Turn 10 Studios crafts yet another meticulously gorgeous and enthralling racing sim (and adds some compelling new features to boot).
When playing Forza Horizon 3, the open world racing sim/carnival manager set in gorgeous Australia, I was unsure about ever going back to the Forza Motorsport series. Everything I could ever want, be it insanely gorgeous cars or a strong single-player focus that also gave me the freedom to do whatever, was here. Of course, leave it to Turn 10 Studios to go and raise the bar yet again with Forza Motorsport 7. In terms of features, selection and progress, Forza Motorsport 7 makes some big strides over Forza Motorsport 6 (which released in 2015). However, fundamentally, it retains the same feel, that same journey towards the perfect run in rainy weather and that indelible intensity when attempting to pass your opponents on the next crucial turn. Forza Motorsport 7 sees the series continuing to embody the spirit of realistic racing that’s not only built from the ground up for purists but also incredibly enticing to newcomers as well.
"Unlike previous games, you can’t just purchase any car you want. Instead, as you acquire cars, you’ll increase your Collector level and slowly gain access to different tiers of vehicles."
Upon first booting up Forza Motorsport 7, you’re immediately hit with the game’s main motivation – the Forza Driver’s Cup. Racing isn’t just about going fast, you see – it’s also about being versatile and adapting to harsh conditions. To underscore this, you’ll actually go back and play as previous years’ winners in famous competitions. This gives you an opportunity to try out different vehicles in different scenarios, whether it’s a sports car careening through Dubai or one that must brave stormy weather. From there, you’re allowed entry to the various Cups en route to Forza Driver’s Cup, each host to a series of races, Showcase Events and so on to display your skill. With each division focusing on a different type of car, you’ll have your hands full.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing new additions to Forza Motorsport 7 is that you have an avatar that’s striving to achieve greatness. It’s more than just a medium to unlock cosmetics though – suddenly, winning feels more tangible as you take to the podium and celebrate. Even something as simple as readying up in your car has more weight since it’s actually a person and not some faceless entity that’s seeking to become legend. Of course, your character does have a ton of cosmetic options from racing suits of various shades and brands to outrageous designs like tuxedos.
When first starting out in Forza Motorsport 7, you’ll only have access to the Seeker Cup. Select a division from those available, be it sports cars or super cars, and you’ll have a number of races to complete. Placing anywhere in a single race for the series grants you SP which varies based on your standing. Naturally the goal is to place first but there’s a little less pressure to do so. At the same time, you’re striving to get better because SP is necessary to unlock other divisions and Cups. There are some slight restrictions but there’s enough variety in the divisions offered that you don’t have to dabble in rally racing or race truck driving (which is a new addition to the series) if you don’t want to. Besides, Free Race is also available for those who just want to hop into a race, practise particular tracks or cars and maybe tweak a few settings here and there.
As with previous games in the series, you’ll level up and actually be able to choose from three possible rewards, namely credits, a new car or a new cosmetic item. Choosing a new car – or even collecting one from winning a Showcase Event against, say, Ken Block – will go towards your Collector level. Unlike previous games, you can’t just purchase any car you want. Instead, as you acquire cars, you’ll increase your Collector level and slowly gain access to different tiers of vehicles.
"Sometimes, Drivatars can be a little too crazy, skirting the line between competitive racing and vehicular manslaughter, as opposed to outsmarting you."
While this might sound restrictive, it does offer a more linear form of progression that I think the previous few titles were lacking. Yes, there is an appeal to purchasing that amazing Ferrari or Lamborghini after collecting enough Credits, but this approach helps push you to try different things. If you don’t like a particular car as a reward, you can invest in credits and buy a different vehicle later to increase your Collector level. Besides, the number of points required to progress through tiers is fairly distributed and never feels like a grind. The Speciality Dealer also returns so you might just luck out with a particular car being available.
Forza Motorsport 7‘s gameplay is still more or less the same. Racing on the default assist and Drivatar difficulty settings still offers a borderline-arcade experience where you can get by following track markers and enabling automatic braking. You’re free to alter these settings as you choose, making the experience as difficult as you’d like. For example, you can turn off cosmetic damage and witness just how much your recklessness affects car performance. And yes, there is Friction Assist to allow for navigating wet terrain all the better. Strangely enough, you don’t get a Credit boost this time for assists that are turned off.
Drivatars continue to exhibit amazingly sadistic behaviour during races. While the “Above Average” setting offered a healthy amount of competition, especially after turning off a couple of assists, the higher difficulty settings were a case study in aggression. Sometimes, they can be a little too crazy, skirting the line between competitive racing and vehicular manslaughter, as opposed to outsmarting you.
