Forza Motorsport vs. Gran Turismo is the ultimate racing war. Ever since the first Forza Motorsport launched back in 2005, the battle for the best console-exclusive racing title has raged on.
Despite Gran Turismo reaching its fourth entry when Forza entered the fray, Microsoft’s track racer has brought the fight to the Real Driving Simulator. It’s been six years since Gran Turismo Sport took on Forza Motorsport 7, with both series set to resume their rivalry last year.
Sadly, the rebooted Forza Motorsport was delayed, meaning Gran Turismo 7 won the battle of time. Now that Forza Motorsport is here, should Sony be worried about the competition?
A new look
Forza Motorsport is a reboot of the Forza series. Despite Forza Motorsport 7’s warm reception, Turn 10 decided to give the franchise a fresh start with the newest entry. This was great timing, with the game designed to take full advantage of the Xbox Series X|S superior hardware.
By being a current-gen exclusive, Forza Motorsport isn’t limited by the Xbox One. This means every car, and track can be rendered in full detail, with the game running smoothly at even the highest graphics settings.
We've tried both the Xbox and PC versions of the game, and can confirm the PC version runs just as smoothly. The 4K resolution looks stunning, especially when the game’s ray tracing comes into play.
The game also excels with its dynamic weather and time-of-day features. A race that starts during clear weather can end in heavy rain. This changes both the visibility and behaviour of the track, so players will need to adjust their driving style to match.
Driving into direct sunlight also affects player visibility, with the ray tracing being used to full effect. Driving at night is totally different, with visibility significantly reduced. Then there’s racing in Forza Motorsport’s volumetric fog, which in some cases reduces line-of-sight to barely in front of the front bumper.
The weather doesn’t just affect you, however, with the AI also adapting to the changes in track conditions.
Artificial racing intelligence
The AI, or Drivatars, in Forza Motorsport can be tricky to race against at times but overall feels very solid. There were moments where an attempted overtake around the outside of a corner resulted in us being pushed along the track sideways, but for the most part, the AI is incredibly responsive.
If you take an aggressive line through a corner, the AI will often use evasive manoeuvres to avoid making contact. On the rare occasions where collisions do occur, the AI will react accordingly, reducing the impact of the impact. Forza Motorsport's AI feels incredibly dynamic, with no two overtakes ever being the same. It's a massive step up from the Drivatar system in previous Forza Motorsport games.
The most impressive aspect of the AI however is the different racing lines. Some AI stick tight to the apex during corners, whereas some swing out wide to open up the exit. This is most noticeable when watching the AI overtake, with different lines used to pull off various moves.
These moves don’t always work out, with some AI pushing others off the track, but this just adds to the immersive experience in Forza Motorsport. Collisions also occur between the AI, so players will need to keep half an eye on the battles around them as they charge through the field.
You'll meet the AI Drivatars a lot throughout your time in Forza Motorsport, but none more so than the game's Career Mode.
A racing career
One of Forza Motorsport’s standout features is the redesigned Career Mode. Players take part in the Builders Cup, first starting out in the Builders Intro Cup, a three-race event teaching players the basics.
Before hitting the track, the game invites you to select your initial difficulty. This includes the difficulty of the Drivatars, as well as the ruleset used in each session.
There are three rulesets in total: Club Rules, Sport Rules, and Expert Rules. These range from cosmetic damage only, rewinds enabled, and limited penalties applied, right up to full simulation rules, with full damage and tyre wear, rewinds disabled, and full penalties applied.
Credit bonuses awarded to players change according to the difficulty selected. Racing against faster Drivatars can increase the difficulty bonus by up to 50% while racing using Expert Rules can add an additional 10% to the rewards.
Practice sessions before each race help players get to grips with the track. Key sectors are timed during these sessions, with players tasked with beating their best time to improve their overall lap time. Completing these sectors, along with the main practice lap count and lap time objectives, helps level up your cars as you race.
The difficulty can be changed at any point between sessions, meaning players can start off easy and then increase the difficulty as they improve. This also means you can lower the difficulty for a practice session around an unfamiliar track, before raising it again for the actual race.
Career Mode is split into five different ‘Tours’, with each containing five series consisting of multiple races. Each tour is themed, ranging from modern racing machines to old-school cars.
The overall racing experience in Forza Motorsport is solid. Every bump in the track can be felt through the wheel, with every corner running the risk of losing control if you take too much curb.
Driving in the rain feels very different from driving when it’s dry. Your braking points will shift drastically, and you’ll have to stay off most curbs to keep your car pointing the right way.
In summary, Forza Motorsport is one of the most instinctive feeling racing games out there. The game feels rewarding but also punishing. Missing your braking point will see you head straight on instead of turning, and the AI will punish any mistakes when accelerating away.
The AI is also incredibly well implemented. Running on middle difficulty is enough of a challenge to keep things interesting, without making each race too easy to win. Raising the difficulty results in a natural progression rather than a sudden difficulty spike.
