A Comeback With Forza
It has been a long six-year wait since the last instalment of the Forza Motorsport franchise. Today, Turn 10 Studios finally returns with a new episode, aiming to rekindle the brand’s original essence.
Forza Motorsport 8, a game eagerly anticipated by sim racing enthusiasts, myself included, has been available since October 10 on Xbox Series X/S and PC. Despite its overall quality, I can’t help but feel a sense of unfulfilled expectations. It’s crucial to acknowledge that my hopes were exceptionally high for this latest addition to the Forza Motorsport series.
Let’s see where this new Forza Motorsport 8 excels and where it falls short.
Graphically, Night and Day
The testing for Forza Motorsport 8 took place on the Xbox Series X, where I had the opportunity to experiment with its various modes. These include the Performance mode, which prioritizes 60 FPS in 4K, Performance with Ray tracing, offering 60 FPS with variable resolution, and the Visuals mode, which maximizes graphics in 4K with Ray tracing but caps the frame rate at 30 FPS. Of these options, my personal preference leans towards the Performance mode with Ray Tracing. From a graphical perspective, the Visuals mode, while visually impressive at times, fails to justify sacrificing the smoother 60 FPS experience that is crucial for a car racing game.
Regarding the overall graphics quality in Forza Motorsport, my impressions are somewhat mixed. There’s no denying the game’s beauty, particularly owing to its striking weather effects, which can be truly breathtaking. Whether it’s racing in the rain, at night, or basking in the sun’s reflection, the atmospheric effects significantly enhance the immersion. Details such as the sun’s halo effects and realistic puddles, especially with Ray Tracing, are a visual delight. Night races are equally impressive, with stunning lighting that adds excitement to high-speed drives under the glare of headlights.
However, the game’s graphics under certain conditions leave room for improvement. Particularly, the tracks and cars can appear somewhat artificial, lacking the visual depth needed to look convincing in full daylight. In comparison to its direct competitor, Gran Turismo 7, I would say that Gran Turismo 7 fares slightly better in daylight, whereas Forza Motorsport 8 shines in rainy and nighttime conditions. Also, while the exterior modeling of the cars is flawless, some interiors seem incomplete compared to the standards set by Forza Horizon 5.
Another aspect that feels somewhat neglected is the rendering of damage. Forza Motorsport 8 only introduces minor creases and scratches, akin to parking lot mishaps, rather than accurately portraying the aftermath of a demanding race like the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This aspect hasn’t evolved much, which can be disappointing, especially considering Project Cars 2’s superior damage modeling.
In summary, while Forza Motorsport 8 could have been a graphical masterpiece, it still stands as one of the most visually stunning car racing games available today, even if it has room for improvement in certain aspects.
Behind the Virtual Steering Wheel: Arcade, Simulation, Simcade
Forza Motorsport 8 delivers a gameplay experience that falls into the realm of simcade—a fusion of simulation and arcade-style gameplay. While it doesn’t strive for the level of pure simulation found in games like Assetto Corsa Competizione, it maintains a unique hybrid model. This approach is relatively accommodating, yet it maintains a commitment to realism, ensuring that long-time fans of the series will feel right at home.
The gameplay itself is nothing short of exhilarating. From mass transfers and braking to acceleration and the sensation of speed, Forza Motorsport 8 excels in capturing these elements, providing players with a truly enjoyable level of control.
As soon as your tires touch gravel or grass, the noticeable difference in grip adds a layer of authenticity to the experience. The developers have executed this aspect brilliantly. Deactivating assistance functions, particularly traction control, can turn the high-cylinder engines into drift machines, especially on wet surfaces, delivering an adrenaline rush.
Precision in managing acceleration during corner exits becomes imperative, as failure to do so may require corrective counter-steering to regain control.
Regarding the assistance systems, the game offers extensive customization. Players can opt for manual, manual with a clutch, or automatic transmission. Traction and trajectory control are also at your disposal. However, there’s a minor criticism in that some vintage vehicles, like the BMW M3 E30, are equipped with electronic aids that don’t align with their real-life counterparts. This decision seems geared toward making the game more accessible to newcomers, courtesy of Turns 10.
