It's been a long time coming, but developer Turn 10 has finally rounded the bend to deliver its vision for next-gen racing on Xbox Series X and S - yep, Forza Motorsport is here. We've been waiting for this one since 2017's Forza Motorsport 7 brought gorgeous 4K / 60FPS racing to Xbox One X, but the question is, does the new title live up to expectations? And just how different is it from the Xbox One era of Forza? Let's dive in.
On loading up Forza Motorsport, you're dropped into a few introductory races and what immediately stands out is the audio upgrade. If you have a decent speaker setup you'll be blasted into kingdom come when you first hear an engine roar in this game - it's that good. You'll notice every engine blip, every exhaust pop, and every tarmac zip & crackle as you belt around your first few laps here. The sound design in Forza Motorsport is absolutely incredible and for our money has now become the benchmark for console racing.
The visual presentation is top notch as well. We opted for the 'Performance RT' mode throughout most of our review time, and this option strikes a lovely balance between good performance and next-gen rendering techniques. It might not immediately look like a generational leap from FM7, but the more you play the more it impresses. The new lighting model is so much more authentic than past titles, and the ray tracing features make the whole game look more realistic and less 'plastic' or 'gamey'. It's hard to describe, but once you've put a bunch of hours into Forza Motorsport you'll know what we mean - this is a gorgeous video game throughout.
Once Forza is done slapping your eyes and ears with its introductory riot, you're quickly thrown into the game's career mode - mostly based around the much-touted 'Builders Cup'. It's here where the meat of your single player experience lies, and it's a bit of a mixed bag all told.
The good news here is that the campaign does a decent job at showcasing the huge range of vehicles on offer in Forza Motorsport, and it really does feel like you progress from familiar hot hatches to speedy supercars at a steady enough rate - as has been spoken about a lot in the run up to launch. Later events that feature higher-end rides are gated off from the get-go, so you'll have to earn your right to drive the very best cars in the business. It's all very steady, assured, composed - and if you've been looking for a Forza career mode that slowly ramps up, as opposed to Horizon's bombastic here's-everything-all-at-once approach, we think you'll get on with this one quite nicely.
However, the Builders Cup and its accompanying events aren't without fault. While the whole experience feels like you truly earn your way over a satisfying career, it's all a bit vanilla in its execution. You have a fairly standard list of events and tournaments to tackle, and there's not much in the way of variety - at least at launch. We hate to start comparing to Gran Turismo this early, but, the sheer breadth of content packed into the likes of GT7 is impressive, and Forza Motorsport never really gets close in its current state. There's nothing to match GT's licenses, music races, café collections, used car dealers, 'scapes' and all the rest of it. Heck, there isn't even an auction house in this iteration of Forza.
And we don't just namedrop those GT features for the sake of comparison, they truly add variety and longevity to a genre that can feel a bit one-note at times - something Forza Motorsport struggles to avoid. The way that FM presents its career mode makes us think that it'll probably be built out with a lot more events after launch — which is fine as long as they're free — but we can only judge what's in front of us. The practice sessions that take place between event races do little to add any meaningful variety to proceedings, and we'd have liked Forza Motorsport to deliver a bit more with its career mode on day one.
This lack of variety extends to the track selection in Forza as well. While we have no issue with the number of unique track locations at launch — 20 is just fine for us — the actual variation on offer with the tracks themselves is lacking. A handful of these look and feel very similar to drive around, and we're missing real-life staples like Nordschleife, Monza, Yas Marina and more. Similarly, recent fictional series staples like Bernese Alps, Rio and Dubai are missing - adding to the feeling that Forza Motorsport is lacking in a bit of its own unique flavour. Some of these tracks have already been named as DLC drops, so they're coming, but they're not here on day one and that's a bit of a shame.
Where Turn 10 has got things right is in its car selection. The new Forza Motorsport contains more than 500 cars right from the off, and there's pretty much everything you'd want in here. We've crashed around tight circuits in hot hatches, put pedal to the metal in real racing cars along Le Mans' famous Mulsanne Straight, and pretty much everything in between. Sure, plenty of these cars have featured in past Forza titles, but given the extensive nature of the series you can't really mark the team down for that - and we have zero complaints about the day one car selection.
If you want to get stuck into that car roster as quickly as possible, the game's 'Free Play' feature is where to go. This arcade-style mode lets you jump into any vehicle on any track right away, with plenty of rules and regulations to tweak to your heart's content. We've dipped in here a few times to try out some of the fastest cars in the game, and that's a lot of fun in its own right. Career mode will no-doubt gobble up most of your attention at the start, but don't skip over this one - especially if you want to experience a true sense of speed from some of the more powerful rides in Forza Motorsport.
Now, let's talk multiplayer for a moment here. We dove into one of the organised multiplayer sessions put on by Turn 10 during our review period, working our way through a selection of Qualifier events to earn an overall driver rating. The dev team is very much trying to promote clean racing in Forza Motorsport multiplayer, and as you'd probably guess, it all comes down to the folks you're playing with at any given time.
We had some fantastic races where every driver stuck to the racing line as closely as possible to deliver fast but respectable wheel-to-wheel racing, and we also took part in some absolutely chaotic rounds - even resulting in being belted into the tyre wall on the very first corner at one stage. While Turn 10's new rating system should weed out any bad eggs from future races, that's all based on how things progress, and your mileage may vary on day one - just keep that in mind. Even with a limited & mixed experience here, multiplayer was really good fun and we could see ourselves giving it plenty of attention if the rating system works its magic over time.
All of Forza Motorsport's fresh modes, cars and tracks are backed up by a new physics system - one that Turn 10 has worked on for years as the series took a well-earned break. The changes here feel subtle overall but we can confidently say that out on the track, this is the best-feeling Forza game to date. You seem much more connected to the road in this new title, and generally speaking, the nuances tucked into each car's handling characteristics are better defined than ever before. We will say that we've only played with a controller so far, and are curious to hear what wheel users think of Turn 10's latest effort when it's unleashed into the wild.
Forza Motorsport feels like a game that's set up for the future. The technical underpinnings on show in Turn 10's Xbox Series X|S debut are remarkable, and this sort of solid foundation is always a good start. While there's still hours and hours of fun to be had with what is here, genre fans will quickly be reminded of what's missing - making the new FM feel like a launch pad for what's to come rather than a complete experience at launch. When Turn 10 gets around to adding more unique career events, tracks and bonus features, this could become one of the very best sim racers ever to grace Xbox. For now, it's a brilliant effort that doesn't quite finish in first place.