Let me tell you what it’s like trying to play Forza Motorsport 7 on Windows 10. Sometimes you sit down to play and it just works. The soundtrack is tight and invigorating, your heart beats faster when you’re overtaking on a rain-soaked Spa Francorchamps in a 1970s racecar that barely has any traction. It’s smooth and slick, and fun. You just click with it. And sometimes… sometimes you sit down to see the game updating, only for the Store app and the Xbox centre to forget that you own it. Or it crashes in the middle of making a livery because of a memory leak. Or it refuses to allow you to play while your internet is off. Or it crashes on the splash screen thanks to a license error.

Forza 7 is a beautiful, fun, and engaging racing game, tainted by running it on a platform that Microsoft seems to barely take seriously. I’ve reinstalled it seven times in the past two weeks. But it’s worth the initial pains, and these things are fixable, because I’ve grown to love this game.

Game info

If there’s anything I truly love about Forza Motorsport 7, it’s the open-ended way in which players can progress through it. When you open up the menu for the Forza Driver’s Cup, you’re immediately asked to pick out a car to use in races. The wide choice gives players incentive to plan their progression through the first race series, and smart planning gives you a way to rack up credits and experience points thanks to the right decision. For me, that was the ’70s supercars, and particularly a Ferrari F40. After picking it up, however, you’re offered to skin your first car with a livery made by other players, which annoyed me. There is a button to skip this just below the livery menu but it’s not prominently called out in the UI. It’s one of the first of many small inconsistencies you’ll run into.

Also, all the trees in-game are 2D. They’re not fully 3D. I can accept the lack of realistic trees and the missing pit crews during a race because those things were cut to make the game engine lighter, but I’m also just putting that out there before you get to buying the game. It’s not a dealbreaker, but those trees are very odd indeed.

That inconvenience aside, you can start racing immediately in the first cup series in the game. Forza 7 doesn’t have qualifying rounds for multi-race championships, so you can expect an uphill battle in every race you participate in, starting somewhere between 9th and 11th place depending on the track. Sometimes the race starts are from a standstill, and others are a rolling start. In addition to the track variations, there are also real-time, dynamic weather effects that are really well done. Racing in the rain, as you well know, is my favourite thing to do, and here it’s a constant fight for control of the car as you avoid other drivers, puddles on the track, and aquaplaning.

There’s booming thunder and lightning. The faster you go the less visibility you have. The dramatic way in which these races are done overshadows everything else in the game. I have no qualms about admitting to feeling giddy whenever there’s a wet weather track (which is one of the most difficult things to get right in a racing game).

Couple that with some of the best in-game engine notes I’ve heard in a while, and it’s an experience that hooks you in when you’re seated comfortably and wearing headphones. The engine sounds in different cars are unique and different, and it’s clear that Turn 10 paid a lot of attention to other sound effects like the blow-off valves opening and closing in a turbocharged motor, or the crackle of the exhaust when you’re shifting down. The sounds of other race cars on the track near you is just as good, and I can tell when there’s someone behind me without looking in my mirror because I can hear them.

I’ve already had a lot of time behind a racing wheel with Forza 7 and like GT Sport, it needs a wheel to get the most out of the game. You’re missing a crucial element of the experience without it.

Music is another component of the Forza Motorsport 7 experience, and it has a really nice, upbeat soundtrack to keep you tapping your feet in between races. There’s a bit of dubstep here, some rap, and a lot of rock too. It even has a few good synth tracks. The game also has some interesting voiceovers from famous racers from different disciplines, from Formula One to NASCAR or FIA GT, and there are even some voice notes from test drivers for manufacturers like Porsche, BMW, and Honda. It adds a bit of personality to the races while you’re waiting for them to load, and lets you in on what makes some of these people get behind the wheel.

Before I talk about the in-game economy and progression, though, I’d like to note that I was given a review code for the Ultimate Edition. This comes with a bunch of additional content such as car packs, the VIP credit boost that lasts forever, and a few “mod” cards that I can equip to earn more credits. My experience of the game’s economy is subjective in a sense because I don’t have to face the grind that other players picking up the Standard or Deluxe Editions do. I earn double credits by default, and VIP players have already earned five legendary cars and a million credits thanks to their status. I’d argue that the extra R600 for the Ultimate Edition extras is worth the trouble for players who are serious about getting into the game and extracting maximum value out of the DLC coming in the next six months, but if you’re picking up the standard edition you can expect a bit of a grind in the beginning.

Truth be told, I can’t speak to what that’s like, because it’s impossible for me to install just the base game without DLC.

