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Driving simulators are a hard sell if you want them to reach beyond your usual base of gearheads and sim lovers. That’s why we have two Forza series: Motorsport, which focuses on precise calculation of the physics of every single bend, and Horizon, which lets you race a goddamn train. The former has always been about fine-tuning your vehicles and perfecting each apex, while the latter is usually more about the vibes and the world, rather than the tracks themselves.

The new Forza Motorsport is still very much a racing sim, but now it has a little trick up its exhaust pipe to keep less hardcore players engaged: numbers. In developer Turn 10’s words, “We like to call this a CaRPG.”

Digest that phrase and swallow the little sick you just did in your mouth because it actually seems like a smart evolution of what came before. There’s always a sense of progression in driving games, which put you behind faster, more unwieldy cars as you advance your career, but here it’s just made a little more immediate.

The cockpit view in the new Forza Motorsport, where every car has a painstakingly modeled interior. 

The cockpit view in the new Forza Motorsport, where every car has a painstakingly modeled interior. 

Every single corner you take gives you Car Points (or CP), and more are doled out depending on how close you are to perfecting that specific turn. These can be spent on new parts to make your vehicle go faster, handle better, and look more swanky, and you can only spend them on the car you earn them with. If you don’t like an improvement, you can simply remove the part and you’ll be reimbursed whatever you spent on it. You’re encouraged to fiddle and make every vehicle your own.

Not only does this give you a nice sense of progression and track your mastery of each bend in the road, but it also gives you a stronger sense of ownership over your vehicles and acts as a series of laboratory hamster treats to keep you playing. On top of that, it makes every race feel significant.

The way races play out is different this time around, too. They’re more of an event and you’re expected to brush up on your skills before the big day, starting with an open practice and a chance to challenge the grid before you compete properly. Where you decide to start on the grid also acts as a little wager, with more points earned the further back you start.

There’s no trickery here. If you’re at the back, you won’t be rubber-banded to the front. If you’re dominating at the front, the AI drivers won’t suddenly catch you up if you’re driving perfectly. The developers at Turn 10 claim the AI is the most sophisticated they’ve ever made and it never “cheats”.

You can choose where you start on the grid as a little Forza Motorsport wager. 

You can choose where you start on the grid as a little Forza Motorsport wager. 

Using data from your friends’ laps – and featuring their cars and liveries – it’ll create a range of opponents with different strengths and weaknesses, giving you a good range of driving personalities to compete against even in single-player, all powered by machine learning.

While we didn’t get hands-on with the game, what we saw looked excellent. There’s a real sense of shifting weight as the cars take each corner, and we’re told this is in part thanks to a complete rebuilding of the physics systems underpinning the action. Where tires used to have a single point of contact, now there are eight, allowing for more accurate handling.

It looks gorgeous, too, boasting full native 4K at 60fps on Xbox Series X, along with dynamic weather and time of day for every single race. Depending on the car you use, how you’ve tuned it, and what the conditions are like on the track, every minute behind the wheel should offer some fresh thrill.

You also won’t run out of things to do when you think you’ve seen it all. For the first time in the history of the series, new cars and tracks will be dropped into career mode as Turn 10 continues to support the game. As car culture evolves, so will Forza Motorsport. Step up to the grid and rev your engines for its launch on Xbox and PC on October 10.