'Forza Motorsport 5' Preview: Gamescom Hands-On With Microsoft's Next-Gen Racer (VIDEO)

'Forza Motorsport 5' will be released on Xbox One at launch.

The Pitch:

“Developing and improving the driving physics has, in many ways, become the central pursuit for the Forza Motorsport series,” said Forza Motorsport 5 creative director Dan Greenawalt. “We are always chasing that perfect simulation where we can accurately recreate the infinite variables of driving in the digital world. At the same time, that pursuit is always tempered by the limits of what we know about the science of vehicle dynamics and the properties of high performance materials.

New Features:

  • Astonishingly detailed new graphics
  • "Drivatar" tech creates offline opponents based on the races your friends drive when you're not online. "Real tendencies, real mistakes, real victories."
  • Massive range of new cars, from prototype racers to off-road cars
  • Customisation built to utilise the cloud, with user-generated uploads included
  • Every car available to experience in detail in "ForzaVista"
  • "Living busy environments" for races to take place in
  • Top Gear exclusive content

Play Test Impressions:

As an Xbox One launch game, 'Forza 5' potentially suffers from the same problem as FIFA or Madden, in that its current gen incarnations are already polished, familiar titles, and noticing the changes to each iteration can potentially depend on how obsessive you were about their prev-gen forebears.

And by its very nature as a kinetic, supercharged racer, Forza gives you less time to notice those details than many other games. As you tear around a track in a super car, it's hard to appreciate the new rendered balloons drifting in the air, or the dust whirling up from the side of the track.

But in the case of Forza Motorsport 5, there really is transformative change occurring underneath the familiar pitch. Graphically the game is totally stunning, with an almost pornographic level of reflective, shimmering polish on every machine - all of which can be examined from every angle in the virtual garage. From a distance the cars drop in detail - as you'd expect - but get close and you can't ignore how much has changed. The tracks themselves - if you get a chance to pause the game and look around a little - are also stunningly realised.

In terms of its play mechanics Forza 5 continues to make things fun novice players with the assists turned on, while also giving experts new levels of depth. Part of that is down to the new career structure, which incorporates 42, 90-minute 'mini' careers, organised by racing and car style into 8 leagues. Its developers told us in our demo that they had to go beyond tyre makers Pirelli to Calspan, who test the tyres for them, to develop new ways to stress test materials. That's insane.

It's also an expert-only feature. The devs accept that many users will never notice the new suspension and tyre models. Either way the game feels weightier and still despotically hard with the help turned off. We'd need more time to feel out the differences between older Forza games, but the instant reaction is that this is an excellent, tight and beautiful-looking racing game, just one that's still got some gas in the tank as regards getting the most out of this new hardware.