Every two years, Turn 10 Studios greets us with a new Forza Motorsport instalment into the long running series, and this year it’s the seventh release and potentially the most important yet. The Xbox One console has not only been out for three years, but we also have the Xbox One X on the horizon, where Microsoft’s flagship titles will look and perform better than ever before and Forza Motorsport 7 will be at the forefront of their enticing line-up. However, even with all those demanding variables to contend with, this month just so happens to be the latest release of Forza’s influencer and key competitor, Gran Turismo Sport. So with so much to contend with, does Forza Motorsport 7 fly past the finishing line ahead of the pack or does it stall at the starting grid?

At first glance, even playing on the Xbox One S, Forza 7 is a treat to our tinkling eyes. It arguably has a level of detail, interior and exterior, that is quite possibly unrivalled in its current genre, although having played GT Sport I’d say the PS4 rival is the better looking of the two. However, with Forza 7 containing a whopping 700+ cars, the high level of visual detail is ever more impressive, when you consider the larger scale of cars that are on offer in the Xbox big gun.

It should come as no surprise that not only does Forza 7 play like a dream, but comes equipped with many settings to alter the games difficulty such as breaking, steering support and Drivatar difficulties, allowing you to adjust the challenge at hand as you grow used to the games competitive nature. Sure, the Forza series has never been to the simulation standard as the Project Cars or the DiRT series, but as it always has and does so here, it offers quite possibly the finest balance between arcade and sim, making Forza 7 arguably the most accessible game in its genre. In that respect, with the sublime gameplay and pristine visuals, Forza Motorsport 7 is one of the best games the genre has to offer.

However, as good as Forza 7 plays and looks, it’s not without its issues, all of which are very avoidable. The first issue comes with the custom settings that are on offer, or more accurately, were on offer. In previous games you could change settings such as the weather, ABS, camera perspective and so forth. You can still change most of those settings, but you may not get the same or any credit rewards that we received in previous games. Now in Forza 7, if you wanted to earn more credits by adjusting the assist, weather or time of day, in most cases the only way you can do this is by applying a mod card.

Mod cards were introduced in Forza 6 and to be honest, I didn’t mind them. Especially as they weren’t the only way to change some of the settings that we expected to be able to change as and when. It makes sense to me that you could earn extra credits by making it rain on the track (which by the way, the dynamic weather looks awesome), but by having the only way you could change the weather, regardless of credit bonus being tied to the mod cards, takes away a custom and a level of restriction that fans are not used to, and I don’t like that change all that much if I’m being honest. On the flip-side, I do like how the mod cards would offer you extra bonuses for driving in the steering wheel perspective or by finishing on the podium. I also like earning more for driving in harsher conditions, I just wish that being able to change features such as the weather, wasn’t tied exclusively to the mod cards during a career to earn extra credits.

A lot of these mod cards are earned via loot boxes or “Prize Crates” as they’re known here, which can be earned by career progression or real-world money. I’m not a fan of the real-world loot box formula, so I do avoid them altogether and being the tight individual that I am, I horde my in-game career earnings unless there’s a car that I really want, which by the way, some cars are only earned via the loot boxes, which sucks, because they should all be achievable in the traditional way in my opinion. However, despite its discrepancies, Forza 7 does reward the player quite a lot as you level-up though its career and more.

When the player reaches a new level, whether that’s via XP progression or adding more cars to your garage, at each level-up, you are offered the choice of bonus credits, a car or an outfit for your Drivatar. As I’ve already mentioned, with my being quite tight with my credits, I never really have a need to choose the bonus credits, as I often have enough. The Drivatar gear to me is almost completely pointless, as you never really see your driver anyway (and nor does anyone else), so I most often than not pick a brand new car to add to my ever increasing garage.

Other features that have changed, or more accurately I should say have been removed, is the bog standard Time Trial, which is a very common and expected feature in the genre, and the removal of Rivals, a new and popular feature that was introduced into this series a while back. The removal of the simple, yet popular Time Trial is a baffling choice, though you could argue that you could create a custom race and time yourself, but it’s not the same, especially when it comes to beating other player’s times on the online leadboards. Also, Rivals was a great feature, much like Time Trial, but here a ghost of your friend’s car could appear during a race, offering an instant challenge to beat their times on the fly. Turn 10 or Microsoft hasn’t said outright at the time of writing whether these modes will be added at a later date, but I hope they do, especially as they are two modes you’d naturally expect to see at launch.

Now, I’d be the first to admit that when it comes to online racing, while I find it fun depending on the game, I’m pretty average when it comes to racing against other real-world player’s. I’ve recently been playing GT Sport online and while the game does a great job in detecting genuine or deliberate collisions from other players, in my experience, the conduct of the races are more gentlemanly than others. Sadly in my experience with the Forza Motorsport series, whether it’s this latest instalment or previous entries, the race is full of players who would seemingly prefer to ram you off the track (even if it backfires on them), rather than attempting to win the race more fairly.

In more cases than not, the start-off grid resembles something more like a Destruction Derby, then a fair and competitive race, and if you make it though that opening unscathed, you can pretty much guarantee that someone will try to knock you off the track at some point, instead of just trying to overtake the normal way.  This might very well be someone else’s idea of fun in online races, and if so, then I’m happy for you, but it’s not why I want to play racing games online, especially with a series like Forza. So this is a mode that I’ll be avoiding in the foreseeable future, unless I can gather some friends for an online race.

Forza Motorsport 7 is quite possibly the trickiest entry in the series to review for quite some time, because it has so much going for it and against it. On the plus side, as a pure gameplay experience, it’s an absolutely sublime game that is difficult to fault and it’s so much fun. On top of that, the game looks absolutely gorgeous, especially when playing on the Xbox One S as I am. So I can only imagine how stunning the game looks and runs on a top-end PC and of course on the Xbox One X later in the year.

It also has a varied career mode that offers a variety of race disciplines, from hatchbacks, to luxury sports cars, to rally, race trucks and much more. But then against it, it has the restrictions brought on by the mod cards, as well as some missing features and modes. It’s fair to say that if you are still enjoying Forza Motorsport 6, then perhaps stick with it and wait for a Forza 7 price drop, but while this entry is at times a breathtaking game to play, at least for now, it just misses the mark on the greatness that the series deserves.