This time last year we were celebrating the launch of Forza Horizon 3, an arcade video game which was set in our very own wide brown land, Australia. As good a game as that is however, Forza Motorsport is the series which really matters.
Turn 10 Studios is back again this year with its latest iteration of the simulation-based series, Forza Motorsport 7.
The Microsoft-backed developer has revamped the game in a multitude of areas, but one of the most instantly noticeable is graphics. Playable on Xbox One and Windows 10, gameplay is displayed in ultra-high definition 60 frames per second goodness on the latest Xbox One X. And it is a drop-dead gorgeous game to immerse yourself in.
Whether you’re doing an autocross event on the Top Gear test track in a Ford Fiesta ST or racing the new 2018 Porsche GT2 RS at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in the pouring rain, every visual aspect of this game is stunning. It certainly sets a high bar for competitor games like Project Cars 2, which also released last month.
The variety of gaming content itself is also rather astounding. There’s a completely new campaign mode where you must win championships consecutively before competing in the penultimate ‘Forza Driver’s Cup’. There’s a lot more emphasis placed on unlocking content rather than going nuts from the outset, with cars and certain race events blocked off until you reach the level required to access it.
Speaking of the cars, there’s almost double the number of Forza Motorsport 6. At over 700 vehicles, you’re well covered no matter what corner of the automotive world you’re from. Forza veterans will be happy to hear that Porsche, for the first time, is in the game from the start. Having just announced a six-year long partnership with the game series, Turn 10 Studios makes a big point of the hook-up by selecting the new 2018 Porsche GT2 RS as its cover car.
Forza Motorsport boasts more tracks than ever before too, with a grand total of 32 tracks from around the world on offer – with over 200 variations. From an Australian point of view, we’re happy to see Mount Panorama circuit back again, as well as a small number of cars from the Supercars Championship to match. There’s a few new tracks, both real and fictional, as well as the return of some old favourites like Maple Valley Raceway.
One of the most vaunted features of the new game is the advent of dynamic weather. Essentially, it combines various states of weather like clear skies, cloud, rain, fog or storms all into the one race. It provides a whole new aspect of racing to consider, having to slow down and take corners more carefully when it starts bucketing down, for example. We’ve previously seen the feature in Forza Horizon, but to have it in a dedicated racing game like Motorsport 7, is epic fun.
Not only fun, though – there’s a lot to be learnt from the humble racing sim. It’s a great place to learn the basics of cornering and braking, traction and power delivery and so on. It’s very realistic in the sense that every little action you take has a subsequent reaction. Whether it’s coming off the power mid-corner to put the weight back on the nose, or modulating the throttle when you’re driving a high-powered car in the rain – it’s a fantastic way of learning how cars behave.
Turn 10 Studios fully realises that fact, and has made Forza 7 much more easy to tackle for the rookies among us. There’s new driving aids, like friction assist which helps keep traction constant over multiple surfaces, which are designed for everyone to have a go. Of course, the game starts with these driving aids fully on, intending for you to wind back the nannies as you progress.
We can’t quite decide what to make of all this ‘babying’ though. Surely if you’re new to gaming and just want to have fun rather than set lap times, Forza Horizon or Need for Speed is the series for you. Nevertheless, the option is there for the unacquainted.
The driving dynamics themselves are more or less very similar to previous titles. We’ve noticed a welcome change from Forza 6, whereby it’s easier to pull yourself out of oversteer rather than just snapping back the opposite way and then spinning out. The setup and tuning of the car makes a major difference in handling (as is the norm with Forza Motorsport), and your ability to modify cars to your heart’s content is well reflected on track.
All these changes made in the menu screens have real consequences when setting the car upon a circuit. Vibration feedback is nice and sensitive when skimming over ripple strips or going sideways around a turn, you’re always aware whether the tyres have grip or not.
Realism is only ever going to increase in the technological world, and one of the coolest, albeit minute, details of Forza 7 is the vibration and shaking of car parts while going at speed. Fly down the Mulsanne straight at Circuit de la Sarthe at 300km/h in a Bentley Continental GT3 race car and you’ll see how much flex these carbon fibre wings have. For the first time Turn 10 has introduced the shaky cam effect as well, which you’ll either find hyper-realistic or nauseating – but not to worry, the feature can be disabled.
At the beginning of the game, you’re treated to a monologue about racing dreams and aspiring to work your way up the motorsport totem pole before being thrust into action yourself. You select a male or female ‘drivatar’ along with their racing suit before experiencing some high-end race cars vicariously through established Forza Motorsport drivers.
At the same time, we’re also introduced to some changes to the campaign. Gone are the prize spins of previous Forza games which acted as your incentive to level up, replaced by prize crates which you must earn money to buy. We could either take or leave this new change, as more often than not, you spend a large amount of money on a prize crate which ends up being full of useless prizes. Why fix a problem that was never there? We’ll miss you, prize spins.
Another change which mightn’t be to everyone’s liking is the fact that you have to ‘level up’ your car collector status in order to purchase certain cars. It’s a shame that you can’t just go out and buy any car you want, despite being able to afford it. Mind you, there’s still the ability to access any car with the ‘free play’ game mode – so you’re never fully blocked from any cars.
The campaign mode itself is a lot more structured than previously, with players having to compete in certain championships before progressing to the next. Thankfully there’s plenty of variety within these championships, from Group B era rally cars to the hypercars of today like the Aston Martin Vulcan. There’s showcase events like you would see in Forza Horizon which entail the driver having to navigate a slalom course or compete against well-known real world racers like Ken Block.
The computerised artificially intelligent (AI) to race against are a little bit erratic at times, and be prepared to wince on every first corner, with multi-million dollar race cars often trading paint. There’s a lot of argy-bargy and weight being thrown around until the pack starts to spread out, but once you’re in the clear the AI are much more considerate. They can be programmed in terms of their difficulty level and you can make them more or less aggressive in the settings.
Restrictions on what you can and can’t race are stricter, with the addition of ‘homologation’ (essentially meaning every car is roughly equal) for race events. Turn 10 Studios likely did this to promote fair racing, but it might take a bit of getting used to for long-time players of the game.
Ample opportunity exists to ogle all 700 cars, with ‘Forzavista’ returning to Forza 7. You’re able to open up whichever car you want in the garage and on pit lane, and walk around it appreciating the level of detail that’s gone into creating these digital models. Interior switches and dials are super accurate and even stickers on windows are extremely lifelike – showing how much emphasis has been placed on making this game a genuine simulation.
We are more than glad that Australia gets a respectable representation in the game, with a smattering of legendary Australian cars like the 1971 Ford Falcon XY GT HO Phase III and 1988 Holden VL Commodore Group A SV. It’s nice to see Turn 10 Studios doubling-down on last year’s Forza Horizon and offering us up our beloved Aussie classics, even though we are a minority.
As with previous Forza Motorsport titles, there’s a fair amount of recycled content. It’s not actually a problem, we’d rather be lobbed old stuff than go without, but it’s annoying having the same old 2013 Nissan GT-R Black Edition rather than the latest model.
On the whole, Turn 10 Studios has undoubtedly outdone itself yet again with Forza Motorsport 7. The level of detail, the scale of content and the stunning visuals will keep players engaged for hours on end – it’s a real productivity-killer.
If you’re any kind of gamer, it’s a must-buy for your Xbox. Just as well we’re coming up to Christmas – if you can wait that long…
Click through to the gallery for more Forza Motorsport 7 gameplay images.