Forza Motorsport (2023) review – familiar wheels spinning in new circles

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Six years have passed since Forza Motorsport 7 made its debut on the Xbox One. And it’s been two years since the game was discontinued, meaning that Forza’s arcade-leaning Horizon series took center stage among Microsoft’s racing franchises. A lot has changed in six years, both on the sim racing front and on the arcade side. This makes Forza Motorsport a leap of faith for Turn 10 Studios as the reboot attempts to become an evolving platform with a future.

Forza Horizon 5 reached over 30 million players, buoyed by stellar sales and its day-one Xbox Game Pass launch. It’s the king of the racing hill. Despite facing the likes of realistic sims like Project Cars 2 and Assetto Corza, the latest Forza Motorsport tries to woo casual fans with its ‘one more corner’ approach. Most of it has been built from the ground up, right from the overhauled physics to the Builder’s Cup single-player campaign. 

Forza Motorsport review: An image of a car racing across rough terrain.

The first thing players will notice is the massive step-up in visuals. PC players get access to ray-traced global illumination that does an incredible job of simulating how light bounces off surfaces. While the game features NVIDIA’s DLSS 2 and AMD’s FSR 2.2 upscaling tech, they didn’t seem to improve performance during my time with the game. Outside of that, I couldn’t fault the game’s gorgeous presentation, particularly in motion. Watching shadows change based on how sunlight interacted with tree leaves made for a stunning visual spectacle. This extends to all the tracks and their variants you’ll encounter in-game.

Each of Forza Motorsport’s 20 tracks has an insane level of polish to them, right from the near-photorealistic visuals to how they change with rubber buildup on corners or the dynamic time of day and weather conditions. They look stunning too, with lively spectators and objects like balloons in the distance immersing you in its atmosphere more than previous games have. You can even stop and watch the procedural cloud system render an impressive sky over an in-game day. 

While only five tracks are completely new to the franchise, the rest have gone through massive reworks to account for the improved physics in Forza Motorsport. Some multiplayer events even mention the track temperature as colder conditions reduce traction. Turn 10 Studios has examined every detail to deliver an accurate racing experience and it shows.

Forza Motorsport review: An image of a car racing in the rain.

As someone who prefers Horizon’s open-world vision, I didn’t expect a few Forza Motorsport laps to turn into hours of mastering a track. While a revamped tire model and new suspension behavior might impress hardcore Motorsport fans, it took some time for me to disable the game’s heavy-handed assist system. These range from showing the ideal driving line to handling the brakes for you. And that was when the engine really began to sing. The steering feels deliberate and the squeal of rubber as you barely pass a corner sounds exhilarating. Slowing down well ahead of a tyre-shredding drift improves lap times considerably.

Mistakes feel punishing and I’m not just talking about penalties for collisions and veering off track. Going too fast into a corner is unforgiving due to the realistic car damage and the now-disabled rewind system. A bad collision could leave your vehicle with weakened suspension, forcing you to account for its newfound attraction to the sides of the track. While you won’t see parts flying off, Forza Motorsport does an impressive job of rendering ruined paint jobs with accurate scratches and nicks thanks to Turn 10 Studios’ use of spectrophotometer-sourced car paint data. Crawling into a pit stop to fix a damaged drivetrain or refuel isn’t new for Motorsport fans but the animated pit crew makes things livelier than before.

Every corner becomes an enemy and shaving off tenths of a second from segment times translates into better lap times. The new skill-based Track Mastery system rewards you based on your performance as you improve your understanding of the game. Getting a perfect segment score is rare but not impossible. Earning one feels like a miniature trophy in itself. After spoiling myself with Forza Horizon 5’s generous approach to handling and car damage across all kinds of terrain, Forza Motorsport’s constraints help showcase an entirely different side of competitive racing.

Forza Motorsport review: An image of the Super Sedans series in the game.

The single-player Builder’s Cup does a 180-degree turn from the car hoarding in recent Motorsport titles. Instead, Forza Motorsport’s tours and series ask you to pick from a small list of cars. Its upgrade system then ensures that each car goes on its own journey of improvement alongside you as a player. This is powered by the RPG-like Car Mastery system that levels up each car individually based on your performance. I can definitely see the appeal of growing with your car as it tackles new tracks and corners. 

