In recent years, console racing games have been pretty much divided into two types of loyal fans. You’re either more games like Project Cars which push the boundaries of driving simulation to the extreme; or on the other hands, you prefer games like the Forza Motorsports series, which are aimed at both the purists and newcomers to the genre. With that said, this indirect trend of preferences might have pushed Turn 10 to revisit its franchise, in order to get the grasp of both type of fans, and thus give us their next chapter: Forza Motorsport 7.
It’s been five years since Microsoft, Turn 10 and Playground Games have worked on annual release of high-end racing game for the Xbox One consoles (and eventually PC with Xbox Play Anywhere). On one side you have Forza Motorsport as the driving simulation franchise, and on the other side, Forza Horizon, a rich driving game that is more towards the arcade genre. You would have thought that the highlighted franchise, and oldest one – Forza Motorsport – would always be the proudest achievement for the studio, but ever since 2016, Forza Horizon 3 was the greatest entry (at least for me, and you can read my review right here on the site). But since the two series feed of each other’s upgrades, it was obvious that Forza Motorsport 7 would come back with might, showing off what a good racing simulation can be on the Xbox platforms.
After a long wait to download over 67GB worth of data, I start my Forza Motorsport 7 experience straight into the new Career mode, which thankfully has a new formula. Before becoming the greatest driver of all time, your aspiring world-class driver (male or female by the way) will have to triumph over six different Forza cups, all split into several mini-championships of up to four races. Each of these competitions are themed, mainly based on the car division or genre, from small compacts to old-school American muscles, even trucks, until you eventually will drive glorious Exotic and GT cars.
The Forza Motorsport 7 Career has been successful in that it offers a real variety of situations and driving experiences, while allowing you time to learn each of your cars. To add more fun to the mode, the developers have added to each Cup a set of challenges called showcases, which allow you every time to ask to take control of a prestigious car, but also to leave with it if you win it (reminding me of those goofy challenges where you need to beat a train in Forza Horizon 2). Some are simple like winning a race with a 30 seconds lead against everyone else, knocking down bowling skittles on the legendary Top Gear circuit, beating Ken Block face to face on Laguna Seca, etc… I truly appreciate these small challenges that bring a little freshness and lightness to a game that remains serious at being driving simulation.
Each race and mini-championship won will allow you to fill a gauge which, once completed, will give you access to the following Cup. A simple and effective method that allows you to play the way you want, focusing on the events that you prefer. Forza Motorsport 7 has revised its economy model and the regulars of the series will soon find that the prices of cars are higher, while the awards given are lower. This has two rather positive effects: the first is that one must actually select the competitions he can participate in, according to the cars in his garage, but also his virtual bank account. Note, however, that the game is quite generous and allows you to earn extra money, or offers you discounts on certain cars, every time you win a level with the experience accumulated in races. A system directly inspired by Forza Horizon’s spin the wheel for example, so that you can fill your garage at a lower cost. The other positive effect is that you become more easily attached to each of your cars, because while back in Forza Motorsport 6 you could easily change wheels from one race to another, the new economy model of Forza Motorsport 7 requires the player to use the same car during several races, even a whole championship. That will motivate the most perfectionists of you to pamper their cars, play with the adjustments and buy new parts to improve performances and behavior on the tracks.
This new way of playing in the Career mode makes Forza Motorsport 7 incredibly addictive for those who like to thrill of speed, offering a great leveling up system that translates into the acquisition of ever more powerful cars. These same cars that will then allow you to participate in races that are more difficult, but also more exciting and rewarding. A great success, therefore, although the purists will probably regret the lack of qualifiers like in the past games, especially since it used to alter your placement on the starting grid. The player is invariably placed in the middle of the grid, regardless of the previous race performance. This can be annoying at high level, since it is easy to notice that at each mini-championship, only two or three participants will in fact real rivals, and sadly they are often placed at the top of the grid.
The stars of the game, more than the drivers, are of course the different cars in Forza Motorsport 7. With over 700 cars to collect, this is the biggest garage ever offered by the franchise, and while you’ll probably find a lot of them from previous games, there’s some new and rare set of wheels. It is while admiring the garage of Forza 7 that one can see how much effort Turn 10 Studios have put into this, ranging from the iconic Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsches to the more humble Ford and sedans.
A large garage, a well-crafted Career mode, now I should probably talk about the most important part of the game: Forza Motorsport 7’s gameplay and driving sensation. Well, it’s surprise to learn here that this seventh opus is not far from what the franchise has been doing for years, namely a driving simulation for the general public. Yes, the title is not as sharp as a more hardcore simulation like Assetto Corsa or even Project Cars 2 released recently, but that is not the goal of the developers. However, Turn 10 Studios’ game shines through its coherence, and the instantaneous pleasure it provides while driving, and so braking are more precise now and collisions are more punitive. The mass transfer is also more accurate, as sometimes resulting in loss of grip that may surprise you with some “fat” cars, and might have you consider reactivating stability control.
