Forza Motorsport wowed me with the first prod of a throttle, transporting me back to the carbon fibre racing seat of the real-world launch of a favourite car, the Porsche 911 GT3 at Sydney Motorsport Park.
There’s a gulping, guttural “whoop” from the rear intakes of Porsche’s 4.0-litre engine when you gas it up.
That snorting, howling motor is accurately replicated in the game, as is the GT3’s scything agility on corner entry, its other-worldly traction after an apex, and the way its engine only delivers when you seek out its 9000rpm red line.
I’m not a regular gaming critic, but I have had the privilege of driving many modern performance cars over a decade as a motoring writer.
So I can say from experience that the latest Xbox game nails the way a regular Porsche 911 Carrera feels different to the track-focused GT3. The former is easily approachable, with a torquey engine and comparatively soft suspension that make it a relatively forgiving sports car.
The GT3 is a razor blade by comparison, an unforgiving weapon of a car that requires precision.
Likewise, it captures the contrast between the brutal modern muscle car that is a twin-turbocharged Mercedes-AMG C63, and its far more purposeful Mercedes-AMG GT R cousin.
The latter is often presented as an overpowered, tail-happy monster in video games, but the reality is that it’s a planted, predictable and effective driving tool – one far easier to tame than the slidey C63.
The sound of Lamborghini’s V10-powered Huracan STO reverberating off Le Mans grandstands took me back to a test drive of the Italian supercar at Phillip Island last year.
It’s one of the deliciously replicated details in the game, like the simulated difference in shift behaviour between snappy dual-clutch automatic transmissions and comparatively lazy torque converter alternatives.
Or the way that the vastly different characters of outwardly similar cars has been replicated.
The Lexus RC-F and BMW M4 are front-engine, rear-drive coupes with plenty of power, but anyone with experience n both will tell you the V8 Lexus is a reasonably docile machine that needsrevs on board to get moving, while the twin-turbo BMW is a comparatively edgy car that lights up its tyres with little provocation.
The same could be said of the subtle differences in hot hatches – the VW Golf R is a stable, confidence-inspiring car, while the Renault Megane RS has a propensity for lift-off oversteer that makes it much more interesting on a circuit.
Many automotive truisms play out in Forza Motorsport, whether you’re playing with a handheld controller or a steering wheel such as the Logitech G923 I use at home.
The Mazda MX-5 is a playful roadster that can bite if you overcommit, with a propensity for high-speed oversteer than can catch out novice drivers.
The Audi RS4 is a rapid and effective machine that represents a stable and dynamically inert choice, and the new mid-engined Chevrolet Corvette is a well-balanced coupe that understeers benignly if you overcook a corner.
I can attest to all of that, both on the Xbox and in the real world.
You can really feel the effort that has gone into reworking the game for a new generation of consoles and their superior processing power.
But there are more than a few shortcomings.
There are only 20 tracks on the US-centric roster.
Three of them are oval circuits, but there is no NASCAR or IndyCar machinery, which feels like an odd mismatch.
Significant omissions from the list of circuits include the Nurburgring, Monza and Australia’s own Mount Panorama.
For a game that has historically focused on motor racing, there are precious few examples of current-gen race cars.
Missing road cars include the relatively recent Ferrari 296, McLaren Artura, Lamborghini Revuelto and updated Ford Mustang which you can try in other games.
And it’s not as though the cars that have been included are perfect recreations.
The R32-generation Nissan Skyline GT-R is like one of those old animal taxidermies stitched together by someone who had never seen a living lion.
Some of the sounds aren’t right, and paintwork looks strangely flat compared to the more visually attractive Gran Turismo or Forza Horizon games.
Online multiplayer gaming worked seamlessly for me, but the omission of a split-screen multiplayer mode disappointed my nephews during a school holiday visit – they preferred to race together at Bathurst on the previous-generation Forza Motorsport 7.
The new game represents a dynamic leap over other driving games on the Xbox, with a much more weighty and realistic response to driver inputs.
But racing enthusiasts – particularly Australian racing enthusiasts – should feel short changed by a relatively sparse track list, and a lack of up-to-date racing cars.
Hopefully the team behind Forza Motorsport can address that with rolling updates, because the fundamental driving experience delivers the most satisfying handling I’ve experienced on a games console.