There are racing games, and then there are experiences that transcend the genre to deliver more than just raw speed and rivalry. The forthcoming Forza Motorsport iteration is redefining the landscape of digital motoring by morphing into what its creators lovingly call a ‘caRPG’. Striding confidently forward with a soft reboot, the title represents a major step forward for one of the premier franchises on Xbox.
Revved up and racing full throttle into 2023, the newest Forza Motorsport offers players a wider range of choices than ever before. The team at Turn 10 has developed a profound racing ecosystem, expanding every aspect of the gameplay from its predecessors. From the deeply engaging new Car Mastery system to the Challenge the Grid mechanics, this edition promises to be a major turning point in the franchise’s history.
Stepping into the hands-off preview of Forza Motorsport during Summer Game Fest, I was immediately struck by how stunning the game is. Visuals have always been a cornerstone of the Forza franchise, and this iteration doesn’t disappoint. Specifically designed for the Xbox Series X/S and PC, the game boasts stunningly realistic graphics at 4K/60fps.
From rain-soaked tyres to cloud reflections dancing off car doors, the new entry is a visual feast. With ray tracing and other graphical features using the power under the hood of the Xbox Series X, Forza Motorsport has never looked more real or impressive. I often felt like I was watching a real race, looking at a real car, with only the interface betraying its artificial nature.
The technical aspects of the game haven’t been neglected either. The improved physics model provides a remarkable leap in realism. Vehicle handling feels much more responsive and satisfying, with an 8x increase in tyre contact points with the road for a more dynamic and realistic driving experience. Forza has long been a game that embraces the realism of the sim experience. This instalment looks to take that up a notch, with every part and every change to your car adjusting the feel and the way it works, giving a truly customized driving experience.
“With ray tracing and path tracing using the power under the hood of the Xbox Series X, Forza Motorsport has never looked more real or impressive.”
The new Car Mastery system provides players with a persistent progression model that evaluates their performance in granular detail. Whether it’s shaving fractions off your best lap time or perfecting that challenging apex, every corner in the game is now a moment-to-moment objective. The real-time tracking of your racing statistics fosters a sense of continuous improvement, feeding your craving for mastery while rewarding your progress with car XP.
Building on this experience-based progression system, the Challenge the Grid mechanic introduces a fresh layer of strategic depth. This new feature allows players to alter their race grid position, with potential rewards scaling accordingly. It’s a clever system that ensures there is always a risk-reward element to consider. Customizable AI difficulty settings and rule sets add another degree of control to your racing experience, allowing for a personalized challenge.
Further embracing the ‘caRPG’ concept, the game introduces a deeper and more comprehensive car customization feature. The experience you gain can be converted into tangible improvements for your vehicle, with upgrade options ranging from altering the exhaust and intake to refining the fuel system and applying a slick paint job. The expanded ‘Build’ feature ensures that the product of your progress on the track can be visibly embodied in your vehicle.
Beyond enhancing the core gameplay, Turn 10 has made significant strides in accessibility. Building upon their previous assistive features, they’ve introduced a new ‘one button driving’ feature. Inclusivity is woven into the fabric of the game, allowing a wider range of players to enjoy the thrill of the race without barriers.
Furthermore, the inclusion of audio assists bridges accessibility gaps, providing auditory cues related to speed, upcoming turns, and more. The integration of these features is a testament to the commitment to ensure that Forza Motorsport is the most accessible racing simulation to date.
“On top of being a visual spectacle, Forza Motorsport aims to deliver an accessible and highly adaptable racing experience.”
On the competitive side, the AI has been rewritten and now utilizes machine learning to offer players a genuine challenge on the tracks. By learning the track and the car itself, AI drivers have been trained to drive at the limit using the same physics that human players deal with. The game also introduces a new race format with a three-stage race weekend structure in the career mode, adding an additional layer. On top of being a visual spectacle, Forza Motorsport aims to deliver an accessible and highly adaptable racing experience.
It pays homage to its franchise’s reputation for assisting less experienced players with multiple in-game aids. From throttle assist and braking assist to turning assist, Turn 10 Studios offers the choice of toggling these on or off, giving players control over their racing experience. If simplicity is your game, you can opt for single-input driving—steering, braking, or accelerating, and the game will take care of the rest. Add to this a variety of audio assists that provide cues on speed, upcoming turns, and more, and you’re geared for an immersive ride—regardless of whether you’re a sighted or blind player, slow or fast, casual or hardcore gamer.
Drawing attention to one of the foundational aspects of any racing simulation—physics modelling—Forza Motorsport doesn’t disappoint. Turn 10 has taken a leap of faith into focusing on tire physics, given that these are the singular point of contact between the car and the road. The new physics model analyzes eight points of contact per tire, marking a significant jump from its previous single-point approach and providing a 48x increase in fidelity.
Aerodynamics, suspension, and weight models have all seen an overhaul as well, promising unparalleled authenticity in handling and vehicle response. From the demo, it looks like they may have just achieved this, although real testing will need to be done before we can say for sure how well it all works in practice.
Forza’s AI model has been completely rewritten, leaning into machine learning for the first time. This results in AI drivers that are as fast as the game’s real-world top performers without relying on cheats or hacks. The AI learns from the controller inputs instead of just learning the tracks. This dynamic approach results in the AI learning how to optimally drive each car, making it a formidable opponent that genuinely challenges the player’s driving skills.
Switching gears to the racing structure in career mode, Forza introduces a three-stage race weekend. Starting with an open practice session that allows players to acclimatize themselves to the car and the track and earn car experience points (CXP), moving into a challenge-the-grid stage, where the race parameters can be customized, and ending with the actual race. This caRPG approach, coupled with the innovative car mastery system, fosters a constant learning environment that rewards good driving and strategy.
The concept of “building, not buying,” your dream car is a significant shift in Forza Motorsport. Upgrades are unlocked as your car levels up, and car points, instead of in-game credits, are spent on parts. Moreover, you can get a full refund of your car points when you uninstall an upgrade, putting you in the driver’s seat of customizing your car without worrying about a loss of investment.
While there’s a lot to get excited about in the new Forza Motorsport, the real test will come when we put the proverbial rubber to the road in a review. The preview shows a lot of promise, but the execution of the final product will determine the game’s success. As we approach the game’s launch on October 10, 2023, racing enthusiasts and gamers alike are eagerly awaiting the chance to try out this visually stunning and innovative racing experience for themselves.