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Forza Motorsport: Accessibility Review


The copy of the game used for this review was provided by the publisher at no cost to the reviewer.


A few years ago, I called Forza Horizon 5, in my review of the title, "the most accessible mainstream racing game on console now, with a few caveats of course." However, whilst not technically incorrect, that experience still left a lot to be desired as a gamer without sight in terms of information parity and even agency in the experience compared to sighted players. It was then an interesting question of whether the Horizon series (which added accessibility updates in the form of sign language support) or Motorsport which already had gamers without sight interested via its assist settings in previous titles would be the first to allow a greater degree of playability with no vision whatsoever.

With announcements that Blind Driving Assists would be included in the next Motorsport title (which dropped the 8 from its name to act as sort of a soft reboot), courtesy of consultancy work during development, I and many others were interested to see how all of this would play out in practice. After all, driving round a track isn't something most would get to do and the complexities of racing at high speeds make that an even more convoluted proposition.

But with the game just over a week away from launch as of the time of writing, how do all these puzzle pieces fit together and can I get round a single lap without crashing?

First Boot

Note: If you'd like to see some of the below events as they happened and my initial thoughts on the game, here's my YouTube video showing my first impressions unfolding in near real time as well as my opening races.

After a logo, the game loads before playing a rather relaxing piece of score reminiscent of another famous simulation-based title available on Xbox, namely Microsoft Flight Simulator. Whilst it might surprise you at first, the screen reader does eventually kick in, albeit in a loud and slightly distorted manner and at a slower rate of speed than some gamers without sight might like. Thankfully, after following the narrated screens through, you'll eventually be able to adjust the speed of narration and its verbosity, amongst a myriad of other elements which I won't cover here simply for the sake of brevity and because these menus themselves are accessible without assistance.

I'll clarify that throughout my time with the game, I've only seen a very small amount of non-narrated content (photo mode, elements of the car livery design tools and a telemetry overlay). This is fantastic as a result, but it also means I might not cover things as in-depth as I might with an inaccessible game as all the information needed should be available to you, the player. Should you want things clarified in updated versions of this review, please do let me know.

The Learning Curve

Before the game launched, it was said that there would be a learning curve to the Blind Driving Assist (BDA) features, which were developed to allow gamers without sight to drive the track in theory just as well as a sighted player once they adjusted to the system. On hitting the track, I understood why this warning had been provided, feeling I could only go no faster than a crawl to get through initial laps in the opening couple of tutorial races. By the end of that first encounter though, I felt like I was getting some kind of handle on it, but that illusion was shattered once again when I was told to practice for my first actual, long-form race.

Why? Because in trying to get clean laps, which I understood would be the best way to progress, I could not, instead spinning off the track and getting stuck more often than not, unless I had all the assists turned up to maximum and thus denying me of any semblance of control. This was because the racing line that is, supposedly, the most efficient way to decrease lap times, is at points, right near if not slightly beyond the edge of the track, thus making it very difficult to drive cleanly unless you know the track in advance and have spent hours running it, which nobody would've done at this point.

Having the ability to customise the racing line's proximity to the edge of the track, with the caveat that it may cause you to be less efficient, could be a great way to allow people to get a feel for making clean laps and improve their driving skills, with the player being able to move the line out further and further to the default as time goes on and their confidence increases.

I also noticed a very interesting and frustrating informational difference between what the game tells you to do as opposed to what you actually have to do, in relation to one aspect of the Blind Driving Assists (BDA) features, as detailed below.

Race Guide

The Race Guide (hereafter also referred to as RG), part of the BDA system, pans the audio for your car in order that you can follow it around the track to take turns and the like, as the sound of your engine will guide you to the racing line. The game says that you should try and keep the car in the centre of your stereo field, which sounds straightforward enough and, for those familiar with Top Speed, an audio game racing series released in the early 2000s, you can even invert the panning so you can feel like you're pulling the car back into the centre instead of pushing out towards your vehicle. The intent, seemingly, is that as you move away from the line the audio would pan left or right, away from the centre, for you to then have you move it back into the middle of your audio landscape. However, when watching the game race for me under the power of assists and nothing else, the audio did not seem to function in this way, instead holding to the left or right during turns and even suddenly changing direction much less smoothly than a player would be able to achieve.

