We'll start by saying that what we were able to see of Forza Motorsport 5 was not nearly enough. Though Turn 10's next game is slated to be a launch title for the Xbox One this fall, they were only offering a sneak peek at E3 2013.
Still, what we saw was enough to know that we're in for something bigger and better with Forza 5.
Other cars were available for the one test course Turn 10 had set up, including a Ferrari F12berlinetta, but seeing as how Microsoft sprung for having one of two existing McLaren P1 cars in their E3 booth this year, I felt I had to at least give that one a virtual test run.
While the in-game model couldn't hold a candle to the real thing that sat some 15 feet away from where I played, we still have to give it to Turn 10 for reaching a new level of photorealism in racing games. The pre-race car porn shots had the P1 shimmering in the sunlight. Detailed close-up shots of lights, wheels, and trim had me shaking my head in disbelief. Forza 5 was easily one of the best examples of Xbox One graphical muscle flexing at E3 this year.
The photorealism carries over to the courses. It was hard to keep my eyes on the road with all of the eye-catching background elements found in the sun-drenched Prague course. Insanely detailed roads, sidelines, buildings, sky, and other props looked a world away from the previous Forza title. The jump in quality is crazy -- it's something you'll have to see for yourself to understand. Mind you, this is all running at 60 frames per second at 1080p.
I asked for some kind of measure of how much more is going on in the background over Forza Motorsport 4. Turn 10 executive producer Trevor Laupmanis told us that capture work for the course took a year, 2 billion scanned points, and terrabytes of captured data. How's that for detail? He told us that there is so much visual data for this stage that they can zoom in on any little point and have a high level of detail.
It's not all looks, of course. Being a series fan, I found that I was able to get comfortable very quickly in my test run. Even with as fast as the P1 was, I settled into a groove in no time, which told me that Forza 5 is similar to its predecessor under the hood. But there was something I couldn't put my finger on that felt different. Better, perhaps.
When I asked about what I might be feeling, Laupmanis acknowledged that there's definitely something else going on in the drive engine, but said that they weren't ready to talk details yet. He did hint that the Xbox One was able to pump much more data through at once, and this somehow relates to the difference I felt.
Now, one change I could put my finger on (literally) was the haptic feedback felt in the Xbox One controller's triggers. It may not sound like much that the very tips of of the triggers vibrate separately from the controller's standard vibration, but I think this could be a potential game changer.
Feeling how sudden braking or acceleration sort of came through the controller was surprising at first, but I found that I had quickly dialed into the feeling, and came to rely on it in turns. Having the brakes shake under your finger just as they would under your foot in a real car is something so useful that I now can't imagine playing a racer without that feature.
I asked Laupmanis about it and he told me that the feature is a really recent addition to the game, from about two weeks before. That is quite impressive for how realistic it felt! He explained that they're still tuning it, and that they're exploring more options for feedback.
During this limited hands-on we weren't able to explore the features of the dorkily named Driveatar AI system in the E3 demo. We'll look forward to seeing more of this later this year. Beyond this, over previous games, all we know so far is that Forza 5 is going to have impossibly realistic visuals, impressive haptic feedback, and even better than before handling. Really, the driving alone was good enough to have me revved up for the next Forza game. The rest is gravy, and I'm sure much more gravy is in the works.