It was going so well.
I had memorised all eighteen of Silverstone’s iconic bends. I knew exactly how hard to push my race-prepped Bentley Continental GT3 into each corner - all 1300 kilos of it. The Stig? I’d have left him for dust.
Then, the heavens opened. Maggots and Becketts became a waterlogged quagmire, visibility dropped to almost nothing, and finding grip was near-impossible. Two disastrous laps later and I limped home in lowly 16th place.
The Forza games have always felt like a love letter to all things automotive, but the addition of dynamic weather makes this latest iteration a monument to Mother Nature as well.
ALWAYS TAKE THE WEATHER WITH YOU
Battling the elements was an all-or-nothing kind of deal when weather first arrived in Forza 6 - either you started in the wet or you stayed dry until you saw the chequered flag.
Here, conditions can change on the fly.
Start a race in the early hours and you’ll spot mist pockets dotted around the circuit. Head to Dubai’s desert tracks and you’ll have to contend with sandstorms. Dusk quickly turns into nighttime, leaving you to navigate solely by your own headlights - and the brake lights of the other racers.
Aquaplaning is all too easy in wet conditions, so for certain races you’ll be praying for clear skies harder than Fernando Alonso prays for a competitive F1 engine. You can really feel it when you lose traction, too, thanks to the Xbox One controller’s rumbling triggers.
The varied weather and changeable lighting only elevated Forza 7’s beautiful visuals further, with raindrops glistening on your car’s paintwork and clouds becoming increasingly moody as the sun dips behind them.
4K, THAT LOOKS GOOD
Turn 10’s all-encompassing racer isn’t just gorgeous on the vanilla Xbox One, either - it’s a perfect example of what the Xbox One X is capable of.
From a technical perspective, Having FM7 as the standard-bearer for Microsoft’s 4K-ready console makes a lot of sense. The fixed tracks and car models have been given the maximum amount of polish, so everything shines in 4K and High Dynamic Range.
It verges on hyper-realism in places, with the sharpness, contrast and vivid colours that really make every car, chicane and crowd barrier pop off the screen.
It’s seriously impressive to see a game of this fidelity run at 60 frames per second, especially when the clouds part and the puddles start to appear, adding reflections into the mix.
WE’RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER GARAGE
As much as stunning visuals are the bedrock of the Forza franchise, you spend most of your time behind the wheel - so there’s got to be a decent selection of cars on offer, and they’ve got to feel good to drive.
Maybe you thought that the 450 cars of Forza 6 was quite enough to be getting on with, but that’s not how Turn10 sees things. The roster has been expanded 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.
Each car is lovingly rendered, both inside and out, with a brand new dashboard view getting you even closer to the action, cutting out distractions like the steering wheel so you can focus on the road ahead. It’s great for perfecting those apexes, even if it makes it harder to see your wing mirrors.
The engine notes can vary wildly, though. Some, like the throaty Mercedes AMG-GT, do a fantastic job of immersing you in the tarmac-hauling action. Others, like Ford’s modern boy-racer Focus RS, didn’t have the grunt we’d expect - but if you've never been behind the wheel of one in real life, you're unlikely to notice.
It’s how these cars drive that separates Forza from its competition, though. Unlike 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 the pack ahead through sheer force of will.
Steering response, mechanical grip and general handling are all grounded in reality, but they all feel top-notch, with sublime tactile feedback.
Ok, so handling is a whole lot more forgiving here than in Project Cars 2, which are quick to oversteer and require pinpoint inputs to nail the perfect lap, but at least Forza‘s front-wheel drive motors aren’t as inexplicably keen to spin out.
If you were expecting a huge shift change between this and the previous version, you’ll be disappointed, but the overall feel strikes a balance between simulation and an arcade while erring on the side of reality.
Still, the world of FM7 is impressively immersive, 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.