This past weekend, I got in some proper video game time. It was then that I truly remembered how great it is when you can make a racing sim silly yet still technical. There’s a perverse joy found when you take all of the technology and handling models that Turn 10 Studios developed, and then you throwing some ridiculous vehicles its way. I boosted the lovely Hoonicorn as far as it would go, turned all the assists off, then loaded up the old Circuit De La Sarthe and went wild. A fresh version of Forza came alive once more.
After last year’s gigantic and deep Horizon title, I worried about whether or not Motorsport 7 was going to be able to live up to the prior titles. You take the best bits of the Horizon open-world games and throw it into the more serious and buttoned up circuit-based racing of the Motorsport series, and where does it get you? This is the conversation we’ve had a couple times since the first Horizon back on the Xbox 360, but until this release it never felt like they had really nailed it. It was always two steps forward, with one step back. Always pulling the punch back from putting too much fun or personality into the serious side of the franchise.
Here though it’s a different story. Brought into the world of Motorsport is body kits, Forza edition cars, and customizable drivers. For the first time in either series you now get the chance to customize not only what type of gear your driver is wearing in the cockpit, but also the gender of your driver, which is a nice level of inclusion that I wish more racing games would embrace. This goes as far as revealing that one of the most infamous drivers in the history of Forza AI has been a woman the entire time, a lovely nod to the message that driving is for everyone. And of course, you can’t not mention the shear number of Porsche cars in the game, which is a fantastic bonus after years of dealing with paying extra for one of the most ubiquitous marques in sports cars.
Of course, the main meat and potatoes of any Forza Motorsport title is the campaign, letting you rise through the ranks of drivers everywhere, with your ultimate goal being to win the brand new Forza cup. It’s a neat concept for a campaign that let’s you bounce around between every discipline and series on the face of the earth. From NASCAR, to Formula E, you’ll be exposed to pretty much anything that runs on four wheels. Complimenting the improved campaign are the graphics, which even on a launch-spec Xbox One blew me away. With the upcoming Xbox One X and the PC release, the game can push 4k resolution graphics at a solid sixty frames-per-second. It honestly takes a while to really appreciate how much work they’ve put into the Forzatech engine since moving to the new generation with Forza Motorsport 5.
I have spent my time with the game using the controller and playing with various levels of driver aids, trying to judge what someone completely new to the series would experience jumping in blind, and without a racing wheel. I’m more than pleased to report that the team has nailed the level of accessibility lacking in more niche racing titles. Hardcore players need not worry that the game has been dumbed down, as everything they’ve come to expect from a Forza title still exists in the assists menu.
But, I can’t talk about assists without getting to the flaws in the paint here. Instead of rewarding higher levels of difficulty with more credits, you now only get bonuses from the modifiers found in the loot boxes, which are an evolution of the card packs found in the last game. On it’s face, the change isn’t too severe, but some will find themselves wondering why they bother with turning off TSC and ABS if they aren’t getting rewarded for it. The other devious part of the new loot box system is that you will now have cars and driver suits that you can only get through purchasing higher tier boxes. This rubs me the wrong way, and feels way too “Pay to Win” for me right now. But, nothing was more egregious than the launch version of the long-running VIP program. Initially launching with a limited amount of credit doublers, a major restriction from past games, fans felt deceived and mislead about the new nature of the program. Thankfully, Turn 10 has apologized and promised a return to the old ways.
Other minor issues are just odd choices that speak more to how I like my Forza, rather than major problems with the game itself. For instance, I find it annoying that you can only test drive cars in-between races in the campaign, and only on the circuit that you are about to race on. The lack of Time Trials is an odd exclusion of a game mode that I’ve always found to be core to any racing game. Oh, and the lack of Toyota and Lexus street cars is a major bummer, as I am deprived of my beloved Lexus LFA. But on the other hand, we gained Porsche right out the box, so you win some you lose some. Such is the reality of licensing cars.
Overall, the game is a solid improvement over 6, and a testament to what Microsoft is willing to put behind the car community as a whole. Games like Forza are the next step in getting younger generations into our hobby, and keeping the torch burning even as some of these cars are relegated to the history books. I think everyone at Turn 10 can hold their heads high and be proud of what they’ve done with the series, and I can’t wait to spend more time driving ridiculous cars rendered beautifully on all sorts of circuits. I hope to see you all out on the racetrack.
[Disclaimer: Microsoft and Turn 10 provided us with early review copies of the ultimate edition of the game.]