Forza Motorsport Review | Forging A New Path

Does Forza spin its wheels, or reach a podium finish?

The sound of raindrops hits the wet tarmac as the engine of my Nissan 370Z springs to life. I await the countdown; 23 other equally eager racers lie waiting in front of me, hoping to take home the coveted first-place podium win. Rain accumulates on my windshield as I await the countdown, and my heart cannot stay still. I begin to rev my car, listening to the whine and flutter of the recently installed turbo alongside a new exhaust that purrs and promises to give me the extra boost I need to take home the win. The increasingly familiar sound of engines roaring to life surrounds me, and I know the race that could define my racing career is about to begin.

Forza Motorsport has been a staple of the Xbox catalog for quite some time, bringing simulator-styled gameplay to the Microsoft crowd. As a long-standing rival to the Gran Turismo series, they’ve always raced head to head, offering exceptional driving gameplay on both playing fields. However, with the newest installment in the Forza series, it seems that it may be starting to pull away from the competition.

A True Next-Generation Showcase

As we finally start dipping our toes into the true power of the current generation of gaming consoles, few games have elicited a genuine gasp of awe out of me, but Forza Motorsport may be one of the frontrunners for the generation. Cars, both inside and out, are showcased in exquisite detail, bringing both visual fidelity and hardware knowledge to the forefront. Beyond vehicles approaching the point of photorealism, impressive raytracing efforts brought to life by Turn 10 help push this game even further into the realm of reality.

Playing primarily on Xbox Series X on a 70-inch 4K display, I was blown away by how spectacular the visuals of this particular entry in the franchise looked. Forza Horizon 5 was already a fantastic-looking game, bringing the lands of Mexico to life in a more unrestrained version of reality. Forza Motorsport pushes it even further than I could have expected.

I was one of those folk who was utterly dumbfounded when Turn 10 showcased what they were hoping to make Forza Motorsport look like, believing the trailers that were being shown to be unrealistic of what the Xbox family of consoles could produce, but I’m more than happy to eat some crow here. Depending on the option I chose, I was in for a treat between Performance Mode, Performance RT Mode, and Quality Mode. In Quality mode, reflections, lighting, and everything in between are handled via Ray Tracing, letting Forza Motorsport shine on your television screen. If you’re hoping to get the best bang for your buck and hopefully fool your parents into thinking you have some sort of race on your TV like I did, Quality mode is where you’ll want to be.


Performance RT mode, however, is where it’s at. Not only will your car utilize the Ray Tracing technology that Turn 10 has baked into this particular racing experience alongside some help from Cube Map technology, but it does it at a staggering 60 FPS.


Performance RT mode, however, is where it’s at. Not only will your car utilize the Ray Tracing technology that Turn 10 has baked into this particular racing experience alongside some help from Cube Map technology, but it does it at a staggering 60 FPS. This is already an impressive feat on most PCs on the market but on a console? That almost feels unheard of. Turn 10 has pulled out all of the stops to ensure that you can not only utilize this feature, but they’ve made sure it doesn’t drop a single frame while it’s happening. It’s utterly astounding to see it in action.

While the cars already look fantastic, the environments are what steal the show here, in all actuality. Foliage is fully rendered in 3D, lending this racing simulator an even further sense of realism. Light passes through leaves realistically, shadows are shown on tracks in great detail, and it looks good no matter if you’re zooming by at 135mph or if you stop and take a look around you. Most racing games lose their sense of beauty if you stop and smell the roses, but Forza Motorsport ensures you’ll be engrossed in its world even if you have to slam on the brakes.

Motion Blur is something I usually cannot stand, but it’s masterfully used in Motorsport. Lending itself well to keep the sense of speed and tension at an all-time high, it’s surprising to see how much life the motion blur breathes into every race. If you can’t stand it, you can turn it off, but I strongly recommend giving it at least a few races to determine if you love it.

Performs As Well As It Looks

What good is a game that looks this good if you can’t control it to save your life? Thankfully, Forza Motorsport refines upon its predecessor to make this one of the finest controlling and feeling racing games available on the market. No matter if you’re a beginner hoping to make their mark on the Simulation Racing genre with their skills in the future, or someone that has a fully devoted e-Racing setup, you’ll fit right in here.

