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Forza Motorsport 7 Review: What Could Have Been

Having been a PC only player for many years, I missed out on all of the Forza series prior to 2016, when Microsoft, Turn 10 Studios, and Playground Games brought Forza Horizon 3 over to Windows 10. I was immediately drawn to the game and its reverence for driving at high speeds. Unfortunately, Forza Horizon 3 had performance issues at launch for PC users and I chose to upgrade my PC in an effort to brute force my way to 60fps. Eight months after release, Horizon 3 was patched to include multi-threaded CPU optimization, which fixed everything and lowered the system requirements for the game. Forza Motorsport 7 has arrived after assurances from Turn 10 Studios that it was “built from the ground up for PC”, but after my time with the Windows 10 version of the game, crippling performance issues have me feeling Déjà vu.

A Presentation Polished to a Deep Shine

Forza Motorsport 7 is the culmination of years long work and progress towards building the ultimate simcade driving experience. It offers an impressive overall presentation that conveys the feeling of enthusiasm from the development team towards racing and car culture. The game’s menus, cutscenes, and audio work together to create an atmosphere that gives the player a taste what it is like to be ingrained within the top levels of motorsport. Forza 7 is bursting at the seams with content and manages to package it in an attractive and easy to parse presentation.

Players interested in the full rundown of features included can easily Google search one of the many pieces of pre-release coverage. The short version is that you get around 700 vehicles to collect and drive across 32 environments. Some of these locales offer multiple track configurations and all of them can be run in reverse. There is no shortage of places to race and any players feeling underwhelmed by the selection of cars will struggle to find a better alternative elsewhere.

Prague offers breathtaking views if you have time to notice

Hitting the Pavement

Forza Motorsport 7 offers a career mode as the main attraction of its single player experience. At the beginning, the player chooses to be a faceless male or female driver and selects one of three outfit colors. You are presented with multiple collections of homologated race series that make up the progression of them mode. Winning these series earns points that are required to unlock the next tier of races. Peppered throughout these multiple race series are one-off showcase events that give players a chance to acquire special cars, provided that the proposed challenge is completed.

Outside of the career mode, a free race option is available. The full assortment of tracks and configurations is at your disposal and offers the chance to fully customize an event. You can elect to bring any of the cars you have purchased or won into these races. If you do not own a compliant vehicle for a given event, a selection of eligible cars will be provided for rental at no cost. My Garage is where all your hot rides are stored. From this menu, cars can be oogled via the ForzaVista feature, allowing you to walk around and inspect the cars close up. Upgrades and parts can be purchased for almost every vehicle. Some of the cars also offer additional visual upgrades like bumpers, skirts, and even full body conversion kits. Many of the parts, including wheels, body kits, and spoilers, are licensed from the real-world manufacturers.

A rainy day at Homestead

Getting Up to Speed

All the features and options in the world don’t mean much if the cars aren’t fun to drive. Lucky for us, Forza Motorsport 7 offers a driving feel that is second to none if you prefer its extremely light sim approach. Initially, the game starts with all of its driving assists enabled, including stability control, traction control, automatic braking, and more. While you can certainly progress through the game in that configuration, you are missing out on the joy of experiencing what each of the cars has to offer. As I moved through the career mode, I turned off one of the assists after each race until I was only using automatic transmission and friction control (used to keep you alive in wet conditions). Struggling through early parts of a race and then slowly finding the car is an experience that never gets old and is incredibly rewarding, especially if you also happen to win the race.

The game has been meticulously tuned around the Xbox One S controller and it shows. Out of the box, everything feels “right” when using the One S pad, though it is to the detriment of keyboard and especially wheel users. While Forza 7 supports most of the major wheel hardware, expecting it to be anything close to a plug and play operation will result in frustration. Plan on constant trial and error while working to get dead zones, wheel rotation, and force feedback dialed in. Forza Horizon 3 worked the same way and ultimately offered a superior experience for players using the controller. Forza Motorport 7 is one of the few PC games that takes advantage of the rumble trigger functionality provided by the One S pad and it really adds to the experience. I found myself missing it badly while reviewing Project Cars 2 last week.

