There’s room for stupidity in every facet of our lives. Professionalism is best when you have room to escape it, whether that involves mastering the air guitar or bowling with a limo. Forza Motorsport 7 seems to understand this on a fundamental level, and while the game offers plenty of serious content, it’s apparently a fan of Top Gear. Forza 7 rides a fine line between taking itself seriously and remembering that there is glory in stupidity, but sometimes it’s better to pick a side than straddle the electric fence.
If nothing else, Forza 7 offers up a fun atmosphere to mess around in. Where other sims can feel intimidating or oppressive in their seriousness, Forza is very chilled out about your performance. You’ll be bolstered on by the narrator that you’re making all the right choices, and if you don’t place first, you won’t get scolded by your manager. You can drive trucks and ATVs around tracks made for F1 cars or take your mum’s Veloster for a spin around Nürburgring in a game of car-tag. The game oozes reckless fun from the very start, and it doesn’t stiff you when it comes to cars either.
I haven’t had time to try all the cars in the game, unfortunately, but that’s because there are 700 of them. The list is extensive and varied, ranging from road cars to vehicles you’d see in Fast and the Furious (specifically 7, because that’s how sponsorship works). Whether you’re looking for an Audi, Porsche, Lambo, Rolls-Royce, Lotus, whatever other brands even exist in this crazy world of ours, there’s a good chance they’re in here. The big problem is that you might not be able to get your hands on it until you’ve invested quite some time racing plebeian vehicles.
There are plenty of cars, yes, but the game suffers from the Super Smash Bros. problem. When you buy SSB, you’ll want to invite some friends round to play all your favourite characters… But you have to unlock them via single-player first. In Forza, you can buy/rent whatever car you want to drive, but if you don’t have the cash, you can’t drive the car. The progression is fast enough that you’ll get some rad cars at the start, but you can’t just jump into the game and race whatever you want. Maybe Project Cars spoiled me, but not being able to enter a custom race with whatever car I want feels like an unnecessary barrier. Free Play doesn’t seem very ‘free’ with so much restriction, but don’t worry; the career mode will help you out.
You might not be able to drive your dream car from the start, but Forza 7 will keep you entertained with the Forza Driver’s Cup. The career mode offers a variety of races and challenges, including hot hatches, limo bowling and hoon drifting. You’ll earn rewards after each race, but you’ll also earn points to reach the next tier of the career, and assuming you win at least a few races, you’ll start raking in cash. You’ll also earn milestones as you race, and each level rewards you with a discounted car, more money or a driver skin. These rewards are a regular way of gauging your progress and staying invested, but every game these days needs to have loot boxes.
One thing I can’t get my head around is why there are loot crates in the game. They’re called prize crates, but they’re randomised reward sets you can buy with in-game currency that are, in essence, loot crates. Right now I can’t see a way to buy them with real money, but some cars seem to only be unlockable through these crates, and it has been confirmed that Turn 10 plans to introduce a real-money currency like with previous instalments. I’d much prefer if everything was unlocked through in-game purchases, no crates required, but that wouldn’t involve randomised rewards, right? Couldn’t be having that in a post-Overwatch world, but that’s a discussion for another time, and we have simulations to critique!
Forza gets a bad rep for its simulation amongst the driver sim elite, which might seem strange given the details it offers. Cars handle as you’d expect, requiring at least a modicum of thought to make it around a corner. Different vehicles obviously handle differently as well, and if you’re not experienced enough for an open-wheeler, prepare to be spinning out half the time. Even the tuning and upgrade options for each car feel like an involved affair, so then why is it that the die-hard sim fans among us dislike Forza? Well, there’s a difference between a good enough sim and one that you can dig your teeth into.
The sim is functional but plays more like an arcade game than an accurate simulation. Rules define motorsport, and if you don’t play ball, you’re going to be penalised or outright disqualified. Not here, though, because you can cut corners and ram into whoever you want without being scolded. The game is too forgiving in many areas, which is perfect for a group of bros playing a racing game over a few beers, but not someone who wanted a true-to-life sim. The arcade sensibilities of the game shine through when you’re racing against Drivatars, and not because they’re fun to race against.
While I don’t have a massive problem with the sim, it’s brought down by the idiocy of Drivatars. The idea behind these pinnacles of stupidity is that they learn from your driving to race against other players as AI. The problem is that they will ram into you no matter what you’re doing. Even with limited aggression, they’re so stupid; I couldn’t even get past the first corner of a race because they collided into me no matter where I went. That might be okay in an arcade game where ramming is encouraged, but real motorsport doesn’t take kindly to that sort of behaviour. Of course, after dealing with this UI, you might feel like ramming someone anyway.
It baffles me how bad the game’s UI is. It looks sleek, but there are glaring issues in its design. Picking a track involves scrolling through a horizontal list of images squeezed above the race rules instead of being a separate menu, and the track layout preview is embarrassingly small. The tuning menu isn’t much better, where lists are apparently more helpful than boxes imitating a car’s layout. On top of that, cars are sorted into various classes, but it’s hard to see where the class is mentioned in the car selection screen, and you can’t sort vehicles by these categories anyway (not that they made sense to begin with). The UI is an awful monstrosity of a thing, but at least the game itself offers something much better to look at.
Forza 7 is an undeniably good looking game. It may not look real in some places, but holy balls, it looks good. Cars shimmer in the light as they drive by, confetti cannons go off as you pass them, and reflections from your windshield will obscure your view on some tracks. You can even get into some of the cars in your free time to appreciate how much effort has gone into the interiors. On PC, I’ve experienced a few graphical glitches, but the game still looks good 80% of the damn time, which is enough for to enjoy what I’m doing without getting distracted. Still, I don’t know if I’d be buying this game on looks alone, especially given its other problems.
Forza Motorsport 7 is an excellent game for anyone who doesn’t want to get bogged down in a hardcore sim. There are heaps of cars, some great races to partake in, and the good vibes will keep you feeling driven regardless of how you race. If you’re looking for something a bit more serious that understands what rules are, you’ll have to look elsewhere to burn that rubbery itch. If you’re feeling really stupid, maybe consider buying a tractor, kitting it out and drag racing it down at Kwinana. If that’s not dumb enough, do it with a Segway.