Although it’s hard to believe, there’s been no Forza Motorsport game available to buy for close to two years, with the last title — 2017’s Forza Motorsport 7 — removed from the store as old content licences expired.
After a consistent 12-year cycle of a game every two years then, even with the lightly delayed Forza Horizon 5 to tide players over, the next entry has been a long time coming. That wait is now finally at an end, as Forza Motorsport — yes, “Forza Motorsport” again, with no number — is almost upon us.
The six-year fallow period and the somewhat retrospective name are down to the fact that Turn 10 has rebuilt the game from scratch (or “from the ground up”, as it tells us) as it’s rebooted the series and built it for the Xbox Series consoles.
All of that marks it out as one of the most-anticipated games in our community in recent memory, rivalled by only a certain franchise on a different console. Courtesy of a preview code from Microsoft, we’ve been able to put Forza Motorsport through its paces on Xbox Series X to see if it has been worth the wait.
Forza Motorsport arrives Tuesday, October 10, on Xbox Series, Xbox Game Pass, Xbox Cloud, and PC via Windows and Steam. Premium Edition/Add-Ons (excluding Cloud) get early access from Thursday October 5.
Content and Value For Money
Turn 10 has taken a similar approach to other racing game developers, shucking a lot of its older and less relevant content in order to bring a renewed focus to it all and — by intent at least — bring everything up to date.
That means the car list is considerably smaller than other titles in the Forza series were at the end of their lives, but at 500 cars it’s pretty much in the ballpark for other launch day lists. However only about 20% of that list is all-new, with the rest being the result of taking a marker pen to Forza Horizon 5’s car list and redacting anything that’s not designed for racetrack or fast road use.
Nobody should be too surprised by this heavily edited car list, as T10 has been quite clear that FM is about racing cars around tracks, but it does mean a lot of the weird and fun stuff — and all the fast SUVs and offroaders — are gone. At least for now.
Generally speaking, Forza games of both flavors have been pretty good with delivering new content for free (sometimes requiring minimal in-game tasks, as seen each week with Forza Horizon 5), and there are additional vehicles that will be available through the paid Car Pass (all new to this series, so not removed and sold back to you), so it’s a number that should rise pretty quickly — though whether the laser-focus on trackable cars persists is a question for later in the game’s life.
However the actual circuit content is a little lacking at launch. There are just the 20 track locations — with just five new to the series — and with only 48 different layouts we have to say that T10 isn’t even making the most of what is there.
With the exception of the Virginia International Raceway, which has five alternate courses, you’re limited to one, two, or three tracks at each location. That even includes the fictional tracks where — bizarrely — there’s only some reverse-direction alternative courses.
Take the new Circuit Hakone, for example. The full course (such that it is) has two layouts, and while both share the same pit lane, only one — the shorter Club layout — has a reverse-direction version. That’s also the case with Eaglerock Speedway, Grand Oak, and Maple Valley, which is baffling.
The tracks themselves aren’t particularly engaging either. Maple Valley of course gets a pass here, but for much of the rest of it the tracks are either short or they’re the Nurburgring/Suzuka GP circuits. Apropos of that, this must be the only circuit racing game released since 2006 to not include the Red Bull Ring…
That said, they do all come with dynamic time of day and weather so there is at least plenty of variety in the tracks that are there. T10 has already committed to at least three more circuits in the next six months too, starting with Yas Marina, so the course list should bulk up in due course.
Single Player Content
Aside from the headline content numbers, there’s really a lot to do in FM — although the real reboot is how some of it is approached.
You will likely have already read about the shift in the single-player career from FM7’s “Driver’s Cup” to the “Builders Cup” (with a curious lack of apostrophe) in FM. That, in principle, shifts the focus from flitting from car to car to win money in races over to remaining in the same car, and building it up to win “CarXP” (and money) in races.
In essence, each car levels up as you drive it (more quickly if you drive it well). The more it levels the more parts become available to you — although race cars and pre-tuned cars have some already available — and the more CarXP you earn to buy those parts. It takes roughly two hours to level a car up to the maximum (50), when all components become available to you, although really you’ll have everything you need after a couple of races when you hit level 20.
