Oh, I can do this all day. “I Won’t Back Down”; “Runnin’ Down A Dream”; “Learning To Fly”; “Yer So Bad”… any one of those sweet tunes from the recently deceased Tom Petty can be used to describe the greatness of Microsoft’s Forza racing franchise (“You Got Lucky”? “Walls”? “Breakdown”? “Even The Losers”? Err, not on my track). But therein lies the problem: Forza’s biggest competition isn’t Gran Turismo, F-1, Project Cars, or Need For Speed but, rather, with its own IP.
Following last year’s tremendous Forza Horizon 3 — yours truly’s personal 2016 Game of the Year — is a tough trick to pull off, and Forza Motorsport 7, while not quite finding that “Room At The Top”, still has a lot more going for it than nifty 4K visuals.
While this review might need a part deux to coincide with the official release of the Xbox One X (11/7/17), vanilla Xbox One users who love ’em some sim racin’ shouldn’t fret; Forza 7‘s 1-to-1 photogrammetry will absolutely blow their mind–1080p or better. As mentioned in my E3 coverage this past June, dynamic skies and shadows help elevate that crisper detail to new heights. Improved visuals are a part of Forza developer Turn 10’s forte, and this one clears the deck with those aforementioned elements impacted by fiesty weather and intense reflection.
In my first few laps around the (much requested) Maple Valley Raceway, the delightful sunny afternoon quickly shifted to heavy rain and dark thunderstorms. The beauty in both the weather and change in the time of day is shared in every physical element of the racetrack, even with sun-peaking fog, wind-blowing sand, and near sea-dust clouds (Tip: For the full experience, be sure to turn off the Friction Assist to add sliding to wet tracks and grass).
Besides their respective environments of linear track and open world, where Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon truly differentiate is in game physics. Motorsport operates a bit more realistic mechanically; fans of both titles will instantly notice how much lighter the front ends of certain coups (see: 911 GT2, Porsche 918 Spyder) feel in comparison to the free-play style of their sister cars in FH3‘s great Outback. There’s no doubt that Turn 10 ramps it up when it comes to “lap” time; if we’re gonna fly around in a few redundant circles, we mind as well feel differently each time we do so.
Kudos to the team for giving every make and model a natural experience, from roaring SUV engines (since I tend to drive my own like a maniac) to rear-end swinging Pony cars and Vintage Sport GT‘s to 1,000 HP Mercedes-Benz racing trucks. As someone who actually whipped around in a few Polaris RZR’s just this Spring, I can attest that these move just as shifty in the game — even when spec racing the concrete instead of sand.
Thus, Forza Motorsport 7 offers a quick-learning curve that should allow new racers and vets to shift from assisted braking and steering to ABS (Anti-Lock Brake System) and Normal, respectively, and perhaps shutting off both assists entirely. After a couple days with the game I found no need for Traction and Stability Control unless using those Legendary Early Prototype or Elite Factory Super Cars. Yeah, those are a bitch to steer and a blast to.. blast off. This brings me to your Car Collection, set in lockable tiers (Common, Uncommon, Rare, Super Rare, Legendary); it’s much easier to keep track of what cars you have instead of a frustrating endless list of cars that, in year’s past, deemed 90% worthless. Getting to the cars you actually want to use gives you a clear motive to compete and kick-ass in campaign!
As you progress, you’ll knock down these tiers while advancing towards the Forza Driver’s Cup, which also has five size-increasing, thankfully-not-so-linear tiers of its own (Seeker, Breakout, Evolution, Domination, Masters) before hitting the home stretch. Let’s also thank the high heavens that we no longer have to finish in the top 3 to advance, either.
Speaking of which, that Spin-the-Wheel reward thingy from Forza 6 is now replaced with 3 choices upon reaching miletones: credits, cars and, in a first for the Forza franchise, a wealthy range of race apparel (i.e. Manufacturer, National Flags, Pop Culture, Tracks, Patterns, etc.). Many will be happy to know that Mods — you acquire from new Priza Crates — no longer come off like slapped-on, arcadey cheap thrills.
Although unstructured, everything about the Driver’s Cup comes off as important, strategic fun, and is so acutely compartmentalized that I might actually finish this year’s campaign–a feat I’ve never accomplished in the franchise considering the amount of racing hours one must pour. On the presentation front, the voice of Jeremy Clarkson is still missed over 2-years later, but the new ensemble of narrators is admirable and quick-to-the-point. NBC Sports’ Matt Farah, and drivers Ken Block and Tanner Foust are just a few of the recognizables that also include car designers, auto industry podcasters and magazine journalists. In case you’re wondering, Top Gear is still present, although the show’s presence is minimal.
Bottom line, Forza 7 has a lot to offer. It packs the most massive and widely diverse garage in the series yet (700, if you include the DLC and Forza Edition duplicates); sheer visual and auditory authenticity (the dash cam is a nee fav for in-car scenary, while the bumper-view chase cam is scary real), with engines that thunder and exhausts that sizzle, you’ll want to crank the shit even when your a classic tune from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (via Spotify) livens up the road. And if the Driver’s Cup isn’t for you — your loss! — Free Play with any car (locked or otherwise), Multiplayer lobbies and a returning Split-Screen couch co-op is plenty for anyone daring enough to get behind the wheel. If “Love Is A Long Road”, then Forza Motorsport 7 is that step that likely stamps the franchise’s legacy as the best racing sim ever. 4.25/5 Bibles.
Forza Motorsport 7 Patch Notes (Last night, October 3rd):
- Fixed numerous livery-related issues, including some liveries applying as paint colors only, liveries not appearing in multiplayer, and game lock-ups when cancelling liveries.
- Fixed an issue where vinyls would not appear in the vinyl editor for players who were creating vinyl groups with HDR enabled.
- Arabic text is no longer reversed in game menus
- Default profile slider settings for wheel users are no longer maxed out
- Benchmark mode on PC now displays the correct minimum FPS
- Framerate now improved in loading with G-Sync enabled.