I decided to try my hand with assists on and off, utilizing both a controller and a Logitech G920 that I had available, and I was nearly sweating by the end of my race. Jumping onto the iconic Maple Valley, a track that has been around since Forza Motorsport on the original Xbox and one I am entirely familiar with over years of practice. To say that it is beyond exhilarating to bomb through this track with a steering wheel is an understatement, especially now that vehicles are approaching 1 to 1 realism with their actual counterparts in both looks and handling.

While Turn 10 has spent plenty of time talking about how Forza Motorsport has been built from the ground up for a new generation of consoles, the most notable part isn’t even the borderline real graphical fidelity on show here; it’s how good these vehicles feel on the road. I found myself booting up races to experiment with different tire compounds, tunes, and weather and was treated to a unique experience every time. Even turns I was familiar with from playing through previous races in different weather offered me difficulty as I tried to approach at too high of a speed, precisely as it should.

Just as your vehicles are, races are extremely customizable. From Standing to Rolling starts to the ability to increase the amount of Dynamic Rubber, or rubber left behind on the track from wheels, you can customize the race to be as realistic or terrifyingly cartoonish as possible. Everything that Forza Motorsport brings to the table can be either tweaked in the easiest way possible or changed in the most dynamic forms available in a racing game. The choice, honestly, is completely up to you.

However, one portion of this particular entry that did have me scratching my head was how aggressive some of the Drivatar AI was toward me and my vehicle. While rubbin’ might be racin’, simulator fans will typically refrain from that type of aggressive playstyle. However, I found myself on the receiving end of a fair number of bumps and scrapes as I navigated through tight lines, which is something to note. I was informed that this is a glitch in the review build, but it is still something to make note of in case this nasty bug makes its way into the final version of the game.

With assorted modes available to the player, it will take a while before you exhaust all of your possibilities. Featuring a full career mode that challenges you to take up the mantle of lower-end vehicles while working your way up to a more advanced class of racing steeds, you’ll find that it’s all rather familiar here. Some unique twists make the career mode enticing to players, including the promise of new seasons that will bring new challenges and races, but you’re not going to find a rags-to-riches story here. You’re a talented driver, and you’ll need to showcase your skills against a variety of other players.

Online modes are also included so that you can take the race to 23 other players in numerous modes. While we didn’t get much time to play online during our review session, servers were opened up to allow us to jump in and showcase our skills against other players. I experienced no lag or stuttering during my races, but that could be due to my internet speed and the fact that I am hardwired in. I did not hear anyone mentioning issues on their end, so I feel confident to say the online experience should be excellent at launch.

A Treat For The Ears, As Well

Video by Prima Games

One area that Forza has always excelled in is the audio front. Bringing a vehicle to life is rather difficult, all things considered, especially since you don’t know exactly what variables could lead to one another in a difficult race. However, Forza Motorsport brings the gas this time around, making vehicles, environmental hazards, and just the general feel of the race to life in a myriad of different ways.

From the differences in tone and exhaust sound, depending on the type of vehicle you are driving and the modifications done, to the squeal of the tires as you mistakenly keep on the gas just a little too much during a tight corner, vehicles sound just as fantastic as they look. On the opposite side of the coin, however, I couldn’t help but be jutted out of the engrossment whenever the collision sounds happened. Even the lightest bump would sound like my car was coming full force with a wall, which could be rather distracting during key moments in a race.


Harkening back to the Xbox 360 era of games, you can use an active Spotify account alongside the app to bring your own songs into the game. Yes, before you ask, I did get into a souped-up muscle car and rip my way through corners and straightaways blaring Freebird.


Another area that benefits greatly from the decisions made by Turn 10 in the audio department is the soundtrack. Light, essentially ‘lo-fi beats to race to’ pepper the menus and dissipate as soon as you hit the tarmac at the start of a race. However, if you’re anything like me, the idea of racing to music can be exhilarating and, at times, necessary. Harkening back to the Xbox 360 era of games, you can use an active Spotify account alongside the app to bring your music stylings into the game. Yes, before you ask, I did get into a souped-up muscle car and rip my way through corners and straightaways blaring Freebird.