That means you’re encouraged to keep the car as you go through a race series, upgrading it as you go (the quick upgrade feature, which buys the recommended parts for your CarXP balance, is neat), but it has to be said that the career mode is pretty restrictive and you’ll not find yourself staying in the same car from series to series — because a lot of the time you can’t.
After spending the introductory three races with my starter Scooby, being forced to ditch it for a Golf R (ugh) because it wasn’t eligible for the only two available series — and then ditch that for the same reason with more unlocked events — made very little sense if the goal is for players to stay, and bond, with a car.
At just 95 races, most of which are just four to seven laps in length (that we’ve encountered so far), the career feels a little short. Conversely, with each of the 16 core championships hosting five or six races, each sometimes feels like a bit of a drag too; 30 series of three races each would have been a better option.
It should be noted that the new AI is not great, even on higher levels. I’ve seen some pretty dim behaviour, from braking off a grid start instead of moving to one side to carry the speed past, to just straight driving into a car at the side of the track.
The overwhelming majority of my single-player races so far have seen the lead AI streak off at unmatchable speeds after the first sector of the first lap (as if trying to match a set lap time, without regard for the standing start) before taking a more reasonable pace for the rest of the race and being able to be reeled in. For the most part the rest of the cars may as well not have been there.
There is significant opportunity to personalize your car, with the full suite of vehicle upgrades, bodykits, and a livery editor we’ve come to expect from Forza.
Given the “built from the ground up” catchphrase, that’s a little too exact in places — that Forza wing has already done the rounds, the livery editor is unchanged aside from a mild layout switchup, and the tuning menu is very recognizable — but it does allow for your hard work from many older games in both franchises to be imported into FM, although beware that your tunes will require you to reach the car level required to fit the parts. Discovery may be harder though, as there’s no Creative Hub at launch.
There’s one final item of particular note: the game’s economy. With car parts now subject to CarXP only, credits are almost an afterthought and we’d racked up a million of them (admittedly with the 2x boost of the VIP membership) without even noticing. You earn it pretty quickly with even moderate AI difficulty and rules, and more so if you place yourself down the grid.
That earning power is made more significant by the fact that no car — at least right now — costs more than 450,000cr. As all the launch vehicles are available in the “Buy Cars” area permanently, you won’t be waiting long to own any of them.
Moreover, if you just want to make nice designs on them you don’t even need to buy them. Free Play also allows you to use any car — whether your own or a rental (beware that you cannot level up rentals) — which means no-one is waiting three months to buy a car they’ve had to grind for.
The online offering in Forza Motorsport is pretty solid, with a few changes that might catch you by surprise.
Naturally there’s a private multiplayer option, allowing you to set any parameters you wish for up to 24 players at any track with full time and weather. That includes timed and multiclass races, up to 1,000 laps or 24 hours, with full control over regulations and vehicle eligibility.
Rivals also feature in the game, for hot laps against your friends’ ghosts at each of the 48 circuit configurations and in any of the nine vehicle performance index (PI) classes. For reference that’s E Class at 300PI or less, decreasing by one letter per 100 points up to A at 700PI or less, then S (800), R (900), P (998), and finally X (999). Limited-time, Featured Rivals for a specific vehicle, and a special VIP Rivals event are also available.
That just leaves Featured Multiplayer, which is essentially a replacement for Leagues and starts with a mandatory introductory “Qualifier Series”. You’ll be tasked with completing three races in a front-wheel drive Honda Civic racing car — at any time you wish — and assigned an initial Safety Rating and a Skill Rating once you’ve finished, along with gaining access to the rest of the events.
Safety Rating is measured from the lowest rank E up to A, with the very best drivers earning an S rating. This is essentially a measure of how often you’re investigated (whether penalized or not) for infractions, such as going off track or bouncing off the scenery or other cars — and these investigations are automatic and frequent even with the track limits markers on (oh, how some other games could do with that).
