Forza Motorsport 2023: A Revamped Racing Experience with Progression and AI

After approximately six years and a couple of releases in the Forza Horizon franchise, Forza Motorsport is set to make a triumphant return this year. As a racing enthusiast with a long-standing passion for the genre since the first Gran Turismo, I have witnessed its evolution and occasional stagnation. However, based on what I have observed thus far, Forza Motorsport is revolutionizing the racing simulation formula by focusing on two crucial aspects: the gameplay loop of its career mode and the behavior of its AI drivers.

Following the Xbox Games Showcase during the Summer Game Fest, I had the opportunity to witness Forza Motorsport in action through a hands-off demo. The highlight was the Builder’s Cup Series, a career-style mode featuring racing events with specific conditions, restrictions, and challenges, akin to a typical sim-racing campaign. What sets it apart is the progression system.

Rather than accumulating money for upgrades, you now earn credits known as Car Points, which function similarly to XP or skill points in an RPG. With Car Points, you have the freedom to select and customize upgrades for your car without committing to them, as you are not technically “purchasing” parts. Equipping specific car parts incurs a Car Points cost, but if you decide to switch to a better part or revert to the stock version, you will be refunded the Car Points. It’s comparable to respecing your character in an RPG without any negative consequences. Essentially, you have the ability to create a unique “build” for your car, enabling you to fine-tune its specifications without regret.

Theoretically, you could spend Car Points on enhancing your tires and suspension for tracks with tight corners and subsequently readjust your car’s upgrades to prioritize engine enhancements for races with long straightaways. This feature has the potential to alleviate the need for grinding cash, a common occurrence in many other racing simulations. In the past, I often found myself repeating the same race events I knew I could win, solely to earn enough money for the next necessary upgrade in a different race event. With the introduction of the Car Points system, it appears that I can now easily adapt my car’s upgrades to suit various tracks.

Although the Car Points system may seem like a minor alteration, it profoundly impacts the career mode’s progression by emphasizing the importance of building a car strategically rather than relying solely on financial resources for victory.

On the other hand, the other significant improvement in Forza Motorsport lies in the enhanced driver AI. While I do not claim to be an expert in computer science, it was explained to me that machine learning was utilized to develop more intelligent and realistic AI drivers. As a result, you’ll encounter opponents who race akin to professional drivers. One notable example mentioned by creative director Chris Esaki was that when AI drivers make mistakes, it is because they are being “timid” rather than “sloppy.” This means that if you block their path while overtaking them, instead of recklessly colliding with your vehicle, they will react by backing off or slowing down. They possess a heightened awareness of your positioning and your intentions during the race.

Of course, I am eager to experience this firsthand when I get my hands on the game itself. The prospect of AI drivers replicating real-life racing behavior is promising. Esaki also assured me that this does not imply that AI drivers won’t display aggression, as aggression is inherent in racing. However, it does reduce the likelihood of being blindsided while aggressively maneuvering through a corner to overtake.

Moreover, Forza Motorsport now encourages skillful driving throughout a

race through a feature called Car Mastery. The game evaluates your performance in each turn and corner, assigning XP based on your driving proficiency. While achieving first place remains significant, skillful driving is now an integral part of the game’s mechanics. In conjunction with the Car Points system, which incentivizes building a well-performing car rather than relying on financial advantages to secure victories, the Car Mastery system challenges players to become adept drivers and rewards them accordingly.

The new Forza Motorsport also boasts other features such as an updated physics simulation model, dynamic weather conditions, and a day-night cycle. Additionally, numerous game modes will be unveiled in the forthcoming months. It is worth noting that any progression-related aspects will require an online connection, a decision that may not sit well with some members of the Forza community.

To conclude, the future of racing simulations lies in the subtle modifications that yield significant improvements. This seems to be the guiding principle behind this new installment in the long-running Xbox series. We eagerly anticipate hitting the track with Forza Motorsport on October 10, 2023, available for Xbox Series X|S and PC.

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