It’s been a while, but in 2005 developer Turn 10 Studios released the first Forza Motorsport for the original Xbox. To date, a total of seven volumes have appeared in the Motorsport franchise. So with each installment, the number behind the game logically went up, but with the latest installment, Turn 10 has decided to give the game a soft reboot and simply call the latest game Forza Motorsport. With a reboot, then, I personally expect major changes to justify this, and I must say that it has succeeded. Forza Motorsport (2023) is prettier, more realistic, faster, more challenging, more detailed and much more than that.
The last installment of the Motorsport franchise dates back to 2017, since then the Forza Motorsport games have been greatly overtaken in terms of fame and popularity by its little brother, Forza Horizon. I myself am an avid fan of the Horizon franchise. There has always been a distinct difference between Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon, though. Motorsport is a serious sim-racing game, while Horizon is more of an arcade racing game. Forza Horizon 5 is an excellent racing game with lots of detail and many elements of its big brother, including races on a “circuit,” which made me wonder if Forza Motorsport is actually still needed. To this, after playing Forza Motorsport, I can simply answer with: Yes!
Turn 10 has reinvented or greatly improved many aspects of the game. Forza Motorsport once again shows that it is a truly realistic racing game and, as far as I am concerned, the best racing game of the moment. For example, the visuals are of an unprecedented high quality, driving a car has never felt more realistic and the performance of the game is flawless. The game has three graphics modes; -Performance with 4k60fps, -Performance RT with 4k60fps and Ray Tracing while racing and finally – Visual with 4k30fps and Ray Tracing while racing. The game has 500 cars and 20 tracks and Turn 10 Studios previously announced that both will be expanded after launch. Both the number of cars and tracks are less compared to 2017’s Forza Motorsport, but you can drive more different races in the new Motorsport on paper, this is because a large number of tracks have multiple race formats. For example, on the same track you can run 3 different races that use different parts of the track, or the race goes the other way. The reduced number of cars is also not a problem as far as I am concerned, because with 500 cars there is still more than enough choice and something for everyone. The fact that the cars are much more detailed, have more expansion options, feel nicer and also take better and more obvious damage makes the reduced number of vehicles for me absolutely no problem.
The new career mode is clearly the big showpiece of Forza Motorsport. This is clearly where most of the attention has been paid and where the game comes into its own the most. When you start Forza Motorsport, you immediately enter the career mode. The game explains a lot and gives you context about your car, how to drive it, but also about the track and what to look out for. In this respect, Forza Motorsport is very welcoming to new players. During the intro, almost everything is allowed and you can adjust the difficulty to your liking. It is also nice that players picking up the game for the first time are given guidance. For the avid racing game players among us, have no fear, this doesn’t take long and is a small part of the first race. Motorsport will take you to your first championship after this introductory race and gradually explain everything about the career mode and the rest of the game.
I personally really like the career mode. After all, it’s racing without too much fuss. Your career in Forza Motorsport consists of different championships and “Tours” that are all part of a big cup, the “Builders Cup”. In this Builders Cup you unlock new championships by winning trophies, and when you win all the trophies in a “Tour” you unlock the next “Tour” and so on until you get the grand prize. These are quite a few races with many different tracks and certain types of cars. The first Tour is perfect for getting used to the game and mastering the new mechanics of Forza Motorsport. You start with one of the lowest car classes and step by step you drive progressively faster cars. So Career Mode is mostly just racing, but there are elements that make it a bit more comprehensive. For example, with each new championship there is a voice over that gives information and history about the cars allowed at that particular championship. Also, as a driver, you have an assistant who occasionally guides you during racing and gives information about the track you will be driving on with good tips to get the best result. A championship consists of several races, each of which has a well known race weekend. Fortunately this is not too extensive and you must first practice on a circuit to get used to the track and learn the best racing lines, often you only have to drive three full laps here and finally there is the real race.
Earlier, Turn 10 Studios also revealed that rpg elements would be introduced with the latest Forza Motorsport. As such, these are well reflected in the setup of the career mode. Based on how you drive, the difficulty level and results, you can earn xp and with xp the level of your car goes up and by means of “Car Points” that you earn per car level, you can improve your car and set it to your own liking. You decide how you drive and what you drive. Do you want to take a drift car through the corners of the Le Mans or a super fast car that is almost unmanageable? It is entirely up to you. The higher the level of your car, the more you can customize. If you don’t feel like individually modifying each car part, then you’re also in the right place. After all, there is simply a car-build option that Motorsport uses to make the most balanced upgrade possible every time. The nice thing about this system is that you really experience a sense of progression and it feels like a true Career Mode. After all, you can only upgrade your cars through Car Points and not through in-game earned currency. Also, thankfully, there are no microtransactions present in Forza Motorsport and thus you can only acquire Car Points by playing the game. You also don’t have to worry about getting the wrong build because the cars can be downgraded at any time and you will get your Car Points back.
