You Better Start Saving Up if You Want To Play Forza Motorsport on Ultra Settings

Forza Motorsport 17 photos
Photo: Turn 10 Studios
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A lot of technical jibber-jabber was thrown around left and right during the recent reveal of the upcoming Forza Motorsport game. Things like real-time ray-traced reflections and global illumination. And to wrap it all up in a pretty-looking marketing bow, they kept calling the new visuals "built from the ground up." But what do these graphical enhancements mean for players from a practical point of view? Well, the short answer is... you might want to start saving up for a PC upgrade.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of it all, let's first take a step back, relax, breathe in some fresh air, and rejoice at the fact that Forza Motorsport will be "free." Basically, we all just saved up $70 just by knowing that. Well, technically $55 if we take into account the $15 per month we need to pay for the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription to play the game for "free" on Xbox and PC.

Now let's take one technical achievement at a time and start with basic performance. Officially, Turn 10 Studios, the developer behind this gorgeously looking game, claimed it will run in 4K at 60 frames-per-second on the Xbox Series X and in Full HD at 60 fps on the Xbox Series S.

Next, let's talk about the illustrious ray tracing, which is an entirely different graphical animal when compared to the "Normal" settings. There are more than a few types of ray tracing techniques in games, but today we'll stick to what Forza Motorsport will be offering.

Forza Motorsport
Photo: Turn 10 Studios
Thus, let's see what Ray Traced Global Illumination (RT GI) means. Simply put, it simulates the path of light rays from reality to offer a more life-like visual effect. For example, if you were to shine a green light on a white surface, that light will bounce off and emit a green hue on every other surface it touches.

In other words, when the full power of the Sun will hit a car, that car's paint color will be reflected onto any surface the Sun rays will bounce on to next, like the tarmac or garage floor.

The other type of ray tracing comes in the form of reflections. This is where things get interesting. Up until this RT technology made its way into gaming, highly reflective surfaces like glass, shiny metal, and even liquids were rendered flat and didn't reflect anything at all.

That's because, at the time, the available hardware couldn't handle ray tracing, so developers had to come up with alternative methods of simulating real-time reflections. If you ever wondered why mirrors or glass windows in old video games were always muddy or opaque, there's your answer. And even when they worked "as intended," trickery was afoot.

Forza Motorsport
Photo: Turn 10 Studios
Now that the hardware can handle this technology, we will finally get to see real-time ray-traced reflections in a Forza game while driving. And when you add the miracle of Global Illumination to RT Reflexions, you get one of the most photorealistic visuals your eyes have ever seen. At least... in theory.

Because even though the power of the Xbox Series X is nothing to scoff at, it still won't be enough to run the game with RT at full blast while maintaining a smooth 60 fps experience in native 4K. It's just not possible due to hardware limitations. Thus, more or less, there are two ways this can play out for the console version of the game.

The first scenario would mean dropping the resolution, along with limiting the game to 30 fps, for ray tracing to run at somewhere around a hypothetical Medium settings option.

However, we've also seen games like Marvel's Spider-Man Remastered and Miles Morales run on PS5 at 60 fps with ray tracing on. While this second scenario is not the optimal experience either, it's the best possible compromise the devs can make on a hardware-fixed platform like a video games console.

Forza Motorsport
Photo: Turn 10 Studios
Having ray tracing at this level will mark the first time a Forza game has ever adorned such advanced graphics in real-time during races. Horizon 5 on Xbox has RT, but only when you inspect a car in the ForzaVista mode. In translation, it really doesn't count.

It's also true that the PC version did get an update with ray tracing late last year that supports the Free Roam and racing modes, but it's nowhere near the level Motorsport is boasting. That's mainly because Horizon wasn't "built from the ground up" with ray tracing in mind, so an update can't fully compensate for that.

That's how you know Turn 10's game will be mind-blowing for eye-candy graphics nerds like me that pause that game for half an hour to compare the reflections from different surface materials while gasping in awe at the beauty of the real-time rendered scene. But I digress...

Moving on to the people proudly waving the "PC Master Race" flag, they will have to find a way to use that pride and turn it into serious cash. At least if they want to play Forza Motorsport in 4K 60 fps with the Ray-Tracing dial turned up to eleven.

Forza Motorsport
Photo: Turn 10 Studios
I say that because the official "Ideal Specs" for Forza Horizon 5 clearly show you need at least an Nvidia RTX 3080 or AMD RX 6800 XT, paired with an Intel i7-10700k or Ryzen 7 3800 XT. While the processors won't do much of the heavy lifting at 4K, we'll focus on the GPU side of things.

Logic dictates that if a two-and-a-half-year-old game requires some of the very best graphics cards the previous generation had to offer for an "ideal" experience, then this even more technically impressive game will also demand the highest quality hardware.

I'm talking about the $1,900 RTX 4090, $1,300 RTX 4080, $800 RTX 4070ti, and the $1,000 AMD Radeon 7900 XTX. (Market prices at the time of writing from a U.S. online retailer.)

To add more insult to injury, these GPUs are so advanced, you won't even get the best out of them unless you pair them with the latest generation of CPUs. Of course, to do that, you also need the rest of your PC to be up to snuff.

Forza Motorsport
Photo: Turn 10 Studios
I'm not trying to scare anyone penniless, but these would be the requirements you'd need to run such a technically advanced game in 4K at Ultra settings, with ray tracing at Ultra as well. The jury's still out on DLSS, but I reckon Quality, if not Balanced will be required, depending on how well the game performs. Let's just hope it won't be a mess like Cyberpunk 2077, Forspoken, or The Callisto Protocol.

Now obviously, you can simply enjoy the exact same game at Medium settings in Full HD with ray tracing off, and the overall gameplay experience wouldn't be much different. But if you're like me, you'll be yearning for those maxed-out Ultra 4K settings.

In any case, the game doesn't even have a release date yet, and knowing how poorly the Xbox division from Microsoft has been managing its first-party studios for the past couple of years, odds are we could even see a delay, coupled afterward with a 2024 release window.

In the meantime, we have yet to see an announcement from Ubisoft regarding their next online racing game.
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About the author: Codrin Spiridon
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Codrin just loves American classics, from the 1940s and ‘50s, all the way to the muscle cars of the '60s and '70s. In his perfect world, we'll still see Hudsons and Road Runners roaming the streets for years to come (even in EV form, if that's what it takes to keep the aesthetic alive).
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