You’ll also find that the overall sound design has been ramped up from previous games in the franchise, giving you the chance to hear every tiny detail of your high-performance engine. While playing, hearing the flutter and whine of a turbo meshed with the newly swapped exhaust that I just put on a vehicle is satisfying, with each portion varying depending on the parts you have equipped. Since you can customize the vast majority of your car, you can mess with individual aspects to ensure your car feels ready to conquer the roads before you.

Make These Cars Uniquely Yours – The Customization

Customization in a racing game is one of the most important parts. Being able to express our creativity and originality, no matter what form is always important. From the livery that we apply to our favorite vehicles, to the performance modifications that we add to keep them competitive, Forza takes a completely new approach to it. I could see the customization being a bit of a sore spot for some players, especially those who want to completely annihilate their opponents from the start, but I am a big fan of what’s on offer here.


At first, I was not a huge fan of this, as I wanted to swap out my motor and drivetrain to make this silly little 2019 VW Passat that I had into an absolute monster on the track, but I slowly grew to love it.


To start adding additional performance modifications to your car, you’ll need to race them. You can’t just jump in with a wallet full of credits and apply every performance modification in the book; you’ll need to get to know the car before you can do that. Forza Motorsport offers various funds, with Credits available to purchase new rides and Car Points given out to players to use on their favorite vehicles. At first, I was not a huge fan of this, as I wanted to swap out my motor and drivetrain to make this silly trim 2019 VW Passat that I had into an absolute monster on the track, but I slowly grew to love it.

You earn Car Points by leveling up your vehicles. This is done by doing well in different segments of the track, taking home podium wins against difficult Drivatars, and ensuring that you’re one with your machine. It’s a strangely intimate and loving process, as you’ll need to know your vehicle inside and out to ensure that you know what it needs when the next level comes up. As you level up your vehicle, new customization options are unlocked, allowing you to use the CP you have to make your favorite road-worthy friend even more exciting.

While I love this type of customization, there is one problem I can see emerging in the future: there are over 500 cars available. Is anyone feasibly going to spend time leveling up every one of these cars to add unique, customizable aspects? I surely hope not, but it could happen. You’ll need to select a few cars in each class to which you’re hoping to devote some time and appreciate if you’re hoping to take full advantage of their customization options.

However, one portion of the customization that is not locked behind leveling is the Livery system. You can use this system anytime, even moments after starting the game and completing the tutorial races. Crafting a unique style for your favorite ride is always a blast, and the variety of customization options available to players will let anyone recreate an iconic vehicle from Motorsport past or make something out of their wildest dreams. Unfortunately, I’m not creative or patient enough to use these tools to create anything worth sharing, but the ability to download creations made by other players will keep you looking fantastic on the track.

I can only hope that in the future, we can at least customize these cars to their full extent if we participate in Free Races so we can see the potential of a car we’re hoping to purchase. However, it’s a unique system that you’ll love or hate, but I’m leaning more toward the side of love. That doesn’t make it the best customization method on the planet, but I do hope that Turn 10 further refines what it takes to make a vehicle truly yours in the future.

The Verdict

Forza Motorsport is a massive step forward in quality for the franchise and for racing games in general. It’s a new benchmark for other games to strive toward, both graphically and gameplay-wise, and the team at Turn 10 should be proud of what they brought to the table this time. It’s been six years since the last entry in the Motorsport franchise, and you can see that the team went full stop to ensure that this entry rose above anything else they have put out in the past.

While it may not be the most “realistic” simulator on the market, it’s a game that anyone could enjoy. With over 500 cars to enjoy and 20 tracks to lose yourself in, you may never want to take the seatbelt off and get out of your favorite ride once you step inside it.

9.5

Forza Motorsport

Forza Motorsport is not only a massive step forward in quality for the franchise but for racing games in general. It's a new benchmark for other games to strive toward, both graphically and gameplay-wise, and the team at Turn 10 should be proud of what they brought to the table this time around.

Pros

  • Absolutely gorgeous visuals
  • Cars feel better than ever
  • An extreme push forward for the franchise
  • A wealth of content

Cons

  • Customization System could be controversial
  • Aggressive Drivatar AI

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on Xbox Series X & PC.

About the Author

Shaun Cichacki

As a fan of RPGs, Action & Retro titles, Shaun has been gaming since he was a young boy. With an overwhelming obsession involving Metal Gear Solid and Pizza Tower, you know you're in for a wild ride when it comes to things he's writing about.