Become a real driver thanks to Drivatars and A.I.
Forza Motorsport starts off very simple in terms of difficulty and the well-known tools we are used to from previous games in the Forza franchise are once again present, but oh man how difficult it can also be. The game comes with three difficulty levels that clearly explain what the tools are. There is – Club Rules where damage is cosmetic only, rewind is on and there are almost no penalty points to be gained. – Sport Rules where fuel and tires are simulated, rewind is possible and there are a fair amount of penalty points to be gained. Finally, there is – Expert Rules where in addition to tires and fuel, damage is simulated and you can total your car while racing. Also, Rewind is not possible and the penalties are extremely severe.
But it doesn’t end there, as you can make the game even more difficult for yourself by increasing the speed and ability of the Drivatars. Also, you can now decide at what position you start the race. Namely, it is possible to move yourself around on the grid. The lower your starting position, the harder the race, but this is offset by increased credits and xp.
About the Drivatars and A.I. I am very satisfied. I am not new to the racing genre and have played several Forza’s and in my opinion Forza Motorsport contains the best A.I. for your opponents. Drivatars intentionally make it difficult for you and make sure you can’t just pass them. Drivatars at the highest speed often drive a perfect race and are elusive to me at this point, especially if your starting position is somewhere in the lower regions. This does not mean that Drivatars at lower speed still drive a perfect race line, but just slower. Thus, at lower levels, I have often seen opponents fly out of the corner or crash into other cars.
So Forza Motorsport offers many opportunities to make the game as challenging as possible for yourself but it also offers many opportunities to become a better driver. For example, in addition to XP during races, you also get grade ratings on different parts of the track and time is also tracked during practice laps on certain parts of the track. For example, at the beginning I got a lot of unsatisfactory and mediocre grades for my driving skills, because I didn’t keep the ideal racing line or, for example, let off the gas just a little too late. In my case, this mechanic made me try much harder to get good grades. Personally, I think I have become a better driver who is always looking for the best racing line and can now play at a higher level than when I started the game.
Cutting off or colliding is no more.
So now let’s talk about racing. Driving a car in a game has never felt more realistic. The vehicles react to the slightest input. Driving over gravel, rattle strips or anything else means you really have to try very hard to keep the under control. Upgrades and tuning for the cars are also immediately noticeable, how a car drives and feels changes instantly. Also, the weather is very important in Forza Motorsport. When it rains, your braking distance is obviously longer and you have to drive differently than during a sunny race. Another aspect to consider are your tires, fuel and pit stops. A full tank of fuel can affect the speed of your laps, but if you have too little fuel in the tank you will lose valuable time during pit stops. The same goes for your tires, you have to consider the weather and the track.
With Forza Horizon in the back of my mind, I was still sometimes tempted to apply smarts and occasionally cut off or use other cars to take a corner easier. In Forza Motorsport, this is punished harshly, especially if you play on Sport Rules and Expert Rules. Cutting off during a corner or not braking in time will result in time penalties that can put you lower on the leaderboard. Again, the A.I. is very good. More often than not I have been rammed by a Drivatar or was unable to swerve and was the first to crash. Regardless of whether you are the one who collides first, the game looks at the situation and makes a decision. So far, I have been comfortable with every decision. The A.I. is strict but fair. If the Drivatar in front of you suddenly decides to brake hard and you cannot swerve and a collision ensues you will not be penalized lightly. The same goes for driving on the racetrack. If you drive a little bit on the grass or gravel because there was really no other way, you will most likely not be penalized. Nor have I seen any penalties if I flew out of the corner and lost considerable time. No, the time penalty is almost only implemented when you have a visible benefit from driving off-road. So far, I am very appreciative of this. Motorsport’s strict system ensures that everyone is trying to drive at their best and not crashing into each other like in its little brother Horizon.
This was also evident in the multiplayer portion of the game. I got to test this out briefly and was very pleased with it. Turn 10 has even stricter rules here. The game keeps a safety report on you as a driver, this can affect the races you are allowed to drive and whether others want to play with you. It was immediately clear that the other players took racing seriously, keeping their distance and not deviating from the race track.
Multiplayer has time-based events. You have a limited period of time to sign up for a race, prepare and actually race. Events do just follow each other all the time, so you can play at any time.
Multiplayer also works on the basis of a virtual race weekend. So you have to practice first, then you have to drive a qualifying lap and if qualifying is successful you may actually participate in the racing event. I really liked this setup, you get time to get used to the car and the track. Also, in the short time I played this, I did not experience any connection problems or frame drops.
