The phrase “look at the graphics in this driving game” doesn’t mean much anymore. It goes without saying that the cars in your game about cars should probably look good. Polygon count and tyre curvature stopped being meaningful metrics for a system’s strengths years ago.
But Forza 7 on Xbox One X looks damn good. And it looks even better on PC.
Earlier this month I got some hands-on time with two builds of Forza Motorsport 7 – one for each system. While both versions featured the same three disciplines and tracks to muck around with, the game is more than its 4K resolution, and its framerate. It’s the minutiae – the elements that transform the experience from race-to-race – that make it interesting. Developer Turn 10 appear to be refining the formula with intricate weather systems.
One of the main features is the dynamism of the tracks; that repeat runs on repeat weather conditions won’t yield the same result. We’ve seen something similar in offshoot series Forza Horizon, but there appears to be more granularity here.
After multiple runs on the three tracks available – a simple street race, another on a stormy track, and one through a Dubai desert – there was a noticeable difference. There were micro-changes across sections of the track, that transformed them in subtle ways.
Taking a hairpin turn on the stormy track was particularly hard. It became even harder on the second lap, when parts of the road flooded due to the rain. These puddles didn’t appear to be in pre-fab locations either; repeat runs had them popping up in different areas. The desert track also provided its own wrinkles, with sand blowing on to stretches of road, affecting acceleration and handling.
To get the full gamut of experiences, I cranked up the difficulty. This meant turning off the assists, and enabling vehicle damage to be more than cosmetic. This transformed the game. What was at first a breezy competition with neat weather effects, became something much more heated. It was as much about fighting my opponents, as it was the pounding rain.
Like most racing games however, your A.I. competitors leave much to be desired. The first few turns on both cold and rolling starts was your usual jumble of scrapes and collisions. It was unclear if the game was pulling Drivatar data from previous games to fuel my opponents, or if their stock-standard scripts were just that aggressive. Thankfully, the rewind feature means you can get through most of the major pileups, but you’ll still be walking away with the odd ding on your chassis.
One of the main issues I have with the more serious racing games is a lack of personality; the menus and presentation can feel sterile, like you’re browsing cars and selecting customisation options while in a hospital ward. While elements I saw won’t be representative of the final build, Forza 7 has some nice touches.
Customising your driver presents you with different palette and design options. These selections are based off real-world drivers; you’ll get a brief rundown of their accomplishments, and why they’re important to the racing (or esports) scene. It’s a small thing, but it delivers a surprising amount of humanity to the game.
Forza Motorsport 7 is incremental, in the same way that all previous games in the series have been. That isn’t a dismissive remark either; it’s given developer Turn 10 the chance to hone the elements that they believe matter. It won’t be until the game launches on October 3 that we’ll know if there's more under the hood.
Keith travelled to an Xbox One X press event in Sydney. Flights and accommodation were provided by Microsoft.