Forza Motorsport 7: Hands-on preview
When Microsoft unveiled its brand new superpowered Xbox console at this week's E3 event in Los Angeles, they needed a seriously gorgeous game to show off exactly what it was capable of.
The fact they opted to go with Forza Motorsport 7 as the first game running with native 4K graphics on their new machine tells you all you need to know about how visually impressive it is.
Unfortunately, Stuff's native video player only runs in standard HD, but if you've got an ultra HD monitor, check out the video below for an idea of just how pretty it looks. The level of detail is stunning but the frame rate is just as vital; running at a rock-solid 60 fps adds smoothness to the sharpness.
Silky animation is all-important in driving games; hooning about at high speed and executing precise overtaking moves is a heck of a lot easier when the action isn't stuttering and juddering like a learner driver at the traffic lights.
So, while it's a given that this is one of the most graphically advanced racing games ever made, like any high-end vehicle, all the oohs and ahhs don't count for much if it doesn't handle well.
I was lucky enough to get a solid hour's racing time at E3 this week as well as sitting down with Turn 10 creative director Bill Giese to talk about the game's development.
On your marks, get set...
As soon as the green light flashes and your pedal hits the metal you're left in little doubt that you're in for a hell of a ride.
Driving the Porsche 911 GT2 (the same car unveiled on stage at the game's E3 launch), and starting at the wrong end of the grid, some gut-wrenching acceleration sends me rocketing into the rear end of at least three other other back markers.
Easing off the throttle and following the ever-helpful on-screen racing line, I learn to respect the monster's power and move through the back markers on Forza 7's new Dubai raceway.
* Microsoft unveils world's most powerful game console
* Fans' dream Pokemon game is finally coming
* PlayStation announces dozens of major new games
Scratches and scuffs are displayed in high definition as I trade paint with some stubborn mid-pack opponents. Clouds from the game's dynamic weather system cast shadows on the track and highlight the subtle lighting effects as clouds of sand are kicked up by cars cutting corners.
Hitting the first serious straight and finally feeling confident enough to floor it, I get a real feel of the GT's horsepower as I hit 200kmh in a matter of seconds. I'm in podium position but battling to get past the second-place Maserati who is employing some impressive defensive driving techniques for an AI opponent.
As we hit the tunnel, the lights dim and the sounds echo, a gap opens up, I floor it and leave him for dust. The first place Ferrari is a long way ahead but I can feel myself closing in. With no more pesky opponents to worry about, I focus on my line and braking and soon narrow the gap.
As we approach the end of the first lap I've got him in my sights. I power past and suddenly I'm the leader of the pack. With nothing in front of me I'm free to soak in the sunshine and scenery of Dubai as confetti cannons explode and jets taxi across the runway of the airport in the distance.
It's a glorious day for a race win, but more importantly, this is a racing game that feels as good as it looks. If you've played any of the six previous Forza games, that's probably no surprise but this really is a genuine leap forward for the franchise.
Turn 10's Bill Giese, creative director on Forza Motorsport 7 told me that designing their new game in 4K forced them to go back to their roots and re-evaluate what a Forza game is all about.
"We've really tried to reimagine everything," he said.
"From the driving experience to the campaign, to how we cater for our community. With 4.8 million monthly active users, we have one of the largest racing communities in the world, and with this game, we're going to unite them on one server"
"One of the main things we wanted to reimagine was the campaign and we know our players love progression and they want authenticity. So we built this massive driver's club championship where you'll unlock exclusive gear and cars as you progress through the game.
"What's great is that there's six major championships and over 700 cars - and they're really diverse from Super GTs to rally heroes and pre-war racecars. The goal was realy to make sure that there's a car division that you love and a race series that you want," Giese said.
There's also a renewed emphasis on streamlining the experience and making sure downtime was used productively.
"The thing that players want to do most is race," Giese explained. "So while you're waiting for the track to load you can tune your car and change your settings all while you're waiting to get ready to hit the track."
"We've also designed this game as the first Forza that brings the driver out of the car. So while you're waiting to race you can customise your driver. We've also brought the Forzavista feature to the track so you can open up the car and examine every inch of it, trackside"
Giese also explained how Forza 7 was able to achieve such a fine level of detail when it came to digitally depicting real-life tracks from around the world.
"As we were building our content, we adopted a concept called photogrammetry. So we're using actual photos to recreate the geometry you see in the real world. What this allowed us to do was use laser-scanned data from these locations to and actually capture those tiny imperfections in the track.adding even more realism.
"So techniques like that give us something that not only looks great on Xbox One X in 4K, but a game that looks better on multiple platforms.
Giese was also keen to double down on the game's dynamic weather effects and how that makes every race different depending on the climate and conditions.
"Motorsport racing is all about precision and efficiency - what's your line? So as you're racing you get to learn circuits and try to be consistent. With dynamic skies and cloud shadows, it's incredible how that changes the experience. Light hits the track differently from lap to lap, when it's raining you'll see puddles expanding in real time and have to adapt your driving style to deal with the conditions," Giese said.
"It wasn't just environments. We've gone into great detail touching up the cockpits of all 700 cars, right down to the mirrors, the windshield wipers and the way the car physics makes the cockpit rattle on impact.
"A car like this [The Porsche GT2] is built for weight reduction, so you'll see exposed wires and netting rattling around as you're racing.
"As we were doing this, we really started to see the unique personalities of the cars shine through. Some have a real racetrack feel, others are heavy, some are built for comfort and you really get to appreciate that from the cockpit view."
Forza Motorsport 7 is still a work in progress and there's a lot of development yet to be done before it releases on October 3, conveniently on the same day as the Xbox One X. From what we've seen so far, it looks almost certain to be the front-runner in terms of cutting edge racing games.