This time last year, 2017 looked like it could be one of the best years for Xbox. They had big exclusives lined up with Halo Wars 2, Scalebound, Crackdown 3, and the Xbox One X that had fans salivating. As it turned out Halo Wars 2 was solid but not the game to usher in the return of the RTS genre to consoles, Scalebound was canceled, and Crackdown 3 is delayed to 2018 amid rumours of development trouble. The saving grace for Microsoft is that the Xbox One X has been racking up preorders faster than most thought it would. Having a great system is good but what are people going to play on it? Fortunately, Xbox’s regular racing series is on hand to provide an ace in the hole.
The first thing you might notice when you install the game is that when it says ‘Ready to Start’ it actually is ready to start. I had installed about a third of the game when I got the prompt and I thought I would see if it worked. Every other time I have tried this I’ve been stuck in a menu where it tells me that the game is still installing. However, with Forza Motorsport 7 I got to play the three, mandatory, introductory races. Once I had finished these races I got to choose a career series to race in. At this point, I had to wait for more of the game to be installed, but it prioritised the data I needed to carry on and it wasn’t long before I was racing again.
When it comes to the racing, you know what you’re going to get. Forza Motorsport has had the best physics and handling mechanics of any racing games for a few years now. There are a few minor tweaks that hardcore Forza fans will notice but will bypass most people. The cars react slightly more to the camber changes of the track, particularly with the loading and unloading of axles prompting wheel spin and a lack of control. This is a subtle change though and does add a greater sense of realism. It is most noticeable with the higher curbs placed on some of the tracks. These higher curbs have been placed to stop people mounting the curbs quite so aggressively and they do that brilliantly. You quickly learn which curbs can be attacked and which need to be avoided and is something that a real racing driver would have to do.
Another thing that adds to the realism of the racing is the dynamic weather and time changes. Forza Motorsport 6 added weather to the franchise with a wet track not just having less grip, but puddles having a physical effect on your car. Whereas that game had the same weather through an entire race, FM7 makes weather and the time of day dynamic. You may start a race in the dry but rain may arrive on the second lap and completely change the track conditions. There are races that even have you driving during a thunderstorm. The water effects are stunning with raindrops, splashes, and spray all looking brilliant.
As good as these are it is the time of day changes that are jaw-dropping. Forza Horizon 3 introduced a new system to model the sky and the light that is produced, Forza Motorsport 7 takes this to the next level. The races that have you driving at dawn offer some of the most amazing visuals I have seen in a console game. The dawn lighting, mist effects, and range of colours are absolutely stunning. I actually turned off all the elements of the HUD so I could fully focus on the amazing, photo-realistic vistas. I cannot praise the team at Turn 10 highly enough for how amazing this game looks. I consider this to be the best looking console game ever. I simply cannot wait to try this on Xbox One X with my 4K TV.
The career mode in Forza Motorsport games have become somewhat ominous as they are so big and all-encompassing. Quite wisely FM7 has had its career mode stripped down and made a lot more simple and manageable. In my opinion, this is a great move, as you previously would have had to spend 200-400 hours to complete every series available in the previous games. I reckon it would be possible to win all 6 divisions of the new career in about 40-50 hours while completing every series in all the divisions would take over 120 hours. This is hardly a dearth of content and if you still want to race, but don’t want to play online, then you can always create your own individual races out of the career, or choose the long races option to add more playtime.
Online multiplayer has long been a strong feather in the cap of the Forza series and FM7 is no different. Races now feature 24 competitors in the usual sort of hoppers/categories of previous games. Matchmaking is slick and stable, though there is still sometimes a lengthy wait while you wait for a previous race to end. The races can be quite chaotic with 23 other players vying for position; however, there is the option to participate in collision-free races or to create private races with gamers you can trust.
The audio is up to the usual high standard of racing games these days. Cars rev and hum appropriately. Ambient sounds of the crowds, helicopters, PA systems, and weather effects are all top-notch. My only issue with the sound is that I found a bit of a glitch. If I turned my console to standby and came back to the game a lot of the sounds would be distorted or would be clipping. The only way to fix this was to shut the game down and start it back up again. This fixed it every time but it is a bit of an annoyance.
Forza Motorsport 7 has a lot to live up to. The last entry in the series (FM6) is the only game I have ever given a perfect score. Last year, the other branch of the franchise released one of the most beloved racing games around with Forza Horizon 3. Turn 10 Studios needed to up their game and with this latest entry they have created yet another superb racing game. Playing on an Xbox One S, with an HDR capable TV, I found this to be the best looking console game I have ever played, and that includes anything on my PlayStation 4 Pro. On many occasions I found myself gazing in awe at the beauty on the screen in front of me. Couple this with Forza’s superb handling model, solid multiplayer, and a much better-arranged career and you have a very special game.