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Forza Motorsport review: reinventing the wheel?

An overdue return to the franchise’s more serious racing side

Forza Motorsport racing

Stuff Verdict

A long overdue return for Microsoft’s flagship racer that’s got mileage to reach its full potential beyond its underwhelming launch content.


  • The best looking Forza yet
  • The most accessible sim racer
  • Meaningful progression system for individual cars


  • Bland career mode
  • Content feels sparse at launch
  • Can we turn off practice laps, please?


It’s been a long time since there’s been a Forza Motorsport game. You can’t even buy the last instalment anymore, after it was unceremoniously scrubbed from Microsoft’s store and Game Pass service. Perhaps that justifies this eighth entry nixing the number at the end, making it something of a reboot that tries to get back to the heart of no-nonsense motorsport – while still being approachable to players who might recoil at the thought of sim racing.

But after two back-to-back runs of the more popular Horizon spin-offs, which were essentially open-world holidays that just happened to revolve around driving, does Turn 10 succeed in making the purity of racing laps as exhilarating? And how much has the series moved forward after a six-year hiatus?


Racing games have always been terrific visual showcases for new hardware, and Forza Motorsport is no different, all the more so as it’s unshackled from the burden of cross-gen. It’s simply one of the most gorgeous looking racers out there, from the meticulous detail of the 500+ cars you can get behind the wheel of to the tracks you’ll be racing, Hakone in Japan and its stunning cherry blossom trees one early standout. Even though you’ll be racing through some familiar circuits, they’ve never looked this detailed, with crowds also fully animated in 3D, making the stands at Indy come alive.

Its biggest boast is that its ray-tracing capabilities are no longer confined to either its viewing mode or replays. Now they’re on show while you’re racing in real-time, albeit only on the more powerful Series X console. We’ve been testing on a Series S but have to say it still looks incredible. Ray-tracing or no, it’s still a treat for the eyes when seeing the wet pavement during a rainy race reflect the cars in front of you, or a somewhat eerie touch of catching your steering wheel and driver’s hands reflecting back at you from the windscreen.

While 60FPS would normally be the optimal experience for a racer, we must admit that we preferred prioritising sharper visuals and didn’t mind a lower frame rate since it stayed stable and consistent. Forza Motorsport nonetheless could be the title to convince Series S owners to finally upgrade to a Series X. However, serious racers may find that money better spent on investing in a racing wheel, which will make far more transformative racing experience than visual fidelity.

Lap it up

As much as Horizon is lauded with showering you with content, we confess that we prefer the focus of good old-fashioned track-racing, which Gran Turismo 7 delivered with class for PlayStation last year, and it’s interesting to see that Forza Motorsport is also taking its cues from Polyphony’s sim racer to get you serious about racing little by little.

That comes in the way progression permeates every facet of a race, as you don’t just gain XP yourself, but also for each car you drive, turning the game into a so-called ‘CarPG’. From making tight corners to overtaking other cars, everything you do well accumulates points. While that means every car can potentially become a grind it also feels meaningful as you can’t just buy the best parts to beef up your ride’s performance from the get go. Instead, as you level up your car’s XP, it unlocks different aspects that you can upgrade, from air filter to fuel system to tyres, while the upside is that new parts are unlocked rather than things you have to splash out on, meaning you can save your hard-earned cash on buying more cars.

The other way it gets you to learn its tracks and treat motorsport more seriously than an arcade racer is by having you do a practice race before a proper race, which is incentivised by being able to gain XP and in-game currency. That said, while practising laps would be welcoming when you have to wait for a multiplayer race to start, we often found this requirement a waste of time compared to just wanting to get straight into the race itself. While you technically can skip practice, this still requires the faff of having to start and load into it so we’d rather there was an option to turn this off in the settings.

For all the talk about serious racing, Forza Motorsport is still probably the most accessible sim racer you can play (this is a racer where you can rewind pretty much any driving error after all). That’s not just in the suite of accessibility options but also in tailoring the challenge, from the difficulty of the Drivatar AI to the rules on whether you’ll be penalised for bumping into other cars or going off-road. More contentious is the ability to pick your grid position, although as with the other settings, it’s balanced with risk vs reward, so you could race at a higher grid position, with lax rules and low Drivatar difficulty, but you’ll gain less cash.

Coasting along

Compared to the abundance of modes offered in Horizon, it’s difficult not to find Forza Motorsport’s modes sparse in comparison. With Career being the primary mode, you’re then left with Free Play where you can set your own rules, or racing against rival ghost cars. Then there’s multiplayer, which consists of either racing friends in private lobbies or competing in the scheduled Featured Multiplayer events that takes its cue from GT Sport, including a strong emphasis on driver etiquette.

While the Career mode does feature multiple tours to complete, many themed around specific cars, such as Sedans, muscle cars, or vintage hatches, they all follow the same bland strcuture of having to run the aforementioned practice race, making your performance upgrades, racing, and then onto the next one.

Perhaps it’s because you’re given so much freedom to tailor the difficulty it potentially means the first tour you unlock can end up feeling little different from a tour you unlock hours later. You might be in a different and shinier car, and the audio is at least faithful so that driving a vintage hatch sounds different to driving a Lamborghini or an F1 car as it should, and yet it all somehow feels the same.

It’s not really helped that it’s also delivered by bland voice overs that hardly get the pulse racing. Sure, we may have found the always-on energy of the Horizon voice overs a little excessive and grating too, but it just makes us appreciate the low-key charm that Gran Turismo 7 achieved with its GT Cafe that delivered more personality with just a person’s headshot and text.

Forza Motorsport verdict

Going back to basics to pure competitive racing, Forza Motorsport has all the quality polish of a first party Xbox Game Studios title, a terrific visual showcase for both of its current-gen consoles with plenty of considered systems to ease anyone into its sim racing as you get gradually familiarise and master each car and track. The ease of which you can customise the level of challenge right down to your starting grid position however means progression can feel too frictionless, which only shows up a rather underwhelming Career Mode.

Despite these gripes, Turn 10 and Microsoft undoubtedly have a long road map planned, including more tracks to bolster the initial 20 at launch (significantly less than the 32 locations available in the previous instalment). It’s perhaps all the more reason why there’s no number at the end as we wouldn’t be surprised if this is the only Forza Motorsport title available this generation. Still, after a six year wait, and the cheek of having players pony up extra to unlock the game earlier, you’d have hoped for a more feature-rich package like its predecessor from the starting line.

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

A long overdue return for Microsoft’s flagship racer that’s got mileage to reach its full potential beyond its underwhelming launch content.


The best looking Forza yet

The most accessible sim racer

Meaningful progression system for individual cars


Bland career mode

Content feels sparse at launch

Can we turn off practice laps, please?

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