Parts of the environment will simply not load; your car floating in the abyss as you take a wild guess at the track geometry. The game has a nasty habit of becoming stuck while saving your progress, there’s an issue where wiggling the mouse temporarily causes the game to lose track of your steering wheel inputs, and it has certainly been a while since my PC crashed to desktop – but Forza 7 now holds that honor. A healthy selection of Toyota’s are missing, replaced with far too many useless off-road vehicles considering there are no off-road tracks to drive them on, and though the light RPG elements finally give you something to achieve and work towards compared to the ultra-boring hardcore PC simulators, Forza constantly wants to drag you away from the race track, rather than keep you turning laps. My first twenty four hours with Turn 10’s latest entry in their flagship racing franchise have been fairly perplexing; I’m still having a lot of fun, but I think the Forza fanboys have some explaining to do on their part.
This isn’t a review of any sort, just what I’ve observed from moderate playtime. Forza 7 is just too big and too diverse to rush through in a day and give some sort of final verdict.
As I discussed last week when reviewing the Forza Motorsport 7 Demo, part of me hypothesized that Turn 10 are bundling their cars with downright atrocious default setups, which when combined with abysmal steering wheel settings generated a woefully pathetic driving experience for the end user. Though many elitist sim racers have quickly gone out and shot down Forza 7 as being inferior to the “serious racing simulations”, Forza 7 truly isn’t bad once you take the time to dial in everything, both within the options menu as well as the garage area. It is absolutely essential for any wheel owner to go to the options menu immediately upon booting the game, as the stock values are crafted for pad users and then applied to a steering wheel, not customized specifically for wheel users. It’s actually a mess, the best piece of nerd comedy in sim racing at the moment. There are deadzones where there shouldn’t be deadzones. Linearity is all over the place. Force feedback effects are cranked to the maximum for some inexplicable reason. Brutal, nothing short of brutal.
Once you’ve got that sorted, I found dropping the tire pressures to 1.3 bar, and changing the toe to read -0.2 up front, and +0.1 in the rear warranted a feeling behind the wheel that was miles better than the stock configurations for each car. Setup screens are universal for each car, so how Turn 10 couldn’t ship with a grand total of four sliders that automatically default to very specific tire pressure and toe values is beyond me.
With both of those metaphorical train wrecks out of the way, the aspect of least concern in regards to Forza Motorsport 7 ends up being the driving model, which truthfully handles like a third party Assetto Corsa mod from a community team showing promise, but still obviously refining their craft. No, the force feedback isn’t anything to write home about, but the tire model exhibits very familiar sensations when pitted against other PC sims, and those dismissing Forza 7 as a game that “plays better with a pad”, or has been “dumbed down for a mainstream audience” are just flat-out hypocritical at this point.
Behind the wheel, Forza Motorsport 7 is a middle-of-the-road Assetto Corsa mod. If you sit around downloading random shit for Assetto Corsa – whether it be from sketchy Russian sites or mods that have received word-of-mouth praise – yet turn your nose up at Forza Motorsport for being a “game for kiddies”, this is where you’re made to look like an elitist prick. I don’t think what Turn 10 are doing under the hood of Forza’s physics engine warrants some of the harsh comments they routinely receive from the sim racing community, they’re just really fucking retarded for making us dig to find that experience we’re looking for in the first place. That’s where you should be directing your outrage in my opinion. As a customer I don’t want to sit and troubleshoot your game, I want to play starting the moment I load up the application. Turn 10 instead make you go on a scavenger hunt to unfuck all of the default settings.
It also calls into question the enormous number of positive reviews from mainstream outlets, as from a sim racing perspective, Forza 7 is borderline unplayable if you just sort of boot the game and jump into a race without configuring anything – as most of the mainstream reviewers are prone to doing.
