Turn 10’s latest love letter to speed and style is a typically brilliant racer.
The core Forza Motorsport 7 experience is one that hasn’t deviated much from the time-tested loop established by racing genre kingpin Gran Turismo back in 1997, but developer Turn 10 has crafted a new benchmark with this year’s edition. On PC there’s nothing that can match the scale of its garage, and it’s the definitive car collectathon on any console. Improvements to the driving atmosphere, the massaged sound, plus its new dynamic weather and drastically better skies and lighting all combine to create the best instalment of the series since the fan-favourite Forza Motorsport 4.
It augments its roster of regular rides... with lesser-known classics and oddities pulled in from the far fringes of global car culture.
There are a lot of things I like about the Forza Motorsport series but chief amongst them is the series’ ongoing commitment to showcasing the broadest selection of retro and modern metal on the market. Toyota has admittedly taken its ball and gone home in a huff for reasons it hasn’t disclosed, Lexus has been caught in the same crossfire, and Tesla has quietly vanished also, but this is still a monstrous garage by any measure. Developer Turn 10 doesn’t ever simply settle for an orthodox checklist of whatever cars are on the front of motoring magazines right now. It augments its roster of regular rides – the kind of cars you can find these days in just about any contemporary racing game – with lesser-known classics and oddities pulled in from the far fringes of global car culture.
Here’s an example: as a teenager back in the ’90s, all I wanted from Gran Turismo was some kind of Australian ute, because I am an unashamed meathead who likes most muscle cars and sports cars, but I prefer them if they can carry a refrigerator and a couch in the back. Well, Forza Motorsport 7 has four generations of them.
And yes, these might not resonate with you the same as they do with me because, like Vegemite, they’re very much an acquired taste. My point is though, out of the hundreds and hundreds of cars here, chances are there’s something that will resonate with you in much the same way. The repeated 700-car bullet point is a misleading one when you take out the pre-customised “Forza Edition” doubles (and I’m a little disappointed at the aging GT3 roster and the lack of new-to-the-series cars that didn’t already debut in past games or as previous DLC) but this is still an utterly mega list. There are rival racing games that edge out Forza in other areas but in terms of its garage Forza Motorsport 7 is second to none.
Small touches, like wipers that flutter and vibrate at high speed, make the cars feel more authentic on track.
Small touches, like wipers that flutter and vibrate at high speed, make the cars feel more authentic on track. Turn 10 has applied more shake to the cabin view, too, which adds a bit of ferocity that’s been admittedly lacking from Forza – particularly for those like me who tend to play from behind the wheel. There’s also now an additional dash view, which cuts out most of the on-screen wheel and gives you a better view of the track. It’s a much better option while playing with your own wheel anyway, because it’s always jarring when the degree of rotation on-screen doesn’t match what you’re putting on your own wheel controller in real life.
The absurd level of car detail established by previous games has been absolutely retained, right down the manufacturer specific stickers and warnings inside door sills and under the bonnet. They even have working odometers now. Car ogling isn’t restricted to a pre-set garage environment this time, either; you can inspect your cars inside and out in the pits before races at each circuit, too. I found it quite neat being able to see the high-detail models up close under vastly different lighting conditions to the standard garage.
This is just a tremendously good-looking game, but it’s especially so in wet conditions with the sun trying to break through the clouds, or at night as you catch the neon lights from a carnival ride or another off-track object mirrored across the slick tarmac. Lighting and cloud conditions changing each time you use a track is a huge change for the better from Forza Motorsport 6; the old, baked-in lighting conditions may have previously allowed for a bit more peripheral trackside detail overall but it became quite stale lapping circuits at exactly the same time of day, every single visit. It's not something I'd trade back for.
Either way, it’s still drop-dead gorgeous on PC and stunning even on the vanilla Xbox One, marching at a steadfast and decisively locked 60 frames per second under every circumstance. A technical titan, as usual. Nice too are the improved menus, which retain the general flavour of the previous tab-based structure from past Motorsport games but manage now to be slick and clean without being overly clinical.
And while Forza Motorsport 7’s top shelf graphics were getting to second base with my eyeballs, the cranked up sound design was busy slapping my earballs silly with a symphony of engine howl and exhaust crackle. It lacks some of the extra layers of squeaks and whinnies and wiper clunks you get in Project CARS 2, but it’s a really strong and rich mix overall that begs to be played loud.
Of course, it all means naught if the racing falls flat, or the game itself lacks decent direction. In this regard, everything is largely fine.