Skill Rating isn’t entirely explained, but measures your ability with a score from 1000-5000. We got a rating of 4754 after a win, a second, and a hosing, so there’s clearly some dark magic behind it all…
There’s no shortage of races to dip into, with multiple events running across two categories. Spec Events limit you to a certain car category, while Open Events include the Spotlight Series — which requires a specific car, tuned however you wish — and open challenges based on car PI categories.
These look set to rotate at certain times that aren’t clear yet — possibly weekly — and at time of writing there’s five events each in different vehicles I can enter in the next 15 minutes. You should always be able to find something to do.
If you have a car that meets basic requirements but isn’t tuned to the specifics, it’s temporarily upgraded with the parts you don’t have, which is neat. You can also rent cars for events, but you won’t gain CarXP or levels for doing so.
Of course pre-launch tests of multiplayer are only informative to a certain point. The busiest of my races had eight people in it, the quietest was just me — and T10 doesn’t want to put the AI into multiplayer because it affects your ratings. However it all seemed stable enough, even when warning me of a “poor connection” (because I was downloading FM to my PC too at the time; oops).
Driving Physics and Handling
Given the general fuss made about the game’s brand new physics, 48x fidelity on the tire model, and fully reworked track surfaces, I was expecting a lot. I don’t think it entirely delivered.
For what it’s worth, I only lightly played FM7 and… yeah, that wasn’t great. It could be fun, but then a curb would bite you for no reason or the constant looming specter of lift-off oversteer would have a say in how your day was going, again.
Forza Motorsport certainly seems to have toned all of that down a lot, but I can’t say that it feels all that great or intuitive to drive. It’s certainly not “arcade” to drive — it’s simulating something — but it’s not what I was really expecting.
Putting a finger exactly on what’s not quite there is pretty tricky. Driving on controller on the console, which is what most people will do and which once again is perfectly good, the asphalt feels like a totally smooth, recently resurfaced parking lot.
There’s little sensation that the tires are acting upon anything in particular, even on sawtooth curbs and those evil sausage curbs — which seem to elicit no reaction from the car whatsoever for the most part. This does vary a smidge depending on the track, but even driving across them perpendicularly has little effect.
Steering Wheels and Force Feedback
As I don’t have an Xbox-compatible wheel, I switched to the PC version for a quick test with the Logitech G923 (the Thrustmaster T-GT/T-GT II is not on the list of supported wheels), and the results were largely the same.
There’s really not much coming back through the wheel from the various surfaces except when you off-road it or hit a grabby tire wall (oh yes, they’re back), even with the effects — and there’s a lot of them, so I’ll add a caveat that maybe, somehow, I did something wrong here — turned up to maximum.
In terms of handling the most common mannerism is that of understeer followed by oversteer, pretty much regardless of drivetrain or tires. There is more of the former on cars where the front wheels deliver torque, but it’s pretty easy to get the tail sliding too.
The oversteer is pretty progressive though. Considering that there’s no dedicated drifting in the game at launch, I found it actually easier to drift an Audi R8 GT3 on racing soft tires through the opening complex of the Nurburgring GP circuit (accidentally to start with) than to drift a drift zone in a drift car on drift tires in FH5…
I did find a clear pace and endurance difference between the three new racing tire grades, and it does add a nice tactical aspect, although I often felt grip somewhat went off a cliff rather than gradually wandering off — even on the medium tires.
For the most part though, FM is okay. It’s an improvement on FM7, for sure, but I wouldn’t say it’s troubling Assetto Corsa Competizione or Project CARS 2 as a driving experience on Xbox.
This section has caused me nightmares to score, because when Forza Motorsport gets it all right it looks pretty great — a straight five — but it’s such an inconsistent experience.
The cars span a spectrum from brand-new to refreshed legacy models. What’s important to note is that some of them carry over upgrade parts from previous numbered titles (and Horizon games). When you’re in the midst of a race, these differences aren’t always noticeable. Even the oldest cars, which may have received some flak on social media, make up only a small fraction of the overall roster and don’t stand out, especially from the driver’s perspective. In fact, all the interiors we’ve tested have been quite impressive.
