Hard to believe that the Forza Motorsport series is 12 years old now, the flagship driving series for the Xbox Console has changed much over those years. There are so many racing games right now fighting to claim the crown of best looking and best performing that the benchmark Forza set for such games is a crazy high standard and right now with Xbox gearing up for the release of their first 4K gaming console in the Xbox One X, a lot is riding on this latest entry to the series to be the best yet. Time to rev up the engine and see how this performs on the race track!
Forza Motorsport 7 is the more series side to the Forza series with the spin off Forza Horizon more focused on arcade style fun and presentation which for me, is just how I like my racing games. Forza 7 is simply stunning, it is a beautiful game that wants to showcase the world’s most stunning looking cars and put players in the driving seat of them but at the same time it wants to be more simulator than arcade racer. Focus shifts to how you tune your cars to get the best performance from them and to become the best driver ever. Unlike Forza Horizon 3 however, this process feels far more rigid and by the books with less freedom to just pick a car and go tear it up on the streets and race tracks and as a result definitely fits in the more business style I have always viewed this side of the franchise to be.
Starting off we have the Forza Driver’s Cup mode which is the career mode for the game. This is broken down into six brackets starting with the Seeker Championship and moving on to Breakout, Evolution, Domination, Masters and finally the Forza Drivers Cup bracket itself. In order to unlock the next bracket you must earn enough Forza driving points from racing and hopefully winning races in the previous brackets. This style of forced progression is a natural part of racers but after the huge freedom in the world of Forza Horizon 3 this year, it just felt rather cold. Each bracket has races that focus on a particular car type and race tracks with a top 3 podium finish giving you points and credits to help you progress through the mode. I really enjoyed the special one off Showcase races which put you in the seat of a special car for a single victory race in which you get that car added to your collection. Showcase races help break up the normal races you take on.
Progression is not just about winning on the track, but now you have two other aspects that you have to work on outside of racing cars, Driver Milestones and Car Collector. Driver Milestones are essentially rewards for earning XP as a driver and leveling up with each new Milestone giving players the options to select one of three rewards be it in game credits, Driver Gear or a new car. But keeping in tone of the rigid linear progression comes the Car Collection which adds Car Tiers to the mix. Forza 7 really wants players to care about the cars they desire to own so it makes players earn the right to be able to have them by locking away car classes in Tiers. Only when your own collection has a certain value will the next Tier of cars become available and there are 5 Tiers to unlock and broken down into Common Cars, Uncommon, Rare, Super Rare and Legendary cars. This adds a really annoying grinding element to Forza 7 as some of the races you find in the campaign mode will be locked out until you have unlocked one of these Tiers and own a car in there. Making it worse is the pitiful amount of credits you actually earn from winning or doing well in the races themselves when you then see how much the cars cost and what value they bring to your collection in order to improve your Tier worth.
This grind is painful and even with the credit boost of Milestone rewards, it can feel like an unreachable goal at times as a player when you see how much it costs to get a better car or knowing that the car you really want to drive around is locked in a car Tier three away from where you are. This then brings me to the most annoying and disappointing aspect to Forza 7…Prize Crates. Oh how this not only angered me but is definitely a backwards step for the series that brings in micro-transactions to the series in a very obvious and ugly way. Well I say micro-transactions, but currently you cannot spend real world money to buy these Prize Crates but Turn 10 Studios has confirmed that the plan is indeed to bring that element into the game down the road and it is a repugnant money grabbing plan this series and Xbox can certainly do without. Prize Crates are basically loot boxes, with different quality ones that promise the chance of getting new cars, new Driving gears and the other newest addition to Forza 7 in Mod Cards. Mod Cards at first you would imagine to be something used to modify the cars themselves but no, with the need to earn as much credits as you can when you can, Mod Cards modify the races you take on by adding ‘side challenges’ such as performing a certain action in a race like making ‘Two good passes” or overtakes in a race to changing how your car performs by taking out the driver assists for that race. Three mod cards can be applied at a time and again, they have a tier system of gold legendary mod cards, to purple rare and then green common. Green mods tend to have a single use where gold mods can run for a number of races. All designed to give the player extra credits at the end of the race for their completion.
