Forza Motorsport 7
The Forza Motorsport franchise has been one of the Xbox’s defining franchises for over a decade now. The debut entry on the original Xbox offered up something that wasn’t seen often at that time – a simulation-based racer that actually made you want to race. The game wasn’t just fun on the track, but off the track it provided an intuitive menu system for upgrading your vehicle and offered the greatest paint scheme customization tools on the market. Even now, the original game’s tools haven’t been topped by many games outside of this franchise, and after a two year absence, the mainline Forza franchise is back on the Xbox One – and makes it debut on Windows 10 PCs as well.
Forza Motorsport 7 brings things back to the racing>menu format while also adding some much-needed framing to things. Your career still goes from style to style, but now, you get to switch things up after every series of four races. This not only encourages you to do well and earn higher pole positions, but also ensures that you will become more well-rounded. Giant racing trucks are added to the mix this year, and while they may not be everyone’s cup of tea, they are fun to try out and truly feel different than any other kind of vehicle in the series. Their size makes you feel a renewed sense of pure power, but it is one vehicle type where a first-person perspective is best. Due to the sheer size of them, it’s hard to see around them – so judging distance behind them is tough.
The overall design of the career mode is far more fun and robust – with more styles of vehicles in shorter series, so you’ll be encouraged to race outside of your comfort zone. Doing a few races in a hatchback may be outside of the norm for some players – but going through a quick series of races shows you just how versatile they can be. While racing in them may not be as action-packed as a field of Mustangs or Ferraris, it can allow you to learn the intricacies of a track better since they will hug the road more than a regular supercar will. The upside of the shorter series runs here is that if you wind up not liking a vehicle type, you can just get through it and then move right along to something else.
Trying out different vehicle types is a lot like getting used to a fighting game. You start out getting comfortable with a limited roster, and then expanding your comfort zone as time goes on. With this game’s setup, you’re encouraged to try new types as much as possible. Sometimes, things like brand vs. brand wars allow you to dip your toes into things because they provide a bit of backstory. Having real-life driver interview clips helps things – but they do sound rather shoddily-recorded compared to things like the in-gaame narration. They’re seemingly off the cuff interviews and done with less than perfect conditions – so you’ll hear a surprisingly high amount of background noise. In a way, this is a nice thing since it eliminates the sterile feeling the series has had for a few entries now – so rough edges like this are welcome.
The core racing action remains intact from prior games. Newcomers can still have an easy time getting used to sim racers thanks to assists, while veterans will want to tinker with the settings to find the right blend of assists, difficulty, and also credit-earning. If you go with nothing but assists, you’ll lower your in-game currency multiplier. Reducing things like your suggested line to just braking and minimizing driver assists piece-by-piece goes a long way to help you not only make progress in the game, but do so while maximizing your earning potential. When it comes to turning off assists, you’re better off doing it one at a time to ensure that you figure out just how to compensate for losing each kind of assist in a race. If you find that you go too far and turn a few of them off, it makes it not only harder to learn the game but also tougher to figure out exactly which assists you’re actively using and which ones you can do without.
Weather has been given a massive upgrade compared to prior games. They have tried in the last couple of entries to make rain a major part of things, but now, it takes a greater effect. Beyond just needing to be more careful in turns, full storms can now break out resulting in on-track chaos if you aren’t careful. Rivals could slip around near you and cause you to crash – or if you’re lucky, they’ll cause a mini-pileup off to the side and enable you to move up a few positions quickly. The addition of lightning and thunder add a lot of ambiance to things and can allow you to not only get more immersed with either a good home theater setup or a solid set of gaming headphones, but also get some stunning shots with the in-game photo mode.
Visually, the revamped car models show off a greater level of detail for the cars themselves – with more nooks and crannies being visible while paint steals the show once again. Forza 5 really showcased how gorgeous in-game paint could look, and it looks better than ever before when combined with things like heavy rain showing off a realistic reflection on the paint. Collisions show a greater degradation on the paint than before, with more scrapes and bumps on the metal being visible. A crowded field usually brings this about, but doesn’t bring any slowdown to the mix – which is impressive. The core game is stunning, and even on basic Xbox One hardware, remains a showcase for the system. When the Xbox One X is available, it should shine even brighter with 4K optimization.
Overall, Forza Motorsport 7 provides the best mainline experience yet on the Xbox One. Forza 4 may still be the greatest overall entry thanks to its overly-generous nature of giving out cars and the in-game auction house, but Forza 7 comes very close to topping it. The car selection is outstanding and the core gameplay is better now than ever before – with immersion also topping out here thanks to the massive increases in graphical quality and overall sound design. The career mode is better than it’s ever been in the mainline games too and allows for far more freedom while also encouraging you to play as many different vehicle types as possible.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
This review is based on a digital copy of Forza Motorsport 7 for the Xbox One provided by Microsoft Studios.