THERE is something about having lots of cars — even virtual ones — at your disposal that turns even the most mild-mannered gaming/tech journo into one of the cast of a show which strongly resembles but is legally distinct from Top Gear.
Who among us, when presented with 700 different cars including Australian classics like the Falcon and the Commodore, can resist the urge to don a leather jacket and make pithy remarks about POWER! while doing highly questionable driving manoeuvres at even more highly questionable speeds?
Forza Motorsport 7 understands this need and offers you the very finest of safe spaces in which to live out your petrolhead paradise fantasies.
Developed by Turn 10 and published by Microsoft for the PC and the Xbox One, Forza 7 is quite possibly the most impressive looking game I’ve ever seen. When running in 4K with High Dynamic Range functionality on the sort of TV those of us with small children can’t have in the house, it looks like real life. In fact, somehow, it almost seems to have better definition than real life.
Even on a high-end PC in 1080p, it’s still a gorgeous game, with dynamic settings working on the fly to create a great visual experience while still maintaining performance and frame-rate — although I did experience a few glitches from loading screens.
Fantastic graphics are to be expected nowadays, so how do things look when we pop the bonnet, bust out the toolkit and look thoughtfully at the engine? Pretty darn good.
Forza 7 is a racing game, so the emphasis is on getting you behind the steering wheel on a number of different tracks around the world, ranging from American NASCAR circuits to the streets of Prague to the Swiss Alps to the deserts of Dubai.
The difficulty is almost infinitely adjustable — whether you want an arcade “Press the accelerator and hold on” experience through to nodding in satisfaction and saying “Yes, that extra 4psi in the tyres was definitely the right call for this track”, Forza 7has you covered.
One nice touch is the ability to rewind time (in single player) if you make a mistake like spinning off the track or ploughing into the tyre wall at painful speed — the option can be disabled for purists, but it also certainly helps keep Forza 7 accessible and fun for everyone.
While it’s quite possible to play on PC with a keyboard and mouse, the experience is immeasurably enhanced by the addition of a controller, particularly one with force-feedback vibration capabilities.
Dynamic weather features strongly too, with changes in mid-race something forcing a change in approach as the rain starts.
The sound is extremely well done too, with engines sounding appropriate, squealing tyres, rain on the windscreen, and even dynamic music — music in your garage sounds like it’s coming over speakers inside, you can hear songs playing in the grandstands as you roar past them, and if you want to get personal, you can even upload your personal songs to OneDrive and play them in-game too.
Even the game’s standard music fits the atmosphere well, and overall the game’s presentation has been buffed and shined to a showroom finish.
The attention to detail is quite remarkable — everything from mirror reflections to dirt on the windscreen is handled nicely.
Despite the dashboard being rendered beautifully, the rest of the car’s interior doesn’t appear to have been included — so if you look to the left or right, you get a fullscreen view, rather than a rendering of the door and window. It’s a shame in some ways, although to paraphrase a character from Gumball Rally, the first rule of motor racing is that what’s behind you is not important.
The other major issues I encountered with the game were a few crashes to desktop and glitches on PC, and a mild dislike of the loot crates in the game (purchasable with in-game currency); they seemed a bit out of place and unnecessary to me.
Given the mind-boggling array of cars in the game — everything from the Holden Sandman and Ford Falcon to the Land Rover Defender to Porsche performance vehicles — the absence of Toyota production cars is surprising, too — and also means you don’t get to find out what it’s like to try and drift a Camry like your parents one around the circuit at Rio de Janeiro, either.
The range of cars — both left and right hand drive — is one of Forza 7’s strengths, though, and it’s a lot of fun to see what it’s like to drive a Mitsubishi Lancer around the Nurburgring or an E-Type Jaguar around Mt Panorama — and yes, the Top Geartrack is one of those available, meaning it’s entirely possible to recreate your own Star In A Reasonably Priced Car experience without having to compare your performance to obscure British celebrities.
Each car in the game really does seem to handle differently, too, and as you progress through the different championships and get more time behind the wheel of the various vehicles on offer — ranging from classic vehicles of yesteryear right up to the cutting edge of latest automotive technology — you start to appreciate the handling and performance differences between them too.
There’s also a strong multiplayer element, pitting you against other drivers ostensibly of more or less the same skill level as you.
Regardless of whether your driving skills are at the “shouldn’t be trusted with a dodgem car” level or the “would put in a respectable showing in an actual F1 race” end of the scale, Forza 7 has something to offer you, and the fact it seamlessly blends these experiences into one outstanding package puts it in pole position as far as racing sims go.
In fact, one might even say that all the positive factors combine to make Forza Motorsport 7 one of the greatest driving games .