Let me first start by saying I greatly appreciate Turn 10’s gesture in bringing the seventh iteration of their massively popular car collecting software to the home computer – turning what was once an Xbox exclusive into a multi-platform release – as game developers typically don’t do this sort of thing. I also want to mention that I’ve extracted an enormous amount of playtime from the series on the Xbox 360, back when the franchise was arguably at its peak.
And while some scoffed at the release of Forza: Horizon in 2012, and questioned if the right creative decisions were being made on that front, I was what you could call an early supporter of the dudebro spin-off; I held a few opening week records – including the world record on the final boss romp for a short period of time – and played Horizon far beyond completion, almost excessively. Hell, I bought the complete rip-off known as the Horizon Rally expansion and flew through the reconfigured map in just under ninety minutes, so it’s safe to say that I wasn’t going into the Forza 7 demo with any kind of negative bias. If anything, I’ve been advocating for more of these experiences to come to the PC.
But contextually, Forza Motorsport 7 is probably the worst driving game I’ve ever played. Sure, maybe Monster Truck Rumble is objectively a lesser product, but going into it, you knew it would be bad. What’s Forza 7’s excuse? I just don’t understand how a mammoth quasi-first party team with a gigantic budget and near-infinite resources can create something that absolutely does not resemble what it’s like to drive a real car at competition speeds. I have been more entertained at the mainstream pieces drooling over the Forza 7 demo than actually playing the game itself; Forza is not a simulator or even a competent driving game in the first place, but rather a litmus test to see who actually understands vehicle dynamics, and which gaming journalists take the bus to work. I had genuine hopes that Forza 7 arriving on the PC would shake up our genre and offer a valid alternative to the bore-fests that are polluting sim racing at the moment, but Turn 10 really dropped the ball.
So to give you a cliff’s notes version of all multi-day race car driving schools across the planet, any sort of good race car driver that is routinely seen at the front of the pack in their respective classes essentially pilots their car in a very similar manner. They come barrelling into corner entry until they physically worry about their inability to stop, jump on the brakes as hard as possible to both rotate the ass end of the car & set the vehicle on the bottom of the track at the apex (my entire left leg vibrates in our car), and then as quickly as possible, feed the rear tires enough throttle to pivot the car on the outside rear tire. Provided you exhibit the correct amount of throttle aggression in relation to the radius of the corner, corner exit can be completed with a nearly straight steering wheel because you’re basically steering with your right foot and pivoting the car like an athlete planting his foot to make a cut until you achieve full throttle. This is how I drive in real life. This is how I drive in hardcore sims, if not most racing games. This is why I’m fast in basically every piece of software with cars in it. This is a universal competition driving style that crosses continents and disciplines and realities. There, saved you $3,000, if not more.
There’s even a good quote from Tanner Foust on this same subject.
Forza 7’s problem is that none of this works. And if this was like, a Steam game for $19.99 in Early Access, then yeah, fine, I probably wouldn’t give a shit. But this is Forza Motorsport, the simulator with over seven hundred cars, more tracks than we know what to do with, and the unofficial title of being Gran Turismo’s spiritual successor – as even GT fans can’t quite figure out what Kaz is doing with the franchise that started this whole car collection phenomenon. Oh, and there’s the Porsche partnership, the Pirelli partnership, and even Ford stepped in a while back. I don’t understand how you have this much access to technical data, and the end result is so disconnected and abstract.
First, weight transfer and inertia in Forza is exponentially greater than what you experience in real life. Yes, if you’re unready for the G-Forces or have been out of the car for some time, it can be a bit disorienting at first to launch the car into a braking zone, but it’s 100% a human thing – the car itself remains relatively stable provided you’re not a complete fucking retard and panic with jerky wheel and pedal inputs. The Porsche GT2RS offered in one of the three demo races does not feel like an ultra-refined track day warrior that Christian Grey might take to the Nordschleife when he’s ran out of hotties to abuse, but rather has the stability and precision of a Ford Transit Van. In any heavy braking zone, or drastic elevation changes for that matter that predominantly load up one side of the car – of which there are a lot at the Dubai canyon track – the car just fucking snaps into the trademark molasses drift Forza is known for.
