It’s been almost 20 years since the gaming world was first introduced to Forza Motorsport. During that time, the franchise has gone from strength to strength, refining its driving and physics mechanics. Now, it is considered one of the top car simulators available on the market. It has been 6 long years since the last entry in the Forza Motorsport franchise. I can safely say, that inter lull was time well spent revamping everything under the hood and more.
Note – An Xbox Series X|S key was provided for the purpose of this review.
Developer & Publisher // Turn 10 Studios, Playground Games, Sumo Digital, Microsoft Corporation
Platforms // PC, Xbox Series X|S
MSRP & Release Date //$59.99, Oct 10, 2023
Reviewed On // Xbox Series X
Disclaimer – the gamepad was the primary input used during the review period and will reflect that experience.
Redoing the Forza Motorsport Driving Experience
In their interview with the Iron Lords Podcast, Forza Motorsport Creative Director, Chris Esaki, noted that they completely overhauled the physics and driving mechanics in the game, and it shows.
Turn 10 has redone its tire physics which increased its fidelity. It changed how tires grip and dynamically react to the tarmac and surrounding areas. And I must say, there is a night and day difference between previous FM and Forza Horizon entries.
In previous Forza Motorsport titles, tires had one point of contact, but now there are 8 points of contact. And there is more high fidelity in the tire models themselves, making for a more realistic and faithful recreation of the driving experience.
The cars handle beautifully and every surface type creates unique feedback on a gamepad. Every car has a distinctive feel to it. For example, the old 1991 BMW M3 had an impeccable drive to it and turned without any fuss. While the 2024 Corvette E-Ray is a punchy speed demon that will take time to tame. Best of all, every upgrade you install in your car reflects beautifully and is very noticeable. I’ve even gone back to Forza Horizon 5 to see the difference myself and I can tell how more nuanced and satisfying driving mechanics are in Forza Motorsport.
Wear and Tear
Forza Motorsport introduces refined new tire wear that works incredibly well. As your tires wear down, you’ll instantly notice the loss of gripping when taking turns. Be sure to hit the pit stop as soon as you can, otherwise, you’ll be spinning out and lose precious milliseconds. Tire wear is especially important if you’re competing in longer races and you’ll have to adjust your pit stop strategy, which adds immersion to the experience.
Fantastic Weather and Day/Night Cycles
For the first time in Forza Motorsport, the game will feature day and night cycles and dynamic weather. All of these environmental elements affect the way your car drives on the circuit. For instance, rainy weather results in a slippery surface. Naturally, you will feel your tire grips are way off and will ultimately have to adjust your steering when taking turns. On a side note, the raindrop screen effects are absolutely top-notch.
While the appearance of mist is a hit-or-miss affair. At times, the build-up mist can look spectacular and showcase how far volumetric fog has come in video game graphics. Especially when it builds up gradually on the circuit and looks natural. No doubt it hinders visibility but that’s what mist is supposed to do! Conversely, at times, the mist can appear out of nowhere and look tact on. It doesn’t have that natural build-up and looks artificially splattered onto the track.
There is a lot of depth in the physics and racing dynamics. However, like previous Forza entries, it can be as simple and deep as you like thanks to the players being able to adjust their driving and simulator settings. It’s these touches that truly add accessibility.
Forza Motorsport incorporates a penalty system that players can adjust to their liking. There are three options available, casual, sport, and professional. I chose the sports penalty system which has moderate penalties and limited car damage and I felt it was a good fit for the experience I was seeking.
At times, the penalty system can cause some anxiety. The system will take notice of how safe your driving is. If you collide with other racers or if you drive off the track, and depending on how you’ve adjusted your penalty system, you could be penalized for dirty driving. While the more casual penalty ruleset creates a more arcadey feel to the game because you can get away with more dirty driving. I felt that the casual penalty system is more to help onboard new players. Nevertheless, in a game that is all about competition, the penalty system is a massive determinant of how the game influences you to drive. I love the fact that this feature is the main focal point of online competitive racing. More on that below.
Content-Loaded Career Mode
The career mode in Forza Motorsport is quite extensive, especially with the 20 tracks available on day one. At launch, the game features 25 series that consist of multiple races organized into 5 tours. Every tour is capped off with a nice single race with the car prize. Each race will also encourage you to do a few practice runs, which is worthwhile in the beginning to rack up some Car Experience Points (CXP).
