Creating a high-quality car simulator is almost an art. The main thing here is to be able to keep the balance. If you overdo the realism a bit, the game will be interesting only to a small handful of fans (yes, there are millions of them around the world, but not tens of millions) who already have favorite games that they have been attached to for years. If you fall short, players will dismiss your game as an arcade game, something like Need for Speed and The Crew Motorfest. So, yes, creating a high-quality car sim that will win the favor of the public is primarily about the ability to keep a balance. And it seems that the authors of the new Forza Motorsport are good at it.

Game Forza Motorsport
Genre racing simulator
Platforms Windows, Xbox Series X|S
Languages English
Developer Turn 10 Studios
Publisher Xbox Game Studios

Ability to keep a balance

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of car simulators, I prefer car arcades like Forza Horizon 5.
Despite all my complaints about this game, I spent 343 hours on it and will most likely come back for more.

But I’m a Formula 1 fan, so I’m interested in racing and couldn’t pass by the F1 simulation series from Codemasters / EA Sports. Starting to play on a low difficulty level, I gradually got involved and started turning off all the help, increasing the level of opponents and simulations, eventually began to enjoy the complexity of the game and reached the multiplayer, which is quite difficult in this series.

I adopted the same method when I got acquainted with Forza Motorsport. At first, I used a low level of complexity, braking assistance, a perfect trajectory tape, marking the boundaries of the track, etc. But after F1, which, by the way, has almost the same simulation and assistance settings, the adaptation was much faster and on the second day I turned off all the assistance, all the markings and raised the difficulty level of opponents to 5, and now I’m looking at 6. And as soon as the game was officially released (thanks to the press version, I started playing two weeks before the release), I plunged into multiplayer and even got an S-rating and took several podiums and poles.

The ability to flexibly customize the game to meet the needs of both novice and pro pilots is a sign of a masterful balance, and the authors of the new Forza Motorsport seem to have achieved it. It’s a simulator for everyone, and you can really customize it to your own level.

For example, fans of hardcore simulations, such as iRacing, played by real Formula 1 drivers Max Verstappen and Lando Norris, rFactor 2 or Assetto Corsa / Assetto Corsa Competizione, they will say that it’s all pop, fake and not 100% true. I won’t argue with that.

However, iRacing, rFactor 2, and Assetto Corsa / Assetto Corsa Competizione already have their regular and not really a very large audience that is hardly growing. And it is unlikely that hardcore rules and 100% simulation will attract new racing fans to these games. But the balanced approach demonstrated by Forza Motorsport will attract them. And maybe, sometime later, a small part of these players will move on to hardcore sims. So I vote for Forza Motorsport.

This is not Forza Horizon!

Forza Motorsport is the eighth installment of the series of motor sports simulators from Turn 10 Studios and Microsoft / Xbox Game Studios. But the last, seventh part of the game was released back in 2017, so Microsoft decided to reset the counter and gently reboot the series.

The series, which has been out since 2005, was conceived as a direct competitor to Polyphony Digital/Sony’s Gran Turismo and was supposed to sell players Microsoft consoles, and was pushed into the background by the more arcade-based spin-off series Forza Horizon. The Forza Horizon sub-series began to be released in 2012 and was so successful that it literally crushed all other arcade races.

That’s how it happened that since 2017, two Forza Horizons (plus four major DLCs for these games) have been released, but not a single Forza Motorsport. On the other hand, Sony took its time: Gran Turismo 6 was released in 2013, and its replacement Gran Turismo 7 was released only in 2022.

In any case, those who have already forgotten that Forza Horizon and Forza Motorsport are completely different series should be reminded of the difference.

Firstly, while Forza Horizon occupies a niche from arcade to semi-sim, Forza Motorsport takes on the segment from light to full-fledged sims, trying not to enter the territory of hardcore sims. Secondly, unlike Horizon, Forza Motorsport does not have an open world, which means no racing on public roads, no off-road racing, and no point-to-point racing at all. Only real or fictional circular tracks, only asphalt.

Accordingly, there are no SUVs, buggies, rally cars, toy cars, etc. in Forza Motorsport. Only realistic cars for racing on asphalt of different classes and eras.

In general, Forza Motorsport has no place for the reckless atmosphere of Forza Horizon. Everything here is serious and at first glance even a little boring. Winding dozens of laps around the same track in a desperate attempt to improve your lap by a fraction of a second. Mandatory practice, qualifying, where it is provided, and racing for 5-30 laps, sometimes with mandatory pit stops. But damn, what a satisfaction you get when you shave another 0.010 seconds off your lap, or take the pole in a network race. It’s all worth it!

