Forza Motorsport review: Is the reboot worth it?

The new Forza is very extensive and moves closer to Gran Turismo

When is a game not a game? This may sound like a fortune cookie riddle, but the answer is certainly 'the new Forza Motorsport'. In the game store you'll find Forza Motorsport among the racing games, but the career mode (where you drive the Builder's Cup) is more of a comprehensive introduction to the extensive car list and the plethora of options and things you can play around with.

Think of Forza Motorsport more as a platform for racing, tinkering and tuning. The game offers virtually endless combinations of cars, tracks, regulations and conditions that can be applied both online and offline. If Microsoft keeps its promises, the platform will receive a lot of great updates.

Now also day and night, plus challenging weather conditions

New additions to the Forza Motorsport reboot include a true, continuous day and night cycle and more convincingly changeable weather. This sounds like something to make long-distance racers (who like to get thrombosis from sitting in a chair for 24 hours) happy, but this addition makes even the shortest races memorable. You'll remember how you kept your composure when drizzle turned into a downpour, or how a crucial corner became a blind corner thanks to the setting sun, or every time you had to race through the thick fog.

Perhaps too little 'play'

The inevitable downside to all this 'not a game, just a platform' stuff is that there's actually very little 'game' in Forza Motorsport. Builder's Cup's unique selling point is upgrading your car between races, either by rolling up your sleeves and fitting individual parts or by pressing the temptingly handy 'quick upgrade' button. The problem is that the rest of the field is growing with you, so it feels like you're barely making any progress compared to the rest.

Every now and then the 'best' new parts will comically ruin your car's handling, leaving you struggling through the next race like you're trying to lift an unruly cat, but then you've got about the most exciting part of the storyline in Forza Motorsport did. If you are careful with the upgrades, you won't have this.

The racing in Forza Motorsport is good

What keeps you coming back for more as a car enthusiast is the power of the driving experience itself. This is the most dynamically involved Forza Motorsport yet, ironing out the driving model flaws of the previous games. Particularly the translation of the violence of driving a thoroughbred race car to your less glamorous sweatpants-on-the-couch setup. You're in the middle of it.

For those willing to risk the first crashes on the first corner during a game of multiplayer, there is a revamped structure that brings the game in line with Gran Turismo's Sport mode. Scheduled multiplayer races are designed for easy entry online, including the ability to rent a compliant car.

Here lies the real longevity of the 'platform': if the game's new safety rating and penalty systems do their job to keep the competition both fierce and fair, then players will be coming to it for years to come.

So, should you buy Forza Motorsport?

Forza Motorsport feels almost experimental at launch, with mixed results. We don't care much for the Builder's Cup, with the much-vaunted upgrade progression seeming largely irrelevant to what's actually happening on the track. The promise of the platform approach, however, is that the game will continually offer new experiences, experiences that should also be more unique.

Furthermore, Forza Motorsport has done the most important thing right: the way the cars feel to drive and race. Once you get behind the wheel, all your frustrations melt away like worn tires. And there will be a lot of worn tires…