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Forza Motorsport Review

No pit stops here

I haven’t played a Forza Motorsport game since Forza Motorsport 2 back on the Xbox 360 (the good old days) and while I’m not exactly a car person, I have always had a soft spot for Microsoft’s racing series. With the advent of the Forza Horizon games I haven’t exactly felt the need to play the Motorsport games, but with Forza Horizon 5 out and the fact that the Xbox App on PC lost my save file, I turned to the latest Forza Motorsport to scratch that itch. I’d always heard about the minor differences that make the games feel wholly different, which was a cool notion. I am here to say that this game does feel remarkably different to the Horizon games, and it is another flawed yet exemplary release for Xbox and the Forza series in both a gameplay and technical sense.

Forza Motorsport is the eighth entry into the Motorsport line of Forza games. For the uninitiated, the Motorsport games are positioned more as a sim-style racer, leaving the Horizon games to cater to the more arcadey-natured racers. So rather than some insane string of eccentric small sprints and stunts, you instead are treated to some light exposition about how cars are the fruits of meticulous labour, and how your role is to tinker with your own cars to best your opponents. You are still, of course, thrown behind the wheel of a car that I will never be able to afford in my lifetime, but it is a much more grounded introduction than the Horizon series and does a great job of setting the stage, tone, and pace of the game.

Forza Motorsport 1

After the main introduction and the first race, the game immediately brings you up to speed on its systems. Where the Horizon games didn’t really place that much importance on upgrades, and by extension the tuning system, Forza Motorsport makes it abundantly clear that the better you are with these systems the more easily you will succeed. This is not to say, however, that the game is a ridiculous mess of systems that are uninviting to people who don’t understand much about cars. I am probably one of the most clueless people when it comes to cars. All I know is that red cars go faster, and both flame decals and racing stripes also contribute to your speed – irrefutable facts.

With my lack of knowledge in hand, the game made great efforts to not only give me the tools to learn about some of the nuances of car upgrades but to also give me the option to not learn and instead spend more time actually driving with the auto-upgrade system. Little touches like this go a long way in creating an experience that caters both to hardcore car fans and people like me who just want to go fast.

Because the progression path of Forza Motorsport is less straightforward than that of the Horizon games, you are instead given two progression systems. The first is a level system for each of your cars. So, say you had been using a Porsche 911 Carrera for one event and had levelled it up a bunch, then swapped to a different car, you would find that the new car is back down to level 1. Levelling a car is as simple as using it, and the more you use it, the more you level it. Every level your car increases results in an increase in your CP, which is effectively a resource that you use for installing upgrades to your car. Upgrades are not final, and the installed components can be swapped and changed all the time as your CP is refunded when downgrading parts.

Forza Motosport-2

The other core progression system is the Career Mode.  In here you’ll find the Builders Cup playlist, an assortment of various races and tours that have you engaging with cars ranging from vintage classics all the way to modern sports and muscle cars. Completing these will eventually lead to a single-lap showcase race to show off various reward cars like a 2017 Ford GT. There are a total of five tours, each consisting of four smaller events that also range from four to six races each, as well as five showcase races. That’s quite a bit of racing even before touching the Featured playlist, which cycles various tours and competitions in and out of rotation. Obviously, you need to be connected to the internet for all this which is where my first issue with the game comes into play.

The Builders Cup playlist doesn’t cycle like the Featured system, it’s a permanently available playlist. Regardless of this, however, you always need to be connected to the internet in order to progress through anything. Turn 10 has stated that this is to facilitate a fair and secure experience, with your progress being saved on its servers. However, Xbox and Steam cloud saves already exist and serve a similar purpose, so the need to be connected to the internet feels more like a really shitty anti-piracy measure that only serves to harm the experience of the people who pay the $119.95 AUD price of entry (or your Game Pass subscription). Only one mode is available when you are offline; Free Play. Free Play has every car and track unlocked already, so if you are someone who buys the game but also has internet connectivity issues then you spent an exorbitant amount of money for a game that you won’t be able to progress in.

Pricing and terrible requirements of a constant internet connection aside, the actual feel of the cars is incredible. The upgrades and tunings you make to your car feel much more impactful, with the changes in the handling, turning radius, and braking becoming far more important in how a race turns out, especially in the higher difficulties. A really cool subsystem you can engage with is the fuel system, where you can fill up the fuel tank from empty to full before a race starts. The amount you fill the fuel tank up determines how heavy the car is, and the game shows you what difference it makes in your estimated completion time. If you are playing with a fuel consumption option turned off then you can just dial the slider all the way down to zero to go just a little bit faster.

Forza Motosport-3

As is the case with the fuel consumption system, there are a number of other small systems that help the game go further into the sim-racer category and away from the arcade-racer category. A lot of these systems have to do with the wear and damage on your vehicle, often requiring you to engage with the game’s pit stops which are available at the end of every lap in a race.

Even with all the small simulator subsystems disabled, the driving still feels remarkably more nuanced than it does in the Horizon games. This isn’t a knock on Horizon’s driving, but because those games are less focused on the small differences, it’s easy to view a lot of the cars in them as vehicles with different top speeds. Because you are constantly engaged with the upgrade system, the nuance in each car’s construction shines, and so you really feel the hum of the motor, the vibration of the road as you race through the track, the difference in terrain as you cut your wheel acr– wait no that’s just my cat, Kermie, purring on my lap. Even without the assistance of my cat, the feedback on the cars is fantastic and it’s easily some of the best driving available.

