Reviewed on: Xbox One. Copy supplied by publisher.
Racing simulators have never been my forte, as I’ve acknowledged previously. I like my racing games to be crazy bouts of super fast, teeth clenching, explosive fun. The simplest way I can put it is, for me, a great racing game is one where smashing an opponent into a wall is not only acceptable, but encouraged.
Forza Motorsport 7 is the complete opposite of that. It’s a racing game where high speed insanity is replaced with calculated precision. Where to clash with another driver is not a strategy, but rather unsportsmanlike. A game where to truly succeed, you need to let go of your high speed fantasies and be ready to embrace every facet of your vehicle, to understand it inside and out.
Forza Motorsport 7 is a true racing simulator. And while that firmly puts it in the category of racing games that aren’t for me, it’s right up the alley of its target market.
Right from the offset it’s clear that developers Turn 10 Studios have paid great attention to detail when it comes to Forza 7’s simulation experience. For starters, there’s a staggering amount of cars, from vintage Ford classics, to decades old Nissans, right up to modern Lamborghinis. Both the exterior and interior of each car has been carefully recreated, as have their performance strengths and weaknesses. At least, as far as I can tell from my naive, all-I-drive-is-a-2006-Honda-Jazz-to-work perspective.
But that’s okay, Forza 7 isn’t a game designed for someone like me, it’s designed for the kind of person who would know exactly how the 1997 Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec would feel to drive.
Forza 7 features a variety of races within its campaign and multiplayer modes. Most are conventional lap races in different styles of cars, from muscle cars, high-speed sports cars and even hatchbacks-only. There’s also opportunities to duel famous drivers, whose AI I assume is tweaked to drive like them but I honestly couldn’t tell the difference against the regular AI drivers. And lastly, there are weird silly activities, my favourite of which being car bowling.
But enough about all that, let’s talk about how Forza 7 actually feels to play.
I seriously cannot stress enough how much this game is not for casual racing fans. I know that because I’m one of those casuals. And try as it might, even on its easiest settings Forza 7 is still a game that requires a level of precision, and patience, that I imagine only rev-heads would have.
By default, Forza 7 is set to easy mode, where players are treated to a blue guideline showing the best route around to track. The line will start to turn yellow and then red when approaching corners if you’re coming at them too fast to indicate where best to get in the habit of applying the brakes. In easy mode, the game will actually apply the breaks for you, and even help you steer around the corner. I personally found these settings incredibly frustrating, as I always felt like I was fighting with my car when it braked or steered in a way differently to how I wanted to drive. I found medium to be more palatable, where assisted steering and braking were turned off, but the guideline remained. That was tough enough for me in most races!
But what fans/masochists will no doubt appreciate is how much further Forza 7‘s customisation settings allow you to go. Beyond disabling assists, you can activate needing to worry about wearing out your tires, going through too much petrol, burning out your brakes, and upgrade vehicle damage from just cosmetic to actually affecting performance. It’s the kind of stuff that makes me shudder to think how much I would struggle with, but anyone with a sweet racing wheel setup would surely get a huge kick out of.
The level of detail and customisation here is nuts.
That level of detail is also shared in Forza 7’s incredible visuals. The cars all have a photorealistic look, all sleek and shiny on the outside, right down to fibres on the steering wheel inside. You generally have to use the car model viewer to truly appreciate those latter details, but the fact that they are there for every one of Forza 7’s vehicles is an incredible effort. Out on the track though, things look equally as impressive, particularly thanks to the dynamic weather effects.
The sunny, clear skies tracks provide a beautiful display of colour and shine, but it’s the rain scenario that shows some stunning details. Rain pummels the camera, the grass and dirt turns muddy, and puddles on the track create new obstacles to deal with, thanks to both their affect on your driving as well as distracting you by looking so gorgeous.
Oh, and I say “rain scenario” as a singular because while there are varying degrees of sunny, overcast, foggy or night time scenarios, there’s just one rain. I gleamed this because I received the “Storm Chaser” achievement for completing a race in “every Rain Weather Scenario” after my very first rain race. It was also my third race ever in the game. Good one, achievements.
But for all its detail and impressive range of simulation features, there are still some disappointing problems to be found in Forza 7.
Regarding its performance, for the most part Forza 7 performs amazingly. The vast majority of my racing was running at 60fps, but there were a couple of times where I noticed some significant frame drops. What I couldn’t discern was why, because it wasn’t a rainy track, it was a sunny one and looked just the same as many others but the smoothness just plummeted. Didn’t happen very often, but something to note. Also, the multiplayer interface was incredibly sluggish. Swapping between menus to find a game lagged incredibly, and I’m on the higher-tier NBN so it can’t have been a connection speed issue.
And lastly, there’s the issue of the Prize Crates system. Prize Crates are the loot boxes of Forza 7, and they are bought using Credits, the in-game currency you earn from racing. Prize Crates come in a range of tiers, from regular up to epic and legendary, and depending on the Crate you buy it drops a random selection of cars, outfits for your driver or mods. Now, mods are things you can apply to your races to increase the amount of Credits you earn from them. The basic ones are a percentage increase on your overall winnings, others offer rewards for performing certain tricks like a good drift, or intentionally alter the weather to harsher conditions for a boost. However, unlike in previous Forza titles, mods are now limited-use, anywhere from one time up to five, meaning you’ll eventually need to get more of them from Prize Crates to continue boosting your revenue to buy better cars. Of course you can’t guarantee which mods you’re going to get, these are random drop loot boxes after all.
So what we have here is a randomised economy tied to Forza 7’s progression system. You progress through the game by collecting better cars, but all of Forza 7’s cars are sectioned into tiers, and you cannot purchase higher tiered cars until you’ve purchased/collected through Prize Crates enough of them in the proceeding tiers. So even if you somehow spent enough time racing to save up for that one car in tier 4, you can’t buy it until you’ve bought a whole bunch of tier 1, 2 and 3 cars.
Now at the time of writing you can only purchase Prize Crates with the your in-game credits, but developer Turn 10 Studios has confirmed they’re planning to add a real money alternative, turning these into full blown microtransactions. It’s already disappointing to see progression hindered by making mods consumable rather than options to switch on and off, thereby requiring players to take a gamble at getting more of them in loot boxes, but to potentially ask for real money to speed things up is one heck of a blow.