Forza Motorsport’s comeback is an impressive one after its divisive seventh entry and a welcome return to the sim-lite formula after back-to-back entries in the Horizon sub-series. With highly accessible racing and gorgeous visuals and lighting, it’s another strong exclusive for Xbox consoles in 2023.
Easy to pick up and play
Impressive accessibility options
Career mode can grow monotonous
Not a ton of tracks at launch
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Platform reviewed: Xbox Series X
Available on: Xbox Series X|S, PC
Release date: October 10, 2023
Forza Motorsport provides a refreshing change of pace compared to the racing game landscape of the last couple of years. While it’s a sim racer at heart, it’s much lighter on realistic simulation than Gran Turismo 7, while offering a tighter, more intimate racing experience than the open-world shenanigans of The Crew Motorfest.
To sum it up in a word, Forza Motorsport is welcoming. There are swathes of accessibility options to accommodate players of all skill levels and levels of familiarity with racing games, and the handling model is generous compared to the pinpoint precision demanded by other sim racers. Throw in a wide range of difficulty options, over 500 cars, and multiple racing modes, and the latest Forza feels content-rich at launch. For the most part.
The truth is that you’ll get the most out of Forza Motorsport if you race online with other players. That’s because the Builder’s Cup career mode becomes quite repetitive early on. And that’s exacerbated by the limited number of circuits available to race on at launch, meaning you’ll be visiting the same tracks frequently. What’s here right now, though, is an exhilarating racing experience that rounds out a strong year for Xbox console exclusives.
Built to last
After a couple of introductory races in the game’s flagship cars - the No. 01 Cadillac Racing V-Series.R and Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray - Forza Motorsport will put you straight into the Builder’s Cup, the career mode. There are several individual cups, each featuring a specific car theme across five or six races. Each series of races will have you buy a new car that’s eligible for the category, and you’ll upgrade it as you progress.
What’s especially cool is upgrading goes hand in hand with how well you drive. As you race, you’ll earn Car EXP from overtaking, racing cleanly (i.e. staying on track and not shunting your competitors), and driving sections and corners quickly and efficiently. These are particularly important, as you’ll be graded on a scale of one to ten; an excellent way of incentivizing you to learn each track and the best racing lines through them.
Leveling up your car gradually unlocks new parts for upgrades, and accrues CP (car points) for you to spend on them. It’s crucial, then, that you race as cleanly as possible, as this’ll mean you can afford more upgrades to remain competitive with your rivals, who’ll also be upgrading their cars as each series progresses.
I’m a huge fan of Forza Motorsport’s Car EXP system. I felt like I was constantly being rewarded for learning tracks and improving my overall driving skill. This in turn helped me perform better while racing online.
It sounds like a pretty satisfying loop on paper, but unfortunately, it creates a feeling of monotony throughout the Builder’s Cup mode. Each round features a practice session of two or three laps and a time to beat to get you familiar with the track and your car’s handling. The problem here is that I quickly felt the desire to just skip this and head straight to the race. And that’s not ideal at higher difficulties as practice also rewards valuable Car EXP and credits to buy new vehicles down the line, so they’re practically a necessity.
Instead, it would’ve been preferable to have a qualifying session that rewards you based on your lap times compared to other racers. Forza Motorsport sidesteps this with a risk vs. reward system that offers higher payouts based on where you choose to start on the grid. I’m not a fan of this; not just because it’s unrealistic, but also because the payouts are relatively tiny no matter where you elect to start.
Ultimately the Builder’s Cup is fun for shorter sessions, and it’s going to be regularly updated with new series post-launch. If you take it at a relaxed pace you’ll find there’s plenty of content and cars to enjoy here over a longer period of time.
One of the best things about Forza Motorsport is its excellent vehicle handling. While not as strict or sim-heavy as Gran Turismo 7, the game provides a responsive and robust model with clear differences from car to car. That’s especially apparent when jumping from a front-wheel drive’s high speed to a rear-wheel’s more effective grip and handling.
There’s high attention to detail across all aspects of simulation. Tyre wear is a huge factor, with softs allowing for quicker lap times than mediums and hards at the cost of reduced durability. Tracks can also be rubbered in over time as tires wear down, increasing surface grip, or reducing it in wetter race conditions.
With that in mind, the best races are the ones that bring the game’s dynamic weather system into play. A wet track, for example, will dry over time once the rain has let up. And on longer races, you’ll need to effectively plan a pit strategy to make sure you’re not caught out on a suboptimal set of tires When the weather and track inevitably change.
Further exemplifying Forza Motorsport’s fantastic handling model is the wide range of assists and difficulty options presented. Just starting out? You’ll be able to make use of visual racing lines, traction control, brake assists, transmission type, rewinds, and more lenient penalties for shunting and track-cutting. You can toggle these off at any time to suit your comfort level, allowing you to tailor the game’s challenge to your preference.
There’s no limit to assists when racing online, either, which is fantastic for players who prefer racing against other players. While I had no issues with connection quality during testing, I did find the Featured Multiplayer (the game’s ranked mode) to be fairly limiting, as you’ll need to queue for races at specific times, with preset tracks, eligible cars, and conditions. Thankfully, private multiplayer lobbies with support for custom rule sets are also available if you just want to muck about with friends.
A feast for the eyes
Forza Motorsport is a visually beautiful game, which is highlighted superbly by the game’s revamped lighting system. The addition of volumetric lighting means that light accurately permeates through objects like trees, fences, and bounces off your vehicle. And if you’ve got ray tracing enabled, you’ll be able to see detailed reflections in vehicles and puddles of water. Rain-soaked races are especially lovely here, though the on-screen rain effect is a little overkill and quite distracting due to a frankly comical smattering of droplets smearing your vision.
Track detail is similarly impressive, with a high number of objects, animated 3D crowds, and high-resolution textures providing near-photorealistic results. If you’ve got an HDR-capable 4K TV, the results are especially breathtaking. And if you don’t mind the cut to 30fps, the Quality graphics setting is an absolute treat.
A big trade-off for all this extra detail, though, is that Forza Motorsport only features 20 circuits to race on, far fewer than GT7 at launch, and there are some baffling omissions. You won’t be racing on iconic tracks like Monza, Mount Panorama, or Brands Hatch - at least not at launch. More tracks will be coming in the future, but for now, you’ll find yourself racing the same tracks pretty frequently.
Despite its shortcomings and relatively slim track list, Forza Motorsport is a competent return to form for the sim racing series. It’s accessible to players of varying needs and skill levels, has enough content to last dedicated players months, and looks utterly gorgeous to boot. It’s not a game to miss if you’ve been craving an in-depth racing experience on Xbox.
Forza Motorsport’s accessibility suite is simply brilliant, accommodating players of all kinds. Subtitle and screen narrator options are plentiful, as are global colorblind settings for both the game and its UI elements. Most impressive, though, is the extremely robust blind driving assists, which enable audible cues for braking, cornering, overtakes, off-track indicators, wrong-way indicators, and pit lane response.
How we reviewed Forza Motorsport
I played Forza Motorsport on Xbox Series X over the course of a week, getting stuck into the main Builder’s Cup mode and ensuring I tried out a wide range of forward, rear, and all-wheel drive vehicles across all of the game’s tracks. I tested some online sessions too, with developers from Turn 10 Studios.
Forza Motorsport will be available day one on Xbox Game Pass. For more top racing titles, consider browsing our best racing games list, many of which work brilliantly with the best racing wheels you can buy in 2023.
Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.