Platforms: PC, Xbox Series X|S
Chances are that if you're a fan of racing games, you've long since made your mind up over which side of the Forza fence you're on. On one, you have Playground Games' Horizon spin-off, the open- world, festival-themed, vaguely fantastical outing that's all about wish fulfilment — driving supercars around volcanoes or through waterfalls, blasting your favourite tunes on the radio, and oh-by-the-way there are also some races if you can be bothered. On the other, there's the progenitor, Turn 10 Studios' Motorsport, a very serious sim for very serious players, the kind of people who obsess over things like fuel load and its impact on acceleration, or how the design of an obscure sprocket somewhere affects aerodynamics.
For years, the racing lanes have been separate, but for the latest Forza Motorsport, there's a hint of Horizon's laissez-faire attitude nipping at its wheels. Make no mistake, this is still that serious sim for serious players, but Turn 10 leans a bit more into cinematic territory here, better selling the sheer awe of tearing up some of the world's most iconic race-tracks and the spectacle of crucial race days. This is a game that invites you to revel alongside it in how cool motor-racing can be.
It does all this while doing the best job yet at onboarding players who might not already be committed petrolheads. This Motorsport feels more accessible than any before it, easing players in with a host of assists to introduce concepts like following racing lines or how to control 1,400kg of metal careening around a track at 90mph, or how and what best to customise on a vehicle, before gently taking its foot off the metaphorical brakes and allowing players to experiment and make their own mistakes.
Overhauled physics and, notably, improved tyre mechanics, all lend a greater sense of control to even unseasoned racers.
Chances are, you'll make plenty, especially if you're coming in with that laid-back Horizon mindset. Motorsport 2023 is almost unforgivingly accurate at times, and anyone thinking just holding down the accelerator is enough to win won't be taking to the podium at the end of any of the game's championship seasons. Accuracy and professionalism matter here – cut a corner, clip a rival, or otherwise ignore the rules, and you'll get hit by some pretty brutal time penalties that can massively alter your overall ranking. Oddly, though, that same accuracy sometimes makes races more approachable – overhauled physics and, notably, improved tyre mechanics making for a more authentic feeling of grip as rubber meets asphalt, all lend a greater sense of control to even unseasoned racers.
2023's Motorsport packs in plenty of modes to test your driving skills, from online ranked Rivals mode that sees you competing for best lap times to the simple Free Play, allowing you to potter around tracks with about as low a sense of stakes as the game offers. The Career mode is the big one, though, and perhaps one of the most controversial elements of the game. Turn 10 describes it as "ongoing and ever-growing", but take that as "online and never-ending". It's intended to evolve over the course of the game's life cycle, constantly offering new heights for competitive drivers to reach – which probably explains the decision to drop any numerical suffix for this instalment in the series – but at launch it lacks variety, with genre-typical challenges and a relatively small assortment of tracks.
Similarly truncated is the roster of vehicles, which feels an odd thing to say when there are still over 500 cars here. Compared to earlier entries in the franchise with over 700, though, it feels a slight step down. However, it's a case of quality over quantity, with each and every car recreated near flawlessly, right down to the pitch-perfect roar of every engine. Acquiring your fleet can feel slow going – you're typically encouraged to stick to one car at a time, putting it through its paces, particularly in Career, before moving on. And, to slow things down further, there's also a bit of a ‘CarPG’ feel to Motorsport at times, with vehicles needing to be levelled up – earning XP through skilled driving such as perfect cornering or overtaking opponents – before you can customise them. Compared to Forza Horizon 5, which practically erupted with vehicles much like the calderas you'd then drive them around, it makes Motorsport feel like a bit more of a grind.
Then again, that might not matter. As mentioned, you probably already know if you're a Horizon or a Motorsport racer at heart. While this outing does more than perhaps any sim before it to be accessible and welcoming, it's still not going to really win over the party-going players who dig the chill vibes of Horizon. But then, if it did, it would destroy everything sim fans love about Motorsport. And it’s those people who will get the most out of this – a hardcore racing experience that delivers everything adherents of the form crave. Its pace and progression systems can grate slightly, and it could really do with more track variety, but if Turn 10 can expand and evolve it as is seemingly planned, Forza Motorsport could become a new industry standard.