The art of racing in the rain

Forza Motorsport is undoubtedly impressive for its graphics. At first, you may not even notice all the beauty of the game, especially if you prefer the camera behind the car (too far away) or in the cabin (almost nothing is visible). So we recommend that you at least switch to the camera above the hood from time to time… and it would be better if your car doesn’t have some colorful livery.

Ray Tracing works 100% in Forza Motorsport. Perhaps this is the best of the modern games in terms of ray tracing implementation. The metal of the hood reflects everything that surrounds the track, fences, stands, lights, trees, even individual leaves, it seems. And although RT looks a bit paler and calmer in real life than we were shown in the marketing videos, it’s still stunning. So, yes, switch to the hood camera from time to time, if only to justify having an RT-enabled graphics card.

The ray tracing looks especially impressive in the rain, of course, and even better in the rain at dusk or at night. In fact, dynamic weather and time changes are the second coolest feature of Forza Motorsport. The race can start at dawn, when a thick, patchy fog envelops the track (where is the FIA looking, racing is prohibited in such poor visibility!), and after a few laps the sun will start to rise, chasing away, thinning the fog and starting to blind your eyes in some corners.

Or a light drizzle during practice gradually becomes more abundant to turn into a real downpour during the race (FIA, hello?!). In this case, the characteristics of the track change, there are wetter areas and a trajectory that is slightly dried out by the tires of the cars, braking points change, curbs become dangerous, and so on. It’s always interesting to adapt to changes in weather and track conditions.

Heck, even a trivial change in time significantly changes the impression of the track. The sun is blinding in other corners, forcing you to brake earlier instinctively, the environment shrinks at night, the usual landmarks for choosing the moment of braking dissolve in the darkness, and it becomes much more difficult to find the perfect apex trajectory.

In single-player campaign races, time passes several times faster than in reality, so for more drama, dusk can change to night in a few laps. But in free play, you can customize the real time. Among the interesting settings for free play, you can also see the degree of track compaction, i.e. covering the asphalt with pieces of used tires, as well as the speed of compaction. Perhaps something like this exists in hardcore sims, but this is the first time I’ve seen such a setting.

The art of mastering a car

Unlike Forza Horizon, cars in Forza Motorsport do not fall from the Wheel of Fortune by the dozens per hour. You can only win one (1) car at the end of a series of 4 tournaments, which is 20-22 races. And in general, there are only 5 such series in the game so far, plus the Featured Race series, which are updated weekly and last a month.

All cars in Forza Motorsport must be purchased. They cost a lot of money, especially hypercars, top series cars, and antique cars, and you won’t get much money for racing. This is where the Deluxe Edition of the game can come in handy, which includes a VIP bonus that almost doubles your winnings.

As for the cars, you have already seen almost the entire fleet in Forza Horizon 5 and Gran Turismo 7. Again, there are not many interesting cars for real racing. Among the new products are the 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray hybrid, the new 2023 Nissan Z, 2023 Lotus Emira, and 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06, as well as the Cadillac V-Series.R hybrid prototypes that participate in the FIA World Endurance Championship, including the Le Mans 24-Hour Race.

Currently, Forza Motorsport has more than 500 cars and, of course, as is always the case with Forza games, the developers will be adding new cars.

As for the car acquisition, which is criticized by some players, it does create problems. A newly purchased car has very few upgrade options, meaning that you can’t build your dream car on the basis of any car. First, you need to drive a lot of laps in this car, increasing the skill level for this particular car. The best way to do this is during training: here you can gain more experience by looking for the perfect trajectory and improving your results on key sections of the track. But yes, it takes 5-6 hours to upgrade a car to level 50, which opens up the possibility of a total upgrade with a change of chassis and engine. And yes, it is indeed a grind, but it is also an opportunity to learn the tracks and really master the car.

Ability to avoid trouble

The key to success in racing, especially in online racing, is the ability to avoid trouble. And they are bound to happen: a pile-up in the first corner, a jostling in narrow bends, problems with the wrong tires, traffic during qualifying, cars that have turned around or are dangerously returning to the track. The ability to react in time, slow down, and perhaps even give way can save your race. This is especially important on the Web, where there is no life-saving Rewind function.

In order to start playing online, you must first complete three qualifying races, after which you will receive a skill rating and, more importantly, a safety rating. According to these two parameters, you will be matched with opponents. And if skill only affects your level of dissatisfaction with your own driving ability, then the safety rating should theoretically affect your enjoyment of racing without dirty tricks and rude behavior from your opponents.