It’s like driving an EnduRacers mod, where the car swings wildly about at the slightest of undulations or wheel inputs or… basically anything that isn’t a straight line, but unlike their notoriously bizarre rFactor 2 mods, you can’t rely on the tires to catch you here. I have never played a racing game where the tires have such an absurdly low limit of adhesion as what’s exhibited in Forza 7. You can be coasting through an uphill corner at 70 km/h in second gear, feet completely off both pedals, and the rear end will just wash out into a skid that makes you look completely incompetent behind the wheel. There is no sidewall flex. There is no lateral grip. It’s a very distinct on/off switch between adhesion, and hitting phantom black ice. This is how Forza thinks tires work, but I can assure you that this is not how they work in the real world, nor in most other simulators worth your time. So the whole competition driving technique of loading up the outside rear tire and powering off with a bit of counter-steer is completely out of the question.
Whether you’re driving the Porsche GT2RS around Dubai, or the SuperGT-spec Nissan R35 at the Nurburgring GP circuit, what ends up happening is that you pussy-foot around at much slower speeds than what these cars are capable of, under-driving to such an extent that any prolonged period of play is going to actively diminish your skill set when it comes to other simulators. I’m under the impression that Forza’s physics engine was designed with pad users in mind, basically as a way to encourage teenagers and casuals to play it safe and focus on smooth driving lines. In the hands of someone armed with a steering wheel and real world competition driving experience, it is objectively the worst driving game on the market. Cars don’t drive like this. Tires don’t work like this.
I look forward to the Metacritic aggregate of 95 it will undoubtedly receive come October, from guys who either take the bus to work, or whose previous driving experience can be listed as “I play Mario Kart as a drinking game with my old college friends when we meet up.”
So I think a lot of Forza fanboys will kick and scream that my wheel wasn’t configured correctly. Actually, I spent the first hour or so with the game fiddling with the options menu, and above are my G29 settings to give people a very good indication as to what in my opinion feels sensible behind the wheel. I’ve seen a lot of complaints about Forza’s force feedback over the years, but to give this game a proper shakedown I worked to find settings that were optimal for me. Obviously I would like to know why a monolithic company with hundreds of employees are shipping a game with default steering wheel settings that are completely unusable and might be the source of several refunds for the more casual racers among us, but I felt I was able to get something that felt right with the tools at hand – so I’ve provided my personal configuration to ensure as few people get stuck as possible. Again, my complaints are with the physics engine itself. Even with a wheel configuration that I found to be perfect, I just didn’t enjoy the actual on-track experience. It was fucking terrible.
It’s also noteworthy to mention that nowhere in the demo are you allowed to fiddle with car setups. Yet while the Forza fans may crucify me for ripping on default setups that are notoriously bad, and maybe the game becomes infinitely better once garage options are opened up, the question needs to be asked why a team of such high caliber insist on packaging their cars with setups that are completely preposterous and actively work against one’s enjoyment of the game. Either the crew behind Forza have precisely zero idea as to what’s needed for an enjoyable end-user experience from the word go, or as mentioned earlier, the physics just flat-out suck. I will gamble and say it’s the latter of the two.
And while I was already choked to discover such an abysmal driving experience, the marketing department really competed for the focus of my attention during the inevitable tirade that would be published on PRC. The restart race button has actually been excluded from the demo, meaning that the process of me physically testing out different wheel settings – and then taking a journey back to the options menu after only a few turns – was increased by an exponentially large amount.
Once you’ve either finished or outright quit an event, the game plays a semi-unskippable cinematic sequence displaying the plethora of awards Forza 7 won during E3 2017 of this year, and running down a list of supporting features before finally giving you the option to dismiss it all about fifteen to twenty seconds later. Of course, you’re not even thrown directly back to the menu so you can continue to fuck with your wheel settings and repeat the process ad nauseam, you’re then taken to a screen in which you’re given the option of pre-ordering one of the three variants of Forza 7. This was absolutely painful to sit through.
And maybe it would have been acceptable if behind the wheel, Forza 7 was pretty competent, and didn’t require a solid hour of tweaking. My problem is that I’m forced to watch a game brag about awards that I personally didn’t understand how it received in the first place. In my almost twenty years of PC sim racing, some titles have come unbelievably close to what it’s like to drive in a competitive setting. Forza Motorsport 7, by comparison, is the furthest from reality I have ever experienced. I still think a lot of people will have some fun with it for the light RPG and car collecting aspects, and that’s fine. But after my time with the demo, anyone who honestly sits down and tries to say Forza 7 is anywhere near realistic, or drives anything like an actual car, is an actual idiot. I fail to understand how there’s this much money and hype pumped into what’s basically a first-party Xbox title at this point, only for the on-track product to be so farcical.