Let me just clarify something before we start: itâs pronounced Fort-za. Not Fours-ah. (I was corrected myself, as I had always said it fours-ah before. Well, now we all know.)
Right in the throbbing heart of Microsoftâs enormous green E3 booth, I got to view a demo and media talk about Forza 5 from Bill Giese, the titleâs Design Director. He was a man brimming with pride over this game, and how good it is.
He told us about the cars first, and how they looked. You have the ability to walk around each of the cars you own in Forza Vista, view them from all angles, get in behind the wheel, or start 'em up to hear the engine purr. You could do this with a limited selection of your fleet in Forza 4, but this has now been enhanced to include every car you own.
Incidentally, the developers are not talking about the specific number of cars available yet, but itâs apparently âin the hundredsâ. There are a few things yet to be announced, which will be coming in the months ahead to keep fans eagerly anticipating the launch.
Forza 5 offers multiple ways to customise your cars, providing the ability to pull down paint jobs from the cloud, including ones developed by the fan community. The interface will also learn and remember the kinds of paint jobs you like, and make relevant selections every time you log in.
The car selection hub has been improved, and classified into logical groups for ease of navigation, such as Exotic, Vintage, sport compact, racing, etc. The grouping was done in conjunction with the Top Gear team, who also appear in the commentary. (The whole team this time around, not just Jeremy Clarkson.)
A great deal of work went into how Forza 5 would look. Two things were considered to be absolute essentials during development: the display needed to be 60 frames per second, and 1080p. Additionally, the team felt that the cars in Forza 4 looked a little âtooâ perfect, so they have made significant improvements. Giese described this as adding an air of imperfection to make it more realistic. For example the âorange peelâ effect of a real paint job, or a streak in the armorall you lovingly buffed your beauty with. This was achieved by âapplyingâ three layers of paint to the models: a base, metal flake, and then clear. The effect is very very special, and the cars look absolutely staggering [Something hammered home at a second event, where a Lamborghini was parked on the curb outside and then we drove it around in the game inside; the virtual Lambo looked identical to me. - Ed.]
Next Giese touched upon the Drivatar mentioned at the Xbox press conference on Tuesday (NZ time). He took great pains to stress that your drivatar is not AI: itâs real, consolidated, remembered behaviours and tendencies taken from the way you drive. This makes the way the other cars on the track race that much more realistic. All of this happens when you turn the controller off, so your drivatar is driving when youâre not.
Good to know that it can cut off your friends or strangers, and stall on the start line even when youâre fast asleep dreaming of Formula 1.
When racing, you can choose to challenge yourself by playing the best of the best, or a more casual match to your level. The harder the driver you race, the more credits youâre going to earn by beating them.
The soundscape and music were carefully considered. The intent was to create a cinematic experience, so the development team collaborated with LucasArts and Skywalker Sound. The job was started when the Forza team provided Skywalker sound with some in-game footage, and said âmake us a soundtrack, just like itâs a movie.â So they did. The finished product was recorded with a full orchestra and the sounds change when the car corners, or accelerates, adding realism.
Throughout the talk it became apparent that there are still many things left to be announced that they arenât disclosing at this stage: the final car numbers, Smartglass integration, physics advances, multiplayer (although he did say that they are moving multiplayer to full dedicated servers), and the tracks that will be available.
The Forza team look like they have listened to their loyal community in the way they developed this title, and are looking forward to the launch date as eagerly as their fans are.