Forza 6 Attention 2 Detail Preview
Hello fellow Tarmac thrashers as we take a look at Turn 10's newest entry in its massive Forza series and second game on the XboxOne, they have raced to get this shipped before the big winter period. With this game having a clear and direct plan of being the most in-depth,all encompassing racer that you could ever want ( well for the four wheeled kind anyway) and the team are more than experienced from both a technical and passion level.
This was evident with the frankly stunning job they did with Forza 5 in time for the XboxOne launch and even though it was not as groundbreaking as earlier Forza games it was a solid and certainly showpiece for both the console and the team. We are looking at the Demo made available on the Xbox Store that covers a good spread of cars, courses and the complete game.
Now 2 years into the launch of this generation both Turn 10 and the console has changed quite dramatically. From the well documented and present SDK state of the machine when launched have been covered before my myself and others. The wasted GPU reserve for kinect, the always consistent and present development environment improvements along with one of the biggest if not ultimate benefit for any engine or development process the tools have all drastically changed and for the better. With more resource freed up for use this has allowed the team to make Forza 6 in many ways the game 5 aspired to be. But the same solid and true mantra's are present here as in all of their games, 1080/60 is the target and the team again hit this without out fault and any hiccups. I will not dwell on the performance side as after many races in day, night, rain, multiple cars swamping the screen it never, ever drops, stutter or falls it is an absolute oak tree level of performance again and aside the more post effect heavy scenes that start or end races (these run at 30 to allow an even more impressive display) it runs at the 60 consistently.
With that out of the way a key area for a game that has its controls so tightly wound into the update and response allows it too feel fast, responsive and accurate pretty much all the time. Like previous games polling of the controller is done uncoupled from the rendering state and collects data from the player at a much faster rate than the 16.67 Ms refresh rate of 60hz on the games visuals. Using the now named and copyrighted Forzatech engine ( this is a must now a days) the simulation like its previous 2 games in 5 and Horizon 2 runs at 6 times this rate 360hz or every 2.7ms which allows the game to react and feel incredibly responsive in play. It also enables all these realtime calculations to happen within the game which now includes a far more accurate wet weather simulation. Sadly this is fixed in races and not dynamic as per FH2 but the 60fps has to have sacrifices and this is one of a few. But when it does rain the game looks even better with the rain hitting and building on your screen as your wipers remove streaks, rolling down the bodywork and most importantly puddling on the ground and spraying from rivals cars. This has incorporated more physics within the simulation as not onto does the wet weather reduce tyre grip and control but the simulation is carried out across all the various types of surface that make up a track, over banding on sections, painted rumble strips and more all have varied and reduce levels of grips factored into the new simulation, but this reaches a new height with its marketed and often confused 3D puddles. These are not a 3D physical model and are just the same reflective texture map on the surface as before but they are now a full 3D physics calculation that handles aqua planing or as in America called hydro planning, this is the occurrence of the tyre tread no longer making any contact with the surface to allow the grooves to push the water out of the way enabling your tyres to grip, instead with the depth being greater than the tyres contact patch and momentum causes the car to simply slide over the water with zero friction and therefore akin to riding on marbles on ice. The simulation takes into account the wheels as they touch this and the direction/drive it is impacted at. Just having 1 side of the car aquaplane caused the other side to drive and push the car inwards. All four wheels and you simply lose full control briefly as you slide over and then Have to counter it when you have some more friction contact with the road, this works very well and by no means the only time this has appeared in a game it is one of the best and adds even more thought and skill to racing in these conditions. As I have much experience myself on track I know this all too well first hand and the simulation engine here is impressive and feels surprisingly accurate, I would love to see the team add motorcycles to its roster as its simulation engine and efforts ( they no longer take data from tyre manufactures only and have their own simulation rig to test and improve its already superb physics engine). Along with the normal sun drenched tracks and new night time racing complete with shadows casting headlights from all cars and reduce visibility certainly delivers a racer that punishes your mistakes as much as rewards your skill, cars feel different and handle so from each other and within these varied conditions, which includes the same damage as you drive and collide meaning bumper cars are not always the best racing line. It Enables a greater choice and skill to be used along with the visual presence it all delivers, it is a shame that dynamic changes from day/night and dry/wet and back again are not here but maybe in the next release this will be something they strive towards.
