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Forza Motorsport: You don’t really need a review again, do you?


A queue of cars in Forza Motorsport
Image credit: VG247 / Microsoft

Like Falkor, I'm seemingly part of a neverending story. I've been here, writing these near exact words, time and time again. But I'll keep writing them.

I have no doubt I'll stick more than 100 hours into Forza Motorsport. If that's not recommendation enough, then you clearly value your time less than I do. But I can't say that Forza Motorsport excited me. It's not really the game's fault, or the dev team's, or Xbox's, or mine. I've just been in this place before, looking at a wonderful feat of engineering and art, pushing the technology available to make me feel like I am a race car driver. It's not so much the easy go-to of "diminishing returns," as it is simply returning. I'll keep coming back, but that "New Road Layout" sign has been there for years now.

Race cars (or mostly one car for a long period of time, upgrading it along the way), earn credits, buy parts or new cars, enter new race series, gradually pull back the assists and ramp up the rules and simulation. I'm sure previous Forza Motorsport games weren't set up with this structure, but honestly I'd struggle to tell you exactly how they were different. That's not a criticism, just a fact about how I perceive these games. There's only so many ways you can present racing in a serious fashion, no matter how much work goes into shaking things up.

And boy, Forza Motorsport is very serious about cars and racing. If Gran Turismo has leaned more and more into hobbyish culture, essentially being the video game equivalent of eating a Cream Tea while reading a Haynes manual on a Volvo S70, Forza Motorsport might as well come with a person whose only job is to scream "RACING CARS" directly into your face. I love both takes on the genre, but Forza feels more epic – and as such I'm a little keener to jump back in whenever I can.

Forza Motorsport
Punch someone nearby: that's a yellow car. | Image credit: Microsoft

On track, Forza Motorsport carries this vibe through incredibly well. There's a sense of a battle going on, not just against the AI racers but the courses, too. By the time you feel comfortable disabling driving assists, races have a palpable sense of danger. You may notice that you held your breath for the final 30 seconds of the final lap, jaw clenched, and eyes locked on the screen. Forza excels here where Gran Turismo doesn't although, conversely, I once kept a notebook of my lap times in Gran Turismo 2 and that's something I'd never do here.

As time moves on, our expectations of what racing games should look like grow. At one point Gran Turismo was the pinnacle, offering a scarcely-believable level of realism. It is, of course, more or less a mess of coloured blobs when looked at today. Will we look back on Forza Motorsport in a similar way? Probably not. Advancement has slowed, meaning that the casual observer might not be able to pick apart 2017's entry and this one. On Xbox Series X, there's clear beauty on display, but it's still cars on tracks, in rain, at night, with dazzling lights. I've probably written the same thing eight times now over the course of almost 20 years.

An Xbox classic; Red versus Blue.

This isn't a review. I've barely scratched the ray-traced reflective surface of everything Forza Motorsport has inside its slick menus. This is more of a check-in. You don't really need a review, anyway, do you? If you don't like serious racing games, you're not buying this (or indeed playing it on Game Pass for more than five minutes). If you are in the market for what Turn 10 serves up, the good news is that this reboot appears to be the real deal. Again.

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