To me, the controller handling feels as if it’s been honed to convey more heft, but it’s not a drastic departure from the entertaining handling model of past Forza games. On normal steering it’s still quite straightforward to hold satisfying drift angles, poising your car sideways on the throttle. Forza Motorsport 7 still largely favours fun over unflinching realism – the tyre dynamics definitely lack the bite exhibited in Project CARS 2 – but to write the game off as strictly arcade fare completely ignores the fact you really do need a trained deftness to lap as cleanly and consistently as the game will allow. Cars still pitch and squirrel around under heavy braking, and they still tend to require an armful of opposite lock whenever you emerge at a corner exit a fraction too vigorously.
It’s still quite straightforward to hold satisfying drift angles, poising your car sideways on the throttle.
On a wheel there have been improvements to the feel since Forza Motorsport 6. F1 2017 and Project CARS 2 have raised the bar in this realm quite a bit over the past few months but Forza Motorsport 7 is not too shabby. Fair warning: the default wheel settings aren't perfect, though in a small patch released today Turn 10 has wound down some of the offending feedback sliders from their previously maxed out states.
Career mode has had a moderate overhaul too, shifting to a more linear and structured solo experience than previous games. The new Forza Driver’s Cup may sound a little tacky at first but chasing the grand prize at the end of it is propelling me through Forza Motorsport 7 like no game in the series before it. Race length can also now be manually lengthened in the assists menu, which is a nice touch because we still start from last and it gives us a chance to catch the most difficult AI (needing to do that in previous games from the back of the grid within just two or three laps was often frustrating).
I do wish there was a little more freedom to modify events in other ways (like Forza Horizon 3 introduced with its Horizon Blueprint system) but Free Play mode still offers plenty of scope to create the sort of events you prefer (we can now create multiclass races, although we still can’t manually select specific, individual garage or rental cars for all the opposition like we could in Forza Motorsport 4). Forza Motorsport 7 doesn’t offer the same level of nuance in terms of dictating the precise time and weather scenarios for your custom races as Project CARS 2 does either, and not all conditions are available on all tracks.
New to Forza Motorsport 7’s career mode is a homologation system that takes into account more than just a car’s class and Forza-specific “Performance Index” – it also now factors in tyre compound and width, and overall horsepower. Cars can be purchased with all the parts necessary to automatically homologate them for their divisions but this hasn’t replaced the normal customisation options. The additional bodykits added in Forza Horizon 3 last year have made their way over, also. Some overdue customisation options, like the ability to place decals on glass, still remain absent.
Another particularly significant adjustment is how Turn 10 has doubled down on the car collecting. The cars are now arranged in tiers and the more of them you have the further up these tiers you’ll be able to pluck cars from.
Forza Motorsport 7 functions just as well as a virtual car museum as it does a video game.
I think it works, considering that Forza Motorsport 7 functions just as well as a virtual car museum as it does a video game, and I can’t really find too much wrong with anything that encourages people to interact with cars they may not have ever heard of otherwise. I’m all for folks having their (Forza) horizons broadened. As someone who enjoys compulsively collecting, customising, and experimenting with as many cars as I can afford, having a collection system that rewards me for amassing a warehouse full of rides with access to higher-end and rarer cars is actually quite motivating.
For anybody who has previously maintained narrow, ruthlessly curated personal garages within older Forza games, the change may be a bit unwelcome; accumulation for the sake of accumulation, perhaps. It also does admittedly smack a little of Gran Turismo 5’s aggravating XP system, which locked cars you could otherwise afford from purchase until you’d reached an arbitrary level. Unlike GT, however, Forza Motorsport 7 still allows you to drive anything you want in Free Play, so nothing is ever totally inaccessible.
To be fair, it only takes a few days to hit the top collector level and gain access to most of the game’s cars, although Turn 10 has locked up quite a few of them behind some extra hurdles. One is a speciality dealer that will sell otherwise locked cars for a limited time, and another is set to be Forzathon events (set weekly tasks with rewards attached that first rolled out in Forza Horizon 3).
I’m fine with these, but less so with the new loot boxes; they’re not something I’ve found myself warming to at all. Forza Motorsport 7’s “prize crates” contain cars, driver outfits, and mod cards (which are similar in application as they were in Forza Motorsport 6) but I can’t really see what they add to the game; they just suck credits from my account I’d prefer to spend on cars. I just dumped 300,000 credits into the most expensive one and got a Mustang worth a fraction of the cost of the crate and three other bits of junk. It’s like getting socks instead of Scotch on Father’s Day; a crashing disappointment.
It’d all be slightly easier to ignore if Turn 10 hadn’t wound back the credit payout bonuses for turning off driving assists (the payout is the same for racing on super easy as it is racing with no driving aids, although the increased multiplier for racing against the harder AI levels partly makes up for it). As it stands, the push to keep your mod cards topped up to make your race payouts more meaningful seems pretty overt. I do guess it prevents people from sitting on big piles of otherwise pointless credits once their garages are filled, but I’m still pretty lukewarm on it.