Forza as a brand has some serious cachet. 4.8 million monthly active players across the entire franchise can't be wrong, right? As a game, it has mainstream appeal: Porsche unveiled a new 911 GT2 RS at Xbox's E3 event -- a new car at a games show. And the team wants the next Forza game to bring all of those fans together in one place.
It helps that Forza 7 is, hands down, the best-looking game that Turn 10 has ever made. Horizon looked pretty good last year, but on Xbox and on PC, by virtue of the fact that it's built for the native 4K and extra power of the One X and not the lesser One S, Forza Motorsport 7 has HDR and photogrammetry and all the buzzwords Microsoft is talking up this year.
Dynamic weather adds an element to the new title's gameplay as well as a visual one. Instrument clusters, in-car details and other minor elements have been tweaked on cars. There'll be a much larger emphasis on being a completionist and collecting cars, too -- the more you have, the larger your rewards will be each time you level up.
And those rewards now include driver gear -- new suits for your driver, which don't matter so much when you're racing but are a fun cosmetic for the drivatar your friends will see when they visit your profile and you play against them. It's a small addition but one that might go towards making the game a little more social and add some longevity.
The Forza Driver's Cup is the reimagined career mode in the game, and while there'll still be some instances where you're stuck driving some of the car classes you don't like -- I'm not a racing truck fan, for example -- that'll be largely avoidable through the wide range of events and over 700 cars that you can jump into throughout the campaign.
There are some competitive elements to Forza Motorsport 7, too, like clean- and dirty-racing leaderboard tables like previous titles -- and Microsoft's goal is to get competitions and real-world events happening around the world. Next week, the finals of the Forza Racing Championship will be played at Le Mans while the actual race happens, and virtual winners will be crowned alongside real ones.
There's a bit of broader Microsoft family love throughout the game, too -- like the fact that music from a player's OneDrive can be played in the game as ambience, during car customisation in the garage or during races from grandstands. But that's secondary to how the game actually feels when you're sitting down and putting time behind the wheel.
But What's It Like To Play?
So far at least, my time with the game has left me impressed with how it actually drives. I've played a few minutes of Forza Motorsport 7 both on a Xbox One X with a controller -- how most of the franchise's more casual players will consume it -- as well as on a PC running at 4K with a full force-feedback racing seat and Fanatec Porsche wheel setup.
With the full, circa-$50,000 seat and wheel and 4K TV contributing to the experience, Forza Motorsport 7 feels great. It's not surprising that it feels great; a lot of money has gone into making that happen for the attendees at E3 lucky enough to sit in on it. But that also requires the game itself be deserving of those peripherals, and it is.
Forza's car physics, for me, hit that point that's just about right between on-rails arcade racing and actual simulation titles like iRacing -- which I actually find tiresome because they're too realistic and I like a bit of easy slidey-action fantasy. But that's not to say it's not hardcore enough for a racing game fanatic.
If you're even slightly into driving, you'll want to kill off the braking and steering assists and opt for manual rather than automatic shifts, but it is possible to skew it too extreme for my tastes -- which is probably good for the hardcore simmers. Different cars feel different, sound different and perform differently on different tracks.
At the end of the day, the actual driving experience is gratifying in how responsive your inputs are, and the level of feedback you get through controller or wheel. It's a formula that the Forza team has refined over years of iteration. And that's what will go the furthest towards Forza Motorsport 7's potential success when it launches on PC and Xbox on October 3.