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Forza Motorsport has always been Xbox’s premier racing sim over the last few generations, but yet always sat firmly in the shadow of PlayStation’s Gran Turismo series. So, here are two questions for you –  can it retain its Xbox title, and unseat the Max Verstappen equivalent of racing games, Gran Turismo? Let’s find out in our review.

 

First off, Forza Motorsport is going back to its roots of being a racing sim for purists, with an endless array of cars (500+), 20 tracks and a near-endless amount of customisation for car parts and designs. It’s invested heavily in a new handling model which feels much much improved compared to previous entries. Graphically, Forza makes a huge leap forward. The tracks are gorgeous, with incredibly detailed cars and weather effects. All of this is made better thanks to options for favouring resolution, performance and a halfway option for ‘Performance RT’ (aka Ray Tracing). Stick with Performance RT, it’s still a solid 60 FPS! This time around, the biggest difference I found was the in-cockpit views. These were incredibly detailed, with small touches like in-car displays showing your real-time g-Force all adding to the immersion.

Forza Motorsport | TheEffect.Net

Forza Motorsport – Night Time Racing | TheEffect.Net

This time, Forza’s progression system has changed in two key ways. For each race you play during its career mode, you’ll need to spend 3 practice laps before you can race it. While this makes sense as you start, this starts to grate very very quickly. Why this didn’t evolve into ‘Qualifying’ or ‘Sprint’ races, I don’t know. 10+ hours in, it felt like trying to pad out the game which is never fun. New this time also is Forza’s ‘Car Level’ progression system. Instead of purchasing parts to upgrade your car, you’ll unlock new parts the more you drive it. This means, as most career series demand you’ll be racing each car for about 6 races and upgrading it as you go. For a casual player, this is okay – you can auto-apply the best upgrades, but if you don’t like your car, you might be stuck with it for an hour or two. For a player who wants to tinker with your car, or knows the set-up they prefer – it’s maddening. You have to race for hours to tune the parts you want. 

Forza Motorsport | TheEffect.Net

Forza Motorsport – Handling | TheEffect.Net

The frustrating part about this is how you level up your car. You do this by driving well. Each couple of hundred of metres, you’ll be graded on your performance and earn points based on that to level up (alongside overtaking). However, the game gives you no feedback on your rating. If you’re scoring poorly in a certain section of a track, you can’t find out why, which is frustrating because you can’t improve. It also doesn’t feel fair either, I’ve scored better in some sections by completely ignoring brake/turn/coast and steering guidelines. 

 

I will give Forza credit for its difficulty settings. Endlessly customisable, you can take assists off as you go, choose how far back in the field you want to start from (earning more money as a result from each race) and if you want lasting damage or required pit stops. Forza gives you the ability to have a casual experience with a racing sim, while not hiding away options for purists to have the experience they want which is commendable. I liked Forza’s new penalties for cutting corners or aggressive driving. Even if for now they’re still a little inconsistent, they focus the racing on fairness on and offline. Also commendable is Forza’s online mode with ‘Race Weekends’, which steal a trick out of Gran Turismo’s playbook with races kicking off at real-world times (e.g.8:30 pm) and feature qualifying too – which makes it all the more baffling why that wasn’t included in the Single Player career!.

Forza Motorsport | TheEffect.Net

Forza Motorsport – Cockpit View | TheEffect.Net

Comparing Forza to Gran Turismo honestly gives you a headache, which is a testament to Xbox Game Studios and their work. Handling, graphics, all with their pros and cons become more of a personal preference. Cars, they have about the same, and Forza is less reliant on micro-transactions too. Tracks? Gran Turismo has over 50% more but Forza promises more tracks to come soon. For me, however, Forza has an uphill battle due to the sheer fact it’s on Xbox. It lacks the haptic feedback of the PlayStation’s DualSense controller, so racing feels more life-like in Gran Turismo. VR? Sony again has the advantage too. Sound? 3D audio sounds amazing with a headset. These three add much more value to Gran Turismo for me, and does Forza do enough to overcome that? 

 

Not quite. It’s caught up, and can comfortably go toe-to-toe with GT in many areas, but I come away from it just having less fun than I did in Gran Turismo. Gran Turismo 7’s focus on a history of motoring, missions, driving licence and more all add up to a game I still come back to one year on. Forza feels clinical, with a career mode that feels like a missed opportunity. A lack of tracks, combined with a lack of story, objective and interaction beyond selecting a tour all add up to something 95% of people will feel bored with pretty quickly. Its progression model robs you of the variety the game offers. I’d love to see Forza take from what other racing games are doing. F1 23’ offers a deep sim with an engaging story, NFS Heat offers the same level of story, and The Crew Motorfest offers a huge open world too… Forza Motorsport feels oddly static for a racing game. I just came away feeling wanting more, something that’s become a recurring theme with Forza Motorsport’s sister title, Forza Horizon. This series needs a shake-up.

 

Alas, it’s on Game Pass so, it’s got that going for it! If you’re looking for a racing sim on Xbox, here is your game. However, if you’re a PlayStation gamer where racing sims are your game of choice? I’m not sure Forza does enough to convince you to pick up an Xbox.

 

REVIEW: Forza Motorsport - Pack leader for Xbox racing games
  • Graphics
  • Handling
  • Single Player
  • Multi-Player
  • Audio
4.1

Summary

The best racing sim you can get on Xbox just got better.

David McGinley

Irish Writer, Ad man and lover of tea, all things digital, gaming, coffee, photography, gadgets, writer @TheEffectDotNet. Views are my own.