"Built from the ground up": the catchphrase that Turn 10 Studios elected to go with for this edition of Forza Motorsport. A phrase that would be incessantly mocked by the community if the game failed to live up to expectations. A phrase that has been mocked incessantly by the community for failing to live up to expectations. Although, in Turn 10's defence, they never said how high off the ground it had been built.
I was extremely excited about this game. I covered it on my YouTube channel from the very beginning, upon its initial announcement, and most of what we heard from Chris Esaki on Forza Monthly sounded so promising. I even had some hope that we would see Forza Motorsport return to its glory days. So it pains me to see where it has ended up.
It's not all bad though: the multiplayer, which I will agree was "built from the ground up" is a breath of fresh air and has genuinely provided me with some of the best races I've had throughout my 14 years of playing Forza Motorsport games. That said, it lacks some basic features one would expect to see in a racing game that is meant to be competition-focused.
There are no stats of any kind in the game, making races essentially meaningless. There is also no spectate mode, which makes broadcasting of esports races impossible (remember the competition-focused bit?); you cannot see anyone else's driver rating, not even friends, so it's also impossible to know the strength of a lobby; and finally, at least for this list, there is no weather radar or pre-race forecast, so there's no way to know if a wet race will actually stay wet.
As far as how this game feels to play on a controller, it's the best it's ever been, in my opinion. There are some weird handling quirks, such as prototype cars sliding through high speed corners which is completely wrong, and setting up a wheel still requires more than a reasonable amount of trial and error, but as far as the driving goes on controller, I am suitably impressed.
The scary thing is that what you just read is about the end of the list of good things in this game. Now let's talk about the bad.
Career mode bores
Let's breeze past the bugs and performance issues which are a dead giveaway this game came out in 2023, and even with perfect performance this game is severely lacking.
If you're a career mode fan, or a fan of anything that isn't straight-up circuit racing, you'd be glad about this being a Game Pass title, so you didn't have to buy the game to find out it's quite possibly the most creatively bankrupt single player experience in the gaming world.
I thought Forza Motorsport 7 was the most monotonous career mode in the series. Man, was I wrong! If FM7's career mode was rock bottom, Motorsport's is the dungeon below that.
This is fitting, because these career mode races feel like a form of punishment to me. It doesn't help that the AI is fundamentally flawed, behaving oddly around the player by randomly driving off track for no reason or giving up once passed by the player, they are also not that fast, despite Turn 10's claims that the AI was capable of being as fast as physically possible and the old Forza problem of 1 or 2 AI cars being way out in front of everyone else persists.
If that sounds bad, it's nothing compared to the building system, which has turned building and tuning cars from one of Forza's most popular features into a miserable grind that players are actively looking for ways to avoid.
In response, Turn 10 is actively looking for ways to force it upon players. This has to be the least popular system ever imposed upon players in a Forza game, but instead of addressing the concerns in a meaningful way, Turn 10 is doubling down by only adjusting the rate at which you unlock car parts.
Thankfully in multiplayer it can be completely avoided, provided you are a fan of Spec Events, but if you are more into class racing of old, you'd better get grinding. To me, this shows that Turn 10 is completely disconnected from what the community actually wants in a Forza Motorsport game.
Ghosting the community
Personally, a big part of the failure of this game is what isn't in the game and Turn 10's refusal to reintroduce highly requested features and listen to the most loyal of players.
One of life's great mysteries is why the utter perfection of Forza Motorsport 4's community features, game modes, leaderboards and fictional tracks never saw the light of day again.
It is truly mind-boggling that car clubs, comprehensive leaderboards, the storefront and fictional tracks that players have been begging for have not had even the slightest mention from Turn 10 over the years. Actually, now that I think about it, Horizon 5 is the closest thing we've got to the community features in Motorsport 4, but even they are a stripped-down version.
Forza Motorsport's attempts to retain players with a Live Service model seem to be failing. Reintroducing tracks that were in Forza Motorsport 7 and adding old cars that have been in every Forza since Horizon 2 (McLaren 650S) as rewards for doing 20 single-player races are giving players no reason to reconsider the game.
There is no doubt in my mind that the features from Forza Motorsport 4, created with the goal of making the best experience possible, would have achieved all the retention goals. That is the great irony of Forza Motorsport.
We've heard how this is going to be an evolving title, so we might not even recognise this game in a couple of years, but there are some mountains to scale to get there. It all starts with Turn 10 and Microsoft admitting there are some serious issues and acknowledging players' grievances. That could be the biggest mountain of all.
Since the time of writing Turn 10 has publically addressed some of the criticism outlined in this article. You can read their statement here.
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