If you push too much, interfering with others, or violate the track boundaries trying to cut a chicane, you will get a downgrade and compete with rude people like yourself. If you pilot cleanly, respecting others, you will get exactly the same polite rivals. It’s just like in real sports. But…

The rules here are enforced by AI, so they are not very clear and do not always work as they should. Sometimes you can get a penalty for a small violation of the track boundaries and not get a penalty for a huge cut-off piece overtaking your opponent, which is actually quite unfair and should be punished with a large fine. The same goes for pushing. Sometimes you can get a penalty for a light touch to an opponent that doesn’t lead to any change in position or advantage, and not get a penalty for deliberately provoking a terrible accident involving five cars. It’s a bit frustrating.

So, after qualifying, I received the highest safety rating of S, which I held for 8 races. Then I was brazenly pushed off the track several times with a U-turn and I was the one who received the penalty for it! And of course, the next time the rating was recalculated, I was downgraded. It’s not fair!

In addition, players are players, and over the course of the week they gradually found ways to break the rules, even pushing the opponent out without incurring a penalty. It’s a classic. So the safety rating system is a really good thing, but it still needs to be improved.

Ability to correct errors

In general, Forza Motorsport runs very well on my PC (Intel Core i5-13600KF 3.5GHz s1700 and ASUS DUAL-RTX4070-O12G), delivering 55-60 frames per second with Ultra settings (DLSS Quality).

Interestingly, before the release, the game was surprisingly stable, never crashing. But after the release, Forza Motorsport crashed several times, especially when calling up network functions, entering or exiting multiplayer. On forums, players notice similar problems with the stability of the game on PC.

Forza Motorsport uses the ForzaTech engine, the same one used in Forza Horizon. And it seems to have inherited the instability of Forza Horizon 4 and Forza Horizon 5 on different PC configurations. At the same time, the Xbox Series X/S seems to have no such problems.

In addition, several times during night and rainy races, the track surface literally disappeared: it seemed as if it did not have time to load. Of course, it is somewhat inconvenient to drive with a transparent “floor”. After the game was released and the drivers were updated, such problems almost disappeared.

Let’s hope that Turn 10 Studios will work on the bugs and improve the stability of the game on PC.

Forza Motorsport vs Gran Turismo 7

Attentive readers may have noticed that I’m not comparing Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo 7 directly. In fact, it makes no sense. These games live in different worlds and will never meet each other in direct confrontation. Forza Motorsport will not appear on Sony’s platform, and it is unlikely that Gran Turismo will be released on PC like other Sony games, although this option is being considered. So how and why should we compare them?

Again, I haven’t played enough Gran Turismo 7 to draw any conclusions, and Sergiy Svetlychny hasn’t played enough Forza Motorsport. But in general, it seemed to me that the level of simulation, difficulty settings, etc. are about the same here (by the way, how is it with the difference in the behavior of warmed and unheated tires on the pit lap in Gran Turismo 7?), although Sergey claims that Forza Motorsport cars are much more stable than in Gran Turismo 7, but this is a controversial issue that still needs to be studied. Yes, Forza Motorsport has a magical Rewind function that will save you from mistakes, but it doesn’t work on the highest difficulty level, i.e. sport rules, and of course, it doesn’t work in multiplayer.

So Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo 7 can only be compared in terms of numbers. Well, Gran Turismo 7 has a lot more tracks – 37 tracks in more than 100 configurations versus 22 tracks in 48 configurations in Forza Motorsport. And this is really a problem that we hope the developers will solve, because there are not enough tracks. But Forza Motorsport has a little more cars – 500 versus 484 in Gran Turismo 7. The developers of both games add cars about once a month, so this number will grow.

Either way, the choice between Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo 7 is really a choice between platforms. If you’re a PC and Xbox fan, Forza Motorsport is your game, if you’re a Sony guy, Gran Turismo 7 is your game. On the other hand, I think that hardcore simulation players should choose Forza Motorsport, because despite the fact that both games work flawlessly with gamepads, the number of simulation peripherals for PC is much larger than for consoles, and Gran Turismo 7 is not yet available on PC.

On the other hand, Sony has created a real eSports platform and training academy for real racers based on Gran Turismo, which Microsoft is not likely to do.

She’s here for a long time

Microsoft and Turn 10 Studios have been supporting Forza Motorsport 7 for over 6 years. Most likely, Forza Motorsport 2023 will also be supported for 5-6 years. So by choosing this game, you are choosing it for a long time. And whether it is worth it, whether your PC can handle the game, you can find out for yourself. Forza Motorsport is part of Xbox / PC Game Pass, so what else are you waiting for?