Where Forza 7 falters is not out on the track, but in the progression built around the act of racing. The Forza Motorsport franchise has always been billed as a sort of CARPG, and I’m familiar with the series so obviously I knew what I was getting into beforehand, but Forza 7 is really the first iteration where Turn 10 make it clear that they don’t want you spending too much time out on the racing surface. And I find this pretty strange
Forza 7 is an auto racing simulator created for people who don’t like auto racing or simulators. I was stoked, absolutely stoked, to discover the first car I’d be driving in Forza 7 was Dan Gurney’s 1967 Eagle, because unlike those a bit older than me, the traditional grind seen in Gran Turismo just doesn’t cut it in 2017. Yet it felt like I’d just gotten the tires warm on the mighty Grand Prix Legends-era deathtrap – which drove quite well and is what a lot of simmers have wanted out of a virtual ’67 F1 car – before I was whisked away to drive something else, showered with prize cars, perk cards, numerous XP bars to monitor, and other miscellaneous distractions. Don’t get me wrong, I like the “gamey” aspect of Forza, precisely why I bought the Ultimate Edition with my monthly WordPress ad money deposit, but from a gameplay mechanics standpoint I felt like there was more external bullshit to worry about when stacked against how much time I was spending out on the track. It felt out of proportion.
I was ecstatic to progress a bit further into the campaign and get my hands on the modern NASCAR entries seen in Forza 7 – again, they handle surprisingly well – but my excitement was short lived as the game put just two laps on the board for a championship round at Road America. Maybe I’m just not the intended audience for this game, and maybe there are some people out there who think this is a “long” race given the length of Elkhart Lake, but Godddamn, there have been some league races where I’ve easily surpassed the 300 lap mark in mid-week testing. One flying lap at Road America isn’t a race; it’s not even a Denny’s sampler meal. So as a result, you’re forced to liberally interpret track limits or use other cars as your brakes to progress on higher difficulty levels, because you have zero time to reel in opponents the natural way.
Forza doesn’t seem to care if you play the game this way, which explains the outright lack of talent in online lobbies. There are a mammoth number of people playing Forza, many who list it as their favorite game period, but none of them are very good drivers because the game simply doesn’t ask them to be.
There are options to increase the length of every career mode race, though your progression through the campaign mode will slow to a crawl. There is no extra incentive to jack up the duration of each event save for monetary rewards. For example, I’m in the process of going through the six race V8 Supercars championship, and aside from slightly increased earnings, Forza doesn’t really care that I’m spending much more time out on the track than the average user. It’s just artificially making the game longer; I’m still required to complete at least three championships before moving onto the next tier, though whereas some people could get this done in an hour of light play, I’m putting in four hours for the same result. That’s a bit lame.
And then the game whisks you away to explain the concept of your car collecting level, driver level rewards, and the racing suits you can win via what’s essentially hockey card collecting. It never once stops to contemplate that maybe you might actually be having fun out on the race track, and could go for a much longer event. In the first tier of six, which is how career mode is structured, you have the option of partaking in an hour-long endurance race at Spa in a field of GTE cars, but the paltry payout of this one-off race discourages you from attempting it in the first place – shorter events offer a bigger monetary payout, and you’ll probably just win the Corvette C7.R a few races later, anyways. As I made my way up through the tiers in career mode, I was surprised to discover that more of these enduro challenges were not waiting for me – I would have to make them myself in Free Race mode. Yes, creating your own endurance event still allows you to earn sizeable cash, XP, and rewards, but I kind of miss the big screen in Forza 6 that was littered with things like the Nurburgring 125, or the Homestead 300. That was my shit. It’s not here. I am sad.
What I’m not sad about, are the improvements Turn 10 have made to Forza’s in-game economy in the form of “loot crates.” In fact I’d actually call this one of Forza 7’s biggest improvements despite it being lifted from a whole bunch of other games. Now somebody actually linked me to this ArsTechnica article explaining how in-game gambling is shitty and the world is going to end now that it’s in Forza of all places, but in practice I’ve actually enjoyed what this has brought to the game. Forza as a franchise has traditionally suffered from a weird end-game phase, in which you’ve earned tons of prize money but have very little to spend it on aside from allowing your OCD to run wild and purchase every last car that captivates your imagination. The introduction of prize crates has effectively given you another valid avenue to spend your earnings.Basically, there are a couple of different prize crates of varying prices you can buy with the in-game credits you’ve earned, and these just sort of give you random shit, like pricey vehicles, special tuned variants of stock cars already in the game, unique racing suits, and the almighty “mods” – which are just bonuses you can activate for prize money/XP boosts provided you complete the listed task.
