Review: Forza Motorsport 7 (XO) an excellent racer mired by speed bumps
It’s racing season and Turn 10 Studios’ Forza Motorsport 7 is on the grid, revving its engines at two major competitors this quarter. Can they repeat the grin-inducing success of Forza Horizon 3 with traditional motorsport, or will they struggle to play catch-up with those rivals?
There’s plenty that Forza Motorsport 7 does right, from its impressive stable of cars to the way it respects your play style – treat it as an arcade racer with a controller and loads of assists, or ramp up the simulation factor with a wheel, pedals, and full manual control. Although there’s a good core system to be found here, maintaining pole position will prove bumpy thanks to some controversial decisions, the largest being the invasive presence of loot boxes.
Cars, cars, and more cars. With more than 700 vehicles in the game, there’s definitely no shortage to the collect-‘em-all routine that racing game fans wind up pursuing. Separated into their respective divisions, we’re introduced to these classic and modern automobiles in a finely crafted single-player campaign. I cannot stress how fun this mode is. The road to the Forza Driver’s Cup is preceded by increasingly difficult championships, each made up of various racing series and showcase events. You’re free to pick any combination of races to participate in, so long as you accumulate enough points to complete said championship.
Turn 10 smartly utilizes Forza Motorsport 7’s massive roster in this way, allowing players to sample the many different cars at their own pace. I was initially lukewarm to the idea, since the short series – roughly four to six races each – meant I couldn’t truly invest myself in any one car. One of the great things about traditional career modes is that you felt a sense of progress, driver and machine inching up the leaderboards and divisions to claim the ultimate trophy. Here, I felt like a test driver.
Once you embrace the concept, however, you’ll find that Turn 10’s approach forces players to leave their comfort zone. The non-committal nature of it all meant I was picking vehicles and races I usually avoided, making me appreciate their technical differences better. It may all look the same to an observer, but there’s no better lesson in handling and braking theory than by constantly testing that knowledge with new vehicles.
The showcase events are another clear highlight for Forza Motorsport 7. Narrated by professional drivers and other notable members from the industry, these one-off races let Turn 10 experiment with scenarios that normally wouldn’t fit with the rest of the game. Top Gear’s Limo Bowling, for example, has a Cadillac XTS Limousine screeching around the track to bowl over as many pins as possible. Another showcase has you racing identical Ford Gymkhana Focus cars in an intense head-to-head with rally driver Ken Block. Yet another puts you in a modern Audi R8 LMS, tasked with overtaking all previous generations of R8s. And all that is from the first championship alone.
In a way, this is Turn 10 injecting some Horizon 3 playfulness into “sterile” track racing. The racing trucks and buggies have a similar effect, steering players away from the usual touring or luxury sport cars. At the end of the day, they expand the sheer breadth of options that Forza Motorsport 7 already has. The definitive motorsport experience? There’s no question, at least when it comes to choices.
Player freedom is a different matter entirely. You see, Turn 10 have introduced homologation in a bid to retain vehicle legitimacy. If you were hoping to trick out your Jeep Wrangler into a nimble rocket worthy of rocking GT history, then prepare to be disappointed – you’ll be stuck racing other SUVS with the same performance limits as you. While it’s a sensible addition for competitive play, homologation comes as a default for all Turn 10-created content; in other words, you’ll find it in the single-player Forza Driver’s Cup as well as any official events that they run.
Not everyone is going to vilify homologation, of course. Its implementation still leaves room for customization and unique rides, provided you’re technical-minded enough to dive into the minutiae of tire widths and compounds, engine horsepower, and overall Performance Index. If all you want to do is to drive a non-stock car, then there’s an option that automatically applies eligible upgrades (or downgrades) and tuning. If you wanted to slowly morph your car into a fantastical racing beast, however, you’re restricted to custom races and the odd showcase or two. It does level the playing field, and tweaking within acceptable limits is part and parcel of competition, motorsport or otherwise, yet it single-handedly sweeps aside a player-base that likes their fantasy cars.
If homologation was a speed bump, then loot boxes – or ‘prize crates’ as they call it – is a sudden red light. Not many games are spared this new industry trend, but rather than being a tolerable presence in the background they’ve now managed to squeeze their way into the forefront of our gaming experience. Dropping player gear and non-exclusive cars is something I can live with, but tying mods with them? No thanks.
For the unfamiliar, mods are the great variable factor in Forza Motosport 7: they can boost your credit earnings; impose challenges for rewards (get two perfect turns or finish 25 meters ahead, for example); or simply modify your car. They’re a fun way of spicing up the races, except when they become randomly acquired consumables. What used to be self-imposed trials for bonus credits has now turned into an expense for complete shots in the dark. I may get the mod I’d been hoping to test a new car with, or I may get something I wouldn’t touch for days or weeks. I much rather save my credits for buying specific vehicles, only for homologation to remind me it exists. Ultimately, I don’t feel like an enthusiast collector but like someone grinding in a free-to-play title, regretting vehicle purchases that didn’t quite turn out how I fancied.
Perhaps these are the gripes of those resistant to change, but there’s no denying that they’ve marred an otherwise excellent game. Yes, Forza Motorsport 7 is a blast to play, exhibiting an impressive balance between arcade racer and simulator to achieve a simple goal: make driving fun, no matter who you are. It’s a great entry for beginners wary about difficulty, while veterans get page after page of vehicles to play with. There’s a great single-player campaign to boot, with a score of multiplayer modes to dive into after (so long as you find fair players to race with). It’s just unfortunate that you can’t get too comfortable thanks to some unwelcome additions.
Forza Motorsport 7 is developed by Turn 10 Studios and published by Microsoft Studios, out now for Windows 10 PCs and Xbox One. A copy was provided for this review.