The driving remains quite similar to what was in Forza Motorsport 6 but gains in precision. Turn 10 also had the good idea to add a new interior camera, closer to the windshield, which should be a preference for players with gaming steering wheels. Yet developers know that a majority of buyers will play with the controller, in external camera, and it is probably on this one that they worked the most. The camera now shakes to the rhythm of the car, allowing the player to “feel” every shift of speed, or every imperfection of the road. The effect is striking, especially on the most dangerous circuits, such as the Nürburgring; at more than 200 kilometers, the vibrations are such that one ends up being afraid of losing control. But most of all, this dynamic camera, combined with the vibrating triggers of the Xbox One, amplifies the feeling of being one with its metal steed. And this, no console game does as well as Forza Motorsport 7.
Plus, since for the first time in its history, the Xbox exclusive racing game finds itself in a rather special position: it is currently one of the last game of its kind. With Project Cars 2 becoming very technical for some, and Gran Turismo Sports going fully competitive and online, Forza Motorsport 7 is the only one of these great racing games to allow you to play from a small urban car to a monstrous Italian supercar.
So what about the technical aspect of the game? When I started Forza Motorsport 7 for the first time, I was bit skeptical. Until then, the game had always been showcased to the public in its “optimal” form which is aimed for the Xbox One X, playable in native 4K at 60 frames per second. So what could the Xbox One version look like? Is it a reduced or compressed version that resemble Forza Motorsport 6? Well, turns out the game looks marvelous even with a fancy new TV or 4K. This all comes thanks to numerous additional graphic options in the game, such as finally adding a dynamic weather system, which mind you would’ve been expected from any racing game of this caliber. Storms for example affects both the race conditions and the purely visual part of the game, which makes you realize how impressive the game can be: lightning tearing through the sky, their light reflected all over the clouds, illuminated on your car bodywork. On the other hand, bad weather going away leaves the place to these beautiful colors of returning sunny orange, or pinkish hues in the early mornings.
The other difference is that Turn 10 Studios has made Forza Motorsport 7 in general more alive. This of course involves a good use of the external circuit environments, which reminds me of the work done in Forza Horizon 3. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it all makes a difference into feeling that there’s something out there other than yourself and a bunch of racers on the track, ranging from a helicopter passing by, to celebration smoke in the audience, all enriching the game with more life. So if you were afraid that the normal version of the game would be butchered down, I can reassure you that it is not, and even if you don’t aim to upgrade to an Xbox One X, you’ll still be playing one of the best looking games of this console generation (a term I don’t really like using as per my feature called Towards a new videogame generation?)
As the end of my review draws near, I’m going to focus sadly on the negative points of the game. For if Forza Motorsport 7 has many positive points, it also counts a series of defects which can’t be forgotten, starting with the many visual and audio bugs that I have seen in multiplayer, whether it is local or split screen. There’s a strange disappearance of certain sounds, weird light effects turning off, commentary and narrator voices merging together and so on. And if I do not doubt that these minor problems will be quickly corrected, I don’t believe that they’ll be able to embellish some of the circuits that look a little bit bland in comparison to other, like Maple Valley, with unconvincing forests and crude textures on trees that line the roads. One could also point the finger at the AI which, at high level, often forces the player to adopt an aggressive, almost dangerous driving strategy. The opponents do not hesitate to cut through the actual road, inside the corners, and cut an illogical trajectory, that can result into multiple crash.
Finally what about online and multiplayer? Well, Forza Motorsport 7 has the same modes from the previous game, but nothing very original. While Playground Games offered us a jam-packed range of online modes for Forza Horizon 3, Forza Motorsport 7 certainly allows fewer options but I expected more than just simple lobbies. Because technically, the Forza Motorsport series is no longer a budding franchise trying to make an entry in the genre, but it is a leader of its kind, and has to set an example by giving more than what is expected.
Finally, a word about the microtransactions in Forza Motorsports 7. Now fully online with the release of the game, the reward system allows you to use real-life money to buy in-game credits and redeem them for “loot boxes”. The latter when unpacked give you a range of rewards, that can be cars, experience boosts, career challenge modifiers, and so on, but the important part is that in my rough 20 hours of playing, at no time did I feel the need to buy any. Let’s hope that the model does not become more blunt and “in your face”, but with Forza Motorsport 7, Microsoft and Turn 10 are one step closer to the same business model that was implemented in Halo 5, and we sincerely hope that this will have no impact on the future of the game.
Forza Motorsports 7 was reviewed using an Xbox One downloadable code of the game provided by Microsoft Studios and Xbox Gulf. The game is exclusive to Xbox One and PC in both digital and retail releases. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• The most beautiful Forza Motorsport
• An insane amount of content
• A more rhythmic Career mode
• Dynamic Weather (finally)
• The Drivatar System
• Gameplay that has gained in finesse
• A perfect balance between arcade racing and racing simulation
• Online races with up to 24 drivers
• Audio effects and soundtrack are a feast for the ears
• Dynamic weather is not available on all circuits
• Really long loading times
• Too many tempting microtransactions
• Some weird audio and visual bugs