An ongoing issue within the series is the joystick settings, which, as usual, leave much to be desired. Players will likely need to invest time in adjusting sensitivity settings, akin to the experience in Forza Horizon. The question arises as to why, given this is the 8th episode in the series, the studio hasn’t addressed these default setup issues, despite years of complaints from the dedicated Forza community.
Let’s be Realistic
In Forza Motorsport 8, each vehicle exhibits distinctive behavior, and whether you’re behind the wheel of a rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive vehicle, the differences are palpable. For instance, a Porsche 911 showcases its characteristic rear axle weight, while a BMW M emits burning tire smoke as it roars out of corners.
This diversity in vehicle behavior extends beyond drivetrain layouts; it also encompasses various vehicle categories. The sensations you experience when piloting a Le Mans prototype sharply contrast with those from a modest 200 hp sedan. Ironically, this wide array of behaviors can sometimes hinder the gameplay and realism in Forza Motorsport, and here’s why.
The developers’ decision to award each vehicle with a unique driving experience, while commendable, has required trade-offs in the lower-class models. This can diminish the initial enjoyment of the game, especially when you embark on the career mode and find yourself handling low-powered vehicles that, in reality, don’t quite align with their in-game representation.
When I began my career mode journey, selecting the Mustang GT left me feeling somewhat sad for Ford enthusiasts. The car struggled to grip the road, had difficulty in turning, and emitted screeching tire noises at speeds over 70 km/h. While a Mustang isn’t on par with a Ferrari 458 Speciale, the experience seemed somewhat unrealistic. Even driving a Porsche Cayman felt more akin to navigating a Fiat Multipla. Adding to this, the original tires on these vehicles had an overactive squeal mode, necessitating a swift upgrade to make them more manageable.
To attain a genuinely realistic driving experience, you must wait until you’re driving at least an S-class vehicle. This presents a real challenge, pushing players to swiftly unlock higher-class vehicles to fully appreciate the potential of Forza Motorsport 8. Reaching this point means progressing through the career mode ladder, an area where the game could benefit from improvements, but I’ll come back to this point later.
All The Cars You Could Dream Of
Forza Motorsport boasts an impressive array of content at its launch. The game offers a roster of 500 vehicles and features twenty iconic racetracks, including the magnificent Spa-Francorchamps, Suzuka, Silverstone, Mugello (the Ferrari Circuit), Maple Valley, Watkins Glen International, and the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans track with its legendary Hunaudières straight. With the various circuit variations, players can enjoy approximately fifty different tracks, ensuring there’s plenty of variety to keep them engaged. Furthermore, Turn 10 has already confirmed the addition of more circuits, with Yas Marina set to arrive in November and the renowned Nordschleife, also known as the “Green Hell,” expected in Spring 2024.
In terms of game modes, Forza Motorsport offers a Free Play mode, enabling players to create events as they see fit. Whether it’s a single race, a full championship with a mix of vehicle classes, or simply a Test Drive mode where players can borrow a vehicle, choose a track, and drive at their leisure, the options are flexible and cater to diverse preferences. This is particularly useful for newcomers looking to ease into the game or experiment with different vehicles.
Rivals mode is a kind of online time trial, where you take on the ghosts of other players. The Featured Multiplayer mode offers online championships and is expected to receive additional content in the years ahead.
For many players, the Career mode is likely to be the initial focal point. It consists of a series of mini-championship-style events, each featuring a specific vehicle model, category, or class. Each event incorporates a free practice session to help players become acquainted with the car and the track. However, it’s worth noting that there is no qualifying session, so players have the freedom to select their starting position for the race. Your choice of starting position influences the number of credits you earn, as does your selection of AI difficulty and driving assistance settings. Higher difficulty levels offer greater rewards upon race completion.
As you accumulate more miles in a vehicle, you also earn XP. This XP can be used to unlock upgrades for your car, enhancing its performance. Although the XP system is a new addition, the vehicle upgrade system closely resembles that of previous iterations.
