The last Forza Motorsport released almost five years ago, which is pretty weird to think about when you consider that once upon a time, it was an every-other-year franchise. Developer Turn 10 decided it was time for a serious rethink of its sim racer, and the series’ next entry has teased a new focus on competition, doubling down on the Motorsport side of things since Playground Games has the easygoing car-collecting angle covered with Forza Horizon. The upcoming entry has also been eagerly anticipated as a showcase for the Xbox Series X’s true performance potential, which brings us to today’s news.
See, Turn 10 has been conducting covert closed-beta tests for its next project, and while Microsoft never explicitly stated that the next Forza Motorsport was to be current-gen only, we now have reason to believe that won’t be the case. An anonymous tester posted off-screen images of the beta purportedly running on last-gen hardware on Imgur, which were shared to Reddit and picked up by GTPlanet. What’s more, these shots are said to have originated from a build back in July.
How do we know they were captured from an Xbox One console? We don’t for sure, though a mod on the r/GamingLeaksAndRumours subreddit says they’ve confirmed the images’ legitimacy with the Reddit user.
We’ve heard essentially nothing about the next Forza Motorsport since, well, this time last year when series’ creative director Chris Esaki related that beta testing was imminent. If the timing associated with this leak is true, that means Microsoft had already decided to bring the game to last-gen hardware by mid-2021 — right about when we initially caught wind Gran Turismo 7 was to release on PS4 as well as PS5.
One would surmise the reason Microsoft has opted for yet another cross-gen exclusive is because people still can’t easily get their hands on the latest systems almost two years since they first hit the market. There’s still a strong audience on Xbox One S and Xbox One X, so why not give them a technologically cut-down version of the game that they can enjoy, too?
The counterargument is that continually making versions of triple-A games for outdated hardware prevents developers from optimizing their projects for the latest consoles and taking advantage of some of the new machines’ exclusive capabilities. That said, the most visually stunning PS5 and Series X games still look pretty damn astonishing — GT7 and Forza Horizon 5 serving as prime examples — and, at the end of the day, the most important thing is that the people who have waited five years for a new Forza sim can play that sim on the best hardware available to them if they can’t get their hands on a new Xbox or a modern graphics card.
Besides, what will make or break this Motorsport reboot won’t be the graphics, because this game will assuredly look stunning no matter where it releases. No — it’ll be the physics and the game design, two areas where Turn 10's Forza games began to languish throughout the mid-to-late 2010s. FM5, 6 and 7 all began to feel increasingly iterative with their clockwork, every-two-year cadence, not to mention the reuse of old content. This is the moment for the studio to press the reset button and deliver a first-party sim racing experience that truly feels fresh behind the wheel — the way, say, the original Forza Motorsport did, or FM3 on the Xbox 360.
Today marks the 17th anniversary of that first entry, by the way. It released in 2005 three months after Gran Turismo 4 did, making for one of the best years in the genre’s history. Here’s hoping Forza Motorsport emerges before 2022 is out, and we have ourselves a repeat of that battle.