And Gotcha! Three laps of full throttle pursuit and I finally caught up with you. Behind the wheel of the Mustang GT, like a hunting dog, he follows the trail of the Civic Type-R, its insanely large wing and three tailpipes already filling my windshield as I hang onto his ass. Just in time, because we are in the last lap and there is only the last right-left-right passage ahead of us, which I have perfected. And at the end, we only have a bully in front of the finish line, and I’ll get him there. I hit the first right perfectly, but I turn left a fraction of a second later, the next right takes me over the curb and my ass runs out on the grass, and before I can even it out, my opponent is already in the dust and I’m following him ignominiously – and that I can be glad that I didn’t shoot it and finished.
Welcome to the world of motorsport, where victory and defeat, glory and damnation are decided by mere centimeters and tenths of a second. Welcome to the alternative world of Forza, where you can’t race through open country roads while listening to music, here you are confined to race tracks where you drive only and only at full throttle. The biggest fun here is not long skids and long jumps, broken fences and felled trees – in the Motorsport series it’s all about absolute precision when tuning a clean track, finding braking points and precise gas dosing.
So, achieving the driving championship by endlessly circling, finding the limits and improving hard should be a lot of fun to move from the open world of Horizon to the closed tracks of Motorsport. But Forza will reward you handsomely for your dedication to a clean track. During each training session and in the race, the game carefully evaluates your driving style, and for each perfectly driven segment of the track, you receive experience points, which you can then exchange for purchasing improvements for your car.
This is – of course in addition to the best lap time – a great motivation to keep pushing the saw and improving behind the wheel. But on the other hand, not all improvements are available from the start, but you get them only by leveling the car. This means that if your petrolhead mind tells you to first put on proper tires and stiffen the chassis, reduce weight and throw in better brakes… and only then start increasing the performance, it doesn’t work here. The first unlocks (for all cars the same) engine and transmission improvements (And unfortunately all available levels, not only the lower ones and later the higher ones.), after that the really important things for driving on the circuit.
That kind of sums up the whole new Forza Motorsport – it’s a mix of great, and somewhat less great or half-baked ideas. The creators talk about career and character development, but in reality it’s just gradually unlocking new championships with faster cars. In the championship itself, you do practice laps before each race, but you can start the race itself from any position you choose (which will affect the amount of credits earned). It’s as if the members of the development team can’t decide whether they want to draw you into the game or just let you ride as you please.
But still, you race absolutely famously. Right from the start you have at your disposal over 500 unique cars (from hot hatches and light sports cars to super sports to circuit and racing specials) and 20 tracks from all over the world (and not only the big ones like Barcelona, Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps, Le Mans , Suzuka or Indianapolis, but also smaller and lesser-known tracks such as Homestead-Miami Speedway, Lime Rock Park or Eaglerock Speedway and completely invented tracks such as Maple Valley, Grand Oak Raceway and Hakone) as well as many championships and other racing challenges (such as free track daye, competing with rivals for the best lap time or a lot of multiplayer options) – and cars, tracks and races will gradually increase, because the developers of Turn 10 really care about their products, so there is really no danger of falling into a trap after a few weeks of intense racing the boring mode of driving the same race over and over again to earn money for cars that have nowhere to race anyway – just like in Gran Turismo.
This comparison with the competition from the Sony Playstation stable is directly offered, because both games target the same audience and go about it quite similarly. In a way that is close enough to simulation to still be fun for the casual player. So that you can enjoy it even without a steering wheel, pedals and tens of hours of training, but only with a gamepad in your hand in a moment of free time and with the desire to really smash someone on the track in your dream car.
But of course there are differences – the new Forza looks a lot better, especially on a more powerful X-Box Series X or a really beefed-up computer, where you can turn on “Quality mode” with an emphasis on sophisticated graphics (there is also a Performance mode guaranteeing a brisk 60 fps display even on Series S and slower “PCs”) and enjoy all the elaborate details of tracks and cars, the play of light and shadows, weather changes and similar visual delights.
Gran Turismo counters with a slightly more realistic driving model of the cars, but even in Forza Motorsport you can clearly feel the differences in the dynamics of the cars. You can clearly tell front-wheel from rear-wheel or four-wheel drive, you can sense the differences in the behavior of a front- or mid-engined car, and you enjoy throwing the Miata from corner to corner, when the M3 E30 dances on its tiptoes… and a little less when the Mustang rolls bluntly out of the turns or, on the contrary, runs butt-first. You will also immediately feel the effect of the improvements – tighter sound with a new exhaust, better handling thanks to stiffer anti-roll bars, more grip with new tires, a more powerful engine that brings faster acceleration that will push you into the seats… erm, well, it’s not such a realistic experience that you feel the gecko at home on the couch watching TV.
Forza Motorsport is therefore noticeably more realistic than Horizon, but still enough to entertain not only experienced digital racers, but recreational ones as well. After all, the detailed settings of the driving assistance, the speed and cleverness of the opponents, the severity of the game and the response of the controls allow you to set the difficulty of the game exactly according to your driving and gaming skills. And there’s still the option to choose your starting position, so you never have to watch sadly as the entire starting field happily runs away (and vice versa). Everyone will enjoy racing to their heart’s content from the very first moments behind the wheel. That is, if you don’t get poisoned by bugs…
And they are blessed after all. Maybe the rivals can’t keep up with the computer control when driving in a pack, so it’s no problem to overtake ten cars right at the start, and then chase a few fast escapees for the rest of the race. They will also like to bump into you, and sometimes it will be out of spite, because the penalty for collisions and for exceeding the track limits (penalty tenths of seconds are added to the final time) is not completely consistent. But the opponents still act more like racers (some are aggressive, others occasionally make a mistake and fly off the track, etc.) and less like rolling bullies (like in GT), so it’s not a complete mess.
In a career focused on improving your own car, the league of racing cars is completely missing (they will probably be added gradually), moreover, the prices of cars do not correspond to reality (not even the in-game one) – so for the same “money” you can buy an iconic Ferrari 250 GTO or a completely ordinary Ferrari Roma. Because the prices are set according to performance, not real value, so there is no boring money grinding to save tens of millions for the dream car legend, which is good. But in this form it is again a strange disparity.
Also, the level of graphics varies a lot from circuit to circuit, car to car – and especially platform to platform. On X-Box, the game is very decently tuned, but PC users complain about more errors and slower framerate. It is certain that most of the bugs (and there is indeed a very long official list of reported issues) will be fixed by the developers soon, and more improvements will follow in the coming months (which is unfortunately typical of the current state of the gaming industry), but…
But still, we have somewhat conflicting feelings while playing. The racing itself is great fun, there are really countless cars and the tracks are elaborate and cool, but the career should have been much more elaborate, unlocking upgrades in this form does not make much sense, and some other mechanisms could have been tightened up. In its current form, Forza Motorsport represents a great platform for fun virtual racing (especially in multiplayer), but future updates will show how good a racing game it really is.