Forza Motorsport review: Practice makes perfect

Forza’s core has felt a little muddled over the last half-decade, as the success of its excellent casual offshoot Horizon series outstripped the original Motorsport titles both in sales and frequency.

Now, though, after a long wait, Forza Motorsport is back, ditching the numerical to act as a soft reboot of the franchise, and aiming to directly rival Gran Turismo as a console-exclusive sim racer. Good news – it does exactly that.

Forza Motorsport square

Forza Motorsport


Sim racing great

Forza Motorsport is terrific, an enviable sim racer that looks and sounds incredibly impressive and has loads of cars to master. It has some foibles but there’s real depth to be explored here, and its time-of-day wizardry is a superb asset. Platform tested: Xbox Series X


  • Superb visuals
  • Amazingly powerful sound
  • So many cars
  • Solid track variety

  • Some UI hiccups
  • Still a tiny bit dry

Revving up

Coming to Forza Motorsport fresh from The Crew Motorfest, itself a direct copy of the Forza Horizon formula, is a tonal u-turn of pretty strong proportions, going from silly techno dross to serious racing business.

This is racing for grown-ups, you see, a racing simulator rather than an arcadey slice of open-world fun, and that means a lot more menus – but not necessarily any less racing.

Forza Motorsport opens with a pair of race experiences that let you try out its cover supercars, each flying around packed tracks and offering up ample opportunities for pacy overtakes, but once you’re past this it settles into a familiar rhythm to anyone who played the older Motorsport titles (or indeed any of Gran Turismo 7).

Forza Motorsport 1

Xbox Game Studios

You’ve got a simple but well-structured ladder of single-player events to work through in its career mode, alongside the ability to race as you like in one-off events and take yourself online for fiercer competition.

This is all anchored by a comprehensive difficulty system that lets you fine-tune both your AI opponents’ ability level, the sort of rules being imposed on-track, and even your grid placement, which you can freely choose for each race.

When you add this to countless accessibility and assist features, Forza Motorsport immediately becomes a hugely customisable racer and one that encourages you to actually tinker with settings to have more fun.

Forza Motorsport 4

Xbox Game Studios

If you can hit a sweet spot where starting in 12th place against good AI racers lets you just about squeeze through to a podium finish without mistakes, you’ll find yourself having a consistently great time.

One curious choice for the career mode comes in the form of practice laps – these are totally standard in real-life racing, and in fact are totally necessary to avoid racers hitting the track cold and making silly errors at the expense of safety.

At first, you’ll start to think that Forza Motorsport forces you to run three full laps of practice before each and every race you play alone, and while that’s great at first it will soon start to become a time-sink that takes you away from actual, well, racing.

Forza Motorsport 7

Xbox Game Studios

However, buried in the pause menu there’s actually a “Skip Practice” button, one that I quickly started using after a single lap, and which will apparently become more prominent with a Day One patch since players are evidently likely to not realise it’s there and get bored.

That’s a small misstep, but it does speak to the number of menus you’ll find yourself navigating in Motorsport, especially if you get into the weeds of parts and tuning.

With hundreds of cars to try out and each offering a pretty substantially different feeling behind the wheel, though, that customisation means there is loads to do for those who fall in love with the game.

Track day

When you strap in for an actual race, it helps that Forza Motorsport feels seriously impeccable – this is the racer I’ve wanted from the series for ages, with a bit more bite than the last few iterations.

Forza Motorsport 2

Xbox Game Studios

A huge amount of work has seemingly gone into upgrading the physics of Motorsport’s racing, along with elements that the series had been lacking, like tyre wear, and it pays off in spades.

From hypercars that accelerate and brake with spaceship-like alacrity, to kit cars that slide around with abandon, via beastly muscle cars that thrum with power, in-car personality is everywhere.

That opponent AI offers an interesting set of options – at lower levels it’s polite and easy to navigate around, but as you crank the difficulty up (and earn bigger rewards for doing so) you’ll suddenly see the ghost of the old Drivatar system rear its head.

Forza Motorsport 9

Xbox Game Studios

I’ve been pit manoeuvred and blocked off, sandwiched and bumped around, all adding to the feeling that you do have to be on your toes to maintain position in crowded fields.

Tracks help this hugely – there’s a good amount of variety to get your head around, with multiple configurations at most venues, and while some offer open sweeping courses, there are plenty that are tight enough to offer really chaotic challenges.

That all of these tracks can be driven in any weather or lighting conditions makes for a huge boost, too. It’s also the most impressive part of the practice lap system.

Forza Motorsport 6

Xbox Game Studios

It’s really impressive to drive a few laps in the early morning sunlight, god rays everywhere and a dewy sense in the air, before heading to the race and seeing the same location bathed in floodlights for a late-night starting flag.

Juggling tyre wear and fuel means that the competitive scene will finally have some real substance to chew on as it takes on longer races online, but these systems are presented easily enough to not overwhelm more casual players.

Similarly, a new progression system means that alongside earning money to buy new cars from your races, you’ll also level up each individual car with almost any racing action. These levels let you apply upgrades to beef up each car, and separating that progress out from your bank account is a really nice division that makes things have lower stakes.

Dynamic beauty

I mentioned that time of day system already, but it’s worth highlighting again – Forza Motorsport’s lighting is simply sumptuous, with timings and weather all looking just superb.

Forza Motorsport 10

Xbox Game Studios

Pouring rain doesn’t look dull, and changes the character of every track hugely, while night-time races are so well-lit with contrasting black depths away from the track.

The cars themselves, meanwhile, are hugely detailed and authentic, especially if you’re a good person like me and drive from the cockpit camera, to really get the best sense of speed and place.

There are some graphical modes to choose from, of course – this is 2023 after all. You can choose between a 60FPS performance mode, a 60FPS mode with ray-tracing but a more variable resolution, and a full 4K ray-tracing-enabled quality mode that runs at 30FPS.

I used them all for a few hours each, and they’re very much the buyer’s choice – all run smoothly, and all look slightly different, but you can indeed see the resolution differences if you’re looking.

Forza Motorsport 8

Xbox Game Studios

If I were a serious online driver, frame rate would be my priority, but playing Forza Motorsport solo I ended up sticking with the quality mode because its reflections and lighting advantages were just enough to win me over – and that 30FPS was nice and stable, too.

A final word, though, has to go out to the audio team at Turn 10 Studios, which has excelled itself. With a good Xbox headset on or a decent surround-sound system, Motorsport sounds phenomenal.

I’ve never previously had the sound of hitting the bumpers at a track’s edge warn me off so reliably, or felt the difference in road surfaces or car interiors so obviously, and its races are a real audio treat.


Forza Motorsport is a return to form for the grand old heart of the Forza franchise and gives Xbox another welcome exclusive to boast about in 2023 (with far fewer qualifications than in Starfield’s case, in fact).

It sounds incredible, looks fantastic, and feels excellent to drive in, which is quite the trio of boasts for any driving sim. Of course, being a driving sim, you will have to reckon with some dryness in its menus and progression, but the on-track action more than makes up for that, for my money.

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