If you’ve read my review for Forza Horizon 2 or Forza Horizon 3, you know I’m more of an arcade racer. Adjusting shock pressure, the caster and camber of tire angle, and choosing a drive shaft isn’t really my jam. After more than a few hours with Forza Motorsport 7, I don’t know if that’s changed, but I have a lot more appreciation for the series, and I feel like the team at Turn 10 has done something incredible for this series – made it more accessible.
Before we dig too deep, let’s look at Forza Motorsports 7 by the numbers. This year’s racer features a staggering 700 vehicles at launch, up from the 450 offered in Forza Motorsport 6. These vehicles come in a wide variety from hatchbacks, rally cars, and ratrods, to jeeps, high-end SUVs, and supercar prototypes. The game ships with 32 tracks that can be tackled in single and multiplayer, and up to 24 racers can take to the track online.
There are a tremendous number of improvements in Forza Motorsport 7, both cosmetic, and under the hood. Selecting from six difficulty levels ranging from super easy to veteran, the game pulls the levers on nine different driving assists which affects the suggested line, braking, steering, traction control, stability control, shifting, damage fuel and tire wear, rewind, and friction assist. These clinical sounding adjustments make all the difference in the world.
Behind the wheel
The Drivatar system in Forza Motorsport 5 introduced a system whereby player’s racing behavior received a little bit of AI tweaking to create racers that closely emulated human driving behavior. In practice, it’s made for a wealth of different racing styles, often closely mimicking their origins. That system has seen improvements in Forza Motorsport 6, and Forza Horizon 2 and 3, and reached a new level of maturity in Forza Motorsport 7. Coupled with the aforementioned difficulty levels, what you end up with is a racer that is approachable for all audiences.
On the first three difficulty settings, the game will apply the brakes gently for you, and also place a racing line with colors that change based on your speed and approach. Pushing up a difficulty level (which the game will suggest if you continue to smoke your opponents) removes some of those elements, or you can toggle them yourself in the options. To fully test this theory, I handed the controller to my wife and set it on the second easiest difficulty level. She zipped across the finish line in first place. Undaunted, I handed it to my non-gaming mother, who, after a short tutorial, was able to pull a third place on her own, and said she had a blast doing it.
The single player experience is set up as a six race series events, each with a half dozen or more race types split by vehicle. For instance, one event might be the modern hot hatch, historic road racing, rise of the supercar, Forza trophy trucks, Polaris RZR Spec, or Open Wheel Legends just to scratch the surface. There are seven series cups, and three showcases for each one. Finishing a race earns points, and hitting a certain point threshold unlocks the ability to run the cup challenge race. The first one is only 2500 points, which equates to roughly two first place victories, and a second or third place showing. As there are several race types in each section, the game never forces you into races you don’t want, allowing you to pick and choose until you get the points you need. Forza 7 is all about player choice.
Forza Motorsport offshoot Forza Horizon has been good for the main series, and this shows in the challenges. In a more whimsical example, for instance, the game provided me an opportunity to test my passing skills by putting me behind the wheel of a Porsche 918 Spyder, pushing me to slalom through the mountain passes of the Bernese Alps as I zipped around older Volkswagen Beetles. Other challenges are more traditional races, just offering a chance to race (and earn) vehicles like luxury SUVs and track toys. My favorite race type is the Open Race, as it lets me select any vehicle from my entire garage. I was able to pit my Porche against other vehicles easily 300hp less powerful, making for some embarrassing split times between my lead and the next racer.
There’s always a reason to revisit a previous tier – there’s usually at least one race outside of your current tier that will provide a new challenge upon your return. Similarly, you won’t always have the right car to tackle a challenge, giving the opportunity to come back when your pockets aren’t so light, and your garage is a little more full.
I’m typically a ‘races in third person’ type, but Forza Motorsport 7 has managed to introduce a few challenges that pushed me out of that comfort zone. I was surprised at just how much fun racing the clock and dodging barrels in an old jeep could be, but that only happened when I shifted my perspective behind the wheel.
Here comes the sun…
Reaching back to September of 2015, the only things I really had against Forza Motorsport 6 (thought this complaint reaches back to Forza Motorsport 5, as well) was that the AI sometimes felt like it was cheating, and that the track conditions were a bit ‘locked in’, meaning that specific races were always during the daytime, while others might be at dusk and raining. The team at Turn 10 Studios took these criticisms to heart, unveiling a laundry list of improvements, including a fully dynamic weather system and improved AI, just to scratch the surface.
