Forza Motorsport review: Reboot racing fun that can’t keep up with the classics

Kurt Perry
Forza Motorsport GT race in free play at night time on Le Mans.

It’s been six years since the last mainline Forza game was released, with Horizon taking the limelight in its absence. Now that Forza Motorsport is finally back, has it done enough to retake its spot in pole position or does this highly anticipated reboot crash out before the finish?

Although most recognize Forza these days for its open-world spin-off games, that wasn’t always the case. Up until Forza Motorsport 4, the mainline series was all that existed and these iconic earlier titles remain fan favorites to this day.

However, over time, the Motorsport games lost their charm with 5 lacking content, 6 being tarnished by gimmicky mechanics, and 7 being arguably the weakest entry in the series to date. The franchise isn’t dead by any means, but it’s no longer the undisputed market leader that it once was.

The promise of an ambitious reboot that takes the franchise back to its roots has its appeal. Forza Motorsport has the opportunity to rebirth the series anew, and in many ways, that’s exactly what Turn 10 has done – but Forza’s latest entry isn’t perfect.

Forza Motorsport: Key details

  • Price: $69.99/£69.99
  • Developer: Turn 10 Studios
  • Release Date: October 10, 2023
  • Platforms: Xbox Series X|S & PC

The on-track experience is where Forza excels

Those who have played previous Forza Motorsport games already know exactly how this reboot drives -and that’s not a bad thing. Forza has always offered the best balance of accessibility and racing potential of any in its class on the market and its newest installment is no exception.

This reboot isn’t some lazy copy-and-paste job, though. Building on the already excellent physics, Forza Motorsport introduces impactful mechanics like qualifying, penalties, and pit strategies. These elevate racing to a level the franchise hasn’t reached before, edging it closer to race sim territory.

Classic F1 cars racing at Suzuka in Forza Motorsport.
When you’re behind the wheel, Forza Motorsport delivers a fantastic experience.

Yet it does this without compromising accessibility, something most of its competitors are frankly hopeless at. This is evident from the exceptional accessibility settings, which are amongst the most impressive we’ve ever seen in not just a racing game, but any game altogether. This reboot manages to respect both newcomers and sim racing veterans alike, a balance that is tough to strike.

The racing experience isn’t hurt by the excellent track list either. The 20 launch tracks include fan favorites like Catalunya, Mugello, and Laguna Seca. The list isn’t just made up of returning circuits, however, with Kyalami and even fictional courses like Eaglerock Speedway making their debuts too. While it is a shorter track list, a lot of the weaker circuits were cut this time around.

Build cars up for the Builders Cup

The Builders Cup is the single-player career in Forza Motorsport. As of launch, it is made up of 16 unique events across five tours, each with its own entry requirements. Beyond that, there are an additional five showcase events where you get to try out each Tour’s prize car.

Events typically last around an hour each, so there’s a good amount of content to work through already. Turn 10 will also be adding additional Featured Tours that will offer more races and unique cars for players to earn throughout the game’s lifespan.

The premise of the Builders Cup is that you build up your car race by race and get quicker as the series progresses. This is done through the new car leveling system where players are rewarded car XP for driving quickly and cleanly in both practice and on race day.

Featured Tours from Builder Cup single player career in Forza Motorsport.
Featured Tours will be rotated into the Builders Cup giving players plenty to look forward to.

Most upgrade parts are level-restricted. More impactful upgrades like engine swaps and weight reduction require higher levels and can take a while to unlock. After unlocking upgrades you don’t buy them with credits anymore. Instead, they are purchased with Car Points (CP), which restrict how many upgrades you can equip at once.

This new system will be divisive, as it strays so far from Forza’s roots. However, we really enjoy it as it emphasizes the value of each car you own. You aren’t going to collect hundreds of vehicles you never touch this time around. Every car in your garage needs time put into it to make it useful creating a memorable journey as you take some D-class tractor and gradually evolve it into something special.

AI but without the intelligence

Leading up to the release of Forza Motorsport, Turn 10 was adamant that it would feature the most impressive AI in the series. Creative Director Chris Esaki even went out of his way to showcase how much faster the reboot’s AI would be compared to Forza Motorsport 7.

In some ways, this is true. At its best, the AI is more competent than ever. They take aggressive lines that allow for time gains that just didn’t exist previously. In an isolated time trial environment, the AI is impressive – but that’s not how racing works.

