Forza Motorsport preview: A bold new direction

It’s been five years since we’ve seen a new Forza Motorsport speed off from the starting line, which is quite a left turn from Turn 10’s usual two-year development cycle. So, what does an extra three years of tinkering under the hood result in? Well, after dabbling with the Forza Motorsport preview that Turn 10 was kind enough to invite us to, it turns out that extra time has produced not only a gorgeous-looking Forza game but also a fresh and approachable RPG-like progression system that has me hooked. I’ve been jumping in and out of a preview build of Forza Motorsport for just over a week now, where I’ve had access to the game’s three-race tutorial series — the Builders Cup Intro Series. To tackle this series, I had three somewhat modest cars: a 2018 Ford Mustang, a 2018 Honda Civic Type R, and a 2019 Subaru STI S209. Eager to get underway, I picked the meaty Mustang in a delightful mustard-yellow color and spent the next hour or so blasting around Italy’s Mugello, South Africa’s Kyalami, and a new fictional track called Grand Oak.

Forza Motorsport’s new career mode is all about getting you to fall in love with cars in a new way and build a relationship with your chosen rides. In previous iterations and with many other racing games, progression mainly focuses on earning credits or money to unlock a more exciting, powerful car — it quickly becomes about collecting. While car collecting is obviously a big thing still in Forza Motorsport, what Turn 10 really wants you to do is go on a journey with a group of your favorite cars and build them up from stock machines into serious performers on the track.

Forza Motorsport career gameplay

This journey for me and my Mustang began with a practice session ahead of the first race of the series at Grand Oak, which is where I got my first look at the game’s stunning visuals. From the circuits to the cars (both of which are excellently detailed), a lot of love and time has been poured into Forza Motorsport to get it not only looking great but performing exceptionally well, too. On Xbox Series X|S, Forza Motorsport offers three graphics modes: Performance (4K 60 FPS), Performance RT (variable resolution with ray tracing at 60 FPS), and Visuals (4K 30 FPS). I spent most of my time in Performance RT and didn’t notice any resolution dips or dropped frames.

While the visuals are excellent, it’s the new RPG-like progression system called Car Mastery that impressed me the most. During a race (and practice laps), corners essentially become objectives that you have to complete, and depending on your approach, acceleration through a turn, and where you brake, you’ll be awarded Car XP and a score out of ten once you’ve finished that section of the track. It also encourages clean racing, which should deter players from ramming one another off the road (Playground, please bring this to the Forza Horizon series). This new, approachable XP system encourages you to be a better driver, and it makes completing the mandatory practice sessions ahead of each race worthwhile, as you’re actually getting something out of them.

Forza Motorsport 500 cars

Once you accumulate enough XP, your car level increases, and in turn, you unlock new parts to improve the performance of your chosen car. For the motor enthusiast out there, you’ll be able to experiment with different part combinations to squeeze every ounce of horsepower out of a car. Thankfully, for people like me who don’t know about intake manifolds and exhausts, there is an option where the game can pick the best setup for your car, saving you the trouble. You’ll want to upgrade your car after every race to make sure you’re getting the most out of it, but depending on the series’ class restriction, you’ll only be able to push it so far.

After completing practice, next comes strategy with the new Challenge the Grid system. This is where you can choose your starting position on the grid, change the difficulty, and race rules. It’s an interesting risk-reward system where the harder you make it for yourself, the more credits you’ll earn, which can then be spent on new cars. What’s handy here is that you can see your best practice lap time and slot yourself into the grid where you’d naturally fit for a more realistic qualifying experience… or you can just ignore it all and stick yourself in pole position for less credits but a better chance of winning. You can also fine-tune aspects of your car’s setup, such as the amount of fuel in your car and grip on your tires, for that extra edge.

Forza Motorsport

Out on the track, the racing and driving experience was excellent. The cars I used during the preview (the Mustang and the Civic) were both a lot of fun to drive and with the Mustang especially, there was this realistic heft to it that you could feel through the controller when its tires were struggling to grip the track. Turn 10 has put a lot of work into its physics and AI with Forza Motorsport, and it really shows in the physics department. For the AI, I never felt as if I was being treated unfairly, and races always remained competitive.

While the cars are fun to drive and the racing is thrilling, what I really love about time on the track is the XP system, which rewards you for overtakes and how well you navigate certain parts of the track. It’s this constant feedback about your driving that I loved, and it really pushed me to be faster — I can honestly say that I’ve never cared about split times in a racing game up until now.

Forza Motorsport price, editions, early access and more revealed as preorders go live

As for the Forza Motorsport achievements, I did actually unlock several in my time with the preview. These included reaching certain levels with cars, completing a race with no assists, and more. The full list wasn’t viewable, so it’s hard to say what’s to come (please don’t include the Underdog achievement again!), but we’ll have more on the Forza Motorsport achievements soon.

From the approachable new RPG-like progression system, the excellent visuals, and the competitive racing, it’s clear that Turn 10 has a winner on its hands here, and it’s looking likely that Forza Motorsport could be one of this generation’s best racing games.

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