Hands on with the system two weeks out from launch.
I finally got around to playing the local Xbox One demo, and wow, what a tease. Five cars, one track, one lap makes for one great big tease. Granted, I was able to play that one lap over and over and able to change the racing assists, and pick from one of the five different cars, there was much more to the unit hiding under the surface. For one, there was the Jango-powered 'Killer Instinct' a mere two clicks away, but any time I brought up the dashboard, I was kindly rebuked and redirected back to 'Forza.'
Talk about bittersweet, looking at the launch titles, I couldn't ask for a more promising and platform-specific title than 'Forza 5.' The combination of the McLaren P1 and the iconic Leguna Seca are a great snapshot of the game, and I really appreciate being able to turn off auto brake and auto steering. But even in a single lap race, the easy setting AI barely competed, which gives the lap more of a time trial with light traffic feel.
Let me say, everything in the demo felt snappy, including when I ventured out into the dashboard. The controller and Kinect were sending LEDs back and forth (visible through my camera lens), for what purpose I can only guess, though when I was driving the Ferrari 599, the in-game shifting LEDs gave off that eerie coincidental feeling.
Naturally the game felt like 'Forza' through and through, with that mix of arcade and simulation style making for fun but challenging drive the timeless turns of Laguna Seca that I know so well. Autovista is supposed to be supported on all cars now, and picking a car for the race felt like a quick detour into the Autovista mode. The stunning look of the cars on the 75" Samsung screen did not disappoint. Not necessarily realistic as the virtual cars are vibrant in an unrealistic way, but a generation ahead of 'Forza 4.'
As for the new controller, it felt almost as good as promised. The body seems slightly tapered for a wider grip as compared to the 360 controller. The diamond textured analog sticks are set lower in the controller, and while the tension feels better with less pressure required to achieve greater precision, the sticks feel extremely close to their 360 predecessors.
The d-pad is finally useful, though its clicky four button nature makes for a very audible click. The d-pad is perfect for navigating cross-axis menus, of which there were a few in the demo. Aside from navigating menus and acting as extra buttons, the smooth d-pad feels exactly like a hadouken dream though there was nothing there to test that notion.
The new bumpers have grown in size but retain their clicky nature. (The face buttons retain their classic quick squish feel.) I dislike the 360 bumpers, but these seem preferable as their bigger size makes them easier to click.
The new triggers have ballooned in size, presumably to encase the new rumble motors. The triggers themselves feel fine if less springy than the thing 360 version. The first thing to notice in-game at the starting line is the rumble that pulsates through the right side of the controller as I depressed the gas. As someone who has enjoyed rumble going back to 'Star Fox 64,' the new rumble design (presumably four motors) is appreciated, though not a game changer.
So the 'Forza 5' experience and the new controller meet the expectations of a safe iteration on previous triumphs with the new d-pad being the biggest single night and day difference. As for the system itself, the glimpse of the UI was thrilling with its quick response, though 'The Waking Dead' ad that I saw is a sobering reminder of where the 360 dashboard ended up.
Author: Brian Hoss