We encountered two massive problems with the AI that somewhat spoiled the single-player racing experience. First, they are petrified to go wheel to wheel and will back out of every move imaginable. The AI drives as though there’s a magical repellent on your car that pushes them away. This is so aggressive that sometimes they will just turn off the track into a wall for no reason just to stay away from you.

Forza Motorsport results for race with AI pace behind extremely inconsistent.
The absurd pace gap between the frontrunners and other drivers makes finding a suitable difficulty an impossible task.

The even bigger problem is that the frontrunners are usually several seconds a lap quicker than everyone. This pace is unsustainable, especially on higher difficulties where you’ll need to put up world-record lap times just to keep up. It’s a form of poorly implemented artificial difficulty that has no place in what is supposed to be a serious racing game.

Taking your ride online

Multiplayer is the area of Forza Motorsport that has received the biggest improvements this year. These innovations are centered around the introduction of the Qualifier Series and the new racing weekend format utilized in Featured Multiplayer.

Before racing online, you’ll need to partake in three qualifying events. These introduce the new multiplayer format with the race weekend consisting of practice, qualifying, and race day. If you join a session early, you will have around 10-15 minutes to practice followed by three hot laps to set the best time possible which determines your starting grid position.

Once all three races are cleared, you will be given a Skill Rating and a Safety Rating based on your performance. These are used to match you with similarly skilled opponents across all multiplayer events. If you perform well and get good ratings, the likelihood of you being placed in more competitive lobbies is improved. That’s right: Forza has skill-based matchmaking

But before you grab the pitchforks, we promise this is a good thing.

Featured Multiplayer qualifier race in Forza Motorsport on Laguna Seca.
Multiplayer racing is as fun as ever providing the best wheel-to-wheel action Forza has to offer.

This is the solution that Forza has needed for years to fix the absolute state that is online racing. Good players now get rewarded with better lobbies and can race seriously without having to rely on dedicated leagues. Equally, slower players aren’t going to be left in the dust anymore and can even earn a spot in those faster lobbies bettering themselves against similarly skilled opposition.

It gives everyone something to work toward, striving to improve their SR rather than be left frustrated by some hidden MMR system working behind the scenes. This is a fantastic implementation of multiplayer that caters to all audiences in a way most other games just can’t.

Under the hood

Unsurprisingly, Forza Motorsport is an absolutely gorgeous game that features some of the most impressive visuals out there. The revamped track environments are beautiful giving you plenty to admire as you race around the world’s best circuits. This is one area where the developer’s “built from the ground up,” claims are evident with both returning and new tracks looking equally incredible.

Sadly, the same isn’t true for the game’s car models, which vary in quality. As expected the newer models and even models lifted from newer entries are stunning and benefit from remarkable attention to detail in their designs. However, there are plenty of older car models here that haven’t aged well, especially since some are well over 10 years old. You really don’t need to be a car enthusiast to tell them apart even at just a glance.

BMW racing through beautiful Maple Valley in Forza Motorsport.
Forza Motorsport has some breathtaking environments on max settings.

A massive positive for Forza Motorsport is that its performance on PC was practically flawless for us. Using an RTX 3060 Ti and Ryzen 5 5600X at 1440p, High settings, it comfortably remained in three figures usually settling around the 120 FPS mark. With competitive settings, we were able to get this as high as 160 FPS which is ideal for competitive racing.

At least it would be ideal if there wasn’t a frame rate cap applied in multiplayer. For some reason, this FPS cap was locked to 72 for us despite Turn 10 claiming it would be a 60 FPS lock to “ensure a consistent and competitive online racing experience.”

The most likely reason this is in place is because Forza’s game engine has been known to suffer from inconsistent physics, potentially resulting in time gains at high frame rates. This was problematic in Forza Horizon 5 where time could be gained by just having a powerful rig. Either way, it’s not a good look, and preventing PC players from utilizing their hardware will not be a popular decision.

Verdict – 4/5

Though it’s not as good as the classics, Forza Motorsport is still the best entry in the series since the beginning of the Xbox One era. The massive strides made on track and creative RPG leveling mechanics let it appeal to both racing game veterans and newbies alike. It’s just a shame that the bizarre AI behavior and frustrating FPS restrictions in multiplayer hurt what is an otherwise superb racing experience.