More accessible than ever.
So in addition to Forza Motorsport being very welcoming to new players and having several options for the game’s difficulty, there is a whole lot more customizable. From the Forza franchise we are used to by now that there are many accessibility options for the less fortunate and once again this is the case. The options are even more extensive and almost everything is customizable. For example, you can even adjust the sound for when the A.I. takes control or just hands off. It is also possible to adjust everything on your HUD. Does the xp coming into the screen or the time of your last lap bother you? No problem this can all go away. Forza Motorsport can really be customized to your liking and played the way you want. A small minus I would like to mention is that the restart of an actual race is unfortunately a bit hidden and brings you back to a selection screen. It sometimes happens to everyone that you are not paying attention for a moment and the race has already started or that you have made a mistake and want to quickly restart the race, this is slightly more difficult in the latest Forza Motorsport. First you have to click on exit race, then a small menu appears where you can restart the race. Only then the race does not immediately start again, but you end up back at the selection screen from before the race where you can adjust various things. A small bright spot here is that the game does remember that you have tuned the car a little or put less fuel in the tank.
Enjoy an audiovisual spectacle with your sunglasses on
I saved the best for last, because how much I love the audio and graphics of Forza Motorsport. As mentioned earlier, the game has three graphics modes, so these work flawlessly. Personally, my favorite mode is the Performance RT mode. At no point did I experience frame drops and the game felt wonderfully fluid. The Ray Tracing is also really strong and unique to the Forza franchise. For example, Forza Horizon 5 only has Ray Tracing while viewing the cars in Forza Vista, but Forza Motorsport just has Ray Tracing at all times and is at its best when the camera position is from the hood.
Speaking of camera modes, there are six in the game. From road only to behind the car. While switching between these modes, I noticed the audio quality and the attention paid to this. In fact, for each camera mode, the audio is different. You can hear the raindrops on the windshield when using one of the cockpit modes. The sound of the squealing tires is softer and duller from the cockpit, but when you get out of the car they are much louder again and you hear more detail. It is clearly audible that much attention has been paid to the audio. The engines of the cars sound different, per road surface your tires make a different sound. In short, the sound in Forza Motorsport is therefore a pleasure to listen to for real car enthusiasts.
Details, details and more details!
The same attention to detail has also gone into the visual part. We already know from Forza Horizon 5 that the biomes look great, many of these assets have been reused in Forza Motorsport. The trees and landscape look similar in appearance and style, but just a little sharper in this game. Motorsport uses a dynamic weather system and it is dazzling. Yes, literally dazzling, for example, on several occasions I was blinded by a rising sun. So I recommend you keep sunglasses handy when playing Forza Motorsport. The crowd and grandstands look very good at high speed, but if you zoom in on the crowd a bit more in photo mode you will see that the models are not really sharp. Anyway that’s more nitpicking from my side.
Driving in the dark is also a real pleasure. In the night you have to rely on the lights of your car and the lights of the track, the environment is really dark and perfect to test the dark lights of your OLED. Besides the big objects like the environment and scenery, a lot of energy has been put into small things to take the game to the next level visually. For example, as you race past a grandstand, you can see flashing lights as the crowd takes pictures and videos. Also, at several tracks I have seen smoke coming out of the crowd from spectators having a nice barbecue next to their camper. So really a lot of attention has been paid to big and small details, especially these small details have positively surprised me and caused me to fly out of the corner several times while I was marveling at them. So although my preference is the Performance RT mode, I really recommend the Visual mode as well. The beautiful landscapes look even better in this mode and there is even more detail in, for example, the grass next to the track. For example, I raced the Hakone Circuit with Visual mode on and I am just short of superlatives for how picture-perfect it was. The cherry blossom trees seemed lifelike. The same goes for the cutscenes during Career Mode, they were beautifully rendered in-game and looked like live footage of a race on television. In Visual mode, when transitioning from cutscenes to actual racing, there is almost no difference in quality. I keep saying it but visually Forza Motorsport is a masterpiece.
Forza Motorsport is a successful reboot of the franchise and takes the racing genre to new heights. The game is an audiovisual spectacle that will appeal to racing enthusiasts and gamers in general. It offers an in-depth and realistic racing experience with an eye for detail. Forza Motorsport has a lot to offer, from its visual splendor to the in-depth career mode and multiplayer events. It is a hyper-realistic racing sim that is accessible to everyone. The six years we have had to wait for a new Forza Motorsport have been well worth it. Forza Motorsport is a success and offers a variety of reasons for fans and newcomers to get behind the wheel of the best racing game of the moment.