Forza Motorsport review for Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC

Platform: Xbox Series X
Also On: Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Turn 10
Medium: Blu-ray / Digital
Players: Multi
Online: Yes

It’s been 6 years since developer Turn 10’s last entry in the long-running Forza Motorsport series, and they’ve spent that time refocusing on what makes Forza Motorsport stand out against not only their sister game, Forza Horizon, but against other competitive racers on the market. I think that effort manages to shine through with the finished product, having now spent some time with the final release of Forza Motorsport on Xbox Series X. This is very much a racing game focused on competition, both online and off, that drops any and all fluff or extraneous content in favor of doubling down on lots of car options, some really stellar track redesigns, and just the general thrill of competitive track racing. It’s not going to be a racing game for everyone, falling very much into the category of sim racer, but there are enough accessibility options and difficulty sliders that even the most inexperienced racing player will manage to eke out some enjoyment here.

Forza Motorsport features over 500 vehicles and 20 different real-world tracks, with a whole host of renowned locations and manufacturers being featured. There are a ton of events to uncover as you play through the new Builder’s Cup Career Mode, which divides up events according to car class, type, manufacturer and so on. There’s an emphasis this time around on purchasing a car and sticking with it, as each car has its own leveling up system, separate from the overall driver level. Racing, practicing and qualifying with a vehicle will start to level up a car, which in turn will unlock new parts and equipment slots to enhance a vehicle, along with earning you Car Progression points (CP) that can be used to purchase parts to enhance your vehicle. You can opt to sort through all parts and upgrade categories to improve your vehicle’s specs to your liking, or just do quick upgrades that’ll evenly enhance your vehicle’s stats without much effort.

In addition to your car upgrade options, all the expected tuning features are also present, allowing you to fully customize each vehicle to your liking. You can upload or download tuning specs, and a full featured livery for exterior customization is again present in Forza Motorsport. Also, there’s a whole host of excellent accessibility options for players, which was pretty cool to see implemented. It’s clear that Turn 10 intends for Forza Motorsport to be a racing game that everyone can play and enjoy, and it’s nice to see a very inclusive effort being made with this entry.

As far as big changes between Forza Motorsport and the last entry, 2017’s Forza Motorsport 7, there’s certainly a few worth mentioning. Forza Motorsport feels a tad scaled down in comparison, again opting to cut out a lot of fluff to instead focus on a more focused competitive racing experience. Events are solely focused on track racing, so you won’t see any strange side-events like bowling here, it feels like they are opting to cut out the arcade elements since those are easily available via Forza Horizon at this point. Also, the mod system from Forza 7 is gone, so you’ll strictly be focused on leveling up vehicles and acquiring new parts, no special credit bonus features outside of winning races or adjusting difficulty. The menu system in Forza Horizon is pretty clean in comparison to Forza 7, which was a little busy and cumbersome to navigate, so that’s also a positive change with this entry.

That said, there are some negatives, which for me hampered my overall enjoyment of Forza Motorsport. One of my biggest gripes is the focus on practice and qualifying modes across both the career and online multiplayer. At the start of the Builder’s Cup Career mode, Forza Motorsport introduces practice laps, which are designed to introduce you to the race you’re playing and allow you to get used to the track layout before a race. You have to complete three practice laps before the race can begin, and there’s an optional goal to come in under a set lap time, which also serves as a way of letting you know whether your current difficulty settings are right for you. In concept, this sounds like a solid idea, but being forced to do three practice laps before every race in the career mode quickly becomes tiring, and there’s no apparent way to skip this before a race starts. Also, if you complete the three practice laps and then need to back out or quit the game before the actual race for whatever reason, Forza Motorsport doesn’t save this progress, so you’ll need to complete those three laps again when you jump back in.

Online multiplayer also has some pretty frustrating limitations in conjunction with this concept. While the scaled back number of events in multiplayer is probably a good idea compared to the wild number of hoppers that Forza 7 had, it takes far too long to actually jump into an online race with the current set-up. When you select multiplayer, and after you’ve passed the qualifying series to help match you up with drivers of similar skill levels, you’ll have a couple of active events to choose from in both Spec and Open categories. Spec features vehicles that are specifically tuned for the events, while Open allows you to bring in vehicles that you can tune and upgrade yourself, featuring some looser rule sets than Spec does.

All of this is fine, except that each event has a “practice” timer, which seems to average around 15 minutes. When you join an event, you’ll be put into practice mode, which allows you to drive around the track for that time period, during which you’ll also need to run at least three qualifying laps, which will dictate your starting position for the upcoming race. After you complete those qualifying laps, you can then opt to wait at the menu for the practice timer to finish counting down, or you can jump back into practice mode and run around the track some more. So it takes roughly 15 minutes or more for each race to even start, and you have to do this for every single online race at this point, which for me is just a ridiculous time sink.

I’m sure there’s people out there that will appreciate this level of simulation for their online racing experience, but unfortunately I’m not one of them. As of this review, there’s no real quick race option for online play, outside of setting up a private lobby. Ideally there will be additional online modes down the line, it does seem like Microsoft and Turn 10 are building this game up to be a continued service instead of just pumping one of these out every few years, but as of right now, I have virtually no desire to revisit multiplayer, and have honestly found the career mode to be a bit of a bore because it feels like progression is artificially slowed by the required practice laps.

This is all a shame, because otherwise I’ve enjoyed my time with Forza Motorsport so far. Car handling feels great, it’s a definite step up visually, the tracks are all immaculately designed, the amount of car options are fantastic, and it feels like a true next gen racer all around. But the forced timers/practice restrictions in both Career and online multiplayer really pumps the brakes on my enjoyment of this entry so far, making it a little tougher to recommend to everyone.

Grade: B