Every new console's got to have that one killer game. The Switch has Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the original PlayStation had WipEout and Xbox One X has Forza Motorsport 7. Having spun around three stunning tracks on Microsoft’s new 4K console we've spent the past few hours scraping our jaw off the E3 floor.
Blowing even last year’s gorgeous Forza Horizon 3 out of the water, Forza Motorsport 7 boasts a ridiculous commitment to realism and graphical fidelity. Whether that's enough to sell you on the Xbox One X will depend on just how seriously you take your virtual racing.
For proper petrolheads, this is pretty much gaming nirvana.
A total 4K stunner
Having FM7 as the Xbox One X’s standard-bearer makes total sense from a tech perspective. With their fixed tracks and car models, there's plenty of opportunity for developer Turn 10 Studios to make everything shine in 4K and High Dynamic Range. And boy oh boy is that the case.
FM7 is the most stunning console game we've ever seen. Honestly, we got so distracted by the scenery in one race that we ended up crashing into the car in front of us. And then we spent a bit of time marvelling at the scratches that had suddenly been etched across its backside. This 4K gaming is a perilous affair, you see. One that’s made all the more dangerous in a game where you’re hitting speeds of well over 160kmph to make an overtake before slowing right down to fling yourself around a hairpin corner.
As impressive as it is to see a game of this fidelity run at 60 frames per second, you’ll quickly get over the general smoothness and precision of Forza’s visuals. It’s the little details that are where this game really blows you away, whether that’s the tyre marks that are etched across a puddle or a swirl of desert sand that’s whirling around in the near distance. The world of FM7 is as immersive as you could possibly hope for, so much so that it’s almost a shame to play the thing with a standard Xbox One pad. A proper steering wheel is clearly the way to go if you’ve got the funds.
A racer with brains
Of course, all this gorgeous window dressing is of no use if Forza’s gameplay proves to be a damp squib. Having made seven Motorsport titles across 12 years, Turn 10 has got this racing game routine down to a tee. Its latest offering seemingly picks right up from where Forza Motorsport 6 left off, with an impressive amount of feedback and precision served up through your controller, and an assembled roster of four-wheelers that you’d likely be arrested for laying hands on in real life.
Unlike its step-cousin Forza Horizon 3, you can’t just plonk yourself in a Porsche 911, push the accelerator down towards the Earth’s crust and chase down the pack ahead through sheer force of will. As with previous games in the series, Motorsport 7 is quite happy to send you spinning out of a race should you overtake at the wrong moment or have a Mario Kart-inspired approach to braking. You get your kicks here by thinking your way to that first place position, even on ‘Easy’ mode. And that means working your way past a fiendish AI.
Previous Forza games have suffered a little from virtual opponents that are too timid to really hit the throttle at times. While it’s too early to say whether this is still the case, the AI was enjoyably tricksy, doing its best to cut off our surges forward and slow our momentum round corners. The races we enjoyed so far still very much boil down to a chase to the top of the finish line, something that’s a love-hate thing amongst racing fans.
For our part, this is what makes the Motorsport games a thrill rather than a true approximation of what life behind the wheel might be like. There’s probably a reason why Lewis Hamilton looks miserable half the time, and we’d rather not find out why for ourselves. Unless someone’s gonna pay us an extraordinary sum to veg out in front of our Xbox. Anyone?
Cars. So many cars
You might be of the opinion that 450 cars is quite enough to be getting on with in any racing game. That’s not how FM7’s makers see things, though, because they’ve expanded Motorsport 6’s roster to a ridiculous 700 vehicles, including the largest collection of Porsches, Ferraris and Lamborghinis yet seen in the series. Excessive? You bet, but we’re not complaining.
We got to drive the new 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS, Mercedes-Benz #24 Tankpool24 Racing Truck and 2015 Nissan #1 Motul Autech GT-R in our time with FM7, and each was lovingly recreated in 4K with its own raucous personality. As much as stunning visuals are the bedrock of the Forza franchise, its engine noises do just as good a job of immersing you in the tarmac-hauling action. Seriously, we defy you not to crack a smile upon firing up that Porsche. No doubt the Xbox One X’s Dolby Vision surround sound skills are going to be put to devilish use here.
In addition to that abundance of cars, Turn 10 Studios is upping the number of tracks you can race on as well. A whopping great 30 locations have been confirmed for FM7 so far, including the Nürburgring, Tuscany’s Mugello Circuit and an all-new track that’s set in Dubai. It was here where our attention was so dramatically stolen by an airplane taking off in the distance that we smashed into another car.
Forza Motorsport 7 initial verdict
The Forza Motorsport games have always been made by racing nerds for racing nerds, and this year’s edition is no different. What has been kicked up to a whole new stratosphere is the attention to detail that the Xbox One X enables. At the risk of banging on about it, FM7 really is a phenomenally handsome game.
Crucially, this Forza seems fun enough to hold the attention of gamers who’ve had their heads turned by the promise of 4K gaming. So long as that’s still the case when FM7 launches on October 7 it could well do the business for Microsoft’s new console.