The Next Few Hours

Another issue I noticed during my opening races was the difficulty of the tracks, whilst still trying to learn how the accessibility implementations worked in practice (which is a whole other complicated overlay of sorts). I certainly thought that it would've been good to have a race that was on a predictable, easy turning track (an oval for example) to get you adjusted to how all the systems worked in practice. Even if this were part of an accessibility tutorial separately, I would've been fine with that.

In fact, there is an oval track available, Eagle Rock Speedway in its oval layout, if you want to try free play and test things out for yourself that way. However, it must be said that during my initial time with this track, I couldn't get round any of the turns without hitting something either. Having to go out of your way to test out accessibility features, especially when the tutorial doesn't make it as easy as it could to learn on the fly, is a frustrating turn of events (if you'll pardon the pun).

Whilst trying to just get my brain wired in correctly to the game, I mostly let the assists do the work, controlling elements of the throttle and breaks whilst I watched. Having discovered the difference in what the audio was doing vs what the RG was supposed to do according to the in-game instructions, I thought I'd try my hand at steering again to see if I'd Assimilated any information subconsciously. As soon as I turned the assists back off to try and practice steering, I immediately sped off the track and was penalized for it. This unfortunate disparity between what you want to happen and what actually does makes the learning curve even steeper than it arguably should be and, for me personally, a rather frustrating roadblock, pun intended.

As a result of this, I left the assists on and decided to test their limits. It turned out that you could put your throttle down and just leave the game to essentially play itself, in meaning that for what some might consider grind-related aspects like levelling cars, you could potentially utilise this if you were that way inclined.

Fight Your Rival

Rivals are a pretty big part of Forza, at least if this game is anything to go by. However, using the featured rivals mode (as opposed to setting friends as your rivals) means you are unable to choose who the game puts you against, which could be an issue especially if they are of a higher skill level than you. Such was the case when I found myself pitted against one particular racer whose gamertag I recognised. Wanting to see how an all assists on run went against this drivatar's time, I turned everything up to max and entered the race, having to buy a new car to compete. Granted, I could've rented it, but since Forza is all about collecting cars as well and I had the credits, I thought I might as well.

The Race

Entering the race, I noticed the accelerate and brake cues were playing, which hadn't always happened during my races thus far. However, them playing here meant I could have some form of influence on the times I was posting. I used this to my advantage though I was of course helped by the steering assist to tackle the part of the game I was least comfortable with.

In the end, I ended up beating my rival's lap time by a matter of several seconds if memory serves, rather than a matter of milliseconds as might've been expected before. This certainly got me thinking that it was less of a learning curve that the game presents you with and more of a potential gulf of skill between anyone trying to drive the track with BDA on compared to the game directly steering through turns. However this was in an AI race and we don't know how the original lap was driven by the drivatar in the first place, so a large number of factors are at play here.

The Confusing Career Naming Scheme

If you think of a series, what do you think of. A set of episodes of a TV show perhaps? Maybe a set of videogames in a singular franchise. However, the career of Forza is structured not only with series, but also tours. There are multiple series in a tour, so think of a tour as an individual franchise like Game Of Thrones, Star Wars, Doctor Who etc. That's what I had to do to avoid getting confused with how the career was constructed, as there are a multitude of events available at any one time that cover a variety of differing disciplines.

Sound Design And Scoring

The score for the game is at times soft and understated, at others verging on dramatic and intense, though it is only featured in the menus rather than in-game which is kind of unfortunate, as what is there is of high quality. That being said, you'd likely have to tweak the mix to a large degree to get it to sit well above any kind of music that you might choose to race to, in order that the game be playable with BDA available as well.

The sound design is also solid and impactful, though of course Forza has been the point of much discussion as to the quality of its car engine sounds for a number of years. Not being a car enthusiast, I just sat back and enjoyed the sense of speed that the various camera views provided.

Also, an interesting quirk I noticed is that when driving, your engines may sound as if they're doubled, even with the BDA race guide off entirely. This leads to the game feeling less immersive as the car does not sound as you'd expect, irrespective of view. However, this didn't seem to happen with all cars, so it may have been a bug with specific selections.

Audio Description

The game does have audio description as well, which whilst you might not think it could be that immersive, can really set the stage for the race ahead with a few simple words. However, there's an interesting caveat to the AD on offer here: it sounded, at least to me, very flat, though I did think it might be a stylistic choice at first.