While some may kick and scream at the the thought of this stuff appearing in a racing game, such as playing a card that gives you a 40% winnings bonus for driving without ABS, what this does is ensure that your money doesn’t pool as it did in previous games. So far I’ve enjoyed the dynamic of saving up a couple hundred thousand, and then distributing it evenly among cars, upgrades, and prize crates. Yes, you’re spending money to make money, but in Forza 7’s case this actually helps extend the lifespan of the title. It’s essentially a mock operational cost of your fictional race team, as you are always dipping into your account just a little bit to re-stock mods, attempting to attain new racing suits for a cosmetic change, or hoping to acquire a rare car to boost your collector level. The Ars Technica guy claims that this may get out of control when Turn 10 introduce the ability to buy these crates with real money, but even the most expensive crates at the moment can be easily attained by playing the game normally. If you’re smart enough to stack your mod cards and understand the meta-game, only the idiot kids with mommy’s credit card will fall into this trap of paying real money for prize crates.
Though I began this article by listing some of the problems I’ve had with Forza Motorsport 7, there are two in particular I’d like to elaborate upon, because I think they deserve a deeper explanation.
First, there are an enormous amount of filler cars that just don’t deserve a spot on the roster because you’ll simply never use them. Yes, there are over seven hundred cars to select from at launch, so maybe I’m blowing things out of proportion, but I was pretty shocked at just how many vehicles I didn’t particularly care for. The game ships with six or seven off-road trophy trucks by default, carry-overs from Forza Horizon that are ridicuously out of place here considering there are precisely zero off-road tracks to speak of, and no stadium super-truck layouts with metal ramps placed in the center of the circuit. Early on in career mode you have the pleasure of taking part in a small championship with these vehicles, and it’s bloody intolerable.
Many Global Rallycross cars also appear, but I am under the impression they are a throwback of sorts to Gran Turismo, as Polyphony loaded their PlayStation driving simulator with numerous rally cars from Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Subaru, with the best car in the game being none other than Suzuki’s Pikes Peak Escudo. Other vehicles also struggle to find their place within Forza 7’s ecosystem; the Formula E cars are dreadful to drive – and every livery counts as its own separate vehicle – with the game sending these cars to Daytona as one last giant fuck you to anyone dumb enough to believe this series is somehow exciting. There are also some giant trucks on the roster, the same vehicles you may remember from the ultra-obscure Formula Truck simulator by Reiza Studios. They too feel out of place, and will most likely never be touched aside from the YouTube personalities who will inevitably use them as clickbait in their videos.
Fortunately, there are over seven hundred other cars to select from. Aside from Toyota products. I don’t even like Japanese shit, but Toyota almost completely missing aside from a few off-road trucks and three NASCAR entries is a big deal. Pray for a Toyota expansion. A NASCAR with Camry XSE stickers doesn’t count, and I say that as a NASCAR fan.
The AI have also caused some problems during my first day with Forza Motorsport 7. This is a weird one to elaborate upon as like Project CARS 2, they vary in quality based on what you’re driving. In full-bodied vehicles, I actually think the AI on either Pro or Unbeatable are extremely competent and a lot of fun to race against. I look forward to completing career mode and continuing to set up my own races at my leisure without the two lap sprints requiring me to knock them around, because this is the kind of single player experience a lot of sim racers have been demanding from their developer of choice.
The problems start when you bust out the open wheel cars – of which there are several – and run in giant packs, which the AI are prone to doing. Unlike Grand Prix Legends, where open wheel cars shear off entire suspensions and go flying into the woods under moderate or heavy contact, Forza 7 doesn’t model any of this. Open wheel cars commonly become hooked together and create massive, track-blocking incidents that are basically unavoidable. The Formula Ford championship I completed earlier this evening took almost three hours to finish off, because the opening lap cluster routinely generated situations that you simply cannot steer out of once you enter another vehicle’s personal space.
There’s a lot left for me to cover in regards to Forza Motorsport 7 as it’s just such a colossal game, but those have been my thoughts at the conclusion of the first day with the Ultimate Edition. I do think the game deserves a bit of flak from the sim community, but I feel it’s been directed at the wrong aspects. Out on the race track, Forza 7 feels pretty familiar – even if exhibits vehicle dynamics on-par with a mid-range Assetto Corsa mod, this isn’t exactly a bad thing. My own personal gripes with the software have more to do with just how little racing you actually partake in compared to the copious array of RPG elements eating up every last loading screen, and the brutal default settings that appear as if nobody from Turn 10 plays racing games with a steering wheel.
Once you unfuck their lack of foresight, Forza 7 is an entertaining diversion from the hardcore no-fun-allowed simulators you usually play, and I’m looking to dig deeper into it over the next few weeks as the title evolves.