Xbox One X’s Forza Motorsport 7 hands-on: No lack of depth

Chris Stead 19 September 2017

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We’ve taken Microsoft’s shiny new racer for a test drive to see where it places on the genre’s crowded grid.

Faced with offering fans a compelling competitor to PlayStation’s system-shifting, racing sim phenomenon Gran Turismo, Microsoft turned to developer Turn 10, and the developer has done an incredible job. Over the past 12 years, the company has completed nine games, including three spin-offs, and as of December 2016, has a database of registered players that is 14 million strong. The reception has been strong to excellent throughout, with the series averaging an incredible 88/100 on Metacritic.

On October 3, a tenth game, Forza Motorsport 7, will arrive on Xbox One, but it faces its stiffest competition yet. Its main rival, Gran Turismo Sport, is releasing just three weeks later for the PS4 and it’s taking a far different approach than its predecessors. It seeks to date the classic race sim formula by throwing down a huge eSports endgame and VR.

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But perhaps more compelling is the arrival of Project Cars 2 on September 22. A multi-format racer, its incredible customisation options and depth, wrapped by a startlingly realistic driving experience, is a genuine threat. Beyond that, it’s impossible to ignore that this is the fifth Forza game to release on the relatively young Xbox One, meaning that in many ways, it’s also competing against itself.

Forza Motorsport 7 absolutely needs to be the best in the series to date.

Initial Impressions of Forza Motorsport 7

During a recent Xbox One X press event in Sydney, Australia, I had the opportunity to race a few laps of Forza Motorsport 7 on the new console. It wasn’t an extensive demo, with only three circuits available for play, but it was enough to get an initial feel of how the game looks and plays on an Xbox One X.

Forza Motorsport 7 was built alongside the Xbox One X, and while it is releasing a month ahead of the new console, which is out on November 7, it will be one of its flagship titles. Thankfully for Microsoft, the game not only looks amazing, but it sounds great. Never was this more evident than when a storm approached the circuit I was lapping, which then dumped its payload. The effect of lightning striking in the distance and thick beads of water tumbling down the windscreen is breathtaking.

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But it was the sound that got me more; it just snaps and sizzles in your ears like it’s truly alive. With the guttural, visceral throbbing of the engine shifting through the gears also ringing in your ears, Turn 10 has nailed it. Weather in Forza Motorsport 7 is dynamic, and when it rolls in on your race experience, this new feature really adds to the game and showcases the Xbox One X. Racing during this level of torrid weather was satisfying and thoroughly immersive.

If the power of the Xbox One X is about doubling down on atmosphere, then Forza Motorsport 7 shows that such use of its resources is worth it.

The actual feel of the vehicles, however, was less compelling. I want to be clear that I don’t consider the number of vehicles and tracks I got to test in this limited demo session to be anything remotely close to a review. However, having extensively played both Gran Turismo Sport and Project Cars 2, my immediate impression was that it was the more arcade of the three. By default, all the aids were switched on, forcing you to manually go back and turn it to a race-simulation experience. But even then, the car balance, grip and handling felt too convenient.

In particular, the way the Porsche could be thrown, sliding on all four wheels, into and out of corners struck me as being unrealistic, even if it was still a lot of fun.

Elsewhere, there is no lack of depth, with 32 tracks and over 700 cars to collect and enjoy. And the pioneering Drivatar system remains an engaging way to ensure solo experiences don’t become a sterile procession of vehicles. Plus other, less important areas of the product have been fleshed out, such as the ability to customise your drivers.

On Xbox One X, Forza Motorsport 7 looks amazing, sounds even better, and offers a fun experience behind the wheel. Whether that experience will be a little too arcade for the genre’s hardcore fans, given the alternative of Project Cars 2, requires further testing. But certainly, as it stands, it is the more accessible, if less realistic, of three experiences from a raw gameplay perspective.

Looking for a deal on Microsoft's 4K powerhouse? Check out the latest deals and prices on Xbox One X.

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