Cosmetic tuning remains straightforward, including options for front bumpers, rear bumpers, and spoiler tuning. An automatic upgrade system is available, allowing the AI to optimize the vehicle using your available credits, but this feature may not be particularly engaging for those who prefer hands-on customization.
However, once you unlock components like racing shock absorbers and stabilizer bars, you gain the ability to finely tune your vehicle’s settings. This is when you’ll truly appreciate the depth of Forza’s physics engine. For enthusiasts who enjoy vehicle tuning, this aspect of the game provides a satisfying level of depth and customization.
Revving Up the Sensory Experience
In terms of audio, Forza Motorsport 8 once again presents a mixed bag, ranging from the very good to the not-so-good. One notable absence is the lack of in-race music, a feature I personally appreciate. I’d much rather enjoy the melody of a roaring V12 engine than the lounge music found in games like Gran Turismo. However, a significant issue arises with certain models that sound far from faithful to their real-life counterparts. As an Aston Martin fan, I’m left disappointed by the English brand’s models, which lack the authentic sound I’d hope for. A similar discrepancy can be found in some BMW M models and others.
Thankfully, there are models in the game that faithfully replicate their engine sounds, providing a more satisfying experience. The distinctive note of the Carrera GT’s V10 engine or the melodious symphony of the Ferrari 458 Speciale is exceptionally well-captured, sending shivers down your spine every time you rev them up.
However, a point of concern is the significant disparity in engine sounds across different models, which can be somewhat surprising and inconsistent.
When it comes to collision noises, the game disappoints. Whether you collide with a wall or another vehicle, the resulting sounds lack realism and fall short of expectations. This is a notable drawback in the audio experience of the game.
Racing Ahead: Dominating the Online Multiplayer Circuit
Forza Motorsport offers an online multiplayer experience designed to prolong the game’s appeal and engagement. To get started in the online mode, players are required to participate in three qualifying races, typically associated with specific car types.
Success in these qualifying races during practice sessions is crucial for securing a favorable starting position. Once you’ve successfully qualified, you gain access to a range of “special events” such as Mazda Spec, LMP, Touring car, and GT events. Some of these series remain consistent, while others evolve over time, similar to the dynamic nature found in Forza Horizon.
Spec series feature cars with predetermined performance characteristics, while open races grant players the freedom to customize and fine-tune their vehicles based on specific performance criteria. This flexibility allows players to tailor their cars’ handling, braking, or power to meet the unique requirements of each event.
Your progression in the game is not solely determined by your multiplayer accomplishments but also by your driver level. Additionally, the safety index, graded from S (the highest) to E, plays a significant role in your online experience. Maintaining a high safety index is crucial for ensuring optimal matchmaking and avoiding encounters with disruptive or unsporting players.
Your skill level, which falls within the range of 1,000 to 5,000, directly influences the caliber of players you get matched with. To secure a favorable ranking, you need to prioritize clean and skillful racing. A high safety score leads to races alongside more serious and respectful drivers, enhancing the overall multiplayer experience. It’s evident that Turn 10 has invested substantial effort in the multiplayer aspect, ensuring stable netcode and meticulous matchmaking for an enjoyable and competitive online experience.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
FinalBoss Verdict: Forza Motorsport
In conclusion, Forza Motorsport 8 showcases the extensive expertise of Turn 10 Studios in the racing game genre. The game stands out with its impeccable weather effects, delivering breathtaking night races. However, it’s not without its shortcomings. The daytime visuals, the variable authenticity of certain car behaviors, and the repetitive tire squeal in some instances highlight areas that could benefit from further refinement.
The game’s content offering is generous, boasting a wide selection of vehicles and tracks, with the promise of more to come. Nevertheless, the heart of a racing game lies in its gameplay, and while Forza Motorsport 8 provides moments of exhilaration, it occasionally feels somewhat detached from reality, especially in handling low-powered vehicles. Despite not achieving absolute perfection, it undeniably secures its position among the most visually stunning and content-rich racing games available.
Whether you’re a long-time series fan or a newcomer, Forza Motorsport 8 offers a worthwhile experience, and we can hope that some of its imperfections will be addressed in future updates.
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