Don’t worry, we’re not going back in time to the OG Xbox for this review!
Confusingly, the eighth entry into the Forza Motorsport franchise has been titled Forza Motorsport, as Turn10 seem to be attempting a rebrand or a reboot or something of the kind.
Yes, about 17 years after the last game to bear this name, the new entry into the Forza Motorsport series aims to bring true cutting edge racing and graphics to PC and consoles. My job is to try and figure out whether they have hit the mark, or missed hopelessly.
Given that I have played every Forza game since Forza Motorsport 2, I hope I can fulfil the brief.
Now, it’s not a secret that for the past year and more, my life has been all about Forza Horizon 5, with the weekly challenges and Series letting me play and write about the game regularly. While Horizon is all about open world silliness, the Forza Motorsport series of games have always been much more serious, and so it proves here.
There are no bonuses for burnouts, or handbrake turns to be found here – no, in Forza Motorsport the racing is serious business, and you better respect it. This is drilled into you from the very first time you get behind the wheel – going into a corner too fast so you run off track, or heaven forbid, you get brake checked by an AI driver and clatter into the back of their car, will see your actions reviewed by the virtual stewards; chunky time penalties come for repeated infractions.
You need to race on the road, avoid the other drivers (easier said than done, especially on the first corner of a race where all the rules go out of the window and it is every man for himself) and stay clean in order to win with a clean sheet. The safety angle of the racing is even more important online, where you are rated according to how you play with others. There are even certain races that require you to have a specific safety rating to even take part.
But let’s go back a bit, and talk about how the racing unfolds. There has been a new RPG element added to the racing action of Forza Motorsport, and I have to say I’m not a massive fan of it. You see, as you drive around the course, either in practice mode or in a race, the game is constantly judging the way you drive, comparing your performance to an ideal lap. When you conform to what is expected of you, you gain XP, and if you match it perfectly, you earn bonus XP.
The thing with this new levelling system is that not only do you, as the driver, gain XP, but the car you are piloting will also gather it up, and therefore levels. As your car gains levels, new parts are unlocked to be fitted, from new wheels right up to engine swaps and so on. So, it follows that when you start to drive a new car, the amount of parts you can nail on to improve the performance is very limited – the first race in a series will see you with practically a stock car, while the later stages can see it decidedly improved, if you play your cards right. The system is further complicated by the fact that you don’t buy the parts for the cars with anything as crude as money. Oh no, you buy the parts with the CEXP (Car EXP) points that you have accrued through the race. And yes, it is as complicated as it sounds.
Other than this, the racing action is as good, if not better, than at any time in the long Forza Motorsport franchise’s history. The various cars you drive all handle completely differently, and the upgrades you make can really be felt to be working. As you improve and level up a car, you can feel the difference that the parts make in the laps – you can suddenly go around a bend one gear higher than previously, carrying more speed through the curve. The brakes bite better and fade less, the car will accelerate better as you put the power down out of the corner. The feel of the cars is absolutely exquisite, and this is by far the hardest thing for a developer to get right with a racer. Turn10 have nailed it here, so much so that you can absolutely feel what each tyre is doing, scrabbling for grip as you brake later into bends, the car squirming as you try to put the power down that little bit earlier each lap. The handling of the cars is sublime, and this alone would make Forza Motorsport a triumph. But it is almost outshone by the way the game looks.
The graphics are simply breathtaking, from the car piling out of the pits as you begin a practice session, to the chaos as you try to battle through the field – Forza Motorsport really sets the bar for how a racing game should look. If you are involved in a collision, the damage to your car is of the highest quality; everything from a scuff on the bumper to the bonnet of your car being bent up is possible. And the damage remains constant through the race. Seeing the car that punted you off sporting damage on the side when you finally catch back up is great, and really adds to the immersion.
The cars themselves are works of art with the reflections on the bodywork, especially when racing at night in somewhere like Suzuka, being unbelievable to see. The time of day and the weather also play a huge part in the game, with the track getting darker, or wetter as you race. Further to that is the way that the raindrops roll off the camera as you scream down the straight, or the way that the headlights on the car dip as you brake. It all pays tribute to the amount of work that has gone into the game.
The sound is equally as impressive, with just the pared back sounds of racing to be heard – the engines, the rush of wind and patter of rain, the squeal of tyres and the crunch of bodywork, all being fantastic. Being able to hear the difference between the boxer engine of a Subaru and the V6 of a Ford GT is brilliant. With headphones on, it gets even better.
There are a plethora of cars and tracks to choose from, and also ways to play. There are twenty tracks included in Forza Motorsport at launch, with more than 500 cars to choose from. Some tracks also have multiple layouts, and they all look amazing, right down to the patched tarmac and roadside obstacles.
As for ways to play, the game really has you covered here. The main single player mode is the Builder Cup, which has a range of different series to race in, each of which comes complete with smaller series within them, requiring a different type of car to race in. These range from hatchbacks to exotic track based machinery. Jumping from a Corsa to Supra to a Huracan STO is all within these series remits. There are also featured Series to race in that are unveiled each week. And there is Free Play too, letting you take any car on any track in any conditions to see how it copes.
Multiplayer is the next port of call, and this covers things like actual racing and the Rivals events. Multiplayer is full of incredibly tense racing, as you attempt to race cleanly and fast (well, most of us do, there are always a few idiots who try to ruin it). Going wheel to wheel while attempting to win clean is a great feeling. I have really enjoyed playing this mode, and even though it is you – and some mates – against the world, it is surprisingly enjoyable.
Rivals is a great way of comparing yourself to your friends too, as you lay down a time on a track and then see if they can better it. There is an option to create a private multiplayer lobby should you wish, if you only want to race with friends, and this is a great way of settling arguments about who is the greatest.
There is so much to love about Forza Motorsport, that it is an easy sell. The game looks, races and – most importantly – feels absolutely bang on, and while I don’t love the new upgrade system, it’s something to get used to.
If you like cars or driving games, you have to play Forza Motorsport. Simple as that.