What a time to be a fan of the racing genre. The past few weeks delivered both F1 2017 y Project CARS 2, and, before we’ve even had time to catch breath, it’s time for the latest installment from Turn 10: Forza Motorsport 7. It’s aimed at a much wider audience than either a straight F1 game or hardcore sim like Project Cars, and Microsoft has high hopes for this in-house title, even choosing it to showcase the Xbox One X. Before our review copies arrived late on Tuesday night I was wondering how much more there would be to say about such a well-established franchise. After many hours on both Xbox One and Windows, the answer is mucho.
Keeping things fresh
This will be Forza‘s tenth console outing, including the Horizon games, spanning all three generations of Xboxes. (It’s also a Play Anywhere title, which means it works on Windows, too, and both versions are included the price.) In all that time, the underlying principle of the game remains the same: drive cars faster than your opponents, win credits, buy more cars. What elevated algunos of aquellos past games to greatness was the way they could make you feel like a driving god, capable of superhuman feats behind the wheel.
Forza Motorsport 7 still knows how to make those magic moments, and the return of a number of different tracks and cars gives it the air of a greatest hits compilation. But some of the changes to the gameplay are getting us down (and don’t even get Sam started on the topic of in-game loot).
Single-player is a more regimented experience than the past couple of Forza outings, with what some will see as a radical change to the reward system. You start off with a trio of single-lap events, each one meant to evoke a particular moment in motorsport. They’ve been cleverly chosen to showcase the now-dynamic nature of tracks, sand drifting across your path in Dubai and puddles growing as the rain intensifies at the Nürburgring. An old favorite returns in the shape of the Italian circuit of Mugello. Two old favorites, in fact: in this one-off, you play the role of M (for Maria) Rossi, who was the AI opponent to beat before Turn 10 found religion in drivatars.
With this amuse-bouche out of the way, it’s time to pick your outfit and start hustling. Two things soon become apparent. First, the actual gameplay has lost none of its charm. Whether you use a standard controller or a wheel, Forza Motorsport 7 immerses you in its hyper-vivid take on racing.
The most enjoyable laps are those completed right on the very edge of the tires’ grip, each corner a delicate balance of wheelspin and opposite-lock. (Note: this is significantly easier with a controller and makes many fewer demands of your upper body strength.) Where games like Project CARS 2 demand accuracy, Forza is more about expression. The tarmac is your canvas, the tires your brush.
It’s hugely accessible stuff, now with even more options to tweak. All of the aids can be turned off for those of you with fancy racing wheels and cockpits at home, while novices and neophytes now have the option of “Super Easy” settings which do much of the work for you. In the past, turning off those driver aids meant you’d earn more for each race, but now the only setting that affects your post-race payout is AI difficulty. That’s just the first change in a title where in-game economics work very differently from before.
Winning isn’t everything
los Forza Driver’s Cup is your end goal, and you get there by winning six different championships, unlocking one after another. Each of these is a mix of race series and one-off showcase events. There’s less emphasis put on winning individual races as long as you earn enough points in the championship to move on to the next.
Forza’s creative director Dan Greenawalt often talks about “inspiring new car people” with his games. The championships and showcases are themed to do just that, exposing you to a four-wheeled variety act that will sometimes be outside your comfort zone (like that damn car bowling). The ratio of effort to reward can vary wildly; winning an hour-long endurance race only nets 300 championship points, but a five-race series that took two-thirds the time delivered more than a thousand.
The changes haven’t stopped there. The main point of in-game credits is to buy cars, but unlike past games, it’s not just a matter of having sufficient credits to afford a supercar or Le Mans prototype. Now the game’s 700-odd cars, trucks, and even the odd ATV are arranged into tiers. Collect enough cars in one tier and you eventually unlock the next.
But even that won’t let you buy just anything. Some vehicles are rare enough that they only appear sporadically, while others need to be won in particular challenges or events or via the new prize crate system. (You can read Sam’s extensive thoughts on this soon; suffice to say, he hates it).
The mod cards introduced in Forza Motorsport 6 are back. We thought them a worthy addition to the game back in 2015, but this time around we’re less convinced. Use the right mods and you level up faster, but since the main way of getting mod cards is spending in-game credits, you may well end up poorer over the long run.
If all of that sounds too proscriptive for your idea of racing fun, you can always level up by grinding in Free Play. Here you can customize events to your liking, down to the weather settings if it’s a track that supports that feature, and you’ll still earn credits and XP based on race distance, AI difficulty, and any mod cards.