Every series will have unique requirements or themes. This includes the 80s German car series, Mazda Miata series, muscle car series, or class-specific series. In addition to the series events, there are also featured races that act similar to limited-time events. Just from the single-player aspect on its own, there is a ton of content. However, you can easily get burned out if you keep hammering away in the career mode.
Robust Multiplayer Offerings
The multiplayer mode is where Forza Motorsport brings its fans around the world in celebration of sim-racing. Every 20 minutes, there will be a race for players to join. While waiting for races to begin, racers can take practice laps and opt-in when they would like to begin qualifying sessions. During qualifying you get 3 laps to record your fastest time, and that will determine your position in the starting grid. However, here, you have to abide by clean driving rules. The foundation of online races is based on the principle of clean racing, as relayed by the game’s Creative Director, Esaki.
Collisions and off-track driving are heavily penalized in the online world of Forza Motorsport. Even if you battled it out for a pole position and finished above another player, you could potentially lose position places if you accumulated penalties as time is added to your final time.
After the first few races, Forza Motorsport does a decent job of pairing you with similar players, both in terms of level and racing behavior.
However, if you go AFK during a race, you essentially surrender the race. And that can feel quite painful, especially after waiting for up to 20 minutes for the race to begin. But when you’re a gaming father, that is an all too common reality.
Car Progression Redux
One of the most notable changes made in Forza Motorsport is the progression system. As we said in our preview, the game has taken a lot of notes from the Forza Horizon when it comes to how you level in the game and I welcome that cross-pollination between developers. In a nutshell, there are two things players level up in Forza Motorsport, your own Driver Level and the individual Car Level.
The Driver Level reflects the overall game progress that you attain from participating in different modes such as career mode, free drives, and online multiplayer. While Car Level is more about your experience with a particular car model. The higher your car level, the more upgrades are available to deck out your car.
I was always happy when I unlocked tire compound upgrades as they made an immense difference across all stats. Tire compound upgrades made an immense difference to help maintain control and speed while taking turns. Because there’s nothing more exhilarating than overtaking opponents during turns.
In every race, players will be rewarded with CXP for different achievements. You’ll net CXP for clean sector drives, for overtaking and breaking your previous sector time.
Progression is constant and it hits that dopamine rush that many live service games provide. When compared to previous Forza Motorsport entries, it works well and incentivizes players to keep that competitive fire burning.
There are even track and sector challenges that keep things interesting. Every circuit has practice run objectives. Naturally, meeting these objectives provides CXP. While track segment challenges are mini challenges for specific segments of the circuit it provided an ample dopamine rush whenever I scored a 7.0 and above.
CRPG? No, Apparently a Car-PG
During the game’s preview, it was clear the new car leveling system is hitting those RPG vibes. Leveling up your car level opens up new parts you can install and there are a bunch of parts. Everything from tire compound, drive trains, clutch, transmissions, and more can be upgraded by using the Car Points (CP) you accumulate from leveling up your car. In other words, the more you drive a certain car, the more you can spec it out. Different parts have different CP values, and best of all if you remove a part you are refunded the CP.
It was also interesting to see the developers mention the term your car’s “build”, which is the same lingo many RPG games and games with RPG elements incorporate these days. I never thought of the day we would see the same terminology be used in a racing game.
Thankfully, Turn 10 did a great job of highlighting how certain parts impact the car’s performance via a handy graph. If you want to go into more details that option is also available. It just makes the upgrade path much more accessible and easy to digest.
Inflation Hits Car Prices in Forza Motorsport
One thing I did notice is that cars are quite pricey in Forza Motorsport. This wouldn’t be a bad thing on its own, but because payouts can be quite limited based on the assists and difficulty you set, it could be a grind if you’re saving up for that sweet, but pricey, ride.
While the game has around 500 vehicles to buy and unlock, it will take a while if you set your heart on collecting them all. This is a stark contrast to Forza Horizon, which just throws cars at you. The free cars you do get are the rewards for completing tours.
However, Creative Director Esaki made it clear that Forza Motorsport is going down the live service path and the game will be a platform going forward. In other words, the game will be constantly updated with new content, so it makes sense to put in a bit of a grind to it. It is understandable in these days of long development cycles. However, there has to be a fine line in order to avoid burning out and penny-pinching players.