Dynamic weather effects cause havoc for driving conditions, with the Nurburgring track being the best example of this. Already considered to be one of the most dangerous tracks in racing today, the Nurburgring’s 20.8 km-length track can easily have one half be dry as a bone, while a storm front moves across the other end. Similarly, track temperatures can cause you to burn through tires quickly on longer race events (but only on higher difficulties and later events where pit stops begin to matter). Forza Motorsport 7’s dynamic weather work is amazing when you start your race at cloud-covered dusk, get a light drizzle, and eventually finish the race in inky-black darkness in a torrential downpour. Dynamic weather isn’t just cosmetic, but changes the way you approach the race – even mid-race.
Beyond weather, the team has built out extensive damage modeling. The way I race tends to cause body panels to rattle and dislodge. A few errant bumps on my rear bumper cause the rear forced intercooler to get pushed in a bit, stopping it from spinning. Similarly, my windshield wipers rattle as the wind picks up, scattering rain across the shiny body of the vehicle. While these things are merely a cosmetic effect, they’re the kind of little things that really raise immersion.
Looking like a badass, courtesy of random chance
One area where Turn 10 has spent a lot of time is the character models for Forza Motorsport 7. It’s normally an area where you’d only briefly see the results, but your driver now spends a great deal of time outside their vehicle: Loading screens, celebratory moments when they win a cup, and other splash screen moments where you get to see their livery. In fact, there are over 300 outfits ranging from awesome to downright ridiculous. If you’d like to zip around in a color-matched badass leather outfit, you’ll unlock that fairly quickly, but if you want to jump into a badass 2011 Bugatti Veyron Super Sport while wearing a clown outfit you’ll have to work a little harder. Welcome to the world of random chance and prize crates. Before we get to rolling the dice, let’s talk about VIP changes.
VIP status in previous Forza games garnered permanent bonuses to credits and XP. This time around, and for reasons I’m not sure of, Turn 10 only entitles players to five mod cards, each with five uses. This means your once-permanent bonus is now just 25 races – a fraction of the races needed to even clear the singleplayer cups, much less have a lasting effect.
Mods are a completely new system for Forza Motorsport 7. Through in-game credits you can purchase prize crates, each containing RPG-style rarity of mods, driver livery, and vehicles. Increasingly difficult races grant more credits, naturally, which allows you to quickly purchase more expensive crates. More expensive crates provide better chances at more rare gear. While there is currently no real-money store to purchase credits, the team at Turn 10 have made it clear that this is a post-launch intent. While I don’t have a problem with pay-for-convenience, there are certainly questions around the gatcha-like mechanism of gambling for random gear.
Performance on current platforms
It’s been clear since the game’s reveal that it was purpose-built to run on the Xbox One X platform. While we haven’t gotten our hands on that hardware yet, we have had a chance to take it for a spin on a launch Xbox One, and on PC.
Forza Motorsport 7 runs at 1080p and an unshakable 30fps on a launch Xbox One, and easily handles 1080p at 60fps on my OriginPC EON-15X (you can check the specs on this laptop for comparison in my review). That said there are some oddities that I ran into on both.
During pre-race moments, as the game loads from the hard drive, there are some slight framerate hitches on the Xbox One. On the PC, there is an extremely small hitch when a lap-based mod resets (e.g. On-track mod which asks you to keep it between the lines for an entire lap, but resets after each one). In both cases, there is the occasional physics goofiness with bowling bowling pins in the already-goofy Car Bowling segments. In terms of loading times, the Xbox One clocks in at around 30 seconds of time in pre-race, and on the PC that’s cut in half or more. Real talk, though? I’m really reaching to even find these faults – the game is damned near flawless.
Crush your friends
As I mentioned, Forza Motorsport 7 can handle up to 24 racers on the track in multiplayer. Taking on the “if you ain’t rubbin, you ain’t racing” masses makes for some incredible highs, followed by “blue shell” spinout moments where you find yourself hurtling into a tire barricade and slipping from first place.
While it may change as more players join in the fun, my time with the multiplayer was a challenging and lag-free experience. Matchmaking set me up with other press members and a few early VIP members, and put us all together in a seamless fashion. If you previously found multiplayer gaming in Forza complicated, rest assured that it’s fairly automatic now.
Forza Motorsport 7
More accessible than ever, Forza Motorsport 7 delivers a gorgeous racer that will likely be a fantastic launch title for Microsoft’s Xbox One X. We will revisit this review to give it a thorough update when that platform launches, but until then, enjoy the 700 vehicles, new livery options, and bulletproof multiplayer experiences.