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Forza Motorsport review: the long-awaited racing tune-up delivers

A single car makes a turn in Forza Motorsport.
Forza Motorsport
MSRP $70.00
“Forza Motorsport may not have the fanciest presentation, but it's one of the prettiest and most approachable racing simulators ever.”
  • Gorgeous visuals
  • Refined racing
  • Malleable difficulty
  • Constant sense of progression
  • Clinical presentation
  • Reliant on long-term support

If you’ve ever gotten work done on your car, you might be familiar with the weird feeling that comes with waiting for a tune-up to be finished. You don’t know how long it will take, and all you can do is hope that all of the proper adjustments are being made so it can last for the long haul, whether you’re going on a cross-country road trip or, like me, just hope to keep the car for several more years. That feeling has surrounded the Forza Motorsport series for six years.

While Forza Horizon has flourished, the mainline racing simulation Forza series has not seen a new entry since 2017. After its announcement back in 2020, a freshly rebooted Forza Motorsport is finally here. Like a car owner anxiously waiting for their baby to get out of the shop, players now get to see if that lengthy tune-up was worth it. It’s a critical moment as Developer Turn 10 Studios has clearly stated that it wants Forza Motorsport to be a platform to build on going forward, so it needed to get this revitalization right if it’s going to make it to the finish line.

Luckily, it does. Forza Motorsport cements itself as one of the best-looking and most approachable racing simulators to date. It can sometimes feel too clinical, but the core driving is perfectly fine-tuned. It’s a tremendous first-party visual showpiece that demonstrates the power of the Xbox Series X and provides a consistent sense of progression to modify the experience. The work was worth it; Forza Motorsport seems well-equipped to handle the long live service journey ahead.

Back on the road

If you’ve played any racing game in the Forza series before, you’ll be familiar with this game’s basic setup. It’s all about driving well in intense races so you can collect CP. That resource can be used to upgrade vehicles and buy new ones, which allows players to drive even better and get even more CP. It’s a tight growth cycle built around incremental improvements. Forza Motorsport is a more focused simulator experience, so it functions and plays closer to a game like Gran Turismo 7 than Forza Horizon 5.

Performance mode makes this one of the rare console games that consistently runs at a 4K resolution and 60 frames per second.

Turn 10 Studios is at the peak of its game when it comes to the fundamentals: Driving around a track in Forza Motorsport feels fantastic and it’s as intuitive as ever to play on an Xbox controller. The weather impacts handling, and the controller’s vibrations while hitting certain terrains are distinct and responsive. The same car can even feel different to drive from race to race when I adjust the wheels, the amount of gas initially taken into a race, or various other tuning options.

Its 500-plus car library and 20 track lineup is smaller than what Forza Motorsport 7 had at release, but these initially lower numbers can be forgiven as Turn 10 is already committed to adding more over time. It helps that Forza Motorsport looks gorgeous across all its visual modes on Xbox Series X, too. Performance mode makes this one of the rare console games that consistently runs at a 4K resolution and 60 frames per second 9fps).

If you’re willing to sacrifice some of that resolution quality to make the lighting even better, Performance RT mode adds ray tracing to cars and still runs near 4K at 60 fps. This was the mode I ultimately settled on, and I’d sometimes even get too distracted looking at the impressive reflection on my car and mess up in a race. Quality mode is also there for those who want ray tracing to apply to the cars and tracks at 4K, although the 30 fps trade-off was a bit too great for me.

EMBARGO 10/4 12:01 AM: A Forza Motorsport screenshot with impressive lighting.
Xbox Game Studios

At this point, I am convinced that it’s nearly impossible for any game to run a consistent 4K and 60 fps with full ray-tracing on current-gen consoles, as even this impressive technical showpiece for Xbox can’t do it. Still, Forza Motorsport remains one of the best-looking games of the current console generation, no matter which graphics setting, car, or track I picked.

Reasons to drive

Forza Motorsport looks and plays great, but that only truly matters if the content is there to back it. What’s present is entertaining and engaging for a simulator, even if it’s not too fancy. When it comes to single-player modes, the main attraction is the Builders Cup career mode. Builders Cup is split into several different Tours, each of which is made up of five individual series centered around specific car types like Sedans.

After a brief intro clip introducing me to the featured car type, I’d then play through five races in that series. Before each race, I could do some practice laps and get a feel for the track. The ultimate goal is to place somewhere between first and third place in each race to get a meaty credit reward and experience to increase my player level. Those alone are entertaining enough goals for me as a fan of simulation racers, but I was glad that Forza Motorsport doesn’t only have progression at that high level.

