I’m not exactly the target audience for simulation racing games. I like cool supercars and such, but I can get those in arcade-style racers. Basically, I don’t know the functional difference between a V6 and a V8; I’m not a car nut. I got into the Forza Motorsport series by surprise, because I needed a family-friendly launch game for the Xbox One back in the day. But ever since then, I’ve been all over this series, and while I do still prefer the likes of Forza Horizon, I was just as excited for the newly number-free Forza Motorsport as anyone. So, from the perspective of a Forza fan (if not a simulation racing fan), how does it stack up?
Pro: Is this real life?
The Forza series has been Microsoft’s graphical showcase for Xbox consoles for a while now, and while Forza Motorsport took some time to come out, it absolutely delivers on the promise of the Xbox Series X. There’s so much detail to the crowds and the tracks, to the point where I can tell what sort of fabric the seat covers are made of. While I know some have complained about the use of older models for some vehicles, overall everything looks top notch to me. I do wish the lighting in the main “showroom” area was better for really seeing all the details of cars, but they shine regardless. FM’s greatest graphical strength, though, is how it displays races in the rain. It’s hard to describe, and screenshots can only do so much, but trust me: it blows its competition out of the water (pun intended.) With the right camera angles, you might be able to convince someone they’re looking at a photo, except that the ray tracing makes reflections look too good to be true.
Pro: Front seat feeling
It’s one thing to nail the sights and sounds of real cars and racetracks; the Forza series has already made use of this console generation’s features as early as updates for Horizon 4. But what FM does better than any racing game I’ve ever played is the feel. A combination of force feedback from the controller and realistic physics makes playing Forza Motorsport feel like you’re really handling the weight and speed of your vehicle. Believe it or not, I don’t actually drive. But even I have no doubt that this game feels especially true to life.
Pro: Pimp my ride
This is nothing new, but I wanted to make sure to take a moment and appreciate the level of visual customization the Forza games allow for every car in your collection. People have already started making complex designs, and the array of paint types returns from past games. Given that all of this art has to be done freehand, and how hard it must be to moderate, I’m always impressed by both the players and the devs.
Con: Career suicide
Much has already been made about Forza Motorsport’s new career mode, Builder’s Cup. This new mode focuses on starting with a stock car and slowly upgrading and customize it over a series of five or so races. The concept is solid, but it brings with it a whole host of problems. For one, upgrading your cars is completely tied to your “car level” now, which means you have to spend a lot of time in each individual car if you want to fully customize or upgrade it. For another, because you’re meant to build up this car over time, you’re locked to one car per series (out of a relatively small assortment) and stuck with it for five or so races. For me, collecting a variety of cars has always been a draw of this series, so being stuck with just one per series feels like an unnecessary restriction.
Con: Glitchy trigger finger
While there have been improvements in this area since launch, the game still seems to have more than its fair share of bugs. While navigating through menus isn’t as challenging as it was at launch, the interface still feels pretty sluggish sometimes. And remember what I said about being able to visually customize your cars? It often takes the game a while to pull up those customizations, so when scrolling through your car collection, you may not see them. Fortunately, things do clear up once you’re on the track, though I’ve heard others describing issues with their racing wheels; I don’t have one, so I don’t know if that was ever fixed.
Mixed: Car go
It seems silly to say that a game launching with 20 tracks and over 500 cars is lacking in content, which is why I put this one in the “mixed” pile. But other games, including other games in this series, have outdone it. Certain series stalwarts were missing at launch, and in particular, the list of tracks is dwarfed by FM’s direct predecessor, Forza Motorsport 7. I have no doubt that the devs at Turn 10 would say they went for quality over quantity, but even so, it’s kind of pathetic.
Conclusion: See me, feel me
Forza Motorsport is not the best simulation racing game out there as a package, and it isn’t what I was hoping for. The career mode and lack of tracks really let it down, with the former especially making it hard to recommend to more casual players like myself. Casual racing fans are better off sticking to Forza Horizon 5, which is still getting updates. But despite the faults, Forza Motorsport IS the best simulation racing game out there at its core. The stunning visuals, customizability of cars and races, and unmatched feel make it worth a try for those who really love their cars. Over time, I do believe the lack of content and remaining glitches will be fixed, and when they are, I will solidly recommend this game for everyone. But in the meantime, leave it for the hardcore crowd or those who want to be wowed by new tech.
Do you need some speed?
If you’re really into cars and racing, or you want to see what your shiny new hardware can do, there’s plenty to enjoy here. But for more casual players, the lacking career mode makes it otherwise hard to recommend.