Forza Motorsport Preview: A Racing Game Designed To Last Forever

Back in college, I bought myself a Forza Motorsport 6 edition Xbox One. It was a beautiful deep blue, inspired by the Ford GT, and it made the world’s worst supercar sound from its little built-in speaker when you turned it on. If you’d told me back then that we’d get a Forza game that was online, focused on car modification, and meant to live forever, I would’ve handed you my money then and there.

But Forza Motorsport 6 was eight years ago. The time since then has given us three full Horizon games to scratch the networked, multiplayer, car-collecting itch, not to mention competition from Gran Turismo, Assetto Corsa Competizione, even the continued popularity of iRacing. Plus, we’ve seen just how bad microtransactions can get in live-service games. In 2023, how does Forza Motorsport’s pitch fare?

Full Disclosure: Microsoft brought me out to a demo event in Manhattan to test out a preview of the new Forza Motorsport title. The company offered a take-home build for further impressions, but only on Xbox — a console I do not own. I told the rep this, in hopes of getting a PC code, and they instead mailed a whole ass Xbox to my house.

Image for article titled Forza Motorsport Preview: A Racing Game Designed To Last Forever

Screenshot: Turn 10 Studios

First, let’s get into what the pitch of Forza Motorsport really is. Back when Motorsport was a numbered series, the games were every-other-year simcades focused on track racing and driver progression — the typical standard “racing game” we all grew up with. But this new Motorsport, no number attached, is something different. It’s still a track racing game, but it’s built around progressing a car rather than a driver — building unique, tailored vehicles rather than a collection of showroom-stock track toys. Instead of a garage with hundreds of cars, like Horizon, the Turn 10 team wants you to pick your favorite 10.

The new Motorsport is also, according to the devs, destined for immortality. There are no plans, apparently, for sequels — just long-running updates, keeping the game flush with new cars and features for years to come. The folks from Turn 10 want to hear what fans enjoy, and what they loathe, and cater the game to that feedback. This is an admirable goal, taking someone’s $70 one time and giving them a game for the rest of their lives, but it comes with a considerable hurdle to overcome: The core of your game better be damn good if it’s going to last forever.

Image for article titled Forza Motorsport Preview: A Racing Game Designed To Last Forever

Screenshot: Turn 10 Studios

The physics, for their part, generally live up to the task. They’re a marked improvement from past Motorsport titles, sharper and less understeer-heavy, and there’s a sense of finesse that no previous game in the series can match. They aren’t perfect — comparing an FK8 Civic Type R in-game to one in real life, the virtual one is floatier — but Turn 10 has built a system that feels like it’s worth improving in. Improving both your skill, as a driver, and the condition of your car.

That factor, however, may be the make-or-break point for the game. I’ve always fallen off of track-focused racing games in the past because they lacked things to do — wide-open areas to roam, or challenges to complete. In refocusing this new Motorsport around the car, Turn 10 seems to have alleviated some of that struggle: Cars have specific challenges through which they rank up, and tracks are divided into segments that are judged not only by split time, but by how well a theoretical driver in that same car could speed through them. The challenge changes as your car does, which is a natural progression through the Builder’s Series campaign mode of the game.

My brief demo included a three-race Builder’s Cup, and I admit I yearned for more content once it ended. I went back, played through with another car, and still wished the next set of races would unlock. In a vacuum, Forza Motorsport is a game with replay value exceeding its predecessors — it’s more fun to play for longer periods of time.

But whether this new formula will stay entertaining for years, as other games come and go, remains to by seen. When the full game’s been unlocked for two years and competitors begin to ape its features, will Forza Motorsport still draw players in? Will the steady stream of new content out of Turn 10 stay strong, or will the suits eventually decide to shift resources to a Forza Motorsport 2 in order to get another $70 out of every loyal player? It’s simply too early to say.

In my brief experience, I found Forza Motorsport to be the kind of racing game I always wanted in my youth. I’m looking forward to reviewing the full version, simply because it’ll mean spending more time with the game. But, perhaps through years of watching the game industry through jaded eyes, I’m not yet sold on the concept of the eternal racing game. I’ll be happy to eat crow if it works out, if the suits don’t demand sequel sales and microtransaction dollars, but I also won’t hold my breath.