to high end simulation software will be willing to engage in significant numbers with a game of Forza's nature, only time will tell. Content: - As previously discussed, Forza Motorsport 6: Apex is pretty short on content. With six circuits in the form of Brands Hatch, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Rio de Janeiro, Sebring International Raceway, Top Gear Test Track and the Yas Marina Circuit available in 20 different configurations, no one is pretending this is a full scale release from Turn 10 Studios. Granted the tracks are visually impressive and appear to be respectably accurate representations of their real life counterparts. Rio de Janeiro is the only fantasy circuit present in Apex, with sweeping turns and high impact visuals, the track is a typical Forza release and provides an interesting additional playground to sample the cars within the game, the main layout of the track is ideally suited to the higher performance downforce cars in Apex. Career mode within Apex is made up of the slickly presented 12 event “Showcase Tour,” a selection of racing events and cut scene videos narrated by former Top Gear hosts James May and Richard Hammond. To further flesh out the things to do within the game, Turn 10 have introduced a regularly updated Spotlight Series, which are a series of showcase events where you are given set conditions in which to test out a number of the different cars in game. From racing machines at Sebring, to road cars in the wet at Spa, the idea of the Spotlight Series is to expose players to the different elements of the game in a competitive driving environment. Features - Some of the more well-known Forza features have made it into the new Apex title, players familiar with the franchise will no doubt already be well aware of the Forza specific Drivatar™ opponents, basically adaptive AI that “learns” how you drive to provide close on track fights and stores ghosts of your friends’ and other players laps to let you compete with them in events and leaderboards. As well as the visually impressive vehicles found in the game, all cars benefit from full damage modelling, detailed interiors and the ability check out the great car detail on display via the Forzavista™ option. New for Forza 6 Apex, is the objective and scoring system. Players earn points and complete objectives throughout the game with an ability to compare scores against friends and rivals with the Forza world. Sadly, due to a lack of any kind of multiplayer within the game, this is the closest you will get to pitting your skills against fellow human beings in Apex, but it does add a little novity element for a title pretty thin on the ground with regards of things to do. One of the best things I’ve seen in a racing game, ever, is the very interesting “Dynamic Configuration”. Simply put, the game will dynamically tweak the graphic level details on the fly as the game attempts to reach a frame rate target of either automatic, 30 or 60fps. With Forza Apex proving to be quite a demanding programme to run for many PCs, this is indeed an impressive edition to the game and something that other developers would be wise to look at more closely. Despite the potential for radically different visuals corner to corner, the software does a commendable job of keeping the action smooth with minimal drops in visual fidelity noticeable when racing around on track. Physics - Well I have to say I have no idea. With a controller it’s pretty pointless trying to make a judgement in my opinion. I'm not saying using a controller is pointles, it's just that I've spent so long with a wheel I have precisely no feel for a controller. Simply put I am not in a position to make any judgements... I'll have to assume it’s the same as Lorenzo's opinions from Forza Motorsport 6, above. Sounds - In reality the virtual engine note of the Forza series have never been a strong suit of the franchise, and this trait continues in Forza Motorsport Apex. Although effort has gone into bringing a unique sound for each car, no one can really argue that Apex deserves to sit near the likes of RaceRoom Racing Experience or Assetto Corsa with regards to the in game audio. The sounds are solid, certainly not game breaking bad, but leave plenty of room for improvement. It will be interesting to see if a move to PC will open up further possibilities with new technology for future releases. RD Score: 4 out of 10 The graphics look good, and it's got Sebring. Oh yeah, it's on PC for the first time too. These are the good things one can say about Forza Motorsport 6: Apex. Ok it was free for Windows 10 PC players and it was only ever intended as a glorified tech demo to see how PC gaming works in the series, but that really isn't an excuse. Lack of wheel support and a greatly reduced list of content only begin to explain the many disappointing elements of a game that really should have been better executed to support the franchise move to PC. Saying that, the game runs reasonable well and shipped without a vast number of bugs and issues, whilst still recapturing much of the Forza feeling found on Xbox One. To sum up in a single sentence? Must do better in future. Thank you for reading the latest instalment of RaceDepartment's Big Mid Season Review. Don't forget to check out Part 1 (Assetto Corsa and Automobilista) here, Part 2 (DiRT Rally and American Truck Sim) here or part 3 (What's Upcoming) here. Article five will be focusing on iRacing.com and the snappily titled Next Car Game: Wreckfest. Keep an eye out on RaceDepartment in the coming days! Have you enjoyed Part 4? Do you agree with our assessment and scores? Let us know in the comments section below!