Listening more closely to it, I realised that after several races I don't think I'd heard the same line twice and, having recorded some audio description myself and heard large amounts of it over the years, I felt like something in the delivery was off too, somehow, in particular when a line used the phrase "start/finish line", with the "/" character being voiced as the word "slash".

As to why this is, I could only speculate, but with Descriptive Video Works (DVW) having set such a high bar in terms of Mortal Kombat 1 and The Last Of Us Part I, the flat delivery seen here doesn't line up with the high quality we've come to hope for from titles of this stature or even smaller projects like Stories Of Blossom or Brok The Investigator that feature versions of audio description. I'd be curious to know what happened here, but it's a shame that the end result isn't what we'd come to expect with a series as steeped in detail as Forza.

Assists, Multiplayer And Achievements

During my time with the game, a thought occurred to me: A cue that I think would be useful when coupled with the deceleration would actually be the inverse, namely a cue when you can throttle back up, so that if you're just playing using the throttle the game will cue you in when it's your turn to put on a burst of speed. It also may help with understanding speed increases and when they are needed, especially when using automatic transmission, or for learning how to utilise the apex of turns correctly.

Moreover, something I haven't mentioned up to now is that there seems to be no way to read your position in the race dynamically, thus meaning that the only indication you get of your opponent's whereabouts are through overtake announcements, engine audio or impacts, during the race at least. It would be great if there were a button for this that you could assign as the game likely has all the data there to work with.

Though I still felt very much intimidated by the complexity of steering (partly because of track limits, dirty laps and the information management I was having to deal with), I decided to scale everything back. Just the throttle would be where I start, listening to the deceleration (i.e. braking) cues and acting accordingly. I was also interested to see what the game would do if I threw myself into multiplayer with assists on.

Jumping into the qualifier as part of multiplayer, I played the first half of a race with everything enabled save for braking and throttle. I then turned these into their assisted counterparts part way through the race and still managed to come 4th, so clearly I wasn't doing terribly to begin with, at least that was my thinking.

Then I decided to race a whole track with just the throttle, after taking a qualifying run around the track (qualifier laps are used to measure your position on the grid and how far up you'll start, according to the game's tutorials, with said tutorials to the best of my knowledge being unable to be viewed later if at all after their first showing).

Speeding through the qualifier, then into the race itself, I actually managed to come third, thus earning yet another achievement (which I hadn't expected). It was satisfying to know that, for those who need to play like this for whatever reason, successes can still be achieved.

However, I did have to rescue my vehicle at least twice during a much later race when the assists likely couldn't take the turns well enough, which is a real shame as up to that point they were working well. It could've been that the simulated tyres were struggling on the track, but as there is no way that I could find to accurately check those statistics as I raced, I can't say for certain.

Interestingly though, the assist system does seem to vary the lap times, thus meaning that I don't think you could get a first-place finish on assists alone in multiplayer, at least from what I've seen so far. However, as I turn things off and play more of the game, I hope that I'll one day be able to attain those dizzying heights of 3rd place out of 24, if not first with no assists being required beyond audio cues. That I feel, is a long way off at present though.

Getting Sighted Assistance

Though I got sighted assistance to utilise the livery designer as well as the photo mode (as neither are narrated fully if at all in the case of the latter), I decided to also get a second opinion on how my driving was. I turned out that I wasn't driving that badly, though the proximity of the racing line to the track edge made getting a clean lap very difficult, even if you could see it. Moreover, when I tried to duplicate earlier collisions that I thought I'd had with on-track objects, it turned out that it may have been overly aggressive drivatars causing the problem.

The Grind Of Gears

A much talked about aspect of this entry in the Forza franchise is actually how you progress in the game. Whereas in previous entries you might just earn cars simply by racing and being involved in the various single player events, this particular title sees you progressing individual cars through levels 1 to 50, with rewards for that car unlocking as you go. There are also brand discounts for getting multiple cars from the same manufacturer levelled up to "max level" (i.e. the aforementioned 50), though this takes a fair amount of time. That being said, all the rewards (various parts for your chosen vehicle) are narrated as you unlock them and can be accessed in the narrated tuning and performance sections of the menu structure. If, like me, you find the process of upgrading a singular car between events tedious and just want to get on with the racing side of things, there's even a quick upgrade option that will calibrate your automotive setup automatically and, again, this is all narrated.

Getting 30 cars to level 50 though, as required by one of the achievements might be a very time consuming process, though given how relatively quickly levels seem to come in and how much racing you get to do in the form of practice laps and qualifiers, as well as full races and free play, it may not be as irksome as feared.

