Forza Motorsport 7 Is Top Dog Among Many Good Racing Games [E3 2017 Preview]

As an automotive and racing game enthusiast, I'm always excited to check out a new Forza game each year at E3. Admittedly, its improvements over time are more incremental than the quantum leaps of the Gran Turismo series. On the plus side, we don't have to wait aeons for each game as it's on a strict two-year cycle.

Nonetheless, what I saw of Forza Motorsport 7 at E3 was remarkable, to a point where I'm still thinking about it several days later. It's making improvements to nearly ever facet of the experience, particularly the ones where Turn 10 Studios has received the most feedback, and while no change is gargantuan, together these additions culminate into something extremely attractive.

Our Forza Motorsport 7 demo began with a live race on the featured Dubai track that winds through scorching hot desert hills. This particular track has several configurations, with the one demonstrated being almost Nurburgring-like with thin, windy roads that serve as a playground for experienced racers who derive enjoyment from perfecting their lines, and overtaking opponents with only inches of spacing. Its climate provides plenty of simulative possibilities as reduced visibility from sand blowing on the track poses a concern, and the durability of car tires can be tested on its hot asphalt.

"Good gosh this game looks gorgeous", was the first thing I thought to myself. This sort of reaction from me is usually only reserved for when an upcoming AAA game is being run on a high-end gaming PC, but this time around I was being impressed by a demo on a console. But not just any ordinary console. Rather, the upcoming Xbox One X. Miraculously, its 6 TFLOP capable GPU and over 8GB of GDDR5 were able to run an early build of the game at 4K and 60 FPS with absolutely no flaws that my eyes could see. I'd go as far as to say that Forza Motorsport 7 was the most visually striking game of any that I saw at this year's E3.

While to some degree this is purely eye candy, it does have gameplay implications. One such example is the introduction of dynamic clouds and weather modeling. Forza Motorsport 7 will be the first racing game ever to offer dynamic cloud processing, which not only ensures that the environment around you is truly unpredictable, but also alters the location of shadows as you race around the track. This means that you'll find yourself hitting corners every now and then with much different visibility than during prior laps. Try not to lose your focus, or pay the price.

Even barring this neat addition, having great graphics for a racing game is particularly important, and goes well beyond just bragging rights for the title. Racing games are a way for automotive enthusiasts like myself to admire the most beautiful machines ever created by man. Using Forzavista to hop into a car like the newly announced Porsche 911 GT2 RS, revving the engine, and checking out what the interior looks like in such a believable environment is an experience in and of itself.

Forza Motorsport 7 was the most visually striking game of any that I saw at this year's E3.

On the note of interiors, Forza Motorsport 7's cockpits are getting a lot of attention. For one, you can use a new cockpit view that is pushed up closer to the windshield, providing greater visibility for racing wheel and controller users alike—farewell, hood camera. Also, time has been invested in making the cockpit experience as lifelike as possible. As a result, you'll be able to see and hear car panels vibrate as you turn, and the camera shakes ever-so-slightly due to the imperfections on the road as you carve around the track. Even sitting 8 feet away from the screen, I was able to see these smaller details during the live demonstration, and frankly, I was blown away by how close it emulates real world conditions.

As usual, you can expect a bulking up of the vehicle and track list: Forza Motorsport 7 will boast 700 cars and 30 track with 200~ different layouts. Puddles are being brought back along with night modes and other core additions of the prior game to encourage diversity of racing experiences. Oh, and loading screens are interactive, allowing you to modify your car configuration and more while your hard drive is busy getting all the files ready.

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Additionally, there are Driver Suits. These allow you to choose from a large selection of real-world and fantasy inspired racers to express each racer. So long are the days of having a generic driver in each car, now you can collect and use a person of your choice, either Male or Female.

But arguably the most important detail I learned during the demonstration was how progression is being visually represented. Beyond just completing championships with a great degree of freedom, trophies and banners will find their way into your home as you continue your success on the track. While in prior games the size of your garage was the only true indicator of the long road you have traveled, this time around you'll build up a well-decorated garage that incentivizes continued efforts. This is one area of Forza that I was hoping to see improvement, and it has.

After checking out all the racing games at E3, from Project Cars 2 in Nvidia's booth to EA's Need for Speed Payback, I'm convinced that Forza Motorsport 7 is the most compelling of the bunch. It's beautiful, has a lot of great ideas, and, despite being several months out from release, already looks like a complete product with an attention to detail that is simply unrivaled among 2017's list of racing games.

You can expect its release on October 3rd for PC and Xbox One.