Aiding with the feel of the vehicles, you have Forza Motorsport’s impeccable sound design. I have always enjoyed the sounds of the Forza games. I am aware that people who are super into cars have struck an issue with the Horizon games for how they handle some of the engine sounds for particular cars, but for someone who isn’t a stickler for that, they have always been a treat to listen to. While I am not sure about the accuracy of the engine noises, it does at least sound really good when you are racing through each track. Going through underpasses creates an almost deafening echo, driving through open areas provides no such echo but allows you to more easily hear the road you are driving on – the sound is very good, basically. The only oddity I noticed is that in one of the overpasses, the echo was far more than deafening.

Forza Motosport-4

The Forza series in general is known for pushing some insane visuals while offering outstanding performance. Forza Horizon 5 is an example of such phenomenal optimisation that I use it in my laptop/hardware reviews. Forza Motorsport is no different, and some of the detailing on the vehicles and tracks is absurd. What makes the performance of this game even more impressive is the Ray Tracing [RT]. Your RT options are as follows; Off, Car Reflections, Car Reflections + RTAO, and Full Reflections + RTAO. When playing this game, I was in the middle of upgrading my PC, so until my new GPU arrived, I had the RT option set to off (a 1080 Ti is not good for RT, believe it or not). However, with a 3080 Ti, I was able to crank everything. It’s no surprise that having every setting possible cranked, including the RT options, is very demanding. What is surprising is the fact that I was able to maintain stable frames while playing the game with all of these bells and whistles.

The one thing I wasn’t so keen on with the PC version was its dynamic rendering settings. I am not against dynamic rendering at all, as I think it is a great way for people to get the most out of aging hardware, but the way it is presented to you in Forza Motorsport is just weird. Rather than having preset options, you have a Dynamic Render Setting, which is a general setting that you might originally treat as a preset option, but it is not. There is no preset option. The Dynamic Render Setting option only works if each individual setting is set to “Auto”, so if you have a setting that is already configured to something else, it completely bypasses this option. This may sound okay, but it means you have to spend a little more time in the settings menu than normal where a simple preset option here would have been nice. The other bizarre issue I found with this game only arose when running in a multimonitor setup. For some reason, it seems like the window for the game isn’t clipped correctly and the white border that normally outlines the window spills over onto the inner edge of your other monitor(s). Why this is the case I don’t know, but I do hope it is something that gets addressed.

Final Thoughts

Forza Motorsport is a fantastic yet imperfect celebration of the Forza Motorsport series. The systems are nuanced and impactful, the visuals and sound design are impeccable, and the vehicle handling is bar none – it’s all so wonderful. Playing the game is such a treat that, even as someone who doesn’t care for cars or racing, I repeatedly found myself excited to boot up the game. It is mostly held back by the requirement of an internet connection for the single-player progress, and minorly by some strange decisions in the PC version’s setting, but it also presents some incredible levels of polish and optimisation that continue Turn 10’s reputation as Microsoft’s technical wizards that push the available technology, both in terms of hardware and the engine, to its limits.

Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher

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Forza Motorsport Review
Ready. Set. Woah.
Turn 10 has displayed its technical proficiency and understanding of the sim-racing genre once more with this stellar entry into the Forza Motorsport series. It is a shame that an always-online requirement casts a shadow that looms over what is an otherwise genre-defining game.
The Good
Cars feel so incredible to drive
The game looks and sounds fantastic
The game is very approachable
The smaller systems add a great level of nuance to each car
The Bad
Always online requirement for progression always has and always will feel terrible
Some of the PC setting options are peculiar
8.5
Get Around It
  • Turn 10 Studios
  • Xbox Game Studios
  • Xbox Series X|S / PC
  • October 10, 2023 (early access launch October 5)
  • CPU – AMD Ryzen 9 7950X
  • Motherboard – ASUS TUF Gaming X670E-Plus Wifi
  • Cooling – EKWB AIO Liquid CPU Cooler 240mm D-RGB
  • Memory – G.Skill Trident Z5 RGB 64GB (2x32GB) 6000MHz CL32 DDR5
  • GPU – MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Ti GAMING X TRIO 12GB (Driver ver. 537.42)
  • Storage – Samsung 970 Evo Plus NVMe SSD 500GB (OS), Kingston NV2 NVMe SSD 4TB (game install)
  • PSU – be quiet! Straight Power 11 Gold Modular 1000W
  • OS – Windows 10 Home (Build ver. 19045.3448)

Forza Motorsport Review
Ready. Set. Woah.
Turn 10 has displayed its technical proficiency and understanding of the sim-racing genre once more with this stellar entry into the Forza Motorsport series. It is a shame that an always-online requirement casts a shadow that looms over what is an otherwise genre-defining game.
The Good
Cars feel so incredible to drive
The game looks and sounds fantastic
The game is very approachable
The smaller systems add a great level of nuance to each car
The Bad
Always online requirement for progression always has and always will feel terrible
Some of the PC setting options are peculiar
8.5
Get Around It
Written By Jordan Garcia

Jordan lives and breathes Dark Souls, even though his favourite game is Bloodborne. He takes pride in bashing his face on walls and praising the sun. Hailing from the land of tacos, he is the token minority for WellPlayed.

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