Time for some skid marks
Sitting in my car surrounded by Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Audi R8s, it definitely felt like I was a bit, out of my league. Even though Forza Motorsport’s online multiplayer spec racing should make all the cars equal, I felt like I was at a disadvantage. After several mediocre laps, I may have finished in an average place…. Basically, lower than where we started. Despite this, I found myself sweating and smiling. The 2023 version of Forza Motorsport has made significant improvements, particularly in its multiplayer and handling. A few things got me thinking and a bit confused if I’m being honest, like the downgraded upgrades.
Forza Motorsport remains the best-feeling game in the franchise, with a familiar level of forgiveness when you’re at the limits of control. The series has always been about allowing players to confidently take control of a car and push it to its limits, and this is still the case in the new game. However, the improvements in handling are noticeable before you even reach the limit.
Initial release date: 9 October 2023
Platforms: Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows
Genres: Racing Video Game, Simulation Video Game, Sports Video Game, Simulation Game, Racing
Mode: Multiplayer video game
Developer: Turn 10 Studios
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
I do recall a lack of grip in the previous iteration of the game, like Forza Motorsport 7, which is no longer the case in the new game. The feeling of grip is more pronounced and authentic, with cars feeling more suited to the road than ever before. If you push the car beyond its limit, the grip tapers away gradually instead of falling off suddenly, resulting in less skidding and more controlled sliding. This is a significant improvement.
Hold that grip (Cliff Hanger Style)
The recent improvements in tyre modelling have had a positive impact on racing, making it feel more accurate and easier to drive at high speeds. Although “easy” is often seen as a negative term in gaming, in the context of racing, it is not. While driving at the same speed as professionals with precision and maximum attack is not simple, it is well within the capabilities of a competent driver. The old sim racing mindset that difficulty equals realism is no longer prevalent, and Forza Motorsport is no exception. The handling with a gamepad is refined and well-balanced, with the team at Turn 10 managing to soften certain elements without compromising the need for precision and deftness to drive fast consistently.
Great news for tuning enthusiasts! A new layer of suspension settings has been added, along with the ability to add ballast. This will increase the weight of the car and lower its overall performance index, but the weight will be automatically distributed throughout the car to achieve a perfect 50/50 weight distribution. It’s difficult to determine the impact of adding ballast on competitive car builds, but it will be interesting to see if adding extra weight to a car that’s already at its limit is a viable strategy on certain tracks.
Unfortunately, the good news ends there when it comes to tuning and customization. Unlike other racing games like Forza Motorsport 7 or Forza Horizon 5, upgrades are not immediately available for all cars by default. Instead, upgrades are gradually unlocked as you spend more time driving each specific car and gaining experience. Additionally, upgrades are no longer purchased with credits but with the car’s allotted “Car Points.” Each car has a limit of 50 levels, which determines the amount of Car Points available. Upgrades become available in a specific order, but it takes several hours of driving to unlock significant upgrades like engine swaps (40), body kits (45), and drivetrain swaps (50).
The Grind is real!!!
The idea behind the RPG-style approach in Forza Motorsport is to encourage players to form deeper connections with a smaller selection of cars that have personal meaning to them. However, in practice, this approach can be a bit tedious. While it’s not as shallow as luck-based upgrade systems found in other arcade racers, we still have control over the parts we choose to “purchase” and fit. But reaching level 50 with all available parts for a car can feel like an unexpected grind, especially when dealing with duplicates of the same car.
I understand the philosophy of Forza Motorsport’s “built, not bought” approach, but the new gamification layer doesn’t appeal to me. While I appreciate the Car Point system and its rough equivalence to time spent on a vehicle, I find the idea of gating upgrades in a particular order, especially for simple upgrades, to be unnecessary. It limits the freedom we had to focus on the upgrades we believed would make the most significant impact on a car’s performance from the start. It’s absurd that I have to measure fuel loads by the millilitre to shave off thousandths of a second from my lap times while still carrying around a spare tire in the trunk.
You can earn car levels in any mode you play, be it career, free play, or multiplayer, so you won’t feel stuck in your progression as long as you keep driving. The career mode is composed of different tiers of themed racing events, categorized by car class just like any other racing simulator.
You’ll have to go through compulsory practice sessions before each race, which can take some time, but it’s worth it. One interesting feature is that you can choose your starting position on the grid before each event, which allows you to have a more customized racing experience.
If you’re into old-school racing that’s more about overtaking challenges than winning, go for it. But if you prefer faster AI and dogfighting all race long for a single spot, that’s also an option. This adds a level of strategy to the game and makes for a more fulfilling single-player racing experience than other games like GT7.
What We Said About Forza Games in the Series
Just in case we have some backseat drivers in the car, Forza Horizon is an open-world game, which is basically the crazy cousin to the Forza Motorsport franchise. Each Forza Horizon game takes place in a different part of the world and makes you feel like a globe-trotting superhero! Previous titles have seen the in-game Horizon Festival’s tents set up in places like Colorado, southern Europe, Australia, and the UK, and this time around – we’re in sunny, beautiful Mexico (not the real Mexico).
