The first few hours of Forza are intoxicating as credits are stuffed into your hand, the upgrade possibilities are seemingly endless, and each race takes you one step closer to…something. Get settled in, however, and the fussy structure and changes from previous Forzas become irksome as they limit what you can do with the cars in your garage in favor of continually pushing you to purchase new ones. Which is a shame, because once again the on-track experience is great.
Forza 7’s Forza Driver’s Cup single-player campaign is organized into six championships that contain multiple divisions or racing series. The majority of these series contain a string of races, with each contributing to your overall place in the division. Finishing enough divisions unlocks the next championship (like Forza 6 it’s linear). Doing well each step of the way gets you credits and increases your driver level, which unlocks driving suits, credits, or cars. The game also layers on mods that can increase your credit output; a car-collection rating that opens up new cars to buy, and which also earns you credits; and prize crates you can purchase that contain a random assortment of driver gear, mods, icon badges for your drivatar – and possibly a car.
At first I was just happy to progress my driver level, win a few cars, and feel financially secure. But the more I progressed the more restricted I felt in what I could do with my cars. It’s not like the old days, where you have to grind and re-race a very limited number of races to continue. Instead, cars are restricted by the division they can race in, and each car can only race in one division. Upgrades can be bought, but the car itself can only be augmented within the division restrictions and not upgraded or raced in other classes. Thus, your ability to upgrade your car is limited unless you want to race it outside of your career in free play.
This makes cars disposable, since they are only eligible for their designated division and a handful of open-class races (as long as they aren’t upgraded past their class). They can be taken online and raced against cars of a similar level (a process called homologation) via Turn 10’s strictly defined multiplayer lobbies called hoppers, but that requires the developer to have created a hopper that accommodates your car. At the time of this writing in the first week of the game, there were six hoppers created, and out of the 30 cars in my garage, only four could race in multiplayer. Cars can be rented, but you don’t get XP or credits for races, and there is still no way for players to create public lobbies, only private ones.
Not only are cars disposable, but the credits to buy them, while seemingly free-flowing, are restricted as well. The mod system introduced last year boosts the credits you can earn per race, but mods are now limited in use and can only be found in random prize crates, which themselves cost credits. Turn 10 says that after launch real-money can be paid for tokens that work like in-game credits, which, in conjunction with the need to own lots of cars due to the division restrictions and other parameters outlined above, puts pressure on you to spend real money and/or grind to get the cars you want.
This isn’t shockingly evil, but it’s not how things were done in past Forza games. It reinforces the feeling that Forza 7 is about jumping through credit-draining hoops and navigating structural detours instead of getting out of players’ way. I don’t have to buy prize crates for mods (I’m certainly not buying them for the driver jumpsuits), but then I’m not making as many credits per race. I’d like to upgrade my favorite cars and become attached to them because I can race them in more divisions and classes, but that’s not possible. Even if I wanted my garage to be more about quantity I’m even gated from buying cars through a collection tier system that only unlocks faster depending on how many cars you’ve already bought.
Sadly, all this distracts from how great Forza is on the track, how good the trigger vibration feels when you test out a car’s limits, and how gorgeous the dynamic weather is when it starts to rain and when racing at night. Unfortunately, Forza 7 finds itself in a similar position as Forza 6 – a title that performs well on the track, but disappoints off of it. This many iterations in the franchise’s life, I wish we still weren’t waiting for its best version or missing features from previous entries. However, this is the road we’re on.