Admittedly, I’m not much of a car guy, so it tends to take a little extra from racing games to really impress me. Somehow though, year in and year out, the Forza franchise manages to do just that. This year’s Forza Motorsport 7 is no exception. From its sublime roster of cars to the incredibly realistic weather effects, Forza Motorsport 7 beautifully displays the franchise’s benchmark of excellence and again cements itself at the precipice of the racing genre.
The real star of the show here are the cars, and Turn 10 Studios does an amazing job of shining the spotlight on each and every one of them with a painstakingly high level of research and detail. From the individual screws on a spoiler of a 1980s Cadillac to the specific spaceship-like interior of a modern Ferrari, the accuracy of Forza Motorsport 7‘s cars is nothing short of astounding. This care for the minimalistic details and nuances of these machines by Turn 10 turns the title’s vehicles from being simple tools to characters in and of themselves.
Moreover, each car doesn’t just feel like a collection of metal, plastic, and a pair of fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror. Cars have personality here, and from the less elegant cars like the Holden Commodore utes to the 2017 Porsche 911 and even the comedic three-wheeled 1957 BMW Isetta 300, they each have a certain charm that anyone can appreciate — not just hardcore race fans. And if you want to dive under the both metaphorical and literal hood of Forza Motorsport 7‘s cars you can also do that, with loads of customisation and tuning at your fingertips that had a car novice like me feeling like a seasoned grease monkey.
Like you’d expect from the Forza franchise by now, each car in the game handles uniquely and feels great to control. Changing gears at the right moment to cut that perfect corner or breaking at the ideal moment feels responsive, but not totally punishing if you make the wrong turn. Forza Motorsport 7 gives an appreciated amount of leeway in this regard, striking an ideal balance between fun and realism without losing the enjoyability that is so often washed away in too-true-to-life titles. I never once felt like the car lost all weight in my hands, but I also never forgot that I was playing a video game — and that’s the way it should be.
Forza Motorsport 7 features an extensive roster of cars (a whopping 700) that can only be described as a collector’s dream. Collecting these artworks on wheels is as satisfying as driving them, with a progression system that has you accumulating cars via a card system and racking up points through a concurrent collection scheme. Like a parking garage, the organization of cars in Forza Motorsport 7 separates the vehicles into ascending tiers. Once the ground floor is nearly filled, you gain access to more cars in the second. Unlocking new cars feels consistently well-paced, and this system constantly entices you to try out vehicles you wouldn’t normally gravitate towards.
Of course, like many games on the current marketplace, Forza Motorsport 7 has microtransactions that speed up this process, though players can earn cars without the exchange of actual currency as well. Driver outfits, new to Forza Motorsport 7, however, blur the lines of real-life and in-game purchases. If you’re after a specific driver outfit, you’ll either have to cross your fingers and pray to the racing gods that it’s within a randomized prize crate, or earn it as a random reward from leveling up through the game’s experience points system. It’s one thing to make a good game, and it’s a completely different thing to make a good game with a good microtransaction system (which are few and far between). Forza Motorsport 7 takes on microtransactions feels tacked-on and relatively sloppy, and it distracts from the overwhelmingly positive elements of the game.
Contrarily, there is one aspect of Forza Motorsport 7 that stands out brilliantly amongst all other gameplay elements: the sound. Usually, a game’s soundtrack is one of the first things I notice when diving in, but in the case of Forza Motorsport 7, it was the symphony of car sounds that drew me in. The roar of an engine as you accelerate out of the gate, the screech of a tire against the track as you pump the brakes, the whoosh of rubber against gravel as you flick your wrist and guide your car through a sharp turn — all these audio atmospherics are incredibly realistic within Forza Motorsport 7, and serve to add another layer of satisfaction to an already immersive game.
In a similar vein, where you race your car is just as important as the car you’re racing, and fortunately, Forza Motorsport 7 supplies a slew of tracks for you to burn rubber on. There’s everything between barbaric American NASCAR raceways, famous European formula one tracks, iconic Japanese speedways, and, naturally, the king of all courses, Bathurst. (Yeah, mate.)
The newest chapter in the simulated racing series also delivers a highly dynamic weather system that truly ups the ante set by its predecessors. While dynamic weather isn’t anything new to the franchise, first popping up in 2014’s Forza Horizon 2, the last Forza Motorsport only offered static weather conditions. Now, players can watch their environment change around them with each new race they participate in, with tracks looking, sounding, and simply feeling different in certain situations. Up above, the story is much the same. Skies blacken ahead of a storm, lightning will flash across the cloud, and thunder will come booming through your speakers.
Contrasting the arcade-like style of its sister franchise, Horizon, Forza Motorsport 7 continues on the main series’ more streamlined approach to a career mode. This year, your main solo challenge will be the Forza Driver’s Cup, which is made up of heaps of different races and challenges that are sure to keep you occupied for hours — without feeling like the gameplay has become repetitive or grind-y. Some of the aforementioned challenges actually differ from the realistic normalities of the serious races you’ll tear through, like drifting a limousine in attempts to knock over ludicrously large bowling pins. You also have the traditional options for multiplayer and free play, of course, both of which allow you to select any of the main career’s raceways and free you to set perimeters like race length and weather effects.
Forza Motorsport 7 is a love letter to cars that’s hard not to appreciate. It highlights the beauty of modern machinery and brings to the forefront the thrill and visceral nature of racing — without ever losing its wonderful “video game” feel. Despite some of its faults, which are minor in comparison to the big picture, Forza Motorsport 7 stands firmly as more than the fantastic racing simulator it claims it be: it’s truly one of the best racing video games currently on the market.