The Forza series has long been the premier racing simulation on Xbox consoles, with the Motorsport series having started all the way back in 2005 and the Horizon games starting in 2012. Over the years we’ve watched these games grow and evolve, taking big strides to advance the racing simulation genre and inspiring car enthusiasts and casuals alike, myself included. The main difference between the Motorsport and the Horizon games is their focus; Forza Horizon is about freedom and exploration while Forza Motorsport is about competition and honing your driving skills.
This year’s Forza Motorsport refocuses on the very core of the game. According to Dan Greenawalt (General Manager, Forza Motorsport at Turn 10 Studios), the goal of this game is “to create a live, connected, immersive, accessible, and ever-changing competitive racing platform that will evolve and grow with our community.” For that reason, they’ve decided to forego the ‘Forza Motorsport 8’ title that would have been expected as the follow-up to Forza Motorsport 7, as this game is expected to be more than just a sequel. Thanks to Turn 10 Studios, I’ve been able to go hands-on with Forza Motorsport to get a first-hand look at how they’re putting that vision into action.
To get things started, they’ve made this the easiest Forza to get into. There’s no excessive fanfare, no overly complicated menus, and nothing to stand between you and the racetrack. This game is designed to streamline your racing experience at every step. After a brief intro, you’re put behind the wheel and let loose. The game also comes loaded with accessibility options and different settings. Settings like Blind Driving Assists, One Touch Driving, and Screen Narration are just a few of the features they’ve incorporated so everyone can enjoy it with little to no barriers.
The Builders Cup Career Mode is where you’ll build on and fine-tune your driving skills. To start off there are 5 tours, each with 5 different series to participate in to rack up your trophies. This is one of the best ways to familiarize yourself with the different cars as each Tour focuses on different car types, including modern cars, muscle, classics, and more. There are over 500 cars in the game, but what the Builders Cup aims to do is help you find a handful of your favorite cars. Then master each car while leveling up and unlocking various upgrades.
There are over 800 performance upgrades available in the Builders Cup, with different upgrade options available for each car. Leveling up your car unlocks new upgrades and, later on, the ability to completely swap out things like the engine, body kit, and drivetrain. I like to put more into braking and handling because I struggle with tight corners, but you have to find that balance that suits your driving style while also not sacrificing too much in any one area. Making it around those turns is only part of the battle – I also need to make sure I can hold a position once I’ve taken it.
The cars look and feel absolutely stunning. It may have taken a lap or two to get used to each car, learning how to handle the turns and even how to control the car if I ended up off track. I flipped between first-person and third-person views during races which helped out a lot if I was having difficulty with a particular turn. Putting yourself in the perspective of the driver will help you to understand a little better when you need to start slowing down as well as when to start speeding up again. Of course, each car is also a visual spectacle to behold as well. There’s a lot of attention to detail, all the way down to the instruments on the dash.
At the beginning of each series, you’ll select the car you’ll take through the series, make any upgrades you can, and then hit the track. Each race starts with a few practice laps so you can get to know the track, but they’re also good for starting to familiarize yourself with your car. You’ll receive scoring feedback throughout each lap, letting you know if your segment times have improved as well as giving you a benchmark to beat for each track. After your practice laps, you’ll get into position for the actual race, with your starting position determined by previous performances.
The career mode isn’t the only way to get acquainted with and level up your cars, however. In Free Play you are able to choose the rules and progress each car without the pressure. You’ll be able to freely race to your heart’s content, earning XP for more upgrades and honing your driving skills.
Once you’ve built up your dream car, it’s time to really put it to the test in competitive multiplayer. Unlike most, if not all games, there is no open matchmaking system. Instead, Featured Multiplayer takes on a race weekend inspired structure with races starting at scheduled times. This includes the Qualifier Series, which is required before you can enter the Spec and Open Events races. However, while this system may raise some eyebrows, what you get in exchange is a better structured racing experience that is safe, more fun, and more competitive. There’s new AI-driven Forza Race Regulations, tire and fuel strategy, and new driver and safety ratings in place to enhance your online experience.
I unfortunately was not able to participate in any of the events the Turn 10 team tried to organize for us, though I’m sure I would have been curb-stomped by the competition. However, I was able to check out the Rivals mode, a ladder-climbing mode where you race against the ghosts of other players to try to climb to the top of the leaderboards and, also, beat your own personal best times. Each lap is a new rival to compete against, and you can continue racing until you’ve had enough, or you reach the top… or plateau, like I did. There’s also Private Multiplayer so you can play with a group of friends in your own lobbies with your own rules.
There are 20 completely rebuilt tracks to race on, each with multiple layouts that present different challenges and opportunities. You’ll race during different times of the day and in different weather conditions, like rain, patchy fog, and blazing sunshine. You could do your practice laps during the day with fog covering parts of the tracks, and then your actual race could end up being at night with completely clear conditions. You could also have practice laps in the morning with the sun directly in your eyes, making it nearly impossible to see the track in front of you, and then rain when it’s time to race. These weather conditions not only impact your visibility, but also the driving conditions themselves. Taking extra care at each turn can save you from hydroplaning when it’s raining.
Forza Motorsport leverages the full power of the Xbox Series X, featuring unmatched visual fidelity and performance. You’ll see the full effects of things like ray tracing and global illumination, while also taking note of how detailed everything is. Everything from the road surface to the reflections off the windows to the spectators in the crowd stands out, even when it’s all passing in a blur. There were some occasions where some environmental elements like trees would pop in and out of high definition, but even that seems to have already been patched. Aside from that, the game loads quickly and everything runs smooth as butter.
One expectation I had that did fall short was the AI of the other drivers. They just don’t seem as intuitive as they have been in the past or in comparison to other games like F1 23. The AI drivers would often crash into me instead of making attempts to avoid collisions. It seemed like they had a complete disregard for my presence. In past entries, particularly in the Horizon games, the AI drivers would somewhat mimic the behaviors of their players, meaning if you tended to go off-road a lot, your AI would do the same, and while that may be what I’m experiencing in Forza Motorsport with some of the drivers, there have been plenty of times where it just seemed like an issue in the programming.
Everything that I’ve touched on thus far, maybe with the exception of the AI drivers, is just the starting point for what the Turn 10 team has in store for Forza Motorsport. They have plans to continue expanding and building off of this foundation to create a living and breathing platform that continues to entice players and fuel the competitive drive. After all of the Forza games I’ve played, Motorsport and Horizon combined, this one feels particularly special, and I’m excited to see where they take the franchise in the future.
Cassie Peterson is an Editor for Gaming Trend but also a sporadic content creator and exceedingly average Rainbow Six Siege player. She goes by MzPanik on Twitter and Twitch and all of the gaming platforms.
Forza Motorsport really does create a platform that leaves an open track to expand on. This is the easiest Forza to get into and it performs at such a high level, you may forget it's just a game. There's nothing standing between you and the racetrack.