A Final Steering Attempt

I thought as a fitting closure to this review at least in its initial iteration, I'd try just controlling the steering for the game to see if I could get at least 1 clean lap out of it. After attempting to adjust some sensitivity settings for steering, as well as setting brakes to partially assisted and the throttle to fully assisted, I hit the Eagle Rock Speedway on the Oval again, just me and the track itself.

The end result was mostly disappointing, posting multiple dirty laps and segment scores of 1.0 across the board. However, I did manage to get a singular clean lap!

I still think there are a lot of adjustments I might need to make to my settings for the optimal experience, but with no easy way to contextualise any of the changes that are being made (due in part to items like the look ahead features not having a unit of measurement, just listing a scale from 1 to 100), those adjustments will certainly take longer than anticipated. That being said, I'm just glad I managed to get around the track once without penalizing myself, even if the time I posted would never beat a sighted racer... at least anyone in my friends list. At least it's a start.





Forza Motorsport is a phenomenal undertaking and a definite next generational leap, in graphical fidelity, sound and of course, accessibility compared to its predecessor. I had a great time being able to dive into a genre that was previously just limited to me using varying degrees of acceleration and handbrake turns to achieve victories in prior entries.

However, the lack of tutorialisation of its accessibility options in context of actual gameplay which would make it easier to grasp how everything fits together and truly learn as you play, combined with its relatively grind-focused progression loop mean that I personally wouldn't recommend this to players looking to jump in and start posting great lap times immediately. This is especially true with the steep learning curve that is set in front of players which even now several days after first opening the game I am still intimidated by.

That being said, Turn10 and everyone involved have clearly put a lot of time and effort into what is present and I look forward to seeing what's in store in future patches and instalments of the series. After all, what we have here is, definitively, a racing title that gamers without sight can participate in, setting a bar to reach for and surpass for any other developer in the games industry who might be working on a vehicle-based competitive title. Accessibility is pushed forward by innovation, much like the world of racing. In this instance, it's clear to see that though there may be flaws, there's a solid experience underneath for those who are passionate about the genre in Forza Motorsport.

My Post-Launch Thoughts

After having a significant amount of time with the game, as well as recording this video recommending starter tracks and cars I've been practicing with I feel I can give a better opinion on the game itself.

Though the unfamiliarity as to how everything works, settings etc is definitely intimidating, it does ease somewhat with time, though the racing line being too close to the edge of the track isn't just an issue for me, but for other players as well (who have expressed they'd like an option to alter it for greater ease of practicing).

Whilst the inability to watch replays with the BDA features enabled, as well as lack of announcements as to what lap you're on in the race or ability to retrieve information on how you're doing at any time are definitely issues worth noting, I still believe the biggest blocker to the game being the very enjoyable progression sink that it could be is the current system of having to drive individual cars to level them. Whilst this does mean that you'll have people driving for hours at a time trying to level a single car, theoretically making player retention last longer than usual, I personally question just how fun this will make the game in the short and longer term. After all, I'd like to be able to, for instance, level up a manufacturer rather than a single car at a time, with each car's progression filtering through to allow for either singular progression of the manufacturer level, or even better a multiplicative progression that could make later levels feel like less of a grind than earlier ones.

Discounting the levelling side of things for the moment, I feel like the most fun I've had in this game has been when on the track with people I know well and have gamed with for years, yelling out lap times to each other as we have no way of seeing the other player's progression around the track, laughing when we collide with each other or discussing how we're getting on with the race in general. Sometimes even driving a car that turns out to be ridiculously hard to work with can be the most hilarious moment of gameplay because none of us are expecting what happens. All that is to say, I feel that to coin a phrase, "Forza with friends" is the best way to experience this game, learning together, figuring out strategies and hitting record lap times, all because the others in your race are, without a better way to put it, pushing you to your positive, if at times slightly aggressive, racing limits.

I don't doubt that as time goes on I'll get better at the game, but I also don't doubt that the work done here will allow spectacle racers like Horizon to become accessible. As someone who doesn't consider themselves as a member of the "car community", as well as enjoying setpieces like racing a plane more than just a standard track race, I look forward to the day when a diverse range of racing games is playable without sighted assistance. Forza Motorsport is the starting line, let's keep those accessibility engines revving.

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