Sound is gain decently handled with the rain patter dulled on interior views, engine roars change and the damage as you collide are accompanied by a metallic clunk and scrape. But it never extends beyond previous games and other modern racers as their is only so much you can do within the constraints of racing, hearing the echo of distant exhaust roars as the music plays is a good example of its best use of sound processing, that all works well to let you enjoy and feel the action as you race.
But visually it has had to make the same sacrifices you would expect of such lofty performance goals and minuscule render budget. It must be stressed that these high frame rates in modern engines are not an easy target to hit and effect both CPU and GPU alike along with entire game design choices, even more so with a fixed hardware spec. The previously mentioned loss of real time weather and lighting is one such sacrifice, along with a much less intensive AA solution than Horizon 2's previous and incredibly clean 4xMSAA/EQAA choice. Here the direct EQAA choice is made mostly due to the fact it is a hardware solution within the AMD powered consoles and that within the lower level API of these can also be a fully controlled and programable sample solution. This means you can improve an tailor its coverage as you need for both geometry coverage and colour samples, but not here the choice looks very similar (to the previous game) and at times almost lacking coverage with the obvious loss on textures and shader passes causing issues but even plain old geometry can have some bigger areas of noise at times. The game is a cleaner and more refined display than Forza 5 but most of this comes from the greatly improved texture work/filtering and PBR attempted shaders than any real AA solution. But filtering has taken a bigger increase, with 5 looking like it ran little to no filtering but here the team have certainly balanced this much better. With AF being something you can apply at a per texture level it certainly looks like this has been wisely chosen, with roads, pavements and walls looking much cleaner than before from the normal oblique angle of racers and the green grass texture never seen looking to be running the same 0 filtering as it would be a waste. Texture quality is far higher and the lighting is greatly improved over the previous games, specular highlights standout far better and objects appear far more realistic. The only letdown is the night racing sections which all have a very flat look and no depth in the darkness, this also comes across in the daytime racing with no atmospheric scattering present in the sunny distance views. The baked in lighting solution is the sacrifice of such a rock solid and unwavering performance. But it does have some much nicer section, the rain is again it's standout with the bonnet view showing up a nice DoF affected rain drop touch as they hit and reduce, even refracting the bonnet texture within them when in range, sadly the colour refraction does not extend beyond this and the other screen space and cubmap effects used are all good in play. Cars all have realtime reflections on road surfaces as they drive or kick up spray, as does your bonnet as you drive along with a simple but effective noise map added to the rougher parts of the surface within its roughness calculation that gives reflections a more blurred and confused look with clear puddles offering up a much cleaner reflection with looks great. Alpha effects get used far more with dampness hanging over the grassy areas which are both a visual and gameplay addition, the tyre walls also have a much greater calculation of physics as when struck they now bounce and can even roll down the race track, all bouncing around from impact. But the PBR solution is not a fully realised one or overly convincing, it does use specular and fresnel better than the older game but really needs a large upgrade to keep it looking modern as it is starting to look dated.
Turn 10 have delivered a decent update and upgrade over its previous games, this is till the same Forza you know and love, many tracks return from the last game but only a selection have night or wet race options. Car numbers have increased now with 24 cars on track and although a much needed LOD can be noticed occasionally as you race the same clustered forward+ engine that powered the previous 2 games has seen improvements and iteration from each game to enable it to deliver its most accurate and exciting racer yet. But up against other racers like it's more open horizon game and slightly mad studies very good Project Cars means that it will have to push onwards and harder as it is chased by the pursuing pack if it wants to keeps its crown of top tier podium racer on the XboxOne, but if you are a petrol head looking for a pretty, challenging and above all else rock solid performing and impressive racer then Turn 10 may have just delivered you an early Christmas present.