Regardless, it was thrilling – there’s just something about timing your approach and bypassing the vehicles in front of you, narrowly avoiding a crash while trying not to reduce speed too harshly. It’s exhilarating, whether you’re in a super car or a racing truck and never gets old. There’s plenty of methodical driving and navigating around sharp turns though. At times, it’s a balance between drafting behind your opponent, picking up enough speed and overtaking them at the right moment. You also patiently wait for mistakes to be made, slight decreases in speed hampering the competition as you work out how to pull ahead. The Rewind feature helps make things less punishing as you learn how to navigate certain turns with multiple retries.
"A review for any Forza game would be remiss without mentioning the cars on offer. With over 700 cars to collect, I have no trouble believing that each one is unique in its own way."
Of course, it wouldn’t be a sequel if Turn 10 didn’t throw in some added wrinkle. Forza Motorsport 7 has dynamic weather, which means it can rain on the track. Big deal, you might say, but it can happen in the middle of a race, starting with a drizzle and going full downpour, creating puddles on the track. Knowing the type of car you’re driving becomes even more important in that regard, especially when even hitting a puddle in that fancy super car can send you careening out of control.
Then there are mods which are now available in Prize Crates aka loot boxes. Depending on the rarity and Credit cost, you can pick up packs of mods, driver gear, badges and even cars. The price scaling actually isn’t handled too badly and there’s thankfully no real money option for buying crates (yet). Mods are your standard modifiers or boosters for a race, which range from challenging you to race with cockpit cam only or offering a flat bonus to XP gained. They each have their set number of uses but as you keep racing, you’ll never really run short of mods to equip and benefit from.
In terms of customization, Forza Motorsport 7 offers a number of tuning options, whether you want to adjust the aerodynamic nature of your car, add a roll cage, allow it to understeer or oversteer more and whatnot. While not the most in-depth suite of options in the market, it’s still enough to allow veterans to really tune the ride they want while newcomers can stick with presets and automatic optimization to get by. As always though, the tuning menu offers detailed explanations of what each tuning option does so you’re never left in the dark when wanting to learn.
A review for any Forza game would be remiss without mentioning the cars on offer. With over 700 cars to collect, I have no trouble believing that each one is unique in its own way. The 1966 McLaren M2B is a speed demon that needs to be brought to a near stand-still at sharp corners but the 2016 Ford Gymkhana 9 Focus RS RX is a rally machine through and through. So when you’re brought into a city with tight turns, you better know how to power slide.
"It’s just simply phenomenal that Forza Motorsport 7 can manage this level of attention to detail on all fronts even with so many iterations over the years."
Then there’s the 2010 Mazda MX-5 which feels like a good mix of speed and handling but doesn’t shine all that much in acceleration. Don’t even get me started on the racing trucks which are hulking masses that require an altogether different approach from anything else till date. Each vehicle looks amazing and sounds exquisitely different. The overall audio handling in the game is superb, right down to the voice overs, music and screeching of tires on the tracks.
That’s not getting into how genuinely good-looking the game is. The stormy sky boxes formed as a result of dynamic weather, especially with how rain droplets fall on your car, look great. The chrome on vehicles also looks realistic without overwhelming you on a clear, sunny day. Even the environments, from the Daytona International Speedway and Hockenheimring to Dubai’s city scapes and mountain routes look pretty good, though I did notice a bit of aliasing on some buildings. It’s also worth noting that for all the track layouts on offer, some of them are reversed versions of existing tracks. At certain points in cutscenes the frame rate also seems to slightly stutter. This doesn’t happen too often though and you’ll have a constant 60 FPS while racing so don’t worry.
It’s just simply phenomenal that Forza Motorsport 7 can manage this level of attention to detail on all fronts even with so many iterations over the years. While Turn 10 could just phone it in and add more cars, the studio dedicates an obscene amount of effort into realistically depicting the sport. Even if Project CARS 2 may offer the more “realistic” sim experience, Forza Motorsport 7 still comes pretty darn close while also containing way more cars to unlock. You’ve probably heard this already but we’ll say it again – if you own an Xbox One, you need to play Forza Motorsport 7. It’s a must-have for racing sim fans and a quality release through and through, featuring the very best balance between realistic racing and thrilling entertainment.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox One.
Incredible scope with its car list and Forza Driver's Cup campaign. New dynamic weather adds an intriguing layer of randomness to the already amazing gameplay. Welcoming to both newcomers and veterans thanks to driver assists and solid track design. Numerous tuning options and highly realistic racing that's still forgiving enough thanks to Rewind button. Gorgeous visuals reinforced by solid 60 FPS racing.
Higher difficulty Drivatars tend to be too aggressive. Slight frame stutters in beginning cutscenes with even slighter aliasing on some buildings. No Credit boost from disabling driver assists.
Whether you're up for a couple of races or want to learn everything about Porsche, Forza Motorsport 7 will scratch that racing sim itch and then some. It's the definitive racing experience of the year and another new bar for the series to surpass.