Solid, But Not Perfect - Forza Motorsport 7 Demo

The racing video game market is more competitive than ever before. Small developers have risen up and are publishing titles of surprisingly high quality, forcing established names to set up their game on a previously unseen level. The big players are no longer untouchable.

This can definitely be said for American developer Turn 10 Studios, the creator of the now legendary Forza Motorsport series.

There's no denying their previous two entries have been successful, with Motorsport 6 and Horizon 3 selling a combined 3,5 million copies.

But with sim racing juggernaut Assetto Corsa now on Xbox, Slightly Mad Studios dropping Project Cars 2 last week and the release of Polyphony Digital's Gran Turismo Sport looming, Turn 10 can no longer afford to sit on their million dollar laurels.

 Slighty Mad Studios dropped their revamped sim racer last week, posing a potential threat to Forza Motorsport's crown

Slighty Mad Studios dropped their revamped sim racer last week, posing a potential threat to Forza Motorsport's crown

But with Forza Motorsport 7, the Washington-based developer has a new challenger ready to step into the Xbox racing game-ring. Players got a taste of the new generation of Forza action when the demo dropped on September 19th.

This demo gave players the possibility to choose between three game modes. The first saw one take control of the cover star, the Porsche 991 GT2 RS on the brand new Dubai circuit. The second game mode put the player behind the wheel of a Mercedes racing truck in a race at Mugello, and the third looked to show the new dynamic weather system with a GT3 race at the Nürburgring in a Nissan GT-R.

So, is Forza Motorsport 7 shaping up to be a worthy contender for the top racing game on the Xbox One? Or is it back to the drawing board for Turn 10? Time to find out.

Let's get the obvious out of the way first. Forza Motorsport 7 is a very good looking game. With the 4K Xbox One X launching in November, Forza 7 is supposed to be the new console's flagship racer, and it shows. 

 Graphically, Forza Motorsport 7 is a juggernaut.

Graphically, Forza Motorsport 7 is a juggernaut.

The graphics really are a total package: the overall looks are beautiful, details on the cars and tracks are really well done. The new Dubai track in particular looks incredible, with the desert rocks looking incredible and sand sweeping across the asphalt in a beautiful manner.

Handling-wise, there's nothing really shocking to discover: cars handle well and feel great to drive. The GT2 RS in particular felt like quite a handful, really giving you the sense you were behind the wheel of a car that just set a Nordschleife lap record. At times it did feel like too much of a handful, but I haven't been able to figure out whether that was down to my (lack of) driving skill or if the game was more at fault.

 The GT2 RS was a real handful on the desert race track.

The GT2 RS was a real handful on the desert race track.

Graphics and handling are all well and good, but things really came together in the weather department. Forza Motorsport 7 features a new Dynamic Weather System. This new system is shown off in the third and final demo race, where one takes control of the Nissan GT-R at the Nürburgring. The race starts off in dry conditions, but before the first lap is over, it's pouring with rain and the track transforms completely. Puddles form realistically and the track becomes a hell of a lot more difficult to drive, forcing you to completely transform your driving style.

The rain on the windscreen looks great in first person and the rainstorm completely changes the track's atmosphere, which also adds tension to an increasingly difficult race. You really have to stay focused on the track to avoid catastrophe. I once tried going for a brazen overtake on a Corvette round the outside at the NGK Chicane, and this was the result:

 That's probably a safety car.

That's probably a safety car.

It wasn't just rain racing that caused me trouble though. The entire demo gave me the feeling the racing has become a lot more unforgiving compared to previous games. In Forza 6 you could attempt the most ridiculously dangerous overtakes and quite often, you more or less got away with it. That's not the case anymore. You make a mistake, you pay for it, meaning you'll most likely find yourself ending up in a wall. 

This demo isn't all sunshine and rainstorms though. There are some things that really cheesed me off about Forza 7's demo.

For starters, the third person camera really got on my nerve after a while. It's difficult to explain, but it was incredibly twitchy and very sensitive to every maneuvre the car undertook. It came off as very shaky and apart from being annoying, I can imagine this could also cause nausea in more sensitive players.

The demo was also little low on content, in my opinion. Three short races with three cars personally didnt make me feel like it was enough to really get an idea of what the full game is going to be like. There was nothing to show off car customization, one of the key selling points for the Forza franchise.

Same goes for the new custom character feature. The game gave you the option to choose between a few preset outfits, but that was just about it. 

 Though the idea of custom characters is great, the demo gave limited options.

Though the idea of custom characters is great, the demo gave limited options.

But, to be fair, this was just a demo, not the full game. With that in mind, the relative lack of content can be forgiven.

What can not be forgiven is the utter shallowness of the racing car roster. Games like Assetto Corsa and Project Cars 2 have a roster filled with the newest in GT racing. Not so for Forza 7.

The biggest example of this is Aston Martin. Project Cars 2 has three newer Aston Martin Racing cars in the Vantage GTE and GT4, as well as the V12 Vantage GT3. What about Forza 7? The 'largest and most comprehensible Forza game ever made'? They only have one: the DBR9 from 2006. The only Aston Martin Racing car in this 700 car line-up is one from over a decade ago.

The same pattern appears when you look at manufacturers like Porsche, Audi, McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari. They all have older cars. The only GT Porsche is the Flying Lizard GT3 RSR from 2011.

Let's compare this to the supposedly smaller titles like Assetto Corsa and Project Cars 2. Assetto Corsa already has the 2017 Porsche 911 RSR available for players. Project Cars 2 features an extensive choice of GT cars including the likes of the new R8 LMS, the M6 GT3 and GTLM, the Acura NSX GT3, Aston Martin Vantage GTE, Mercedes AMG GT3 and Ferrari 488 GT3.

Meanwhile, the confirmed Forza 7 car list still features the 2014 R8 LMS Ultra, the same M3 GT2 and Z4 GT3 from Forza 6, no NSX GT3, that aforementioned DBR9, the SLS GT3 from 2014 and the same three 458s that also featured in Forza 6.

Which begs the question: why? Isn't this supposed to be 'the largest Forza ever'? With that in mind it becomes a little hard to stomach for a motorsport nut like me that the small players have an up-to-date GT roster while the million dollar giant apparently still feels content to keep the same years-old cars on their roster. For someone who loves motorsports and GT racing in particular, this kind of thing is enough to take me out of the game entirely. And to be honest, that's kind of what it's doing.

 Project Cars 2 has a far more up-to-date and extensive GT lineup.

Project Cars 2 has a far more up-to-date and extensive GT lineup.

So, the Forza Motorsport 7 demo. It's given a good feel for what the full game will be like. And at the moment, that full game is shaping up to be really quite good. The gameplay is solid, the graphics are great and the new dynamic weather system is a really good addition to an already iconic franchise.

But on the other hand, the lightness of the racing car roster is something that's quite hard to forgive and quite infuriating for fans of racing cars. 

So to summarize: Forza 7 is shaping up to be a worthy addition to the hallowed halls of the Forza Motorsport franchise, despite the fact there's some things about it that really aren't very motorsport-like.