We've been racing to our heart's content in Turn 10's latest racing title.
After multiple delays and what has seemed on the outside to be quite a challenging development, Turn 10 is finally ready to launch Forza Motorsport. This racing simulation title has been built from the ground-up to suit current-gen Xbox consoles and PC systems and with launch officially set for October 10th and an Early Access period beginning as soon as today, I'm finally able to share my full thoughts on the game.
First things first, if you've played a Forza Motorsport game before, you'll know that this isn't a racing simulation to the same degree as an Assetto Corsa or rFactor. It's more akin to the Gran Turismo series, where there are clear simulation elements, but the gameplay is designed in such a way where even novices can jump in and enjoy themselves without being overwhelmed with race strategy, tire pressures, car tuning, and so forth. Yes, you can explore many of these systems in Forza Motorsport, but they are for the dedicated sim-racers predominantly and don't have a huge impact on the gameplay in the same way that they do in other sim-racing titles.
Similarly, Forza Motorsport, like Gran Turismo, has always been designed with console gaming and controller input at the forefront, and thus the racing systems and mechanics aren't as complex as that of sim-racers that are built with wheels and the likes in mind first. So, with this all being said, Forza Motorsport operates in this weird limbo like Gran Turismo 7, where it knows it isn't an arcade racer like The Crew and wants you to think that it's a truly complex and deep sim-racer, but in reality, it's not quite there.
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Still, Turn 10 has clearly put a lot of effort into making this game seem as real as possible. The cars are detailed and truly resemble their real counterparts, more so when you use the graphical option that prioritises visuals over performance. This also stretches to the tracks and their design. There has been a huge attention to detail placed on making each track feel as accurate as possible, and that has been achieved in droves. But, Turn 10 made massive amounts of noise regarding the appearance of this game, and quite frankly, it doesn't feel stunningly unmatched in a visual sense. Don't get me wrong, Forza Motorsport is a pretty game, but there are plenty of other very pretty racers on the market too.
In terms of the actual racing, Forza games have always had this physics style where the cars feel like they are sliding all over the track on ice, and this is the case here too. As you push each car to its limits, you'll find it sliding around with the tires screeching on every corner, and this has always led me to have to tune cars to lack in speed but improve in handling just so you can get the best time out of each corner. But while the physics is undeniably tapping into that Forza theme when it comes to tires and handling, the rest feels fantastic. Regardless of the car class or type you choose, you'll notice a weight to the vehicle as you rag it around the track. You'll feel the difference in the material that makes up each track, and notice the very second you go too deep in a corner and your tires touch a patch of dirt. When it rains, the patchy puddles up the challenge significantly as you will aquaplane if you hit a large body of water, which is easy to notice thanks to the great water physics. There's a lot to appreciate about the physics engine, even if it does have a few kinks to it.
When it comes to racing there are a few really bizarre annoyances that left me frustrated. First of all, the AI in this game is horrendous. Regardless of whether you max the Drivatar difficulty or set it to its lowest, the AI will brake when it doesn't need to invoking crashes, push you off the track, go wide on corners and compromise its own laps and then return to the track and proceed to hog the racing line and ruin your lap. Due to Forza Motorsport being a game that puts heavy emphasis on clean racing with tons of time penalties and warnings that will be handed out by the penalty system that is hit and miss at the best of times, the AI racers will make your life very difficult and frustrate you during the Career Mode action.
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Then to add to this, the Career Mode cups are designed in such a way that takes the thrill of competition out of them. Each time you head to a track as part of a cup, the game will mandate that you complete a few practice laps before the actual race, but there's not a qualifying round. You simply choose where you want to start on the grid each time, with the catch being that the further back you start the bigger Credit reward you get if you finish on the podium. You have to decide yourself, not based on your racing skill, whether you want a slight influx of additional Credits or instead the trophy for winning the cup. It's just baffling why it's handled in this way.
And the really, really bizarre part is that the Credits are only ever used for buying cars. Forza Motorsport's progression and upgrade suit asks you to keep driving one car to level it up and to unlock new upgrades for that specific car. Each car has 50 levels to complete, and with over 500 cars to purchase at launch, you can already see that there's a serious nightmarish progression system that has been brought into this game. Sure, not having to use Credits to improve a car is great (instead you use Car Points earned by levelling up a car to be able to fit a certain amount of new parts), but this progression system is frankly exhausting. The game is also pretty poor at explaining how to effectively tune your car, and no doubt many newer players or casual racers will ignore this side of the game entirely.
Yet, when you move past the Career Mode and instead look to head into the multiplayer side of things, Forza Motorsport really comes into its own. Real players are far better to compete against than the AI, and with a practice, qualifying, and race section designed for each event, every facet of the online experience is important. Plus, if you're worried about online players griefing you, Turn 10 has come up with a genuinely brilliant solution for this, as players are not ranked on race wins or anything as such, but rather their safe driving skills. The better and cleaner you race, the higher your rank and the better quality of racers you will find in your online lobbies. With tons of events of different kinds constantly on offer, the multiplayer is without a shadow of a doubt the best part of the Forza Motorsport experience - even if it is riddled with weird design choices that feel counterintuitive at best - such as cars being auto filled with full petrol tanks that are supposed to last 57 laps for a race that spans five laps. So, don't forget to properly fuel your car as you will be much faster with less fuel onboard. And without harping on too much about this weird design choice, the worst case I have encountered was for a two lap race with a car that was fuelled for 317 laps...
But don't be mistaken by these minor annoyances, Forza Motorsport is a very well made racer with solid graphics, top performance (bar a few infinite loading screens), brilliant menus that feel intuitive and quick, and a decent physics engine powering the whole thing. This is a very well made game. There's a huge amount of attention to detail, and it's clear that Turn 10 has put a massive emphasis on quality control, as this game feels almost as polished as a game can get. There's a lot to celebrate about this title, but, and yes this is a weird comparison as Forza Horizon is an arcade racing series first and foremost, I do think it will struggle to achieve a semblance of the same level of success as that of Playground's series that excels with its casual and more fun elements.
8 / 10
Incredibly polished. Online racing is brilliant. Huge array of cars to drive. Menus are super well designed. Solid physics systems.
Progression is terrible. AI is horrible. The Penalty system is very hit or miss. Tons of weird and counterintuitive design choices.