The return of the Silverstone track in Xbox One racer Forza 5 is a big deal for car-enthusing gamers, as not only does it mark the comeback of one of the driving world's oldest and most famed venues to the racing series, it also comes in the modernised and reworked track layout that racers use today.
Silverstone itself was redesigned in a fairly major fashion back in 2010, with the idea of making the track safer while also keeping the fast turns and curves so beloved by drivers and motorsport fans. The updated track layout completely removed the old Bridge section of the course, replacing it with a new area known as the Arena, also changing the position of the start/finish line in the process. It was a big change to the classic formula, and one that went down well with the majority of drivers and riders who get to lap it as part of their work.
For Xbox One's next-gen Forza 5, the racer's developer has mapped this new track layout at a staggeringly high resolution to ensure it's a faithful replica of the genuine article. Rather than using tape measures and photos to build the circuit in a laborious, manual fashion, this time game-maker Turn 10 used a complex and expensive laser scanning system to capture the real-world details of Silverstone at an unprecedented level of clarity.
The laser system generates a complete model of the venue and track, even taking into account minor imperfections and blemishes in the road surface, hopefully ensuring that this digital Silverstone is literally pixel-perfect when it comes to recreating the actual track and its overlooking stands and hoardings in the game world.
Developer Turn 10 says it gets "sub-6mm accuracy" from its laser scanner tech, so we're promised that tiny details like weeds between slabs and trackside curbs and moss -- moss! -- will be incorporated by the high-res track capture system that's being used this time around. Sadly there's no word yet on whether the many ants that live beneath the curbs will also feature. Perhaps they will be unlockable bonuses.
It won't just be Silverstone that benefits from an Xbox One overhaul, either. The developer has gone back to every real-world location featured in the game with its fancy data capture tool, rescanning and upgrading all returning tracks for the new console.
You ought to know about it when you drive over one of these realistic potholes, too. The upgraded Xbox One controller features a new Impulse Trigger system, which incorporates haptic feedback technologies to add extra feel to the handling of the cars. The new triggers add vibration to the actual levers that the vast majority of gamers use as their analogue throttle and brake controls while playing Forza, adding a subtle extra level of feedback for the player.
How you treat your car as it smashes around the track also has an effect of the rumble feedback you feel. Hit those realistically placed kerbs too many times and you'll take lumps out of your tyres, with the game's physics engine compensating for this by adding rumble feedback that tells you your tyres are seriously worn. You won't have to look it up on a menu to see your car's falling to pieces, it ought to just feel like there's something wrong.
The track surface will also tell you if it's had a beating. One of the Forza 5 challenges includes racing the last hour of the Le Mans 24 race, with the track featuring quite a bit of the debris that accumulates during races. Lumps of rubber from other cars' tyres add more bumps and lumps to the surface, reducing grip while kicking more vibration into your driving gloves through the controller.
Once you've got the feel of the new places and technologies, there's an extra level of challenge in here, too. Forza 5 sees Microsoft team up with bloke-fest Top Gear once again, adding in a character the maker refers to as The Stig's Digital Cousin. His job is to set lap time challenges for racers to beat, while Turn 10 has also included the over-compensating trio of Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond in the game, who offer their verbose, manly opinions about the vehicles you get to smash around the tracks. And the Top Gear Test Track is included once again, for you to slowly wobble around while doing your finest Richard Whiteley driving impression.
With the new bends in place in Forza 5's Silverstone, thoroughly reworked tracks, new controller hardware and Xbox One powering the high-resolution graphics at the 1080p/60fps level, it's going to be a captivating experience for anyone raised on Formula 1 TV coverage or with even the slightest interest in things that go "VRRRRRRMMMMMMMM."