Forza Motorsport Preview: Becoming Your Fastest Self

Forza Motorsport Preview: Becoming Your Fastest Self

It’s been four years since the last Forza Motorsport game was released, and a fair while since Forza Motorsport 7 was removed from the Xbox digital store, and I have to admit that my curiosity about the new game has been killing me. So, when Xbox invited me to LA to try out a demo, I jumped at the chance to find out if all that time had been poured into better puddle reflections, or to reinvent what Forza Motorsport is as a franchise. I’m pleased to report that, while the demo was extremely short (only around 45mins, and it was only that long because I was a completionist), it appears Turn 10 has taken Forza Motorsport back to the drawing board.

Unlocking Your Fastest Self in Forza Motorsport

The above heading sounds like the tagline on a multi-level marketing scheme for a range of racing-themed essential oils. But that’s the line that the developers kept using when talking about this new Forza Motorsport. That flows not just from your learning how to take corners real good, but into learning how to upgrade your car to make it perform better.

The demo I played was just three races, and part of The Builders’ Cup. The Builders’ Cup, as the name suggests, is all about upgrading and building your car. It’s about taking a medium-fancy Subaru (or another mid-tier starter car) and turning it into a racing beast as the championship progresses.

There are two things that really struck me in the initial 45 minutes:

  1. The controls are a bit different.
  2. This is no longer a racing game about accumulating many cars.

The controls require you to be more precise. Not to a Gran Turismo level of unforgiving, but in a more realistic way. You can’t just brake your way through turns — you have to actually work with the car to achieve a clean turn. I have more than 15 years of muscle memory I need to overcome to get the hang of these newer controls, but I don’t hate them. They make sense.

Normally I get a bit angry when The Way We’ve Always Done Things in a franchise is turned upside down for the sake of making it harder (I’m making direct eye contact with you, NBA 2K). But in Forza Motorsport, I can see why the change was made. It’s more like how I would drive these actual cars. I have been incredibly lucky to drive a lot of racing cars and supercars over the last decade, and the old Motorsport controls didn’t quite match up to the experience in hindsight. They were fine for a video game, but weren’t quite right for a sim. This feels more accurate, particularly the turning. Granted, it’s harder, but I adjusted pretty quickly, and I’m sure over the dozens of hours I’ll spend in this game at launch I’ll get better.

Removing the focus on accumulation is the biggest breath of fresh air, though. The last few Forzas Motorsport (Editor’s note: That is the correct plural, I triple-checked. — David) just wanted you to get bigger and bigger garages stuffed with more and more cars. This game, by contrast, doesn’t want you to touch 90% of the cars available. It just wants you to find the few you genuinely enjoy, and then level up and upgrade those cars. I found the grind for endless credits to spend on digital cars I might drive once (or not at all) exhausting and unrewarding, which is why I barely played the last two Motorsport games after I finished reviewing them.

Working on truly understanding a car inside and out, and then using that information to find ways of making it and you faster seems like a much more exciting prospect.

I must admit that my understanding of tinkering with a car is limited. In games, I focus on making the numbers bigger and green, instead of smaller and red, and then I drive them. I don’t even own a car in real life, I have push bikes. But already, just in this small demo, I feel like I understand a bit more about how to improve a car. That seems like a tangible benefit.


Close up of wheel in Forza Motorsport
Image: Turn 10 studios

I am so pleased that game developers are finally taking accessibility in games more seriously. It’s long overdue. I wish it was simply expected, rather than something to be applauded, but at this point it’s still considered an expensive and difficult addition to any game, so Turn 10 deserves major praise for its commitment to making sure blind and low-vision players can play Forza Motorsport.

Making a game that demands split-second reactions based on visual cues somehow blind-accessible sounds kind of impossible, but based on my experience attempting to play FM with my eyes closed, I think they nailed it. There are many different audio cues you can turn on — when you change gears, when to turn, how close you are on either side, what’s around. It’s what I imagine it sounds like when bats go rally-driving.

Having all of them turned on at once while also being able to see was a bit of sensory overload, but it’s great that there are so many options that can be individually turned on and off so people can find the balance that works best for them.

It’s fantastic that Turn 10 has potentially opened this game up to a whole new audience who might never have been able to drive a car before. I look forward to reading previews and reviews from people who are blind or low vision to learn more about their experiences.

Some of these assists are worth exploring for sighted players, because, much like the visual cues for sounds in Fortnite, I found leaving the edge beeping on made me a better driver. Obviously, these assists aren’t made for sighted drivers and our experiences with them aren’t what’s important. But, accessibility assists in video games are more akin to gluten-free foods in the supermarket than disabled parking spaces, in that they’re not a limited resource, and the more people who enjoy and use them, the more likely the range is to be expanded and rolled out in other ways which then benefit everyone.

But is Forza Motorsport pretty?

Close up of front of racing car from Forza Motorsport
Image: Turn 10 studios

Yes, absolutely. I’m not a huge IRL racing fan, so I haven’t really been watching these tracks on TV, and I can’t comment on how well they compare to the real thing. But I am a huge racing game fan. I have been playing these tracks for many years, and this is the best I have ever seen Maple Valley (which is my favourite track until they bring back the ridiculously broken New York track from FM2).

Obviously, the game isn’t finished yet, so I won’t be too harsh about any minor visual issues. But also, I don’t need Forza Motorsport to be picture-perfect when compared to the real world. The real world already exists. I’m playing video games because I don’t want to go outside. I want to see what the artists want to make.

But yeah, super pretty. I can’t wait to see the whole finished thing to get the full effect.

Should I immediately run to pre-order Forza Motorsport, potentially knocking over children and frail old people if they get in my way as I journey to my local video games retailer?

Screenshot from Forza Motorsport
Image: Turn 10 studios

Look, this is a preview. This gives a pretty good gist of what the game will be like, but this is a live service game, and I played a roughly 45 minute demo (multiple times, but still 45 minutes). I can’t give you a score or tell you whether or not to buy it.

That said, if you like racing games, this looks and plays tantalisingly like the racing game I’ve wanted Forza to become forever. I love the new approach, I genuinely learned things, and I’m eagerly anticipating the release even more now.

If you already love Forza, and was holding out on pre-ordering until you knew what the deal was and whether it was going to be something weird, you can be assured that this is a Forza Motorsport that seems to finally know what it’s trying to be – it is extremely serious, and has no interest in a frivolous, desperate joyride.

However, it’s going to be on Xbox Game Pass day one, and I would not hesitate to suggest you give it a go when it releases next month. This is what Forzas Motorsport 5-7 should have been.

Alice Clarke was flown to Los Angeles for this preview as a guest of Xbox.

Image: Xbox

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