EMBARGO 10/4 12:01 AM PT: A camera angle up close to a Forza Motorsport race.
Xbox Game Studios

As I drove around a track in practice or during races, the game would keep track of the time it took me to get through certain, typically complicated, segments. Depending on my time, I’d be rewarded with a certain amount of experience tied to my car. This gave me a reason to race as well as I could throughout every segment and granted me a constant, satisfying feeling of progression at least once a minute while I was racing. For a genre that can get very monotonous, that’s a genius way to retain engagement.

Leveling up a car earns me CP currency, which is used to upgrade a vehicle between matches. I did just fine while choosing the parts that granted the biggest stat bonuses. Players who are interested in fine-tuning the specific parts of a car they’re using will adore the amount of options here and in the comprehensive car editor. Those aren’t the only things Forza Motorsport would let me adjust between races, though; it also gives the players enough tools to tailor the experience to keep things more approachable or challenging for them.

A personalized tune-up

Is a race too easy or too hard? There are multiple things you can do to adjust that. At a basic level, you can just go into a race with a worse car or one that has not been upgraded, but Forza Motorsport allows players to adjust even more minutiae than that. Between every race, I could adjust the AI’s difficulty, the harshness of penalties, or the presence of features like Rewind.

The malleable difficulty makes Forza Motorsport the most approachable hardcore racing simulator out there.

I would get higher Credit payouts when I made things harder for myself, but earning slightly less currency wasn’t enough to prevent me from modifying these things whenever I felt I was doing poorly. Those willing to venture into the settings menu will also discover a variety of control handicaps for things like braking, steering, throttle, and shifting that can make things easier or more challenging. The malleable difficulty makes Forza Motorsport the most approachable hardcore racing simulator out there.

And it can sometimes feel good to have a little bit of help. I had to restart some tough races in Gran Turismo 7 multiple times because of a tiny mess-up that took me out of the running at the end of the last lap. Moments like that never happened to me in Forza Motorsport unless I was in multiplayer or had purposefully set the race’s parameters to a higher difficulty for more of a challenge.

Forza Motorsport also boasts a wide variety of accessibility options, like colorblind modes, screen narrators, subtitle and audio description customization, and gameplay assists for blind players. While die-hard fans might be the only ones spending hundreds of hours offline and online, finely tuning each part of their car, the game provides enough helpful tools that anyone picking it up can have a good time. I know I did.

A car meant to be modified

Players who decide to embrace multiplayer have a couple of options. Featured races occur every 30 minutes and feature similar parameters to Builders Cup. Of course, assists from that mode, like the Rewind functionality, aren’t present here. There’s also Rivals, a Time Trial mode that lets me compete against the ghosts of other players for the lowest lap time on the game’s tracks.

Forza Motorsport overall lacks much of a distinct personality.

While my multiplayer experience prelaunch was limited, the races I participated in ran smoothly, with only one odd texture flashing glitch plaguing a single race. The few microtransactions currently present only speed along the process of earning Credits and obtaining cars. They aren’t tied to the CP that has the most drastic impact on gameplay. It seems like the only unfair advantage to look out for is would-be players who bought their way to a slightly higher-rated car than you; it’s always possible to outrace them, though.

Besides that, my Forza Motorsport experience has been bug-free so far. At times, though, it can feel too smooth. The game’s UI takes a sleek and minimalistic approach. Turn 10 lays out all of the game’s modes, Tours, and Series clearly, but Forza Motorsport overall lacks much of a distinct personality. Despite its unique progression methods, this started to make the game feel a tad too repetitive for me after tens of hours of gameplay.

Where Forza Horizon 5 and Gran Turismo 7 have pomp in their presentation, Forza Motorsport feels more concerned with getting me into the next race while keeping a slot open for any new content Turn 10 decides to add. And Forza Motorsport is putting a lot of faith and investment into this future. There’s always a risk to games that do that, and we’ve seen Xbox Game Studios make post-launch stumbles with games like Halo Infinite.

Track Tour roadmap for Forza Motorsport
Xbox Game Studios

That said, the inherent structure of Forza Motorsport at release gives me more faith, as I can already see single-player and multiplayer content mapped out for multiple weeks. However that situation plays out will be what truly makes or breaks the game for hardcore players. For those Xbox Series X owners who are more curious than committed and want to enjoy a couple of beautiful-looking races, Forza Motorsport wholly delivers.

While the wait for this installment left me as nervous, as I typically am when dropping off my car to get work done, that extra time for fine-tuning was worth it. In fact, Forza Motorsport carries and presents itself like a console launch title in many ways. It’s an impressive technical showcase that’s easy to pick up, play for a couple of matches, and get a sense of the Xbox Series X’s power, even if Forza Motorsport is three years late in actually meeting that criteria. Still, those looking for impressive Xbox Series X games to show off their console will finally have another first-party showpiece to leave front and center on their Xbox’s home page.

Forza Motorsport was reviewed on Xbox Series X.

Editors' Recommendations

Tomas Franzese
Gaming Staff Writer
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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