Forza 5 Sparks Controversy Over Rip-Off Content And Graphical Downgrade From E3
Often, games revealed at major gaming events such as E3 come with a disclaimer that states there may be differences between the build on show and the final retail version. However, there are cases where these differences are major enough to raise eyebrows or be upset over (remember Aliens: Colonial Marines anyone?), and Forza Motorsport 5 appears to be such a case.
NeoGAF detectives sprang to life after recorded gameplay was uploaded by a player from the Ali-A YouTube channel, who managed to acquire a copy of the game and the Xbox One console early. His gameplay footage was compared to the footage that was shown on the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon television show, effectively the E3 build. The comparison images revealed startling differences.
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In the NeoGAF thread, which is linked above, the differences are shown to be quite substantial, despite the fact that YouTube screens can often be dodgy. Users have pointed out that graphical differences between the retail version and the E3 footage are visible with regards to the overall lighting and dynamic range, textures, geometry, shaders, 3D crowd models, Ambient Occlusion, shadow quality and the number of trees on display and detail of the foliage.
You can see the blown up images in the NeoGAF thread, or view this image which puts the E3 build (left) side by side with the retail version (right) for easy comparison. When laid out like this the differences appear to be quite dramatic in certain areas with regards to graphical detail.
Now, it might be that the graphical downgrade was made in order to achieve that 60 FPS and 1080p resolution, but I think it is fair if users are upset with that big a difference, as many would argue that it’s A) false advertising on E3’s part and B) very disappointing.
Various websites such as CinemaBlend and Examiner have picked up on this issue over the weekend, and it does raise more than a few questions.
Now, let’s leave the graphics issue behind to address the other major area of controversy.
“Micro-transactions” have returned in full, people.
NeoGAF users struck again to point out some shocking details about Forza 5’s in-game transactions. To fill those unaware in, Forza 5 features in-game tokens that can be purchased with real world money if you don’t want to log the hours to earn them, and these are used to gain access to some of the game’s more prestigious vehicles, some of which are a first for the series.
That would be alright, except for the fact that some of Forza 5’s most sought after cars are ridiculously expensive. Actually, a better word to use would be extortion. This is the kind of thing you’d expect from a shady free-to-play game, and not a full retail game that already requires you to purchase an Xbox One console, the actual game and maybe a gaming wheel for serious racers.
Here’s one example that highlights it all. The game features the Lotus E21 formula one car, which is one of Forza 5’s new selling points, as it was highly publicised by Microsoft considering this is the first game in the series to feature open wheel racecars. However, what would have initially excited many racer fans has turned into a horror story, as the price is ridiculous. In-game, this car costs a staggering 6 million credits. Alternatively, you can presently buy the car for 10,000 tokens, which in real-world money is – wait for it – over £60.00. Do you know your exchange rates?
That is $100, effectively R1000, for one, single digital race car.
Many would defend the practice by saying “it’s optional” and you don’t have to participate, which is true, but clearly here it effects the game when something many players would want is put behind an absurd, extortionate price barrier. The option players have if they don’t want to spend money is to grind for maybe 60 hours, not including all the additional time you’ll spend navigating menus, tuning your car, practicing or just living your actual life. We all like unlocking things, sure, but the average gamer simply does not have this kind of time to spend unlocking one car.
It gets worse though. TeamVVV reports that unlike Forza 4, free cars aren’t frequently rewarded to players for winning races and ranking up, as in Forza 5 you have to purchase every single one of them using in-game credits or tokens. In Forza 4 you could play free mode which unlocked every car in the game, with the catch being that you couldn’t customise or upgrade them outside of the career. That was fair. Here, free drive in Forza 5 has been stripped to featuring only 40 cars, so players who don’t have the time and just want to drive awesome cars are shut out here.
TeamVVV also argues that there are various other changes in the game that were made to encourage spending real money. An example is the “much-loved manufacturer affinity”, where remaining with the same manufacturer gave you many rewards in Forza 4. This has been scrapped, along with Auction houses to sell and share cars. Players can’t gift cars either. However, according to TeamVVV the game constantly reminds you that you can double your XP and credits by buying tokens, as well as recommends you cars that can only be bought as DLC. And the majority of the time, you can’t buy single cars, and have to buy an entire DLC package.
We’ve seen some of the practices outlined above crop up in other triple A games, but I have to say that I personally find this ridiculous. At the beginning of this year, in February, after playing Dead Space 3, I extensively argued that microtransactions is a practice that would become worse the more “accepted” they became in our games, and I definitely feel that this fits my definition of “worse” quite well.
What do you guys think about these two controversies? Do you think NeoGAF users and media are overreacting and out-of-line, or do you feel that there are solid grounds to be upset here?