Drivatars Are Back and Better Than Ever
Turn 10 took all the lessons and experience they learned from Drivatars and their AI, turning it up to 11. The AI will put in quite a shift during races. Don’t expect them to be brushed aside as they will attempt to close off overtake opportunities. The AI will also regularly come close to tapping your car if you overtake them. It’s a cheeky recurrence but goes to show how far the AI has developed in the Forza series.
I set the Opponent AI between levels 3 and 4 (on a scale of 8) and it was aggressive and was a nuisance and I absolutely loved it. It got my blood boiling and pushed me into a competitive frenzy. I haven’t felt this engaged to the point of a physical response (increased blood pressure, yes I’m old) in a Forza title ever. The way I would describe it is a similar feeling to overcoming a tough boss in a soulslike game.
Make no mistake, the AI is the best it has ever been in any Forza title. Depending on what level you set it on, the Drivatar AI will push you to the limits and react naturally, albeit with an aggressive and punchy demeanor.
A Step Up in Presentation
Forza Motorsport immensely stepped up its presentation game. The short in-engine clips of your driver walking around in the paddock, checking on their car, added a human element that elevated the presentation compared to previous iterations. You can even select your Driver’s outfit, which is a nice touch.
However, there’s one aspect that Forza Motorsport still misses the mark on, and that is the replay camera. The angles used during replays look antiquated and vanilla. They used to be slick 15 years ago. However, now it’s just the same rinse-and-repeat angles that you would normally find demoed in a TV section of a giant consumer electronics store. Especially when compared to the slick presentation found in rivals such as Gran Turismo. It is time to step up the replays Turn 10!
Plenty of Graphical Options Available In Forza Motorsport
Our preview of Forza Motorsport relayed the fact that the game sports 3 graphics modes to choose from: Performance Mode (4K 60FPS), Performance RT (Dynamic 4K 60FPS with limited Ray-Tracing), Quality Mode (4K full Ray-Tracing 30FPS).
During my playthrough, I focused on the Performance RT option, as I felt this mode was the one that stood out to me the most. RT is already such a rarity on the console side, but the fact that Turn 10 was able to pull it off while maintaining 60 FPS is impressive. However, there are certain caveats worth mentioning.
At times, the ray-traced reflected can look quite pixelated. You’ll notice this the most in the actual reflections on the cars themselves. For instance, when a tree reflection appears on a car, it will look pixelated. But because you’re constantly moving in the car, it only appears for a moment and you really have to be attentive to really notice it.
When in cockpit view, you’ll see the top of your dashboard reflected in the windshield. Although this gives off a realistic it can be distracting at times. While matte car finishes are less reflective, as they should be.
Graphically, the game shines best during sunset/night races. As darkness descends on the circuit, the cars’ headlights become a prominent aspect of Forza Motorsport’s visuals. Lights will continuously reflect off the tarmac while fading in and out from car exteriors. Reflections from illuminated signs would create a pulse effect on your car exterior as you zip by. It was an absolute visual treat.
Overall, Forza Motorsport performed admirably in the Ray-Tracing Performance Mode. The game held a steady 60 FPS for the vast majority of my playthrough. The only dip I have noticed is during the start of one race at the beginning of turn one where a lot of cars were trading paint and overtaking each other. But other than that it was a near-flawless performance.
Forza Motorsport Maintain Pristine Sound Design
Once again, Forza Motorsport goes Supra et Ultra when it comes to its sound design. The painstaking care and effort Turn 10 has gone to record almost 500 cars’ engine and exhaust sounds and to recreate it in a game is second to none. In addition, there are audio nuances that are impeccable examples of attention to detail.
Coming out of a turn a car’s turbo’ kicking in produces a distinct swoosh. While braking you will hear the car screeching and the gears lowering resulting in a deep thumping sound.
Even selecting a different view will alter the sound design. For instance, the third-person camera sounds completely different when compared to the cockpit view. The attention to detail is second to none, but this has been a staple of Forza titles for a long time. It’s great to see it continue on the current generation of consoles.
Final Thoughts on Forza Motorsport
It’s been a while since we had an entry in the Forza Motorsport series. However, that time was well spent revamping the game’s pristine driving mechanics and physics for the current generation. All the while incorporating a modern leveling system and live-service features that keep the dopamine rush intact. Truly, the king is back.
For those who purchased the Deluxe Edition, they can play the game early on October 5th, 2023.