Car racing games have always been at the forefront of the gaming world, as they allow us to live out our “Fast and the Furious” dreams and this instalment of Forza Horizon does just that. From the beauty of Mexico to the endless challenges – this game brings you out of your chair and places you into the driving seat. Something that most car games don’t get right. From the beginning, you are thrown into a tornado of excitement and inhalation as it basically revolves around you (being the star of the show). Comparing FH4 to FH5 there is not much difference, just bigger, and prettier, and the location and newer cars (obviously). This game brings out the child in you – if it’s not buying your dream car (Mustang Shelby GT500) or a Villa on the beach, this game makes you feel like you never want to leave this gorgeously rendered open world.
That said, I have found the event intros are a little overblown; there’s a hushed reverence to them that car manufacturers probably love, but they’re pretty stiff and starchy compared with the more casual automotive culture shows I stream or watch on YouTube these days. There are also a few car categories that don’t seem to really get much of a run in the career mode, but I would expect the career mode to grow as this Forza Motorsport platform evolves. In the meantime, free play is still here – where you can do quick races in any of the 500 available cars – but again I’d really love some simple options to better curate what the AI drives against me. There are so many specific fields to edit to narrow down your opponent’s cars, but it’s all but impossible to get the 23 specific rival cars you want. Often it just ignores my custom settings entirely. Just let us place the AI in cars we choose like Forza Motorsport 4 did.
“I Got Cars in different area codes…”
Forza Motorsport has a huge roster of 500 cars, which is smaller than Forza Motorsport 7 and Forza Horizon 5. Both of those games have over 700 cars each. Some cars have been removed, such as off-roaders and hot pick-ups like the GMC Syclone and the HSV Maloo. Lancia is also missing, despite returning to Horizon 5. However, it is worth noting that Forza Motorsport has achieved this 500-car figure without counting certain models multiple times due to different paint jobs, which some of its competitors do. The cars look fantastic in motion and the sound is impressive. In addition, there is no option to pay real-world money to buy the cars, unlike Gran Turismo 7.
Forza Motorsport’s cars look great in motion and sound fantastic. The game can be played in Performance RT mode on Xbox Series X, which adds ray-traced reflections of other cars and nearby objects at the cost of resolution. However, if you prefer 4K, Performance mode drops ray-tracing during racing but still runs at 60fps. A third mode has additional ray-tracing on environmental objects but runs at 30fps. Despite these options, the game’s visuals are impressive, especially at midnight during heavy rain.
Each of Forza Motorsport’s 20 track locations has dynamic time-of-day and variable weather support. The tracks have been dressed with more detail than ever before, with 3D crowds and more trackside objects. The selection of tracks is slightly smaller than Forza Motorsport 7, but more tracks will be added for free in the future, including Yas Marina, another unannounced track in December, and the famous Nurburgring Nordschleife in spring 2024. However, Bathurst is not currently available, which is disappointing.
I find it disappointing that Forza Motorsport lacks a two-player split-screen mode, which my friends (I only have two) and I have always enjoyed playing. We have fun with handicap races, where we give old hatchbacks, a head start and then try to catch up to them in hypercars. Sandbox racers like Forza Motorsport usually excel at this kind of experimentation because of their extensive car collections. I understand that split-screen may no longer be a popular mode in 2023 and may be too demanding for some rigs and consoles, but it’s disheartening when gaming seems to regress. Even Gran Turismo had split-screen way back in 1997!
However, the game’s online multiplayer component has significantly improved with scheduled racing events that include a practice session, a three-lap qualifying round, and a race. Turn 10 has included spec racing, where all the cars are identically tuned for fairness, and open racing, where you can use your own builds. I have been playing the Touring Car and GT spec racing series for the past week, and it has been reliable and sturdy, even with players on the other side of the world. Although it is difficult to predict how players will behave after the game’s launch, the safety rating should deter reckless drivers from ruining the experience for others. I have not experienced enough bad collisions to determine how effective the game’s improved penalties are, but so far, I have had mostly positive and clean races.
My favourite feature of the game’s multiplayer is the option to skip to the end of a lap during pre-race sessions or when attacking times in the asynchronous Rivals mode. If you make a mistake in a corner, the Skip Lap option will respawn you on a flyer, just a few corners from the start line, saving you time. It’s a clever time-saver.
The Checkered Flag
Forza Motorsport has finally comeback after a six-year break. The game boasts an impressive lineup of 500 cars and 20 track locations, with stunning visuals, immersive gameplay, and a fantastic multiplayer experience. As a platform, Forza Motorsport has the potential to grow into an even richer racing destination in the future. However, improvements are needed, such as revamping the new RPG-inspired upgrade system and reintroducing split-screen multiplayer racing to complement the already excellent online modes. Overall, Forza Motorsport is a thrilling and exciting racing game that is sure to provide endless hours of entertainment.
Entertainment – 3.5/5
Action – 4/5
Extra – 4/5
EAX score 4/5
A big shout out to our friends over at Prima Interactive for giving us the chance to make some waves and a few skid marks all over the place.