Hands On: Forza Motorsport 7 (Xbox One X, 2017) feels equal parts tentpole release and tech demo, but isn’t torn between them

It is a truth universally acknowledged that powerful new video game consoles must be in want of a pretty racing game for their launch lineup.

Last week at the Xbox One X Showcase event in Sydney, we were given a substantial amount of time to dig into a pre-release build of Forza Motorsport 7. The release of Microsoft’s platform exclusive racing series so close to the launch of the company’s vaunted Xbox One X hardware will be a familiar one for longtime Xbox devotees. Microsoft has a long history of using racing titles as show reels for new hardware. Forza‘s been the go-to in this regard for years. Before that, it was Project Gotham (which these days quietly continues under the Forza Horizon banner).

Forza Horizon 7 appears to continue the trend of being the Xbox One X’s big show-and-tell piece featuring native 4K resolution and textures to match, HDR lighting and running at a rock solid 60 frames-per-second. I feel like we drag this phrase out with each new iteration of the Forza series but it’s always true — this is as close to photo-realism in a game as anything I’ve seen. The Forza 7 team are doing things with light, particles and weather effects that make my brain insist what we’re looking at is real. The way rain beads on the car’s bonnet as you hurtle through a storm at breakneck speed, the way the sunlight makes your paintwork gleam and sparkle as you move about the track — its all quite remarkable. That it can achieve all of these good looks and lock performance at 60 frames is a testament to the Xbox One X’s over-the-top hardware. If this is the baseline for what games built from the ground up to run on Xbox One X look like, then I wonder what this hardware will be capable of when developers really start to push it.

In terms of how it felt to play, Forza 7 will make returning fans feel at home right away. There can be a sense in AAA development that innovation-for-innovation’s sake is better than no change at all, but there’s still something to be said for the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Developer Turn 10 Studios figured out the ideal control scheme and HUD setup years ago and, quite rightly, haven’t felt the need to change them up much since. Forza 7 continues this tradition.  The haptic feedback in the Xbox One controller still feels as buzzy and responsive as ever, giving you a bump for every little motion and correction the vehicle makes. All of this means that you can leap straight into the game and be racing competitively within only moments. It’s all very natural.

Forza Motorsport 7 is billed in all of Xbox’s marketing as “the most comprehensive automotive game ever made” and this assertion doesn’t feel wide of the mark. Just talking to devs and brand evangelists on hand, it was clear that the game had a lot of content to offer the player from individual vehicles plucked from every era of motoring history to tracks around the world both new and old. While we only had a limited time to spend with the game, we look forward to getting our hands on it for a more comprehensive review in just a few weeks time.

Forza Motorsport 7 is an Xbox One exclusive. It launches on October 3, 2017 and will be among the first official Xbox One X Enhanced titles.