Hey race fans!
It’s a great time to be a gamer if you love racing titles. With mega-hits like Project Cars 2, Forza Motorsport 7, and Gran Turismo Sport all releasing within weeks of each other there are some tough decisions to be made. While platform preference might make that choice a bit more obvious, for those with access to both consoles and a killer PC, you might need to dig deep into what each of these titles offer. Personally, I’ve always been a big fan of the Forza franchise; the numbered games for the classic track racing and the Horizon series for massive open-world arcade racing. I’m still playing Hot Wheels.
Turn 10 Studios has created a stunning technical masterpiece when it comes to their seventh installment in the series. Forza Motorsport 7 is available on both the PC and the current Xbox One, and will definitely be a showcase title for the upcoming Xbox One X system in a few weeks, but until then racers with a beast of a PC can enjoy some of the absolute best 4K/HDR/60fps racing action ever created. Even the Xbox One turns out an impressive experience, albeit at lower resolutions and half the frame rate. The game supports Play Anywhere, so your digital purchase gets you both Xbox and Windows 10 versions that you can bounce between seamlessly with a cloud save.
There is no shortage of content in the core game, with over 700 cars to collect and race across 30 famous real-world locations. The career mode is massive, spanning six Champion banners, each with ten events that contains multiple races; 200 races in all. Expect a solid month of racing to knock all of these out, and that’s before you ever even go online. Each championship banner contains themed events that feature specific car types. As you win races you earn credits and XP that will level up your driver, but in an odd twist of design your actual progression through Forza 7 is now structured around car ownership.
Each car you add to your garage has a tier rank and a certain amount of points. The more cars you add, the faster your tier meter increases, unlocking higher tiers giving you access to better/faster cars and new events. A good example are the two Tier 4 events in the Seeker banner that you can’t even activate until you have Tier 4 car access, which in my game was about halfway through the Breakout banner hours later. This means you’ll need to return to previous events later in the game for full completion status. You can add cars to your collection by simply buying them, but there are also prize cars awarded each time you level-up, either for free or a substantial discount. Each banner also has a few Showcase events that will reward you with the car assigned to that event.
Forza 7 has an interesting dynamic about it in that you don’t really stick with any one car for much longer than the event you chose it for. While you can tune the cars there is no customization and in fact, the game has this homologation system that levels the playing field so no one car has an unfair advantage. This means the only significant way to actually alter the difficulty of a race is to tweak the Drivatar AI, which does grant you bonus points if turned up higher than average.
Forza has always had a great scaling realism system thanks to numerous assists, and Forza 7 is no exception with plenty of sliders and toggles to make this game as easy as arcade pie or a tough-as-nails simulator, or anywhere in between. The more stuff you turn off the more realistic the racing experience and the more credits you get when you finish. Some choices are binary like ABS or traction control on or off, while things like the racing line can be off, on, or on just for braking in the turns. The latter is most useful until you learn the tracks.
Forza 7 also introduces Mods, three of which can be assigned prior to each race, but these are not car mods. Instead, these are underlying rule changes or restrictions you self-impose as challenges such as getting six perfect passes in a race, or turning off the race line and not going off track, or maybe getting four good turns, etc. You basically have three slots and you fill them from a deck of Mod cards you collect from…wait for it…LOOT BOXES.
I’m going to keep this short, sweet and confined to a single paragraph, so if you are as sick of hearing about loot boxes as I am then skip ahead. Forza Motorsport 7 is completely playable and enjoyable without ever spending a single dime for loot boxes or the content found within. Loot boxes contain mod cards, bonus credits, the occasional car, and driver gear. Driver gear is a ridiculous prize since you only see your driver on a few random splash screens before and after races. Even the option to choose male/female seems inane. Currently you can’t even spend real money to buy loot boxes, but that is sure to change. Meanwhile, for those who like the rush of buying into blind prize giveaways, you can certainly spend your hard-earned credits on a variety of loot boxes or just save up and buy cars. The whole mentality and construction of the loot box system is to reward you with mod cards to allow you to enhance your races to earn more cash to buy more loot boxes to…well you get it. I’m not going to crucify this game because Microsoft/Turn 10 is trying to make a buck, just as much as I am not going to give them an extra cent to spin the slot machine. I don’t feel the game is broke because of the loot boxes, although I can definitely seem some design choices to “encourage” their use; the most obvious of these being the VIP pass. In all games before, VIP got you double winnings for the entire game; a nice way to accelerate your income, but now you get five cards with fives uses per card, so for $20 you can double your winnings 25 times, along with some VIP cars and driver gear. This makes the VIP DLC a bad deal – save your money and apply it to the Car Pass.
One interesting note is that I am writing this review nearly two weeks after release and there are still lots of things in the game that aren’t even available such as the Marketplace, Auction House, Leagues, and Forzathon. It’s not that there isn’t enough to keep you busy. I had to force myself away from the career mode to even experience the online multiplayer for the sake of reviewing.
Multiplayer racing is not that different from Forza 6 with the same reliable net code, functional lobbies, and random assortment of jack-holes that would rather smash into everyone than run a clean race. Heading online will hopefully improve once some of those “Coming Soon” features unlock, but until then, racing online is about the same experience as racing some quality Drivatars.
Forza Motorsport 7 delivers a topnotch presentation with graphics that will make you glad you own a 4K display. While my PC supports HDR I was having issues getting it to work, but I did play on my Xbox One S and the HDR definitely enhanced the lighting in significant and superior fashion. Even so, I would gladly trade HDR for the consistent 60fps and 4K resolution on my PC, and HDR should be working on my next driver patch.
While Forza 6 introduced rain and night driving, Forza 7 makes those elements dynamic in that you can start a race on a cloudy day only to have a storm break out on lap two soaking the track and effectively changing the traction. It’s amusing to see the AI start to slide around trying to deal with real-time changes to the track. The same for night racing in that you can start a race in total darkness only to have it finish as the sun starts to peak through the silhouette horizon. Obviously, since most races are only a few laps these events are accelerated, but no less impressive to see happing.
As always, there are numerous camera views to race from and watch the replays. There is a new driver cam that has quickly become my favorite – it’s a secondary cockpit camera that is pushed up slightly closer to the windshield, offering a much more realistic view out the car; especially if you are using your own wheel/pedal setup. This cockpit cam (along with the hood cam) seems to offer the best sensation of speed – something this game seriously lacks in all other camera views.
As far as any serious issues; during my 30-40 hours of racing on both the PC and Xbox, I had two crashes to desktop on the PC, one lock-up trying to download a paintjob, and during one race the asphalt texture turned transparent allowing the skybox to show through, so it was like driving on a glass mirror. I’m not sure what caused it, but it hasn’t happened since. The Xbox One has been flawless and I look forward to reporting back on updated Xbox One X performance next month. Forza Motorsport 7 works with my Logitech racing wheel, and the PC version even worked with an older ThrustMaster Ferrari wheel that I let my nephew use. A wheel is certainly recommended if you are playing this as a sim with the assists turned off, but for casual and moderate race fans, the Xbox controller is fantastic for either PC or Xbox use – very responsive and great vibration feedback in the triggers.
Forza Motorsport 7 is clearly the best looking and most comprehensive racing game out there for the mass PC/Xbox audience. With its scalable difficulty and realism combined with jaw-dropping visuals, a massive car library, plenty of tracks, dynamic weather and lighting, a huge community of skin artists, and so much attention to detail both inside and out for these cars, it’s easy to see Turn 10 Studios loves cars as much as I love driving them, and Forza Motorsport 7 is still the best place to do just that.