The eighth instalment of the Forza Motorsport Series is here, promising big improvements on the outside and under the hood. Here are our first impressions ahead of the early release for pre-orders before the full launch on October 10th.
Microsoft and Turn 10 Studios have lined up the latest iteration of their flagship racing franchise on the virtual grid. Forza Motorsport aims to up the realism compared to its predecessor, not just with a refined tire model. The title also features rebuilt circuits, an intricate audio engine and, of course, an abundance of content. So, how does it play?
Forza Motorsport: Gameplay
As is the case with many big, modern racing titles, players get thrown right into the deep end from the get-go. Within moments of starting the game for the first time and completing a few initial setup steps, you are behind the wheel of both cover cars. First up is a track day experience in the Corvette E-Ray, followed by a short stint in the Cadillac V-Series.R prototype. The latter shows off the brand-new Hakone Circuit at night in all its neon-lit glory. This was shown in a gameplay video ahead of the release already, but serves as a decent acclimatization exercise.
Additionally, it is a great opportunity to try and get your Force Feedback settings right. This can prove a bit tricky, and on the Fanatec DD2 wheelbase I tested Forza with, the damper setting in particular needed some tinkering. At first, there was an enormous center deadzone in the FFB, even allowing the wheel to be turned to about 10 degrees without any effect.
Once things are dialed in, however, the FFB feels decent. It may not be as detailed as many simulation enthusiasts may be used to, but you can fine-tune it to a degree that makes it serviceable and more direct than with the default settings.
Meanwhile, the first hour or so of the game are accompanied by tutorials and introductions via cutscenes – which are mostly unskippable. For anyone who is no stranger to racing games and sims or simply wants to get on track, this can be a bit of a challenge regarding patience.
Also worth mentioning is the automatic penalty system. This detects any collisions or off-track excursions and assesses whether or not you should receive a penalty. Despite the AI’s tendency to bump into your car, it has worked flawlessly in the races I tried. Not once did I receive a penalty that I thought was unjust.
The same goes for going off track. Honest mistakes are not penalized, but track extensions or cuts usually are. Should the system deem you in the wrong, it will hand out time penalties.
After the intro races are complete, it is time to start the Builders Cup. This new mode sees players build up their cars by driving them instead of simply earning prize money to then buy upgrades and new cars. Racing a certain car earns players car points for that specific vehicle, which can then be used towards upgrades. They can be reset and spent differently if the result is not to the players’ liking.
As the focal point of the singleplayer modes, the Builders Cup introduces several refreshing elements. One of them is a practice mode ahead of each race, but this does not just give you extra laps to get to grips with a circuit. Instead, it sets a target lap time based on your chosen difficulty, offering extra car points if you beat beat it.
Additionally, the tracks are broken up into segments that are scored as you run. The higher the rating, the better your proficiency, adding to your car level. To gain even more points, you can select a rival to beat in the race, as well as your starting position. Further down the order nets you bigger rewards.
Once it is time to head to the grid, fuel levels and tire choice come into play. While already available in practice, the races are where these elements really count. Different compounds of rubber and fuel saving can potentially factor into your race strategy.
Forza Motorsport Physics
Forza Motorsport offers multiple physics settings, including certain assists or simplifications on one end, and the complete absence of them on the other. To fully explore what Forza’s driving physics have to offer, I went with the latter. And while there is no denying that the franchise tries to tread the fine line of accessibility versus realism, it is safe to say that it is certainly fun.
While competing in the first few races, a certain forgiveness was noticeable. This mostly manifested itself in cornering, where missing an apex would not necessarily result in as much loss in lap time as you would expect in full-fledged simulations. However, it still rewards clean racing lines, maintaining momentum and smooth inputs.
There are distinct differences that are immediately noticeable even in the intro races. The Corvette E-Ray, a road-going sportscar, feels less agile than the purebred Cadillac V-Series.R race car, and the first Builders Cup cars the player gets to choose from are a different story altogether due to them featuring front-wheel drive.
Overall, the handling is a middle-of-the-road affair – not quite arcade, but not pure simulation either. Without any driving aids, it still pays to properly learn the ins and outs of a certain car. This will help you get faster on the track and also ties into the principle of the new Builders Cup.
While Forza Motorsport certainly does not look bad (far from it, actually), it still falls somewhat short of its graphical promise. Even on a top-end GPU featuring ray tracing, the lighting looks not exactly spectacular. Of course, this is a subjective view, but for a flagship title like Forza Motorsport in 2023, the wow factor is missing a bit.
The second of the intro races takes place at the new Hakone Circuit, a fictional venue in Japan. Driving the final stint of an endurance race after nightfall should be an impressive display of eye candy in theory, but overall, it feels a bit flat.
Similarly, the colors in daytime settings seem slightly undersaturated. Still, there are nice details at the events, such as lively crowds, flocks of birds flying over the track, or the lights of a distant city in the dark. The latter can be observed well at the Kyalami circuit, which features a nice view over the city of Johannesburg and its suburbs.
Forza Motorsport First Impressions: Conclusion
Granted, my first look at Forza Motorsport was relatively brief. But the way the game is structured in its initial hours, it shows off some of its party pieces already. Of course, this does by no means offer a comprehensive overview, but on first impression, the title looks like one to have hours of fun with. That is, if you can brush aside expectations for it to be a hardcore simulation.
Is it the revolutionary, built-from-the-ground-up game that Microsoft and Turn 10 hyped it up to be? Unfortunately not, at least not in its initial gameplay stages. While Forza Motorsport introduces some new elements to the series, it does not seem to reinvent the wheel.
However, it does promise to be an engaging experience that does things a bit different than before. Wheel users should feel right at home with Forza Motorsport, just like racers who are on a controller – a balancing act that is tough to get right.
If you fancy more detailed insight into Forza Motorsport, check out the review of our own Jonas “ChampionJoe” Schulz below.
Do you wonder what content will be available at launch? Take a look at our handy list over at RaceDepartment!
What are your thoughts on the new Forza Motorsport? Tell us on Twitter @OverTake_gg or in the comments below!