While automatically assigning upgrades between races with Car Points is the path of least resistance, tinkering makes for a more satisfying sim experience. Upgrades are tied to a Car Level distinct to each vehicle, purchased with Car Points earned from that very car. Credits you receive after races are your ticket to more cars. That said, cars cost less than earlier titles where supercars could cost millions of credits. 

Each Builder’s Cup series covers multiple tracks and your skippable practice session can vary wildly from the real race in terms of weather conditions and how the rival Drivatars challenge you. These rivals now utilize machine learning to compete with you fairly instead of resorting to tricks like rubberbanding. 

Forza Motorsport review: An image of the rewards screen after a race.

Toning down the mechanical assists makes for an authentic Forza experience but doesn’t help you earn more credits. Instead, this is determined by the difficulty and ruleset you pick. The option to pick your starting placement also rewards you with bonuses, making for a second layer of difficulty that can be tinkered with. I’d alternate between increasing the Drivatar difficulty and altering my starting placement to ease into tougher difficulties. The engineer in me likened this to the coarse and fine magnifying adjustments found on a laboratory microscope.

Forza Motorsport’s roster of 500+ cars might sound like a downgrade from earlier Motorsport titles but aligns well with curating a limited garage you are intimately familiar with. The series of races offered in each tour differentiate themselves with unique themes or classes of cars. One had me picking from practical hatchbacks while another series opted for retro icons.

Moving up to new tours can, at times, allow the return of previous favorites. And there’s more. Featured Tours are time-bound career events that keep solo players engaged well beyond the main campaign. Free Play lets you take any car of your choice for a spin but only the ones you own will earn experience for upgrades.

Forza Motorsport review: An image of cars in a race.

The new featured multiplayer mode ties live events to real-world timings. With spec events based on car divisions and a qualifier series, Turn 10 Studios tries to inject the real-world spectacle associated with racing into video games. You can pick between spec racing with identical cars for a fair experience and the open series if you want to bring in an upgraded car that meets the class restrictions. Qualifying laps are back, letting you clock in your best time to determine your starting position in a Featured race. 

Race Regulations and Safety Ratings have been upgraded too, with machine learning handling the tasks of identifying track cutting and devious collisions. This should keep Forza Motorsport’s racing as clean and competitive as possible. Turn 10 Studios promises monthly updates with new cars and events. And yes, the game does offer private multiplayer options for friends to duke it out in a matchup of their choosing.

Forza Motorsport review: An image of cars in a race.

With Forza Motorsport turning into an evolving platform that will be updated over time, Turn 10 Studios and Xbox need it to be as accessible as possible. Attracting an engaged community of players from all skill levels is a tough goal to accomplish. But as someone who used to shy away from the competitive nature of racing sims, Forza Motorsport’s tight balance between approachable assists, meaningful upgrades, and authentic AI opponents has won me over.

Forza Motorsport’s refined handling, next-gen visuals, and responsive physics tempt you with an accessible yet familiar thrill, especially when you avoid spiraling into a bend. A lot of it feels like Forza but one race will tell you how much things have changed under the hood. It’s a remarkable achievement that this racing sim captures that feeling of owning a handful of cars that speak to you. As a reboot, there’s little more one can ask for.

Reviewed on PC. Game provided by the publisher.

About the Author

Antony Terence

Antony Terence is a Guides Writer for VideoGamer. While he is particularly fond of city-builders, shooters, and strategy titles, he won’t turn down a good JRPG or a turn-based roguelike.

Forza Motorsport (2023)

  • Release Date: 10 October 2023
    • - 10 October 2023 (PC, Xbox Series X)
  • Platform(s): PC, Xbox Series S/X, Xbox Series X
  • Genre(s): Racing
Forza Motorsport review: An image of two cars racing in the rain.

verdict

Forza Motorsport’s refined handling, next-gen visuals, and responsive physics tempt you with an accessible yet familiar thrill, especially when you avoid spiraling into a bend.
9 Gorgeous graphics paired with raytracing even on consoles Revamped physics and updated tracks with dynamic weather and time of day A single-player component that eases you into racing sims Friendly assist system and per-car upgrades Only the beefiest PCs can comfortably handle raytracing Upgrades can annoy players looking to flit from one car to another