In fact, being a VIP member might be considered unfair, because I can theoretically earn three times the regular amount of credits in Forza 7 merely by winning the race, by having the VIP DLC enabled, and by using one of my mod cards that gives me a 100% credit boost. That puts me in a better position to buy more powerful cars early on to compete in multiplayer races, despite homologation rules limiting the car’s power.

That can be remedied by increasing the difficulty of the drivatars by two steps (maximum of five), giving you a 40% credit boost on every race, but it’s not always that simple. Drivatars in Forza 7 are trained by players racing in either the single player or multiplayer and are downloaded when you have an active internet connection. Forza 7’s drivatars have erratic swings in the difficulty scale from race-to-race and sometimes border on superhuman in their ability to maintain control while you’re sliding all over the place. Until you have a car that dominates races, you’ll be flicking between earning a 40% boost, or nothing at all depending on the race and the track conditions.

Skilled players playing on unbeatable difficulty will earn 100% credit bonuses no matter their finishing position, however. They’ll also earn credits from their drivatars appearing in other races. If you’re particularly quick on a track, your drivatar might pose a challenge to other racers, enough to earn you a lot of credits while you’re out and about.

The rest of the game’s economy is rather simple and fast if you’re a decent player. Progressing through the levels by earning experience isn’t as much of a grind as you’d expect so long as you’re placing on the podium frequently, and every level-up gives you the choice of extra credits, a new car on discount (sometimes for free), or a new helmet livery. Leveling up is the quickest way to earn cars, so that’s what I’ve always picked. Credits earned in the game can be spent on acquiring new cars, modifying your car with upgrades to the engine, chassis, etc., buying cars sold through the auction house, or buying loot boxes.

Yes, this game has loot boxes (or prize crates), but it’s not as egregious as you’d expect. I bought a few out of curiosity and you can get liveries, money, mod cards, and sometimes cars in the mixed boxes. Mod cards that you don’t want, like duplicates or useless items, can be sold off to raise more funds. I picked up a semi-rare mod card in a mod crate once and sold it to pay for two more loot crates, which had better cards in them. While this looks sketchy given the current environment in the gaming industry and the hostility towards loot crates, Forza 7 does it right by only allowing in-game credits to be used to purchase them.

The only time you use real-world money on loot crates is when you purchase the VIP add-on on its own or as part of a bundle deal. This might change in the future, but prize crates and mod cards will still not affect the player’s progression.

The auction house further adds to the economy by allowing players to sell off their cars, some of which could be special, unique creations, to other players. Auctions can either be single-price buyouts or a true auction where players bid against each other to win the car. I’ve seen some impressive custom skin designs go for as much as eight million credits. This is another way in which you can avoid grinding for money to buy better cars. If your liveries and car designs are popular, you can expect to be rewarded for your talents with in-game money.

Mod cards are also an interesting addition. It matches up with what Ghost Games are doing with the Need for Speed franchise starting with Payback, but mod cards in Forza 7 don’t replace the ability to mod and upgrade your car. They might grant some bonuses to credits and experience earned for doing specific things in a race, but they don’t grant you bonuses to your car’s performance or capabilities. Progression isn’t tied to using mod cards or buying loot crates either – you can legitimately earn or buy every single car in the game without buying a loot box. Mod cards only add to the player’s strategy for tackling specific races or weather conditions.

And the fact that you can’t use real-world money to buy loot crates makes me happy. I’m sad that I have to type out that sentence, but given current events, it’s a bit of a relief to find a AAA game that isn’t trying to reduce player choice in return for money. Turn 10 did a great job here.

I haven’t dabbled in the multiplayer thanks to all my issues just getting the damned game to run in recent weeks (or to download at all, which was the first hurdle), but the game’s servers haven’t had any hiccups since the launch last month, and all the online functionality just works. The extensive visual quality settings allow players to hit sixty frames per second no matter what hardware they’re playing with, and there’s an in-game scripted benchmark for evaluating performance. There’s also an in-game photo mode that works really well for making pretty screenshots, though it lacks some options that limit your movement.

NAGlings, I’ve barely scraped through half of the content that I could cover about Forza 7 in my review here. There’s so much single-player content on offer that I’d need another three paragraphs to talk about them, and then I’d have to dive into the auction house mechanics and the way the garage works, and as mentioned before I haven’t really touched the multiplayer aspect. There’s so much to do and see in this game that I’ve found myself wanting to play it more than GT Sport, or any other game for that matter.

And despite the issues I’ve had with getting it to run on Windows 10, or to even register on my account, I keep coming back for more.  This is DiRT 2-levels of addictive, and there’s a ton of replayability for collectors and completionists. If this is in your Christmas stocking this year, you’re in for a great time.

90 Petrol heads, just buy this already. It’s worth every cent on either platform, and there’s so much to do here that it’s enough to keep you busy until the next one.

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