The circuits are, mostly, excellent. That particularly goes for the general circuit environment and foliage, but by and large everything from asphalt to the highest stand is nicely done — even if the string of trackside camper vans are all emitting the exact same smoke plume. Some of the distance details are a mixed bag, including the sky — which is odd as Forza Horizon 5 pretty much nails it in that department.
Draw distances are generally good, with not that much pop-in; the only glaring example I can think of is a gantry at Spa which obviously pops between two LOD models as you approach, although crawling along a tire wall can result in it loading in piece by piece.
Importantly, frame rates are solid. Set at 60fps, the game holds steady enough that I’ve not noticed any frame drops, although at least on this pre-launch build there’s some stuttering in menus and track loading screens.
Probably my biggest gripe (on-track at least) is with the lighting, which often contrives to be quite unnatural despite the vaunted real-time ray-tracing.
There’s an over-the-top shininess to a lot of the cars — which really stands out as incongruous when its dull and chucking it down — and some really odd reflections at times, where areas of the same part in the same orientation in the same light reflect it differently. Car headlights can also cast some odd shadows at times too, as if the non-player headlights are just canned effects.
Environmental shadows can also pop in and out. I noticed this first with the ferris wheel at Suzuka before being spooked by a teleporting floodlight shadow at Barcelona’s turn ten (ironically). There’s a good chance that’s down to time progression — as if the game jumps between adjacent blocs of time rather than transitioning smoothly.
However it’s outside the track environment that the game falls down graphically the most. I don’t really know what’s going on with the car models in menus — such as buy car/my car and post-race — but they look like they’ve been covered with a layer of shellac.
Forza Motorsport remains at the standards of its predecessors here, although again I was hoping for more.
Once again, the cars themselves all sound excellent, both inside and out, with just about every engine sound imaginable coming through loud and clear. That means you can listen to the chattering wastegates, brutal V10s, screaming rotaries all you like.
Although the track list has no real tunnels to try out the full breadth of spatial sound, the underpass at Suzuka suffices as a reasonable substitute and it comes across well. AI cars — as well as making the right noises — are positionally audible too.
If we’ve got complaints, it’s the sound mix. There is, if you turn down the engine sound, a wide range of environmental sounds too that you just can’t hear in normal play and it’s kind of a shame.
That covers things like the pattering of rain on your roof, gravel being flung up into the floorpan, and crowd sounds, all of which are just too quiet to pick up on. I’d imagine the circuit helicopters flying about also make a bit of a racket, but they may as well be Blue Thunder on the standard audio mix.
There’s also precious little by way of music in the game, bar a couple of menu jingles that sound more like they belong in Starfield. Curated playlists are always a minefield, and while it’s personally a non-event it’s something that some players will bemoan briefly before putting their own tunes on. We’ve not caught anything like the celebrity voice-overs of FM7 either.
I very much wanted to love Forza Motorsport. The series has never really grabbed me so far, but I’ve quite enjoyed the last two Forza Horizon titles, so I went in with a lot of optimism.
The fact is it’s quite a good game, which looks pretty slick most of the time, sounds mostly nice, has a decent and focused roster of cars, and the online modes look like they’ll be a cracking time sink — especially if it remains stable after the influx of players over the next week.
As it stands right now, the track list is on the small side and the career mode really could do with more events with fewer races each time, but both are on T10’s radar to expand in the future — starting very soon in the case of the tracks.
But ultimately it’s the driving itself that doesn’t convince me, and while it can look great it’s just too inconsistent in that regard as well. It gives the overall impression of being a really, really polished GRID: Legends (with a better chase cam). And I do like GRID: Legends, but it’s not a AAA, potential system-seller like Forza.
Of course where Forza Motorsport will shine, aside from the rolling monthly updates, is on Game Pass. While Microsoft has very recently rejigged that service (and its pricing), the fact you don’t have to spend $70 on it is great news — it’s just a pity that it’s not quite good enough to make me want to do so.
Forza Motorsport (2023)
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