Forza 7 Motorsport is not a humble game by any stretch. It knows it's a big deal. It’s packing the largest collection of Ferraris, Porsches, and Lamborghinis in a video game ever. There are iconic real world circuits that have been faithfully replicated and lavishly rendered across multiple and dynamic weather conditions. It’s also the first AAA racing game to support both 4K textures and HDR displays. The list goes on and on, and it’s nothing if not comprehensive.
And, if you like your racing games comprehensive - not to mention visually eye-dropping - you’ll probably find a lot to like here.
Back At The Wheel
Look, I’ll be straight. I’ve been out of the game for a while when it comes to racing games. Hell, the last time I enthusiastically sunk any real time into a racing game, Need for Speed had FMV cutscenes. Sure, I dabbled with Burnout Paradise and have been known to play some Split/Second and Trackmania at parties. However, for the most part, I’m just not a big racing games kind-of guy.
Keeping that disclosure in mind, I can still honestly say that I came away pretty impressed with Forza 7 Motorsport. Even though I’m more of a casual than I am competitive when it comes to racing games, the game did a great job orientating (and selling) me its 4K-ready vision of what a modern racing game looks like. Though, to be fair, it helps that things look so good.
The setup is pretty simple here: play enough races to qualify for the next cup. Rinse and repeat until you’ve conquered the titular championship. In between, you’re able to unlock and customize your car collection, kit out your driver with new looks and take your skills online against other players.
There’s a sense of vivacious enthusiasm carried forward from the game’s lavishly-produced introduction sequence, seeping into every crack and alley of the experience. Rather than just be booted to a menu or list of races at the get-go, you’re given context here that is sometimes expected, assumed or taken for granted in other racing games. A sweeping combination of music, visual effects and recorded testimonials from real-world racing figures are effectively deployed to make you care about the Forza Cup. To make you want it.
At it’s best, it feels like you’re starring in an episode of Top Gear. The zeal here is that infectious. Right from the moment I jumped into the first tutorial, it was clear that the people involved in the production of Forza 7 care about real life car racing in a way that I will probably never will - but it turned out that this disparity didn’t matter as much as I thought it would. Even if the game’s 700 cars and 32 gorgeously-rendered real life tracks doesn’t necessarily resonate as much, I can still appreciate a well-made thing.
Especially one that looks this good. Forza 7 Motorsport is the first major racing game that feels like it’s been designed with 4K in mind and the PC version we took for a test-drive includes a bevy of additional high-end customization options including as support for 21:9 displays, an uncapped framerate and more. There’s even a dedicated benchmark mode, which is always nice. Expect this to pop up again in future gaming tech reviews.
As a newcomer, Forza 7 Motorsport did an exceptional job of stripping out the minutia and drab that often causes my attention to deflect off racing games from the outset. Regardless, I’m left feeling like it could certainly stand to do better. I greatly appreciated that it let me mess with my car’s tuning or aesthetics while tracks loaded and - regardless of what vehicle I was using - always gave me the chance to learn from my mistakes using the rewind feature.
That said, I couldn’t help but feel like an ‘advanced’ tutorial wouldn’t hurt. Cars controlled really well. However, sometimes they didn’t and - speaking as a newcomer - the reasons why weren’t always immediately apparent.
Still, regardless of whether you’ve played a Forza game before, Forza 7 looks set to cement itself as a gateway drug for 4K and HDR gaming. Though strictly grounded in reality, the game’s 32 tracks are every bit as scenic as the lush environs you’d find in Destiny 2 or The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. There’s a fine granularity to the graphics here. Come rain or shine, there’s real depth. Squint, and you can see the details shine through - especially when it comes to the cars themselves.
Again, keeping that caveat of my own inexperience in mind, I was really quite impressed. Everywhere you look in Forza 7 Motorsport, it’s clear that a lot of time, love, sweat and tears have gone into making the experience look as jaw-dropping as possible. The screenshots simply don’t do it justice.
Considering the sparseness that has plagued the Xbox One’s software lineup, it’s a really good thing that Microsoft have given developer Turn 10 Studios the room and budget they needed to make the prettiest possible racing game. As a poster-child for 4K gaming, it’s hard to imagine a game more suited to the mantle than Forza 7.
End of the Line
However, that’s not to say that experience doesn’t come entirely without caveat. Plenty of concerns have already been raised over Forza 7’s progression system, which is driven by Overwatch-style “prize-crates”.
Completing races earns you the game’s virtual currency of choice - CR - which can then be cashed in for prize boxes filled with new cars for your collection or gear for your driver. However, you can’t just buy any car. Much like certain real-world car dealers, you need to build up your collection before you can expand it.
Unlike the racing games of my youth, Forza 7 is very much a ‘living’ game in the same sense that something like Destiny is. It’s not going to be a game you pick-up and blast through over a weekend. It’s envisioned as something you’re constantly returning back to for “just one more race.”
As part of this, Turn 10 have already telegraphed two big shake-ups due to arrive in the coming months. The first of these comes in the form of an online auction house, which will allow players to buy and sell cars online for virtual currency. The second is that they’ll eventually open up the ability to buy CR using real-world money. It’s the latter here that has drawn the most criticism here - and probably deservedly.
When you’re already paying full price for a game, it’s feels particularly uncool to have the developer try and upsell you on a shortcut. What’s more, it adds a third, unnecessary and discomforting dimension to online play. The cars in Forza 7 aren’t all built equally. Their in-game performance reflect their real-life counterparts and there’s definitely something off-putting about the idea that the player who overtakes you with a higher-end vehicle might not have “earned” it.
Still - it’s not in the game yet. Take it or leave it.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, racing games like Forza 7 Motorsport are probably never quire going to grab me in the same way that horror, shooter or fantasy RPG games do. However, that’s not to say I can’t appreciate them. If you’re looking for your next big racing game or a title that’s perfect to show off the capabilities of the new Xbox One X, this can’t be beat.