It seems unbelievable that we’re already at Turn 10’s 7th Forza Motorsport game with their arrival of Forza MotorSport 7 (that’s not including spin-offs such as Forza Horizon). Going way back to the Xbox original in May 2005 and now some 12 years later we’re literally three generations apart in terms of visuals and what the game offers. So Forza 7 should automatically be rather fantastic right? Well there has been a certain expectation from Turn 10 what with them gushing constantly about advances they have made with each iteration, but from the outside it must be challenging to lavish even higher praise considering the lofty scores already given to previous offerings. Yet here we are again with a game that has arrived on the Xbox One some two years after its excellent predecessor. The question one has to ask is, if Forza 6 was so brilliant, is there need to jump in again for the seventh time and so soon after the last game?
Perhaps the question asked is rhetorical considering how eager gamers are to lap up the latest FIFA or NFL game each year with roster updates and improvements on what is already a tried and trusted formula. Racing with cars is no exception it seems, and whilst there are fewer newer motors added, the growing roster (over 700 cars now) means the choices remain engaging whether you’re a fan of the classics, muscle cars, souped up road cars, Rally, GT or Formula vehicles. Being totally taken in by what is offered is in part due to how the structure of Forza 7 comes into play. As always, players are presented with an ultra slick menu and navigation across various solo and multiplayer offerings, but for armchair petrol heads the single player campaign is the place to start out and work your way up to the top of the pack to challenge for the prized “Forza Drivers Cup”. It’s here where you can choose a male or female avatar and then partake in various race events using a variety of vehicle types across six cups. As with most racing games it’s a bit of slog as you enter race after race but the rewards come thick and fast and with the added bonus of mod cards(more about those later) means you can set additional challenges on a personal level to increase your XP and in-game cash rewards. Progression via leveling up not only your driver but car collection nets its own set of rewards where you can get free cars, or take the money and use that for a particular vehicle you’re gunning for, or even save up to buy prize crates (loot boxes).
There has been quite a lot of noise recently with the rise of loot boxes and rewards in video games especially with regards to pay to win options where those who have real cash can dish it out and buy the better rewards for an edge against those who do not. There is also the issue of locking content away where only those who are willing to put down the cash are ever likely to see them. Whilst there might be two sides to every coin, putting things into perspective and it’s clear developers in this instance are praying on a more addictive gambling slant than anything which might appeal to some but others could view it as predatory especially if real cash is involved. Thankfully, at present Forza 7’s prize crates require in-game money to purchase them and offer random elements which you effectively gamble your earnings. You race, you win (or lose) you add mods which can increase the credits earned and you buy more prize crates to see what you might unlock. Yes, there’s a random element but at least you can sink more hours into the game and try, try again. So there is a bit of choice here as it has to be said prize crates are an optional deal. You can still earn credits by racing, you can also increase your credits earned by upping the difficulty but you can speed up the process by buying mods (which are gained from prize crates). You can purchase cars and be offered some for free as you level up, so it’s not all tied to the randomized gambling. Then of course there is the fact that if you just want to enjoy the many races on offer and drive, you can do so without worrying about the extras. It’s a case of the more you put into it, the more you will garner from the overall experience and buying or selling mods, unlocking gear and cars is all part of the game now.
Car customization beneath the bonnet (hood) or on the surface still plays a large part in how the game plays (although there are the usual class restrictions in place to prevent easy wins) and if you’re an artist in either area you cans spend countless hours perfecting your art to share with the wider community. A new layer of art comes in the form of player avatar threads which can be unlocked as you level up or gained via the aforementioned prize crates. Again, it’s worth noting making too much noise in relation to these is a bit pointless considering there is no actual mode where you’re going to see them aside from if you hit the podium at the end of each event. Other players or friends might see your threads if you hit the podium in their games (via the returning Drivatar feature) but that’s as far as it goes. It’s possible then the lack of story could be a criticism of Forza 7’s design. Whilst the single player campaign gets right down to business from the off, the lack of any narrative, story scenes to tie wins and loses together makes for a less personal route to driving success.
It has to be said though, whether you’re playing one-on-one races, against 20+ other vehicles in the wet, dark or both, the core gameplay remains the most accessible, blending arcade thrills with simulation driving. Find the car handling too hard or easy, then you can adjust various assists or lower the AI difficulty or aggression. Forza 7 effortlessly provides the right balance and challenge making for an experience that keeps you hooked but doesn’t punish players too heavily for silly mistakes (or being nudged off the track by an AI driver) or driving a bit too aggressively. It’s this accessibility that make it a joy to play regardless of your ability. For the more serious racer then there are enough options to tinker with to suit your play-style offering suitable challenge for all-comers.
In terms of visuals, there are subtle differences here over the previous outing which already looked fantastic. You can spot incredible attention to details especially with regards to changing conditions during a race, lighting and shadow effects. Reflections off the vehicles surfaces are also enhanced as well as a greater sense of contrasts between light and dark for those who have HDR compatible displays. There are some 32 locations and numerous track configurations offering a breadth of visual variety. Forza 7 simply put, runs very smoothly at 4K resolution on PC and with dynamic settings means the game maintains a healthy 60 fps throughout which is a must in this day and age.
Audio comes as a mixed bag because in this instance the mix is a little off (on PC at least) where the in-game music is too low and the engine sounds too high despite having several sliders to tinker with in the options. Also, the choice of music isn’t varied enough which means if you like competitive racing with a thundering soundtrack to inspire you, then you won’t necessarily find it here unfortunately. Once the music is turned off then you’re left with the purr of car engines fused with ambient sounds and the roar of the opposition which is great, but after prolonged play can become tiring. A nice feature is having audio bites from real racing stars during introductory moments in the campaign which is impressive.
Once again, with a lengthy offline section to contend with, the online component which sits in the background for personal challenge against rivals and then pure online play means there’s enough here. There was enough in Forza 6 as well though, and so it continues. You will get your monies worth and more so if you are lured into the appearance of Prize Crates and gamble more than you should instead of buying cars outright from the dealerships.
Forza MotorSport 7 is a welcome offering and hits the same high notes as its predecessor. When looking at the core experience there’s little to distinguish between them which can either be viewed as a positive or not – depending on your fandom. The changes are subtle differences but worth it all the same which means it’s hard to not like what’s on offer and even harder to justify being overly critical for the sake of it. Forza 7 is an improvement and rightly so given its budget yet your mileage will be long and the journey arduous. Ultimately you will have a hell of time along the way which is what counts to the point that even if you previously rinsed out Forza 6, this latest game comes as fresh inspiring playing fields to run (or drive) amok.
Score – 9/10