Forza Motorsport 5 Review: Next-Generation Micro-Transactions
I can’t stress enough just how much of a game-changer that is. Throughout my very extensive run with the game, I went from “Highly skilled” to “Expert” to “Pro” and each time I was encouraged to do so because I had a small safety net. After a while, I began tweaking my cars track by track to ensure that I had the best builds for any given race. Combined with that was the ability to save settings that allowed me to really hone-in on my game and improve my understanding of the idiosyncrasies of my cars. Unfortunately, while Turn 10 seems to have really nailed some elements of the game, the more I play, the more I realize just how much of it was built to nickel-and-dime players.
Forza 4 was no stranger to micro-transactions. I distinctly remember spending a total of about $15 on car packs in the past, but in each case, I received at least five cars per pack and didn’t feel like I was being ripped off. Beyond that, the core game had more than 400 cars from which to choose. Even though I never got around driving even half of them, the number was large enough that I knew I had plenty to goof around with, and there was a great selection no matter what I was looking for.
Forza 5, on the other hand, barely has 200 cars. While most fans probably won’t notice, I missed my Tesla Roadster as well as a bunch of the wonky cars that got me through the last time around.
Turn 10’s excuse for the smaller roster basically amounts to it costing them too much to recapture a bunch of those cars and update their 3-D models for the Xbox One’s new horsepower. While that might be true, it still doesn’t help the stick for players who are being asked to kick in $50 for a season pass and then shell out more in-game money to actually be able to use the cars. Things get a bit more suspicious when you begin looking at the severely restricted roster for in-game car rentals and some of the other tweaks Turn 10 has made to the Forza formula.
One of the other big, not-so-great changes is actually pretty subtle, but it deals with how the game handles driver levels and affinity bonuses. In Forza 4, each race granted a certain amount of experience, which gradually increased your “driver level” and “affinity level.” Driver levels were largely inconsequential, and still don’t really mean anything, but each time you hit a new level, you’d receive a complimentary car. These couldn’t be sold for much, but it was still a nice little reward to help fill out your garage and get free toys to play with.
This time around, every level gives you an in-game credit bonus of 15,750. No matter what level you are, the payout is the same. That makes levels seem doubly pointless, first because they have no real effect on gameplay. Second: because they don’t scale, there’s nothing to really distinguish level 100 from level 1. If anything, levels become less relevant as time goes on. Alone this wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but when paired with the changes made to the affinity system, it amounts to some really insidious stuff.
Again, in Forza 4, boosting your affinity level was hugely beneficial. Affinity is basically a shorthand for brand loyalty to a specific in-game manufacturer. For example, if you spend a good chunk of time driving with Ferraris, you’ll see some solid bonuses to payouts to keep you driving those cars. Forza 4 used this system to rapidly help democratize their car selection. After only a few levels, you’d have access to all of a manufacturer’s roster and all of their upgrades for free.
This time, affinity only boosts end-of-race winning payouts and levels are much harder to earn. This design choice is especially odd because, along with the bizarre changes made to the driver levels, it severely reduces the total number of cars you have access to, and that totally flies in the face of the best change Turn 10 has made to Forza: the career mode. On the one hand, you have a new, open set of tournaments that encourage you to change up your cars constantly, but on the other, you have a system that dramatically cuts down on the total number of cars to which you have access.
Vehicles are also a fair bit more expensive on average and that means that you’ll never really be sitting on a large pile of cash, but you also have a very limited selection and you can easily bankrupt yourself. Selling cars is currently impossible. So if you no longer need a modern hypercar, you can’t sell it off and buy 10 cheaper ones. All of these little things add up to one massive problem and a ton of conflicting design choices.