Forza Motorsport 5 might have felt a little sterile in spots, and it certainly shed a lot of content compared to its last-gen predecessor – but it was easily the most impressive game in the Xbox One launch lineup.

Two years later, Turn 10 Studios and Microsoft are back to raise the stakes further (after last year's fantastic spinoff, Forza Horizon 2), amping up the visual gloss to a staggering new degree while filling in the gaps from the last go-round. That means more cars, enhanced online multiplayer and Drivatar features, a sprawling new career mode, and the return of nighttime racing and inclement weather.

We had a go at Forza Motorsport 6 last month at E3 and came away impressed, but of course we did: it's the great game we played before, albeit bulked up and improved in nearly every conceivable way.

Sweet streets

Surely the biggest complaint levied against Forza 5 was the lack of content compared to its Xbox 360 predecessor. Sure, 200 cars sounds like a lot, but it was less than half the total seen in Forza 4; and 14 tracks doesn't seem like much at all for a game you'd expect to pour potentially dozens of hours into. Truly, it all felt a bit repetitive after a while – and again, it was a big dip from the earlier entries.

Luckily, Forza Motorsport 6 rights that wrong, showing what another two years of development time can do for the simulation racer. The game promises more than 450 licensed cars, led by the all-new Ford GT, which also appears on the cover. And all of them can be viewed in the intensely gorgeous Forzavista mode, which lets you walk around and explore your digital ride.

Forza 6 also bulks up the track listing, delivering 26 real-world locations including Daytona International Speedway and Le Mans. The winding streets of Rio de Janeiro in particular provided a tense, brilliant-looking demo. Turn 10 says it captured 10 new tracks from the actual sources and recreated them on the Xbox One, so everything ought to look and seem extremely realistic.

Miles in Style

Forza Motorsport 6 looks fabulous. Sure, the earlier game also ran at 1080p and 60 frames per second, but Forza 6 adds a lot more detail and eye-catching track elements, not to mention additional gloss on the cars. It's a very noticeable upgrade.

But while the enhancements leave a lasting visual impression, some tweaks actually affect the gameplay. Take the return of weather effects, for example: we took on a rain-soaked sprint and experienced the new physics-based 3D puddles, which can make your tyres feel all squirrely if driven through at high speeds. It was extremely noticeable – irritatingly so at first, but we'll take Turn 10's word for it being a proper puddle simulation.

Nighttime racing also returns to the series in Forza 6, which adds a whole other kind of challenge without the sun beating down on the track. You'll need even more care and precision to work through those events, as car lights sometimes provide the only illumination.

Drive Your Story

Admittedly, there were no surprises when it came to actually playing Forza 6: the series template is well established at this point, which is certainly a very good thing. But there are some changes in terms of what you can play and potentially how long it stays fresh and interesting.

First off is the Stories of Motorsport career mode, which Turn 10 says spans some 70 hours of gameplay and brings in various racing personalities to help shape the campaign. Missing from that list is Jeremy Clarkson, due to his Top Gear dismissal, although the show is still prominently featured, and fellow outgoing hosts Richard Hammond and James May do voiceover work.

Forza Motorsport 6 will also deliver 24-car racing fields whether racing real online opponents or their A.I.-driven "Drivatar" counterparts. And the Drivatars are apparently smarter this time around, with the developer finding new wrinkles amidst the data collected from the last game's cloud-based feature.

Hit the road

Forza Motorsport 6 releases on Xbox One on 18 September (15 September in the States), and based on what we've seen and played, there's no reason to expect that it will be anything less than stellar. Here's hoping it holds up better for the long haul than the last game, but the various enhancements seem primed to ensure that it will.

Additionally, Microsoft will release a special edition Xbox One console bundle (with a great blue-on-blue colour scheme) on the same date that looks fantastic, but it sadly has some awfully goofy-sounding car FX mapped to the system buttons. At least the similarly styled Xbox One controller will be sold separately, as well.