In this seventh game in the series, the focus has been on polishing and refining everything that worked well in Forza Motorsport 6 and that's why very little new has just been added. One (!) new track (Dubai Highway, there are other new tracks when compared to Forza 6, but we've seen them before in earlier entries in the series), a few new cars (again, compared to Forza 6, which ended up with around 620 cars if you count DLC, there are just over 700 in Forza 7), and a new game mode; that's all we're getting here. Everything is presented differently and the career mode has been given a few structural changes and some new championships. Overall, though, this is the same game as its predecessor, albeit with more polish. Turn 10 has left the wrenches in the toolbox and has instead used some Carnauba Wax to create the most polished product they've ever released.
Sure, dynamic weather has been added. Let's not forget that. Just like in Project CARS 2, the inclusion of pools of water, raindrops, and fog are the main talking points, but as with Slightly Mad Studios' sequel, we have difficulty seeing what's so thrilling about rain drizzle, especially in a game where it all comes down to setting superior lap times. However, for those who love racing in the rain and driving through puddles, the dynamic weather effects work very well. During a race on the Nurburgring it rains and becomes cloudy during the seven minutes that the race lasts and of course this adds some realism, even though the puddles, just like in Project CARS 2, seem to get too big. During one of our initial races in the career mode we took to the track at Silverstone and discovered what looked like small swimming pools, something that never happens in reality. Instead, the race would have been abandoned and restarted after the water had dried up. Of course, it's easy to just deactivate the weather, which we did early on, but the effects are nice and work relatively well, regardless of personal taste and how it affects the racing.
Forza Motorsport 7 is structured just like previous games in the franchise. The main offering is the career mode (Forza Driver's Cup). As an aspiring rookie, you will go from front-wheeled amateur racing to Formula E and GT LeMans racing against the elite. As usual, it's about working through the lower leagues so you can afford bigger and better cars. We all know the setup, we've all experienced it before, and in Forza 7 almost nothing differs regarding the Driver's Cup except some elements regarding its overall presentation.
In a way, it's nice that this hasn't changed. It's reassuring to know what is required of you and knowing what you need to do to win. At the same time, it's quite sad to play the same career for the seventh game, and even though we created our own driver this time, it's nothing new. In fact, it's getting old. As we said way back when we played Forza Motorsport 3, we're looking forward to the day where one of these developers finds a way to innovate in this area. We want something fresh, something new, something that can excite us and drive the genre forward again. Pardon the pun.
As for the multiplayer aspect, the same applies. The main game modes are the same as in previous games, although they are more polished and, in some cases, expanded. Turn 10, during the development of Forza 7, talked a lot about the fact that they have four million active players who regularly compete online in Forza 6, a figure they hope to grow now as the pit section is expanded and offers more of a realistic atmosphere. This part of the game works very well, although it's actually just a cosmetic detail. We can fiddle around while the next race loads and although the focus on our avatar is clearly exaggerated (there are 300 different helmets to choose from), it's a good thing that the developers tried to make the experience more personal.
Building a relationship between man and machine is something that studio head Dan Greenawalt has spoken a lot about since the release of Forza 2, and in the seventh game this is done by asking the player to collect as many cars as is humanly possible. To sell the cars obtained after winning championships, or those you bought and tuned but stopped using, isn't something that Forza 7 encourages. On the contrary, like a kid obsessed with Hot Wheels, you're tasked with building a huuuuge garage of sports cars. Too bad that the range of cars doesn't feel complete at launch, and that the prioritisation seems weird.
We don't really know where to start when it comes to the cars in Forza 7. For starters, we've not found the 700+ cars they talked about in run up to launch. We also haven't found any of our old Forza Motorsport 4 favourites. The Calsonic Nissan GT-R R34 Skyline JPGT stands out to us as the best car ever in this series, and it's missing. We also missed newly released, super-hyped high-performance supercars such as Aston Martin Vulcan, Bugatti Chiron, McLaren 720S, Lamborghini Performante and Mercedes AMG Project One. Instead, we find enough minibuses and three-cylinder minibars (and trucks, and vans) to suffocate an entire legion of zebras. We think it's time Turn 10 looks to Polyphony and follows the example of Yamauchi and his 200-man team in the upcoming Gran Turismo Sport. Remove all these slow, boring family sedans, vans, super old classics, and Forza Horizon cars, and instead put all the focus on real racing machines.
