Forza Motorsport 7 Review: Ahead of the Pack

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If you’re an Xbox gamer who’s into racing, the Forza Motorsport series has no doubt served you well over the years.

A biennial franchise that began in 2005, there’s now been more of them released than mainline entries in its PlayStation counterpart, Gran Turismo.┬áBut when nearly every one of them is better than its predecessors in substantial ways, you really won’t find me complaining. And, just as you’d expect, Forza Motorsport 7 doesn’t buck the trend.

Taking some inspiration from its sensational open-world spin-off Forza Horizon 3, Forza Motorsport 7 has a more lively and friendly feel to its presentation this time around. Menus are less sterile than those found in its predecessors, and the whole experience feels like it’s centred around you as the star. The inclusion of Forza Edition cars that offer credit and experience bonuses also brings some arcade feel to the proceedings, like you’ve unlocked a sneaky cheat that gives you an advantage. Even when you’re not in a race, Forza Motorsport 7 feels more exciting and involving, and that’s a good start.

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Of course, it’s in the driving that the real joy is to be found though. It’s the latest in a long-running series that wasn’t in any way broken, so the changes are incremental, but they still all add up to the best Forza racing experience yet. Aside from improved visuals and sound effects, A.I. has been improved to make your competitors behave more realistically (though they can still be rather aggressive at times), and the sensation of speed has been heightened with elements of your vehicles visibly shaking and vibrating as a result of your velocity.

Forza Motorsport 7 remains more of a sim than an arcade racer, but concessions have been made to make it accessible and enjoyable for players of all ages and skill levels. Unfortunately, players who turn off assists no longer see their credit payouts boosted, but drivatar difficulty can be turned up to sharply increase credit rewards. The mod system also returns from Forza Motorsport 6, though it has been changed quite dramatically.

Now consumable items attained by purchasing prize crates, mods have a wide range of effects that award you bonus credits and/or experience. Some may reward you a bonus just for completing a race no matter what position you finish, while others may require you to perform eight good passes before they give up the goods. It’s a good way to add some extra challenge to races while reaping additional rewards, but the fact that you have to buy them may rub some players up the wrong way.

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In fact, the whole prize crate system feels redundant and unnecessary. Ranging from 20,000 to 300,000 credits, each prize crate promises random rewards that can include cars, driver gear, mods and badges, though you don’t ever really need to buy them unless you want to refresh the mods that you’ve used. A small number of the game’s massive selection of 700-odd cars are not available for purchase, and while you can obtain these by opening crates you’re probably better off buying them from the auction house when it opens, waiting for them to appear in the speciality dealership or completing Forzathon challenges. Still, if you’re the gambling type the prize crates give you the chance to earn some rare goodies, but I wouldn’t consider spending real money on them when the feature is enabled in the future.

Collecting cars is an integral part of Forza Motorport 7, with the new car tier system locking out the purchase of certain vehicles until your garage is sufficiently sizeable. Don’t despair at the thought though, after a little over 10 hours I had already reached car tier five, at which point I had access to every car in the game. Further increasing your car tier by continuing to expand your garage still has benefits though, including increased rewards every time you level up.

Your garage of cars will come in handy when tackling Forza Motorsport 7′s career mode too, which offers a huge number of series and showcase events for you to complete across six leagues. Unlike previous Forza Motorsport titles, however, there are more restrictions on the specifications of the vehicles you can use. No longer can you tune your car up the nines before turning up to the starting grid and obliterating the competition. It takes away a little from the customisation aspects of the game, but it does result in more tense, hard fought battles.

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The restrictions are also carried through to rivals and multiplayer modes too, where cars now have to adhere to performance regulations based on their category. You can’t take a Vauxhall Corsa VXR, for example, place a bigger engine in it, get it up to S class and then take on a Lamborghini Sesto Elemento. You might get away with it in free play or a private multiplayer race though. It’s a move that makes sense, but I still hope that the option to create races based on car class is added in the future for those of us who like to mix the action up.

Packed with more content than ever, visuals that leave you astounded and a driving model that is exciting yet ever reliable, Forza Motorsport 7 is clearly ahead of the pack when it comes to racing games. There are some changes that may alienate legacy Forza Motorsport players, but prize crates aside they’ve all been made with good intentions and mostly pay off. The racing in Forza Motorsport 7 is more refined, accessible and competitive than ever. With you at the centre, the journey to win the Forza Drivers Cup is one that is tense and exhilarating every step of the way. If you’re a racing game fan, Forza Motorsport 7 is absolutely essential.

Forza Motorsport 7 is available on Xbox One and PC. We reviewed the Xbox One version.