Posted September 19, 2017 by Adam Ghiggino in Feature

Forza Motorsport 7 Hands-On (Xbox One X)

Where other racing series (*cough* Gran Turismo *cough*) have struggled to consistently make an impact over the years, the Forza series has genuinely gone from strength to strength, and on a yearly release schedule to boot. Alternating between mainline Forza Motorsport titles, and the free-roaming romps of the Forza Horizon series, there’s been nary a weak link in the chain since the franchise’s inception, and that looks set to continue with what looks to be the Xbox One X’s first must-have title, Forza Motorsport 7. Earlier this month, I went hands-on with the game on the One X, and it’s definitely the most teeth-chattering, intense Forza yet.

On hand was Chris Bishop, Product Manager at Turn 10 Studios, who was relieved that Forza Motorsport 7 was nearing the finish line, as its 3 October release date approaches. You might think operating on a yearly release schedule would make it tough to innovate with every successive iteration, but Chris credits the Forza series’ quality partly to the two development teams working side-by-side – Turn 10 Studios on the Motorsport series, and Playground Games on the Horizon titles. The communication and cooperation between the two companies in the US and UK is critical, as solutions found by one studio can assist the other in their game, and vice versa – for instance, the impressive lighting engine used to show off Forza Horizon 3‘s Australian outback was hugely helpful for Forza Motorsport 7 and its impressive visual presentation on Xbox One X.

Despite Horizon being seen as the more ‘casual’ game experience compared to the simulation racing of Forza Motorsport, Chris was also keen to break that stereotype, as Turn 10 has built Forza Motorsport 7 to appeal to all audiences (and, by extension, Forza Horizon 3 has plenty for hardcore racing fans as well). A lot of this comes across in the opening hour I played, which offers a few set cinematic challenges to monitor your skill level, from supercar showdowns to aggressive semi-truck tussles,  before opening up the huge roster of events. Much like past games, there’s also a whole array of assists and mods to tailor the game to your experience level – with a new ‘friction assist’ option appearing alongside standard breaking and steering assists, apparently affecting how you’re able to drive on different surfaces and off-road. For the first time, you’re also able to customise your driver’s gender and appearance, in all the badass blacks or ridiculous neon colours you can dream of.

What I’ve personally always loved about the Forza series is how non-judgemental it is about your own skill level, but how it also rewards deeper engagement with the game and racing in general. You can dial up some of the assists if you’re really having trouble with a particular race and not ‘lose’ any points, but just miss out on a potential bonus that more experienced drivers can receive. Events can range from ideal races between Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborginis, but you’re also rewarded for trying events with completely different types of cars, like classic models or trucks. The UI of Forza’s main campaign gives you a really great overview of sheer variety of races out there.

Forza Motorsport 7 is a game that you can devote hours upon hours to, constantly being rewarded with new cars or events. In fact, there’s over 700 cars included in Forza Motorsport 7 – a pretty steep increase over the 460 featured in Motorsport 6. They’re all polished and fantastically high-resolution on the outside, especially when playing on a 4K screen on Xbox One X, but the real way to play is from the cockpit view. Inside every car, in what must have been nothing short of a massive headache, Turn 10 have had to meticulously model individual moving elements and rattling parts that are realistically and dynamically affected by your driving and the surface of the road. You really need to either get yourself a great pair of headphones, or invest in a Dolby Atmos system on Xbox One X, as the real kicker comes from the thumping and powerful sound design, which really makes you feel every kpm of the speeds you reach as you tear around the track.

Speaking of the tracks, there are over 30 ‘environments’ featured in the game, all of which are real showcases for the developers’ photogrammetry technology, which seeks to effectively duplicate with singular precision every bump and turn. Of course, Nurburgring and Daytona make the cut, and old favourite Maple Valley returns, but also Australia’s Mt. Panorama and some even more visually striking tracks that are just as much fun to look at as they are to drive around, like Dubai and Prague. Forza Motorsport 7 is also the first entry to feature dynamic weather, meant to add another layer of realism to races as rain can soak a track during your second lap, or sand storms sweeping the track, affecting traction in Dubai.

Forza Motorsport 7 is out on 3 October on Xbox One and Windows, but you’ll have to wait until the Xbox One X’s release on 7 November in order to see it running on the machine in glorious 4K at 60fps, in what is sure to be the premiere title for the system.

Adam Ghiggino

Owner, Executive Editor of Rocket Chainsaw. I also edit TV, films and make average pancakes.