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Forza Motorsport is a Mess, Here’s Why I Got a Refund…

The Forza franchise has long been a pillar of quality and a premium driving experience, and I wish that were still true, but frankly, it’s far from it. I am a big fan of the series, especially the main hard-core driving experience entries, with Forza 7 being one of the best-looking and most fun driving games I’ve played in years… at least if you ignore the stupid loot box wheel and focus on fancy dress that for some reason found its way into the franchise.

I also don’t care for the Horizon series, they are fun for a few hours but quickly descend into a cluttered map, collect-a-thon mess, and more often than not I find the people who populate the “story” to be insufferable pains in the arse. But tearing around England and racing a train, or driving Master Chiefs Jeep through a Scotland section, or even some of the challenges in the Mexico setting, did provide a fun arcade experience.

About a week into Forza Motorsport, I found a lot to love and so did our other writer Jacob in his mini-review. The cars handle great, well… except the Mustang at the start, which handles like a Mustang and loves to be largely undrivable. The track selection is stunning, there’s a vast array of great locations and a whole host of new tracks that I’ve never played on in a racer before. The car selection is broad, and the progression system is a welcome one. I love trying to hit a 10.0 score on each section. The game also isn’t an XP shower and doesn’t overload you with cars and levels too quickly like the Horizon games did… which tried to drop hypercars on you like they were going out of fashion, completely overwashing the early game experience and lower performance cars, which can be a lot of fun to progress through.

But that, I’m afraid, is where it all falls apart, the major completely unaddressed or acknowledged issues persist. The forums, actually, several forums, are littered with people having serious issues. I am now one of those people.

Image courtesy of Forza.net

Let’s start. DLSS, it’s broken, utterly and completely. I run an RTX 4090 so performance is not an issue. With DLSS turned on to DLAA, which upscales a full-resolution image higher for an even sharper image makes the game look worse and blurry. Every version of DLSS from there on makes it even worse. From my experience, many games’ DLSS integration can look as good and even better than native, but that most certainly isn’t the case here.

Image courtesy of Forza.net

Turning DLSS off entirely, it’s still not that clear an image, with some appealing aliasing issues on reflections, shadows, and on the cars in general. It’s like the internal resolution is lower than the settings would imply. You can get around a lot of this by forcing the resolution scale to 100%, but by and large, the image quality is a downgrade from Forza 7.

The ray tracing is broken, setting it to ultra causes some pretty bad artefacts in the reflections and only amplifies the softness and jaggy image quality. Furthermore, this issue is affecting 3440 x 1440 and 4K resolutions especially.

I’m running an i7-13700KF and RTX 4090, and with DLSS on, I get 100-120 FPS and 99% GPU usage. Turning Ray Tracing off I get the exact same FPS but 50% GPU usage, with CPU around 40% in both scenarios. With an unlocked frame rate, I’d expect GPU usage to stay high and the frame rate to go up, but this is not the case. The frame rate often drops to a juddery 30 FPS in the second race of any series onwards, but still reports it being 3-4x higher than that. This is only fixable with a restart of the game. Sometimes I’ll check settings and notice DLSS options are gone, with a forced on FSR 2 mode instead, again, the game needs a reboot to resolve this.

Image courtesy of reddit/r/forza

Disabling full RTAO and going one setting down does net a better result, just having car reflections and shadows works well, but full RT just looks outright bad. What’s maddening though is turning the ray tracing off completely actually looks really good and at half the GPU performance budget, it’s an appealing setting to run the game at. DLSS can fix the performance gap nicely, but again, setting it to Quality or Performance mode makes it look like it’s been put through the Nintendo 64’s Z-buffer.

Then there is the vanishing track. I’m not alone on this one, having seen many comments about it in forums and Discord chatter. I get around 50% through a race, and around 1/4 of the time, the track just straight up vanishes. Meaning I’m driving on an invisible surface.

These issues are so common, and so blatant to the eye, that there’s just no way they did not know. Have the developers said anything to this effect? Nope. Have they released a proper day-one driver or patch to address anything since the launch? Also no. Switching back to Forza Horizon 5 or Forza 7, it strikes me that the older games just look… better. How is that even possible?

Forza used to be a premium experience, but right now, it’s just another typical 2023 game that’s launched before it’s ready. I paid for GamesPass to play it, and even took out the £26.99 premium upgrade pack, as I’m a busy guy and wanted a few goodies to start with… honestly, I’m amazed I got my money back so quickly. Not 30 minutes after I complained and uninstalled it, the refund went through. So if you’re thinking of doing the same, they’re not putting up much of a fight.

Hopefully, anyone who bought on Steam can get their cash back as quickly too. But with the game currently getting Mixed reviews, and many saying the same about the visual downgrade, I’m sure there are plenty trying.

I’m sure I’ll be back to play Forza, but ideally when they’ve finished making it.

Peter Donnell

As a child still in my 30's (but not for long), I spend my day combining my love of music and movies with a life-long passion for gaming, from arcade classics and retro consoles to the latest high-end PC and console games. So it's no wonder I write about tech and test the latest hardware while I enjoy my hobbies!

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