I enjoy the Forza Horizon games for a time, but the arcady action soon looses its sheen and I find myself yearning for a proper driving simulator experience. So, I was chomping at the bit to get my hands on Forza Motorsport this month, and boy…..it did not disappoint!
I am lucky enough to have a full racing sim setup, with wheel, shifter, pedals and racing seat. So my review will be based on the hours spent with this setup and Forza. As far as the experience with a standard controller? I had a brief play and yep felt fine, no major complaints.
Forza Motorsport and healthy competition
The obvious thing to get out of the way is how does Forza stack up against the flagship PS5 racing sim, Gran Turismo 7. As it’s the “other” big budget racing sim game out, comparisons will run through this review. And before the fan-boy label starts getting bandied about…I’m a Playstation-main. So as much as it pains me to say this up front.
Simply put…. Forza Motorsport is better than GT7 in every way that matters to me!
I have spent many, many hours in Gran Turismo on my PS5 and even though I’m only playing Forza Motorsport on an Xbox Series “S”, Forza is the superior experience, hands down. The PS5 game obviously looks better than my Series-S racer and I would loooove a Series “X” to match flagship to flagship. But, if we take the graphical comparisons out of the mix, the core sim-racing experience on offer in Forza is streets ahead.
There are subtle elements of the Forza Horizon experience which have cross pollinated into Forza Motorsport. That being the constant acknowledgement the game gives for just driving well. This comes in two forms. One, currency or money $ which is won in races to then be used to buy new cars. Two, Car Points (CP) which is essentially XP connected to a particular car. This levels up vehicles to unlock new parts, then is spent to buy upgrades, performance kits and accessories.
Around the web, there seems to be a fair bit of push back on this second currency, as it requires a ‘levelling-up’ of a car to get all the fast upgrades. But I like it. Its almost like a RPG in a sense, where you take a weapon of choice and grind it up to make it powerful. And its far from laborious, after say 8-10 races, most cars have the majority of upgrades unlocked. Its even faster if you drive well!
BREAKING: Cole Trickle drives Miss Daisy!
As I mentioned before – the constant acknowledgement the game gives for just driving well – is awesome. So, the better I drove, with better sector times being hit, the more CP I would earn. The pings or green sectors rewarded me with CP …..and a good dopamine hit. Just how Forza Horizon does so well. Be it a practice lap, qualifying, the big race, multiplayer or just freeplay…I was being rewarded with something. The game valued my time and efforts.
My major complaint with Gran Turismo was not the driving. It was EVERYTHING else. The “Car Cafe” stuff, the weird fitness tracker data and bad U.I, and the meanigless level-ups that have no cosequence on anything….it all just oozed snooty car culture drivel. Forza has NONE of that. It is an unashamed racer – drive a car, level it up, make it faster, win races.
I would argue that progression is too fast though. I have such fond memories of previous Forza (and GT games to be frank) of starting with a wee 1.3L mazda 323 or a Toyota Corolla and being a weekend warrior. Working through the club scene before hitting the powerful cars. But within 30mins of playing, I was it a Toyota Supra. Having fun for sure, but it felt like as far as a “Career Mode” goes, I had jumped a few steps.
I wish I had a Series-X for Forza Motorsport.
The unique vehicle interiors and tracks would look so good in 4K. Alas, the Series-S looks last gen. No 4K, not even 60fps at 1440p! And no raytracing at all. Simply put, plays great, awesome fun… looks like pretty average fam. I play 90% in cockpit view with my wheel, and I was shocked when I finally got a real racing car with graphics on the bonnet. What should have said “Goodyear” with a big number next to it, was a yellow blue blog of colour. Blurry and if I’m honest, just shockingly bad for a 2023 game.
Audio on the other hand is great. The gear changes and engine sounds are visceral. The lull of a stock-street gearshift compared to a ‘smack’ of a racing tuned gearbox, gives meaning to each change on my paddles. The roar or groan of a bad shift, would make me cringe, knowing I have just wasted a tenth for no good reason. The tuning avaiable for not only audio but accessability, assists and wheel-feedback is top notch as well. If you want to change something, you can probably do it. My racing wheel could feel the grass, the curb and even camber, making me a better driver on every lap. (God I love my wheel)
Forza Motorsport has been missing in action for 6 years, but its back baby! A proper Sim Racer with approachability for all, meaningful acknowledgment for time spent on track and an unapologetic complexitaty for those who want the Sim experiance.
Grant Turismo looks the part, but Forza Motorsport feels the part…and gimme “The Feels” any day of the week!