As far as the car physics go - this game is simpler and less of a simulator than ever before in the franchise. Forza Motorsport 7 is a mix of the gameplay feel we found in Forza 5 and Forza Horizon and will, by doing that, appeal to a larger audience. Turn 10 has been working to extend that critical moment when you lose the grip in one or two tires and then lose it in all four. In some racing simulators, you only have a fraction of a second to react and parry when this happens (GTR 2 was, for example, extreme in this area), while in Forza Motorsport 7 you get more time than you ever would in real life. In fact, it sometimes feels like an arcade racer even when turning off all the assists and driving aids. We have, for example, successfully drifted around almost all of Brands Hatch in a Pagani Huayra BC, without even concentrating that much (something that's about as realistic as the Power Rangers and that wasn't possible in previous entries in the series, at least not like this). At the same time, it's both fun and rewarding to provoke and push out the rear end of a Chevrolet Corvette C7R GTLM around the Andretti Hairpin curve on Laguna Seca and then let the throttle control the skid while your arms cross in opposite lock, all the way to corner two.
Forza 4 stands out as the absolute highlight in this long-running series and it not only had the best steering wheel support for different types of setups, it also simulated real asphalt racing brilliantly. When the game series then moved from Xbox 360 to Xbox One, Forza Motorsport became a bit more "easy to drive" regarding the car physics, and Forza 7 has now been brought even closer to what we find in Forza Horizon. This while the closest competitors Gran Turismo Sport and Project CARS 2 drive in the opposite direction.
Turn 10, however, should be praised for a number of things regarding the balance of the cars, as well as the basic physics. The sense of speed, first and foremost, is absolutely superb. There are never any doubt that the Ferrari FXXK we're driving is an absolute beast that almost creates a feeling of dizziness thanks to its insane acceleration. This feeling is way better in Forza 7 than it is in Project CARS 2. The studio has also (at last!) inserted enough torque into the cars to induce that uncertain, somewhat nervous feeling that should be there when you find yourself behind the wheel of a Pagani Zonda F. There is enough torque here to conduct full laps of wheel spin only, which is exactly how it should be. Controlling this to the fullest without a proper steering wheel and pedals isn't impossible, but it's more fun if you invest in the latest gear from Thrustmaster or Fanatec.
Graphically, we've heard a lot about how there is support for native 4K resolution at 60 frames-per-second for the Xbox One X, and we look forward to seeing that in action next month. However, we only have access to the Xbox One version, and although Forza 7 looks good, it's not super beautiful. Certainly, some courses are delicious (the new Dubai Highway is the prettiest of the bunch) and, of course, there's a lot of eye candy available in Forza Vista. Still, the car models, lighting effects, the appearance of the tracks, and effects like tire smoke, fog and backlighting; they're not as impressive as Project CARS 2 (despite that game's uneven visuals, in our opinion it wins out thanks to better colour depth and more detailed cars).
That said, the sound is amazing. Sure, our Nismo Nissan GT-R (R35) doesn't really sound like it does in real life (it lacks the hard gurgle-sounding noise in the lower revs) and the sound of the flat plane crank in the Vodoo V8 engine of the Shelby GT350R has not been captured perfectly either, but almost everything else impresses. The Hollywood-style sweeping music from Forza 6 is gone and in the menus and during loading times we hear power chords playing, which is a better match for the game overall. A little more of that winning audio from the transmission in race cars such as the Audi R8 LMS or Ferrari 599XX would have made a ton of difference, though.
To say we're a little disappointed with this game would be an honest assessment. We had hoped for more and we had definitely hoped for a game that took a more serious approach to realistic racing. Forza 7 is a bit like Forza 5, in that it's a good title from a developer who we all know is more than capable of making superb games.
We question the decision-making that has seen the studio choose to model 50+ useless cars rather than racecars like the Performante and 720S, and we question the choice to add 300 different helmets and race suits instead of modelling more real tracks. Forza Motorsport 7 is the work of a studio whose publisher wants to broaden its audience by being even more "casual". However, the game is at times as rewarding as it is challenging, and collecting cars, tuning and taking them online to challenge some friends on Laguna Seca is something we'll never get bored of.
This review has been updated to reflect the fact that there are new tracks beyond the completely new one, but we've seen them before in previous entries in the series, and to more accurately detail the number of cars in Forza 7 compared to Forza 6 + DLC.