For nearly two decades, the Forza Motorsport series has raised the bar for racing sims in many ways. The debut entry was a sea change due to how exciting its racing action was in a genre then known for having more subdued AI, while also changing the industry in regard to paint scheme creation tools – which led to me having the most fun I had ever to that point in time creating paint schemes for cars with custom logos.
As a franchise, Forza has been my go-to sim racer since day one. Few games have blended goofy concepts with a robust open-world quite like its spinoff series Horizon. The mainline Forza series has fallen by the wayside a bit with the long time between games. But the upcoming Forza Motorsport aims to establish a new foundation and so far, it looks quite promising.
Progress since our first impressions
In April, we had a chance to chat with Turn10 Studios and some of the accessibility team of Forza Motorsport. Now we’ve had a chance to try out the game, albeit in a limited form. Even so it’s impressive to see what leaps have been made in terms of the core racing action and accessibility. Although it had a restricted selection of options across the board, the demo impressed when it came to accessibility options.
The suite of visual accessibility options in the Forza Motorsport demo was expansive. It allowed for not only larger menu text, but also the ability to change the opacity of the area surrounding the text. High-contrast modes were also available alongside colorblind modes for various types of colorblindness. Being able to turn off moving backgrounds is a nice touch, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal. It cuts down on distracting menu elements which can definitely get in the way of effective menu navigation. Especially if you have vision or cognitive issues.
Those who prefer using audio navigation for menus will have a lot of different AI voice options available. You can even adjust the volume and speed of the narration if you so desire. I can see that coming in handy for things like more advanced car tuning. It does help to hear some of those things being explained. It’s one thing to retain the written word, but it is easier to retain things you hear and especially things you hear and see.
Blind accessible through sound design
One recommendation we got back in April was to play with either a headset or soundbar. The former definitely changed the experience after starting with the basic PC speakers. Playing through the available race content with a quality surround sound headset, the depth of the sound design is clear.
One thing that I was very mindful of throughout my playtime was how well things like track positioning could be figured out purely by sound. Turn 10 stated that the game is designed to be blind-playable for races and core menus. It may not be so accessible for things like livery designing. As someone with poor vision, I wanted to play with the idea in mind of focusing on my car and not the track. Trying to judge how easily I can tell where I need to be to avoid going off-track or spinning out. When driving over the barrier lines, the controller vibration changes as does the sound effect used for the environment.
Nuanced sounds and haptic feedback
Driving across asphalt sounds smoother, and you hear a change when you are on the lines. An alternating thump lets you know you’re on the lines before finally hitting the grass or dirt. Then the vibration and audio makes a greater change, and you feel the vibration as if driving on dirt. You can also hear the sound of it underneath the vehicle. It’s very subtle but effective. The sound design also shines brightly for collisions. I found myself wanting to get into crashes just to experiment with the audio. And since you can always rewind to the point before the crash, you can do so without a penalty.
Crashes are absolutely violent. A head-on collision results in the sound being the greatest towards the front but also off to the sides. This works well to let you know how hard you collided with a rival or a wall. You can tell a light collision apart from a heavy one. You can take a big impact on the left while still hearing cars whizzing by on the right. It’s impressive to hear all of the nuances in the audio. It does change how I think about not only playing this game, but others as well. I haven’t seen a racing game impress me this much with its sound design since the underrated Shift 2.
Looking forward to Forza’s release
The demo allowed us to spend a lot of time with the few available tracks. This enabled me to get a feel for both the track design and car handling. If you’ve enjoyed prior entries in the franchise and love how it blends being ease-of-play with high-end simulation, you’ll be overjoyed with the end result. The menu layout is easy to navigate. The handling of the cars is fantastic and feels natural with a controller. The sound design is impressive across the board. Playing with a great headset brought out the impact of crashes. The final game’s more robust car selection should shine even brighter.
Forza Motorsport releases for Xbox Series consoles and PC on October 10 and it looks incredibly promising so far. Playing on the Series X was a joyous experience with a silky-smooth framerate. The loading times were very fast for the tracks, given how detail-rich they are. We’ll be back with impressions of the full version of Forza Motorsport and its accessibility suite when it’s available in October.