There isn't much in Forza Motorsport that hasn't been ripped out, re-thought, and revamped. Graphics, physics, multiplayer, player scoring, and car building have all been re-architected in the next-gen reboot of Turn 10's long-running racing sim. But it's that last one, car building, that seems to be the piece that the development team is focusing on most.
"You don't buy your car so much as you build it," said game director Chris Esaki. So what does he mean by that? For starters, Car Points (CP) are the currency by which you purchase cars and parts, but when you spend them, they don't vanish; instead, the parts hold their value. In other words, Turn 10 is encouraging repeated tinkering and modifying so you can tailor your car to a particular race or track by allowing you to recoup your CP when you remove a part. So you won't be constantly grinding through races just to continually earn CP in order to get the next upgrade on your wishlist.
I really like the new ways you can earn CP, too. Winning races certainly helps, of course, but you can now choose your position on the starting grid. The further back in the field you put yourself, the more CP you'll earn by making the podium at the end of the race. Turn 10 has also rethought how they treat your clean driving, too. "Think of corners like monsters or enemies" in a non-racing game, Esaki said. Meaning, you'll now be scored on a per-corner basis, so when you come out of each corner, the upper right corner of the UI will tell you how close to the limit you got, so that you know how much improvement you have left to make in that spot on the next lap.
The Open Practice mode lets you take your builds out onto the track to test them out before you enter a real race. Running practice laps will make it obvious to you whether you've got the car dialed in how you want, or whether you should go back to the garage and tweak one of the many categories in Forza Motorsport: I saw Fuel and Air, Engine, Platform and handling, Tires and Rims, Drivetrain, Aero and Appearance, in the menu, and it's possible there may be more hiding in there.
Meanwhile, as you'd expect in the simulation-focused Forza Motorsport, you can change all the difficulty settings, including rules and regulations. You can toggle cosmetic damage or real damage, tire realism, simulated fuel, etc. Lots of these aren't new to Motorsport, but they're great to see. And when you get out on the track, the actual race is populated by your friends' Drivatars, even in the single-player Career mode. And on a related note, the AI has been completely rewritten. AI drivers are now as fast as the fastest real-world drivers, and Turn 10 says they won't pull any shenanigans like rubber-banding.
Oh, and the tire model has been totally rewritten. What was a single point of contact on each tire in the previous Motorsport games is now eight. That data updates six times as frequently, promising a more realistic moment-to-moment experience. The team has redone the suspension, weight, and aero modeling too, with Turn 10 saying (as they weren't allowing me to play it for myself just yet) that the cars feel super authentic and highly connected to the tracks. The new dynamic day/night cycle ensures that, as Esaki put it, "no two laps ever play the same, [and] no two laps ever look the same." I was given a demo of this and it was indeed quite impressive.
I asked longtime Motorsport creative director Dan Greenawalt if, with the power of the Xbox Series X (which the live demo I got was running on and looking fantastic), we might see the Series X's ability to push up to 120 frame per second made available as an option, even if it's at the cost of resolution. He told me that no, they're going to stick with 4K and 60fps for all Series X players (PC is another matter, of course), namely as a way to make sure online competition, which is a key component of this Motorsport, is done on a level playing field for everyone.
And speaking of multiplayer, a new safety and driver ratings system will be in place to help keep the racing clean online. This should be a welcome improvement for serious Forza players who are tired of the players who choose to try and bash their way to victory.
My only disappointment with my Forza Motorsport demo is that I didn't get to play it for myself! But, with Motorsport's release date locked in for October 10, none of us will have to wait much longer.