The first time I played a Forza Motorsport title was back in 2009. Forza Motorsport 3 released for the Xbox 360, and given my experience with racing games up to that point – ranging from Need for Speed to Diddy Kong Racing – I didn’t know what to expect. Turn 10 Studios won me over with the realism, the sheer amount of cars and the meaty single-player with numerous events to play and gorgeous tracks to discover.
The Forza Motorsport franchise has only improved over time and slowly became the go-to racing simulator for many players (not to mention a flagship franchise). It even served as a foundation for the open-world Forza Horizon franchise. However, Turn 10 Studios never really wavered from its dedication to realism and ensured that it recreated the nitty gritty of a racing sim.
Forza Motorsport 7’s flirtation with loot boxes was annoying, and the dynamic weather was underwhelming, but I still appreciated the sheer polish on offer. Over 700 cars, 32 locations with over 200 configurations – more than anything else, there was that feeling of having a brand new racing sim to sink into.
Would I understand its intricacies, spamming the Rewind button constantly and slowly raising the difficulty? Probably not, but that customization and the unique feel of each vehicle made it so much fun. Whether you sought something less punishing or a greater challenge, Forza Motorsport could be tailored to your experience.
So it’s almost surprising that we’ve gone nearly six years without a new Forza Motorsport. The Horizon series expanded and thrived with tens of millions of players. Gran Turismo made a comeback with Gran Turismo Sport and Gran Turismo 7, the latter showcasing what current-gen consoles could offer with its fidelity and realism. Other racing series like GRID, DiRT, F1, Need for Speed, and Project CARS had their ups, downs and new titles, but Forza was conspicuous in its absence.
Turn 10 was cooking up something special, and it would be revealed (after some teasing about overhauls to the series’ suspension model, tire model and more) in 2020 during the Xbox Showcase with Forza Motorsport. Granted, it was a simple trailer without many gameplay details but one thing was clear: it was essentially a reboot and would run in 4K/60 FPS with ray tracing on Xbox Series X.
As we learned more about the current-gen consoles, it would appear unrealistic, but it was a testament to what Microsoft’s console aimed for at the time when we were all young, innocent and caught up in the new console hype. The rest of the showcase left much to be desired (Halo Infinite had its first disastrous gameplay demo here), but the real kicker is that we wouldn’t receive more concrete details about Forza Motorsport until 2022.
With the number of delayed projects at Microsoft over the year, there was a bit of concern over what was happening behind the scenes. The fact that Microsoft was struggling to deliver on its promised exclusives, with names like State of Decay 3, Fable and Everwild seemingly missing in action, didn’t help either.
However, when it re-emerged at the Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase 2022, it looked stunning. The visuals benefited from photogrammetry and 3D scans, making them more realistic and true to life. Dynamic time of day was also a new factor, going beyond changing the skybox and lighting to affecting track surfaces and grip due to temperature changes, forcing players to adjust their strategies mid-race. Turn 10 reiterated that ray tracing would be enabled during gameplay, with 4K/60 FPS supported on Xbox Series X (though it was later revealed to be dynamic 4K and 60 FPS via Performance RT mode).
Updates were again few and far between, but that changed earlier this year when the developer finally began unpacking what the racing sim offered. As it turns out, there’s a lot. The 500 cars and 20 locations may not seem that amazing at first glance, especially coming off Forza Motorsport 7, but there’s a good reason. Over 100 of the vehicles are brand new to the series (with over 800 upgrades to choose from), and while only five locations are brand new to the franchise, the returning tracks have been rebuilt from the ground up to support the new technology and track conditions.
Forza Motorsport is making meaningful changes to its mechanics, whether it’s directional scraped paint and scratches with the new damage model or the tire physics, which are 48 times better than the previous game. The implementation of physically-based lighting and a fully procedural cloud system for its sky boxes only enhances the immersion. Based on initial hands-on impressions, the driving feels weighty but responsive and a big step up from previous releases.
All this is great on its own, but Turn 10 is also revamping the modes players spend the most time in. The Builders Cup is the new Career Mode, a callback to the older titles, and allows players to take a single car and improve it over time. Compete in different series and learn more about the different types of vehicles, partake in Open Practice to put them through the paces in differing conditions and enter Challenge the Grid for higher payouts based on racing parameters.
Using a vehicle earns Car Mastery XP, which goes into leveling it up and earning Skill Points to upgrade it. Turn 10 used the term Car-PG to describe the progression, and it certainly makes for a deeper level of investment while reinforcing the collection and racing aspects that the series has become known for.
Though online play isn’t something that I’ve typically pursued in Forza, I can also appreciate the effort made to improve it. Consolidating Hoppers and Leagues while making Open Practice and Qualifying races mean something and having a rotating series of events that players can join every 30 minutes sounds like a better, more organic experience. It feels more like an active racing community rather than players simply matchmaking for races.
The real depth of Forza Motorsport won’t be revealed until players get their hands on it (as is tradition with a franchise like this). You don’t typically think of a racing game as the year’s biggest release unless it’s an open-world title. Nevertheless, based on what Turn 10 Studios has revealed thus far, Forza Motorsport looks like a successful reinvention of the series while staying true to what made it appealing in the first place: Realistic racing with gorgeous visuals and stellar gameplay.
It’s nice to see a series like this essentially rebuilt to support current-gen consoles and looking so good in the process. How the development team expands on it in the coming months and years remains to be seen, whether in new features, vehicles or tracks. Nevertheless, despite the long wait, Forza Motorsport reasserts itself as a pillar of the Xbox brand that’s not afraid to take risks or overhaul what works in favor of something more ambitious. Here’s hoping it pays dividends for the team and sets a new standard for racing sims to aspire to.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.