Prior to my foray into the new Forza Motorsport, it had been a while since I last played the iconic racing series. I was a big fan of the franchise in past years but had fallen away from it during the Horizon years. I instead jumped to titles such as F1 or even the occasional arcade racer. And after playing Grand Turismo 7, I wasn’t necessarily excited for another simcade game that wasn’t exactly interested in catering to my car-enthused brain.
But being the first entry in the Motorsport side of things since 2017, 2023’s Forza Motorsport instantly piqued my curiosity. For one, the franchise — even with its more arcade-adjacent Horizon series — had yet to lose touch with what made it special. And all things considered, Forza Motorsport 7 was a pretty good game. Lo and behold, Forza Motorsport doesn’t disappoint.
Forza Motorsport Review: A Gorgeous and Efficient Racer
When it comes to the racing action in Forza Motorsport, there’s no secret why the series has maintained popularity. Starting off in Career Mode, I competed in the Builders Cup Intro Series, which is essentially the mode’s tutorial phase. There, I competed in three races using a mostly stock Ford Mustang. I finished 2nd in my first two races before finally winning the third with some last-lap dramatics.
Though I went easy on myself at first with the difficulty sliders, I still felt challenged. Even as someone who’s played a plethora of racing titles, ranging from sims like Project Cars to arcade racers like Need for Speed, I still found it challenging. Wrestling my Mustang through circuits like Hakone or Mugello felt good in the right way. Corners became a constant give or take between overspeed and effective braking to nail their apex. Once I became more familiar with things through hours of practice and fine-tuning, I was quickly glued to the track. And once I did, it felt earned.
In terms of car selection, Forza Motorsport is among the best in the genre. With hundreds of cars to choose from, there’s no shortage of diversity and class. Though I was mildly disappointed not to find my favorite ’65 Shelby GT Mustang, I was equally impressed to see cars like Mario Andretti’s 1976 Lotus F1 car. Indeed, seeing the 1991 Mazda Motorsport RX-7 driven by Peter Halsmer in the 1991 IMSA GT Championship was fantastic. Name an iconic car — be it the 2003 BMW M3, 1987 Buick Regal, or the ’93 Porsche 911 — and it likely makes an appearance. There’s literally something for everyone in Forza Motorsport.
On top of that, Forza Motorsport is beyond gorgeous. Playing on Performance RT mode, which allows for ray tracing while maintaining high framerates, every track and car oozes with attention to detail. The visuals have to be seen to be believed. In a test to see how great the game could look, I decided to take a trip to one of my personal favorites: Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, more commonly known as Spa, in Belgium.
Having lapped around Spa more times than I could count in F1 video games, I knew the circuit well. Despite the randomized rain, I was confident in my ability to put in good lap times in simulation conditions. From the moment we left the starting line, I was in absolute awe of the game’s visual fidelity. Having chosen the cockpit view for peak immersion, the rain whipped against the windshield of my 2018 Audi R8, creating a sense of chaos and dread.
After navigating the tricky La Source hairpin on Turn 1, the exciting and dangerous Eau Rouge-Raidillon connection awaited me. And moving up that thing was every bit as good as I could’ve hoped. And thanks, in no small part, to how lifelike and stunning it looked while I was doing it.
The same can be said of the laps on other popular tracks, such as Road America or the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Everything from the sharp elevation change on RA’s backstretch to Catalunya’s Campsa Corner all felt authentic and immersing. Not once did I see anything that was game-breaking or sloppily rendered. Even the damage models looked great. At the end of the day, though, I still much preferred the feel of pure Performance Mode. Losing those 10 or so frames in an effort to get photorealism isn’t exactly worth it.
The game is also meaty when it comes to its core content. In total, there are over 500 cars to choose from and 20 tracks to race on. Add in the various different layouts of these 20 tracks, and you have a very large selection when it comes to circuits. And seemingly, there’s more to come in the future.
Better yet, as far as I can tell, there aren’t any predatory microtransactions or loot boxes in Forza Motorsport. The only real way to accrue currency and buy new cars is to play the game and finish races online and offline. There’s a Premium Upgrade that costs $29.99 and comes with early access, VIP XP perks, and car packs, among other things. But considering the full game is releasing on both Xbox and PC Game Pass, and the 10% discount that comes with it, the Premium Pass is but a convenient update.
The only unknown for me with Forza Motorsport is its online mode. Despite multiple attempts, I was only able to get into a multiplayer lobby with multiple people twice during my pre-release time with it. And even then, it was only with a max of two other players. Granted, that one session was a good time and didn’t feel broken. But for the most part, I was left going into event lobbies by myself after my Qualifier Series.
Despite its Triumphs, Forza Motorsport Feel Like it Lacks Some Depth
Considering the game ships with over 500 cars and 20 tracks, saying Forza Motorsport lacks depth might sound sacrilegious to some. But still, despite all of the things the game does triumphantly right, there’s still something that feels lacking.
For example, the career mode feels very bare-bones and linear. It’s less like a journey up the ranks of various motorsport disciplines and more like you’re playing the game repeatedly in an effort to drive better cars. This might be a selling point for the no-frills racing enthusiasts out there. But to me, it feels a bit underwhelming.
Not having any kind of underlying story or motivation to take the journey is a bit disappointing. That’s especially true In a post-Drive to Survive world. The politics and seedy underbelly of motorsports have become equally as, if not more, exciting than the actual on-track action.
Further complicating matters is that Forza Motorsport is neither fish nor fowl. Yes, the game is technically a racing sim. However, in terms of realism and immersion, it still pales in comparison to titles such as iRacing or Assetto Corsa. Instead, the game feels more akin to “simcade” contemporaries such as F1 2023 or Gran Turismo 7. While this is perfectly acceptable, it means the final product leaves something to be desired. That can be especially stark in the eyes of the most dedicated racing sim players, who likely won’t give Forza Motorsport more than a skim through.
Forza Motorsport Review — The Bottom Line
- Great core gameplay.
- Absolutely stunning visuals.
- Very good tuning and Free Play options.
- A diverse selection of cars and tracks.
- No loot boxes or predatory microtransactions.
- Bare-bones and linear career mode.
- Not as in-depth as other sim racers.
Overall, despite some criticisms, Forza Motorsport is more than worth your time. Developer Turn 10 Studios has crafted what is an exemplary racing experience. It feels faithful to the games that have come before it while also improving on an already working formula. Even if the career mode isn’t as meaty as I’d like (and really, who cares?), there’s something to be said about a game that’s so fundamentally sound it brings you back to simpler times. Indeed, it makes you feel wildly free.
If you’re a motorsport fanatic or just a car enthusiast, Forza Motorsport is a more-than-competent title that will give you tons of bang for your buck.
[Note: Xbox Game Studios provided the Xbox Series X|S copy of Forza Motorsport used for this review.]
Forza Motorsport Review: A Gorgeous and Engaging Racing Title
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