Turn 10 Studios wants you to have a relationship with your car. It wants you to fall in love with it. Seriously. In a behind-closed-doors presentation after the Xbox Games Showcase, Forza Motorsport general manager Dan Greenawalt and creative director Chris Esaki really wanted to emphasise that this is a game where you fall in love with your car, and treat it like a lover.
To really drive this point home (pun intended), there’s one big difference in Forza Motorsport compared to the other Turn 10 and PlayGround Games titles that have come before; you build your cars, you don’t buy them. The hope here is that you get to know them inside out – that you have pored over and pondered every single element that makes up your vehicle, that you feel the hum and bite of every last bit of assembly when you’re taking it around the track.
But let’s step back a bit. There’s a whole new progression loop in Forza Motorsport 2023, per the developers. “Level, build, dominate.” That language is perhaps a bit violent or over-bearing for a romantic relationship, but hey – different strokes for different folks, right? This means that, from the beginning of your career right through until the end, you’re coaxed into treating your car like it’s one you actually own, sat out on the road. You don’t want to total it in a race, you don’t want to damage it; you want to get out there every Saturday morning and spend proper time with it, wash it down, sing to it (probably).
“This game is not exclusive automotive fantasies, but attainable and desirable cars,” says Esaki as he takes us through one full play of that core loop – levelling, then building, then dominating. It begins with a test race. Every event in the newly-redone Career mode features a robust open practice suite where Esaki wants you to “know the car, practice with it, engage with and get rewarded by the challenges [we set].” But, more than that, he wants you to “have fun on the track, drive hot laps, trying to get faster and better all the time.”
When you boot into a new event, there’s a proper little bit of car porn trailering you can enjoy, all realised like ‘Marks & Spencer does Ford’. Slow, languid shots of nice curves caught in overhead light, a close-up money shot of the spoiler, the chrome of the exhaust with lens flare at an angle that’s just so. And none of this is pre-rendered, it’s all running in real-time. Greenawalt and Esaki mention ‘falling in love’ again. These little showcases are designed to make you pick a car, and couple with it for life.
So far, so Forza. But – because the team wants every small thing you do to get you to love your car more – the rewards are much more incremental than they have been in any Forza to date. Revamped Car Mastery parameters ensure that “every corner in the game is an objective,” so that every time you go through any corner, you get a score out of 10, and you gain car XP for every corner you take depending on that score. Baked-in UI is designed so that you can see what you did right and what you did wrong, so you can take that same corner again, better, next time.
It feels very much like Turn 10 wants to take all the basics you may have learned from the more arcade-y racing of Forza Horizon, say, and coax you forward into the next level. This demo was hands-off, so I can’t tell you how it felt, but I can tell you that, for example, the tyre modelling is completely new, upgraded from a single point of contact with the track to eight per tyre. ”The tyre model alone has gained 48x detail,” says Esaki, beaming. You can tell he’s proud of what the team has done with the detail.
The actual result of all this is that you know just how your car feels when you take it through a good corner, or over a nice line – you know how it should feel, and if it’s off in the driving, it’s because you did something wrong. Once you’ve nailed the feel of your car, everything should be intuitive – like knowing when your partner is upset and needs a hug, or is stressed and needs a beer, or is mad at you and needs space. Turn 10, genuinely, wants you to have that level of relationship with your car.
Whether this all works, and is something that’ll appeal to more people than just those who play Forza games anyway, remains to be seen. I must say that this preview did pique my interest more than other sim-heavy racers out there, but then I’m in the perfect Horizon-to-Motorsport pipeline, I guess. As Microsoft’s one big exclusive this year, Forza Motorsport has a lot to prove – and maybe, just maybe – it’ll appeal to those beyond the core fandom with this interesting reboot.