Microsoft, Please Optimize the Next Forza Game on PC

As of last year, I fell in love with Forza. I’ve known about the franchise for several years, but I never got the chance to become fully immersed in one of its games until early last year when I picked up Horizon 3 on PC. I was blown away by the experience, and even now I still consider it to be the best racing title I’ve ever played. In addition to that, I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed Motorsport 7, which I got the privilege to review back in October. But, as much as I like both these titles, there’s one little, or rather, big speed bump that I had to get over before really coming to enjoy them: the optimization issues. Microsoft, please fix this with the next entry.

I’ve been a PC gamer for the majority of my life. For some reason, I just never bothered asking my parents for a console until 2011 when I got the Wii. Once I finally experienced console gaming, I actually found it kind of annoying to play games on PC. I know, typically this statement is said the other way around, but allow me to explain my reasoning for this.

While it’s true that PCs offer the ‘ultimate gaming experience,’ there’s a teeny little condition that has to be met in order to actually achieve that: powerful hardware. As a gamer that’s always been on a budget, I’ve never enjoyed ‘top-of-the-line’ experiences. I said I’ve spent most of my gaming life on PC, and while that’s true, all of it has been done on hardware that was never really meant for gaming and, currently, on hardware that gets the job done but still on a modest level. But, even when you do happen to have the best-of-the-best, that doesn’t save you from an unavoidable problem: optimization issues.

When creating a game for PC, developers really do have their work cut out for them. Unlike consoles which have a specific set of blueprints for devs to follow, there are thousands if not millions of different PC hardware configurations that are spread across a massive amount of different systems all over the world. As a result, it’s literally impossible for developers to create the absolute perfect code. Hence, there more often than not tends to be hiccups for gamers, even those who have hardware that meets or exceeds the recommended system requirements. Now with that said, sometimes there are issues that are encountered by select users due to their specific hardware, but in a lot of cases, the developers are actually to blame due to bad coding. That’s exactly what happened with both Forza Horizon 3 and Motorsport 7.

Both of these titles are great, but the (game) engines were certainly misfiring for the first few months on PC. 

The Forza team got its feet wet with bringing the series over to PC with Forza Motorsport 6: Apex, which was essentially the free-to-play ‘lite edition’ of MS6 from the Xbox One. For the most part, they did a pretty good job with porting it over. That’s why it was quite exciting when Forza Horizon 3 was then announced a few months later to be coming to both the Xbox One and PC in its full form. A lot of PC gamers were very happy with this, at least until they actually started playing.

Quite a number of early adopters had to deal with serious framerate issues, even those who met the notably high system requirements. For about six months this problem was plaguing the PC version of Forza Horizon 3. I got the game roughly five months after release, so I ended up encountering the issues too. Thankfully, Playground Games finally managed to get it fixed.

When Forza Motorsport 7 was announced as yet another dual-release, there was excitement yet again, but now expectations were placed upon the folks over at Turn 10 Studios to deliver a solid experience out-of-the-box. That didn’t happen. Just like Horizon 3, MS7 had framerate issues at launch. It wasn’t completely as serious as what H3 had, but it came pretty close due to it sometimes being so bad that the whole game would freeze severely enough to freeze the OS itself. I would know, as I docked points in my review of the game just because of this. The good news is that Turn 10 did manage to get the issues fixed far quicker than their counterparts at Playground did, with a patch being rolled out roughly a month after release. While this was a quick turnaround, I’m still a bit peeved over the fact it happened at all.

I decked a few points off of my Forza Motorsport 7 PC Review due to the early memory leak and framerate issues. They were fixed in a month, but far too many people ran into them making early adopters rightfully upset. 

Again, I understand that developing for PC is a complicated process, but what got me annoyed with both these situations is that these are Microsoft titles coming exclusively to a Microsoft operating system. To this day they’re still only accessible via the Windows 10 Store, so not even Steam-only users can touch them. Essentially, you can almost call these Windows first-party releases. As a result, I feel it’s kind of justified to hold the Forza team to a higher standard than other devs when it comes to quality control.

Now that 2018 is here, a new Forza title is undoubtedly well into development getting ready for the typical Fall release with the full reveal coming at E3. Going by the release pattern over the last few years, I’m confident enough to say as fact that this next title will be Forza Horizon 4. As an open-world game, it will be more demanding on hardware just as its predecessor is, so I’m a bit worried if I’ll even be able to run it (I barely make the cut for H3). But regardless of how demanding it is, I just hope the devs have learned their lesson this time around and make sure the experience is as seamless as possible for early adopters.

It’s becoming more and more common for launch-day buyers to be treated like unpaid beta testers with so many studios adopting the ‘release now, patch later’ mentality. It’s great that games can be updated to fix any bugs that weren’t detected before release, but that doesn’t mean this system should be abused to basically make launch-day buyers have to ‘deal with it’ when serious issues are present. Horizon 3 showed just how flawed this strategy is by making players wait for a half-year before the game was truly up to quality. So Microsoft, get your studios in check. It’s great that PC players can now enjoy Forza alongside their Xbox comrades, but it’s not enough for it to just to be on the platform, there needs to be quality-parity too.

There was no good reason for Forza Horizon 3 players to have had to wait six months for the framerate problems to be fixed. This really shouldn’t happen with Horizon 4. 

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