If Microsoft’s Forza Motorsport series could be summed up in a word, “pedigree” would likely fit the bill. The simulation racing series has stood tall as one of the best reasons to own an Xbox, with developers Turn 10 improving and iterating on a formula that usually allows for little wiggle room. But in this bid to always push forward, Forza Motorsport 7 in particular starts veering off into the gravel. In an attempt to squeeze in a confusing way of progression, it stifles the otherwise phenomenal racing it manages to put on show.
Progression is something that is, surprisingly, new to Forza Motorsport. Or at least it is to the games on this current generation. Where past iterations had the dizzying assortment of cars unlocked for you to drive at any given moment, Forza began putting them behind walls to incentivize you to play and earn them. Other entries might have dodged the obvious hurdle this would impose on races (having cars not suited for a specific class, for example) by always adapting them to what you have on hand. But Forza 7 doesn’t do this, and instead embodies your car collection as a core catalyst in your progression. Which is problematic for a number of reasons.
As you accrue cars as part of rewards for levelling up (which is done by completing races in the six championships you are encouraged to play through), you car collector score ticks up. This is a tiered system that unlocks batches of new cars for you to purchase. If a tier is locked, that batch is locked too – and any events tied to that specific tier are obviously out of your reach. The idea here is to slowly work your way up, wading through the assortment of cars you have on hand to tackle the events you have open. Granted, it’s not a case of getting entirely road blocked at any given time. It’s just no fun to be forced to progress in this manner.
The sting, perhaps, is more severe when you consider just how heavily microtransactions weigh in on this decision. In the past turning off certain driving assists would reward you with percentage increases to in-game currency, which you need to purchase those very cars that allow you to progress. This is now gone in Forza 7. You can still turn what you like off, but if you want to try to boost your earnings you’re going to have to pray to lady luck. Mods, a form of condition-specific challenge cards, replace this system – and they’re only available in new loot boxes the game obnoxiously pushes you to purchase.
These mods do anything from changing the time of day for your next race to forcing you to play with a specific camera view, rewarding you in currency for your completion of them. You’re able to equip a bunch at a time too, but you’re completely out of control over which you even get in the first place. Instead, Forza 7 essentially asks you to gamble. Do you save up to purchase a car in your current tier – a sure fire way to notch up that collector score – or do you burn it on a random loot drop that may or may not help your earnings in the next handful of races.
Right now Turn 10 aren’t actually allowing players to purchase these boxes with real-world money, which somewhat negates the idea of paying a bunch more to just ensure your progress that used to be tied to the way you want to play. But they will in the future – a move they pulled with the previous entry too a few months after the launch. Having loot boxes so heavily affect your push forward is a strange way to iterate on a progress system that should otherwise urge you to carry on playing. The gating of so many great cars behind this system just enforces the tedium that most of the game’s championships end up being.
Which is a darn shame, because when you get down to what Forza 7 should actually be about – high octane, super accurate racing – it’s just as good as you’d expect from the benchmark-setting franchise. Turn 10’s subtle but effective changes are in abundance here, introducing features such as dynamic weather systems that turn a bone try track into a rain-slicked circuit of danger from one lap to the next, along with the physics breaking puddles of water that dynamically fill comers as the downpour continues.
Forza 7 is filled to the brim with advanced simulation sliders and toggles that allow anyone – whether you’re a novice or a complete petrol guzzling addict – to tune the driving experience to exactly what they’d want. Breaking line assists are only a touch away from altering your current cars downforce or touching the suspension to give you an edge in cornering. It’s an experience that’s certainly familiar if you’ve played other Motorsport entries, but it’s refined in a way that only Turn 10 could pull off so frequently.
The library of cars is impressive too, ranging from demolition derby styled racing trucks to track dreams and open wheel racers. Vehicles from Porsche, Ferrari, Aston Martin and more sit alongside Volkswagen, Volvo and Fiat, as you’d expect from a driving game that is all about the thrill of learning a new mechanical beast and taming it. The sheer detail on these vehicles is as astounding as ever, and it’d be hard to fault any one of the 700 strong library of cars Turn 10 has mustered up.
That goes double for the game on a visual side too, which sucks up all the power it can from the Xbox One (and PC, if you have it to spare) to create some utterly gorgeous tracks and race scenes. Forza Motorsport has always been a technical showcase of sorts, but this year just seems like the vision that was truly promised from the outset of the generation. Not only are tracks, cars and weather effects stunningly represented, the elements around them aren’t given the short end of the stick in any regard. This is one of the most technically adept games visually on any platform, and it’s a marvel to behold in motion.
But for all the strides forward, a few still need to be taken back it seems. Multiplayer suffers again in Forza 7 – a real disappointment after the stellar showing the spin-off Horizon series. Players are able to match up online for traditional races, but the options around them are lacking at best. Private lobbies, as an example, can’t be filled with AI competitors for more rounded races. Online matchmaking itself has been entirely missing for me, in what seems to be a running theme for Motorsport titles. If you happen to live too far away from one of Microsoft’s Azure servers, matchmaking is simply not possible. A fact that learnt through two nights of continuously searching (and failing) to find a single online race. Something which wasn’t an issue, again, with Horizon 3 last year.
This small issues taken in a vacuum can seem like ones that wouldn’t detract from the pure thrill of just racing, but as a sum they make Forza Motorsport 7 an uneven and frustrating package to wrestle with. When it’s down to the nitty-gritty of racing, and the assortment of tools you have to tweak it, Forza Motorsport 7 stands above anything that even dares to come near. But it’s bogged down by an increasing focus on randomised progression and additional payment structures, which are only getting worse with each iteration.
Last Updated: October 5, 2017
Forza Motorsport 7 is the exhilarating, technical racer you expect it to be when you’ve finally put rubber on the track. But outside of that it’s a mess of randomised loot boxes, microtransaction structures, tepid progression and watered down multiplayer support. A real bump in the road for this illustrious racing franchise.