Some races feel like online lobbies, with each car populated by a real racer instead of an AI Drivatar. Cars miss their braking points, collide with their rivals, and struggle to get the traction down coming out of slow-speed corners.
This all sounds very promising, but arguably the biggest question of all is just how well Forza Motorsport compares against Gran Turismo 7.
When it comes to the visuals, Forza Motorsport does fall short when compared to Gran Turismo 7. The power of the PS5 gives GT7 the upper hand, and it definitely shows out on track.
Gran Turismo 7 also takes the win when it comes to driving feel. The cars in Forza Motorsport don’t feel quite as responsive as they do in Sony’s flagship racer. However, these two categories are the only two where the Real Driving Simulator comes out on top.
Every other aspect of Forza Motorsport is far superior. The Career Mode makes the GT Cafe look unfinished, the AI Drivatars are substantially more realistic than the Snake simulator GT7 offers up, and then there’s the best feature of them all.
Forza Motorsport has dynamic weather and dynamic time of day on every single track. Gran Turismo 7 on the other hand has limited dynamic weather, with the feature only available on select circuits.
This is a huge miss for Polyphony Digital’s racer and a big win for Turn 10. If this was the reason Forza Motorsport was delayed by almost a year, we’d say it’s been worth the wait. Sure, Forza doesn't look as crisp out on track, but seeing the sun rising over the hills of Laguna Seca or the rain rolling in over Silverstone is worth the slight drop in visual fidelity.
Then there’s the car count. Gran Turismo 7 launched with 424 cars, whereas Forza Motorsport screeches onto the market with over 500. Yes, the majority of these cars have been carried over from previous Forza Motorsport titles, but there are still over 100 brand-new cars coming to the series including the 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray and 2023 No. 01 Cadillac Racing V-Series.R cover cars.
Forza Motorsport is sadly missing the legendary Nordschleife from launch, whereas Gran Turismo 7’s version of the Green Hell was present from day one, but we already know this will be coming in an update in 2024. So even then, Forza Motorsport is more than a match for its long-standing rival.
One area in which Forza Motorsport does fall flat is when using a wheel on Xbox. For a track racing game, you'd expect a wheel to be the native controller of choice on all platforms. However, on console, it's actually more instinctive to use a controller.
When using a wheel on Xbox, we needed to tweak a lot of settings to make things feel more natural. Even then, we could only get a maximum of 180-degrees rotation in our wheel for full lock. This made making small adjustments on track almost impossible, as any minor movements in rotation were exaggerated in the game.
Using a controller does eliminate these issues but at the cost of not having the true driving experience. You can't feel the track as well when using a controller, so it's a trade-off between feeling the track beneath the car and being able to actually control the car.
It should be noted that these issues aren't present on PC. The wheel animations in-game match the movement of the wheel, force feedback feels responsive, and you are able to feel every bump and curb as you race.
The only noticeable issue on PC is the car did sometimes feel a bit floaty when traversing elevation changes. The Corkscrew at Laguna Seca is a more extreme example, but other sections where the track went from uphill to flat or downhill caused the car to become twitchy, especially when under braking.
Nothing ruins your race more than losing control at the top of a hill for no reason, except maybe losing control anywhere on the track for no reason. The grip from the tyres was lacking at times, with the car very quick to spin out without any warning. This can be reduced by lifting and coasting more into high-speed braking zones, but this will see you lose places in overtaking areas against higher difficulty Drivatars.
The perfect upgrade?
We know Forza Motorsport holds up well against Gran Turismo 7, but how well does it compare to the rest of the Forza Motorsport series? Despite the issues with racing wheels and losing control, Forza Motorsport stacks up well against the other Forza Motorsport games.
The Builders Cup is a great basis for the Career Mode, even if it lacks key features. There are no rival Drivatars for you to pick out during races, and the lack of qualifying in events is an odd choice for a track racing game. However, what’s lacking is more than made up for when it comes to the cars.
Unlike Gran Turismo, players won’t need to grind to buy cars. Credits are handed out in each and every race. Combined with the most expensive car being around 500k Credits, it doesn’t take long for players to fill their garages.
Where Forza Motorsport places the grind is onto the cars themselves. Bought cars start off at their lowest level, with players needing to spend earned Car Points to bring them up to spec. Car Points are limited, so you have to be clever when spending them. Car Points can be allocated automatically for those who just want to keep racing.
Levelling up the car rewards you with more Car Points to spend, with XP, earned through competing in races and even during practice sessions. This means even during a series you can level up your car, becoming a lot more competitive in the latter races.
With missing launch content confirmed to be added in future updates, there really isn’t a lot to dislike about Forza Motorsport. We’ll miss tearing around the Nordschleife for now, but this time next year the Green Hell will be in the game for us all to enjoy.
If you’re looking for a solid track racer to sink your hours into, and Gran Turismo 7 hasn’t quite scratched that itch, we definitely recommend strapping yourself into Forza Motorsport.
For more articles like this, take a look at our Forza page.