The first Forza Motorsport was an original Xbox exclusive developed by Turn 10 Studios, and Microsoft’s answer to the then-mighty Gran Turismo games. More than 10 years have passed since that moment, and it remains a cornerstone of the Xbox ecosystem to this day. Now, with the release of Forza Motorsport 7, PC players will also have a fully fledged Forza title to sink their teeth into, after Turn 10 previously tested the waters with a cut-down version of Forza 6 for PC in September last year.
The franchise has always had a wide focus that extends beyond simply driving cars. Whether it’s modding and tuning, or perhaps creating beautifully elaborate vinyl liveries, these games have appealled to many people for very different reasons. The seventh iteration stays true to this working model, boosting the number cars and tracks, while adding plenty of new features.
The difficulty and assist options cater to almost everyone by granting you the ability to tailor the challenge precisely to your tastes. The fact that the game retains its hardcore pseudo-sim racing while still remaining accessible to nanna drivers is a truly impressive feat. The sim side of things is a little light, as there’s still no option for qualifying, and pit stops are a mere formality, but these are hardly new complaints.
There’s no denying that Forza 7 is a pretty game. Even on an Xbox One it looks great, but the PC version is truly spectacular when viewed at a 4K resolution. I have not had the chance to try it on the new Xbox One X, but Turn 10 is promising both HDR and 4K resolution, which is certainly nothing to sniff at. It’s a noticeable step up from the last game, and if drooling over gleaming driving machines is your thing, this game will rock your socks for sure.
And there’s plenty of cars to choose from, with a ridiculously massive roster to fill your garage with. It has more Ferraris, Lambos and Porsches than any other driving game to date, which is no mean feat. My only quibble is that there are an abundance of off-road vehicles, but no unsealed tracks to race them on. Hopefully we’ll see some off road tracks added one day, even if they're just mixed surface rally cross circuits.
Despite the developer’s history of great audio, it’s an element that really is a mixed bag this time around. Some of the best engine and exhaust noises are combined with some utterly bizarre incidental effects. It’s like stones are rattling around inside an enormous metal bucket when you run off track, and this plus other effects will sometimes loop far longer than they should. I also experienced an annoying bug that distorted the audio into a crackling mess after a few hours of continuous play. Hopefully this gets patched ASAP.
The existing Drivatar system that has been in previous titles has morphed it into a far more literal version this time around. You are now able to choose from a male or female avatar, and then customise these avatars with various unlockable outfits to show off in multiplayer. This really provides you another outlet to express your individuality, and while it may not seem like the greatest advancement in the world, it’s a nice touch.
While mods were present in Forza 6, they’ve had a much larger focus placed on them this time. You now get extra credits for finishing above a certain position, but the downside is that the standard credit bonuses for turning off assists have now been removed, much to my chagrin.
How useful many of these mods are will entirely depend on whether you usually drive with assists. If you do rely on them, then it’s a great way to encourage turning a couple off for a few races and improving your driving skill. But if you’re like me and would rather rely on the seat of your pants than electronic assistance, you will now be facing a credit loss in the long run, as you can only use a maximum of three mods simultaneously.
The number of circuits is the highest yet in a Forza game, and while it doesn’t top Project Cars 2, there’s plenty of fresh tarmac to burn rubber on. The brand new Dubai circuit is a truly beautiful locale, and buzzes with a vibrant energy. Traffic is in constant motion in the areas off the circuit, and planes from the nearby airport drift by in the distance. Some of the classic locations have seen some love too, with improved textures and effects bringing them up to consistent level.
A significant enhancement to these race tracks is the new weather system, which allows for everything from fog through to torrential downpours and thunderstorms. There’s one catch though – it’s only available on less than half the locales. There’s also a time of day option that allows for night racing, but it has the exact same shortcoming in that the option is missing for most circuits. Even though the effects are fantastic, it feels very much like a job half done.
All of the above comes at a cost too, as the load times have ballooned since Forza 6. Loading into a new environment is infuriatingly slow, which is effectively every new race that you start. The only positive thing that can be said is that at least you can still adjust mods and assists while the game loads. The recent post-launch patch did not help in the slightest, and as it stands, it’s a frustrating experience, especially for Xbox users or PC players not running the game from an SSD.
The multiplayer retains it’s quality from previous titles, though at the time of writing many of the features such as the auction house and leagues are still marked as coming soon. Like most driving games, Forza 7 is at it’s best when you jump online with a group of similarly enthusiastic friends. But even if you’re a no-mates Nigel, there’s plenty of fun to be had playing in public servers, provided you don’t mind playing bumper cars into the first turn that is. There’s also splitscreen racing on offer, which is a cool throwback to the days of old.
Last, and most definitely least, we have Turn 10’s masterpiece feature – loot crates. Of all the most pointless and unnecessary things I’ve seen put into games, this is right up there. The mods and Drivatar outfits mentioned above can be found in these virtual slot machines, plus cars (that you can win elsewhere thankfully) and other worthless knick-knacks. With everything worthwhile able to be unlocked elsewhere in the game, there’s zero point to these unless the publisher decides to take the scummy route of selling them for real money at a later date.
However, this does serve to highlight that the franchise is becoming even more commercialised than it already was, with advertisements and movie tie-ins at every turn. No doubt there will also be a steady stream of post-launch DLC, bleeding the fans of their cash as they buy cars that could have been in the final game. Loot crates taken by themselves aren’t the real issue, it’s the focus being shifted away from what made Forza great to what makes more money.
Forza is still the jack-of-all-trades motorsport video game that will appeal to fans of cars and racing them. The passion is still there, albeit slowly being crushed under the ever-growing mountain of poor design choices and cash-grabs. For returning fans there are precious few reasons to upgrade other than the extra cars and tracks, and Forza 6 is honestly a better bargain for any newcomers on Xbox. As someone who’s been playing these games since the original, the direction that has been taken is disappointing to say the least.