In recent years, Forza has surged to the head of the pack in the racing genre. Basically going annual with a steady rotation back and forth between its main series and Horizon spinoff, Forza has become synonymous with top-notch racing. Forza titles have come to be known for delivering highly customizable gameplay that caters to a range of audiences, no matter whether they’re looking for an arcade racer or sim-heavy experience—while also innovating with features like Driveatars. However, with the latest main series release in the form of Forza Motorsport 7, the franchise may have been caught looking in its rear-view mirror at the competition hot on its tail, taking its eyes off the road long enough to make a couple of costly errors that might let that competition close the gap.
Forza Motorsport 7 features a suite of offline and online modes meant to engage players like never before. The game touts 32 tracks—the most ever in a Forza game—with more than 200 different configurations. The game’s only completely brand new track, Dubai (highlighted by features like sand blowing across the asphalt), is joined by dozens of returning tracks from Forza 6 as well as fan-favorites Suzaka, Mugello, and Maple Valley (brilliantly re-created for the first time on this generation of console after being last seen in Forza 4). This balance of tracks from throughout Forza’s history goes a long way to keeping the experience feeling fresh, as players know it’ll be a while before they might see the same track twice.
You’ll get to tackle many of those track configurations in the new single-player campaign that tasks you with climbing the ranks in six different championships, culminating in the Forza Driver’s Cup. There are a variety of different circuits in each championship—usually themed around familiar motifs seen in other Forza games like Hot Hatch or Classic Muscle cars—as you try to collect enough points to stand atop the podium and unlock the next championship. Each championship also has a few Showcase events that will test your driving skills in different and exciting ways. Some, like the car bowling featured in Top Gear, return from previous games; others, like besting professional rally car driver Ken Block in a head-to-head race in identical cars, adds a more personal twist to a familiar racing mechanic, as Block gives you some narration before the race as to why you’re racing those particular cars.
I will say the commentary is a bit weak this go-around from the Forza folks. Whether it’s the game’s general narrator droning on, one of any number of professional racers who sound like they’re definitely more comfortable behind a steering wheel than a microphone, or even some Top Gear magazine editors who are taking themselves a bit too seriously, I’d usually try to skip any audio introductions and get right into each race as quickly as possible.
Fortunately, the rest of Forza 7’s presentation is stellar as usual. The game’s 700 cars—including a ton of Porsches after Microsoft’s latest partnership deal, and some other cars admittedly ported directly over from Forza Horizon 3—still look absolutely stellar on the track. And, to no one’s shock, each car handles as you would expect, with it feeling like you’re fighting to keep some cars on the track as they hit 200 MPH, while others corner like a dream even though their top speed is nothing to write home about.
Also making its way over from Horizon 3 is that game’s dynamic weather system. Night and rain are nothing new on Forza tracks. However, having the sky suddenly open up on a track three laps in on a four-lap race, or starting a race at sunset and having the sky turn pitch black over eight laps at Daytona, is a nice addition to the mainline series here.
Forza Motorsport 7 also upped its game when it comes to personalization. Not only is its vaunted car customization suite, which allows you to paint and modify the look and tuning of your car, back and bigger than ever, but you can also now customize your driver to a degree. Over 100 different track suits are available in the game, and you can make your driver (male or female) wear any of them to really send a message about who they (and, thus, you) are. I’d still love to see this taken to the next level at some point, where we can customize our suits to a level of detail that we can the cars we drive, but this is another step in the right direction for the series.
Not everything that has been added or changed about Forza 7 has been a success, though. To try to lower the barrier of entry into the series even further, a brand new Easy Mode has been added that simplifies the controls to the point where you’re barely even controlling the car anymore. While I don’t mind adding this feature for folks who might feel they really need it, I do mind the fact that the old system of rewarding more credits for those of us that like bumping up the game’s difficulty and turning off any number of assists has been abandoned. Considering how difficult it can be sometimes to purchase the really high-end cars with in-game currency, this change feels like it’s only increasing the grind.
This all leads us into the new Mods system. Mods were introduced in Forza 6 as a way to challenge yourself even further when you played the game. Some Mods would give you speed boosts, but it would come at the sacrifice of handling; others might kill your acceleration, but improve your cornering ability. Each card could be used as many times as you wanted, and were a neat little optional addition that experienced players could use to further enhance their playtime. There were also some limited-use, super-rare Mods that would modify your driving ability, but also reward credit or XP boosts.
Now, all Mods fall into this category. Every Mod you use only has one to five uses depending on rarity, and can reward you with credits or XP, and even occasionally both. In order to get these Mods, you have to spend in-game currency to open loot boxes—the more currency you spend, typically the rarer the Mod. So, you start spending in-game currency to earn more in-game currency, to spend in-game currency, to earn more in-game currency, to spend in-game currency, to earn more in-game currency, and the cycle continues. Unfortunately, it typically costs a lot more to buy those Mods than the credits you earn from using them, especially when you don’t know how many credits a given race will net you. Using a Mod that gives you an additional 30% credits at the end of the race is great, but if you don’t know if you’re winning 10,000 credits or 5,000 credits for a first-place finish means there’s also a bit of a gamble when you use the card. All in all, it makes you wonder why you would even bother with the Mod system at all at this point.
But then, there are also loot boxes that give Mods plus cars or track suits (some of which are only available in said loot boxes). So, some of the fanciest cars and prettiest track suits—not there’s that many of them—are behind this randomizer. You won’t need them to beat the game or hop online to play friends, of course, but if there is a car you really want stuck in a loot box, you’re in a pretty tough spot. There is also a new leveling system for your garage, where buying certain low-level cars will help you unlock high-level cars faster. This all seems to really try to pressure you in some not so subtle ways to buy into the game’s microtransactions system.
Also, surprisingly, a lot of online features for Forza 7 aren’t available at launch. Forza Leagues and, curiously, even the Auction House still aren’t up and running even at the writing of this review. Turn 10 says they’ll get them up soon, but we’re kind of in the dark as to when specifically. The microtransactions and store also aren’t up and running, so we can’t accurately judge how they might tempt people into spending real world cash—just that, like those other features, we know they are coming, like one of those dynamic weather storms I mentioned earlier. The rest of Forza 7’s online features seem to be working fine, and you can still easily race up to two dozen other players online at any given time with no lag thus far in our experience. Beyond that, you can upload race screens from Photo Mode or replays of your races, as well as all of your custom car designs to Forza’s servers with no issue.
Forza Motorsport 7 has done everything you’d want from a racing game sequel—more cars, more tracks, and the return of that tight gameplay—showing why Turn 10’s efforts remain the leader of the pack. The new Mod and in-game currency systems, however, really detract from what is otherwise another great racing experience—and might make you want to think twice before jumping into the driver’s seat again if you’re not big on grinding for those credits.
|Publisher: Microsoft Studios • Developer: Turn 10 Studios • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 10.03.17|
Forza Motorsport 7 is a really great racing game—it’s just a shame that changes to the game’s currency system undermine a fair amount of what it does right. It’s made racing feel more like a grind than in years past and no amount of new tracks or cars will change that.
|The Good||Game looks great and the cars all handle superbly.|
|The Bad||Changes to how you can earn credits and the mod system increase grinding and feel like they’re paving the way for some awful microtransactions.|
|The Ugly||A lot of these new driver suits. Yuck.|
|Forza Motorsport 7 is available on Xbox One and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Microsoft for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.|