Here is me attempting to do it for Shacknews

Pouring Engine Oil Into The Transmission

As touched on in the opening, Forza on the PC has a history of shaky performance at launch. I experienced stutters and problems with Horizon 3 and the Forza Motorport 7 demo featured some serious stutters and hitches, especially during menus and cutscenes. Sadly, what ever issue is causing the problem is in the full game as well. I went through the first couple of races and thought I felt some slight hitching and those thoughts were confirmed as it seemed to get worse the more I played.

All of the well done presentation and menu transitions lost any effectiveness due to constant stutter. Disabling v-sync seemed to help sometimes, but introduced excessive tearing. The in-game framerate locks offered no relief. I ran a few races using MSI’s Afterburner overlay to give me a visual representation of the game’s frame pacing and it showed what I had previously seen and felt in the gameplay. There were stretches of rock-solid performance that would then be crippled with sudden drops to 0fps. I checked my CPU usage and noticed that virtually all of the load was parked onto one core. In addition to the stuttering and hitching, the game will also completely freeze the PC for 4-6 second intervals and then return to moving like nothing was wrong. These freezes happen in races and in the static main menus as well. No part of the PC is useable during these freezes, including the mouse cursor or keyboard shortcuts.

I was in contact with support about my issues overnight and went through the various troubleshooting steps. Even running the game with all system processes (save for mission critical stuff) disabled or stopped did not alleviate the issue. I also chose to re-install the game completely from the Windows 10 Store (at the cost of another 100GB of bandwidth) with no success in curbing the problems.

A GTR slices through a late-eveing overcast race in Virginia

A Monster Under the Hood

Seeing these types of performance issues again after going through them with Horizon 3 sucks. When the game is not stuttering or freezing, it runs like a champion. I have no doubts whatsoever that Microsoft will have this title running at a native 4K with 60fps on the upcoming Xbox One X console. While the PC I reviewed Forza 7 on is very powerful compared to the average gaming PC, the performance I was getting was eye-popping. On the first start, the game defaults to its new dynamic rendering settings. This option allows the game to intelligently toggle graphics options on the fly in order to meet a performance target specified by the user (typically 60fps). You can choose to set each graphics option individually or pick and choose certain settings to run dynamically. These options are incredibly cool to a PC graphics and hardware enthusiasts like myself and I’d love to see more game take this approach.

For my playthrough, I elected to manually push all settings to their limits. I ran the game at 4K and elected to enable 8xMSAA. Using the included frame cap, a 60fps lock was easily achieved at these ridiculously high settings. I decided to restart the game and use the Afterburner tool to check my performance using the unlocked framerate option with these crazy settings. Outside of the hitching, the game ran at a steady 135-150fps at 4K with 8xMSAA and I was still not hitting 100% GPU utilization, leading me to believe that my CPU was holding back the GPU’s full potential. Simply put, Forza Motorsport 7 is likely to be the most well-optimized PC title for 2017. An ultra 4K 60fps experience is in the cards not just for players with $700 graphics cards, but for players with GTX 970, GTX 1060, and RX480 GPUs. If only there was no stutter…

Waving the White Flag

Objectively, Forza Motorsport 7 is an excellent game. It has the looks, the sounds, and the feel of a champion. In my opinion, it does not look as good as Forza Horizon 3 in many areas, but I can overlook that due to how it is structured and how well it performs. I don’t believe it is as good a game as Forza Horizon 3, despite having much better tracks, but would not hesitate to recommend the console version to any driving game fan. Had I not experienced the aforementioned performance issues, I would be inclined to give Forza Motorsport 7 my highest recommendation for PC players. As things stand now, I cannot give it any higher than a 6/10. If a patch arrives in a timely fashion (the 8 months it took to fix Horizon 3 is unacceptable) that addresses the performance problems, I would have no issues with a 9/10.


This review is based on a PC code provided by the publisher. Forza Motorsport 7 is available today for Ultimate Edition pre-orders and October 3 on Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs.

System specs : i7 7700K, GTX 1080 Ti, 16GB 3200Mhz DDR4, Windows 10 Creator’s Update, nVidia 385.69 WHQL

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Forza Motorsport 7

6
not bad
  • Loads of content
  • Excellent driving feel
  • New weather system
  • Car customization is A+
  • Potentially amazing optimization
  • Game-breaking stutters and freezes
  • Loot boxes
  • Lackluster wheel support