The game itself will even push you or suggest to you to go try out the prize crates in order to collect more mods or to get better cars right before the game suggest you actually just buy a new car. The more expensive prize crates give the player a chance to gamble on the result, buy a crate for 300,000 credits in the hope you get some nice mods to help out or a really cool car to add to your collection but here I found that whilst at times I did get a new car of high worth, it was a car I would not pick to drive in so its just put in the collection to improve the tier and will just gather dust in the garage. The grind is now very obvious and clearly put there to entice players to use the Prize Crate system to bypass that gind and I do not like it. I am all for the normal progression of doing well to earn money to buy or get better cars in order to progress further but I am certainly not a fan of being held back so a loot box can be dangled in my face with the game’s own narrator suggesting I use them to get a head in my career mode.
Which is a real shame because Forza 7 is so much fun to play and is probably the most accessible entry into the more serious side to the series to date. The game wants everyone to give it ago whether you are a racing game fan or not and it is fully possible to just pick up a controller and race thanks to the driver assists which kick in on the lower difficulties but can be manually turned off if you want. This all brings the player into the world easier than ever before with the free play mode in the single player menu that allows you to set up any type of race on any track with as many AI opponents as you want. AI drivers feel more believable now which has less of having one AI driver in a really powerful car just blasting away never to be caught up with but now the AI controlled cars will pack together much like in a real race and slowly take their places in the race as they look to overtake each other as you the player to the same. I do find that at times the AI can be a little too aggressive in that there is a racing line to follow on each track and the AI will doggedly stick to this even if it means them just ramming into you knocking you aside or hitting you from behind just to let you know that you are in their way. It would be nice to have them maybe show a little more realism is say trying to avoid collisions instead of just happily tanking their way through but it does make it all the more sweeter then you overtake them cheekily on the inside of a bend or blast past them on a straight. I love how the driving feels in this game and it is just so beautiful with the best visuals seen yet in the series which is only going to be more mouth watering in 4K on the Xbox One X in a month’s time.
Cars can be customised and when you buy a new car you will automatically be offered the chance to had a visual style to it from the Forza community who again have and do come up with some amazing designs for each car, I particularly enjoyed the Batman theme I gave my first racing truck to give it a ‘Bat-van’ look. This aspect continues from previous Forza games and it is something that will only get better with the tremendously talented Forza community coming up with new designs daily which you can add your own designs to. Multiplayer was smooth and solid for the most part but having so many great cars locked out until you add them to your collection can make racing options limited at first.
So right now Forza Motorsport 7 is a very mixed bag for me with the gameplay and stunning visuals being hugely impressive once again only for the new loot box and forced grinding tarnishing it so far for me. That and seeing how several modes are currently in the “coming soon” meaning the full game has yet to even launch now a couple of weeks after release. Multiplayer will be getting online Leagues and something called the Forzathon mode could offer something very interesting. For those in the community who like to share their own designs or just want to sell those cars in your collection you may never drive, an auction house is also coming soon, probably once the Xbox One X launches.
Forza 7 right now is quite a mess where you have the gameplay side sadly colliding with the business money making side of video games creating a culture clash instead of the game itself just being celebrated. The grinding makes this a slow paced game and each time I get it suggested to me to try out a prize crate I just want to fire up Forza Horizon 3, grab a cool car and stick on a good song and go tear up the Australian countryside instead of playing Forza 7. The developers have already responded to player criticism regarding the VIP part of the more expensive game editions or those who pick up the VIP Pass and hopefully more changes will help improve some of my criticisms along the way to the Xbox One X console release but right now, the accountants have gotten into the mix with this game and it just doesn’t feel like the Forza game experience I expected or wanted from this and fortunately I can go back to Forza Horizon 3. Some strange and horrible decisions were made in an office somewhere in Xbox Tower and it has cost this game a lot.
Forza Motorsports 7 is a visually stunning and satisfying game once you have the controller in your hand and you are in a race. But the shenanigans around the Prize Crates and the additional grinding put in place to unlock the best of this game just takes the shine of what could have been the best racing game on Xbox in years.