While playing the new Forza Motorsport, I found myself pondering what the game says about the series, and gaming in general. So this isn’t quite a review of Forza Motorsport, but hear me out.
You may already know the eighth game in the original Forza series takes things back-to-basics, rebooting the game for a new generation. In short, it’s an excellent racing experience filled with the best simulated vehicles and tracks you can find in the genre today, and yet something feels a little…off. The question is why.
Racing games as a genre haven’t always had to try so hard. Back in the day, we were happy with a sprite and the odd pixelated tree on the side of the track, now the push for photorealistic visuals, arguably achieved by Forza Motorsport 4 back in 2011, has led to players’ expectations soaring higher and higher.
Like games as an industry, we keep wanting, nay demanding, more.
Forza Motorsport 7, released back in 2017, hit a staggering 830 cars – once all the DLC was said and done – with 200 track configurations in 32 locations, so it’s no surprise it’s taken a while for developers Turn 10 to feel like they had something new to bring to the table.
But where do you go?
More fidelity? More tracks? More cars? The driving and handling experience itself was long-perfected by the time the Xbox One’s entry in the series, Forza Motorsport 5, rolled up in 2013, and you can only tie-in with so many TV shows and films before even that variety wears thin.
You could argue that motorsport itself hasn’t changed in decades, giving the team an uphill climb from the starting line, but enthusiasm for the sport has never been higher. Slightly different, sure, but Formula 1, for example, passed an average of million viewers per race last year.
Drift into a powerslide
There seems to be only one obvious solution – double down.
The tuning and car customisation options in the latest game are incredible, and it would be ridiculous to expect even more in that department, but perhaps make more of a game of it?
Not everyone has a detail-orientated approach to games, and introducing minigames which play on some of the extremes of what tuning is capable of, a cleverly disguised opportunity to educate, could bring the experience to life in a new way, and allow the player to bring the knowledge back into the main game’s driving journey.
Next, leave the drivers out of it entirely.
While it might seem like a bit of fun to watch them frantically change gear through the rear windscreen as you tear around the track, more than a cursory glance confirms that even in this latest instalment the animations are rigid and one-note. Far from adding to immersion it actually creates a distraction for those used to an exterior view of the car in their driving games.
Finally, a more clear line between the serious, buttoned-up sim experience and the more relaxed, even arcade-y side of the genre would avoid players who aren’t quite as into the realism angle have more fun with the game.
Introduce more extreme damage options as additional challenges, daring you to make it down the track with only a single hit or jolt between your car and a written-off mess.
The tracks could stand to have a little more flexibility and customisation too, letting you customise environmental effects and add hazards to remix existing tracks in fun new ways. Or even leverage Xbox’s vast back catalogue of franchises to have you explore exciting, even out-of-this-world locations.
There’s nothing wrong with Forza Motorsport, and the team at Turn 10 no doubt will have a lot of fun additions and improvements still to come after release, but if they want to really bring in new fans to this series, something has to change.
Forza Motorsport (2023) is available now on Xbox Game Pass. Code provided by Microsoft.