I wouldn’t call car lovers an endangered species, especially when referring to Forza Motorsport 4. Since its debut on the original Xbox, it has quickly grown in popularity to the point that its predecessor, Forza Motorsport 3, is the highest rated simulation racing game this generation. While its main rivals have disappointed and fallen behind, does Forza cross the checkered flag or does it lose its grip right at the finish line?
Forza Motorsport 4 wants you to experience this game quickly. As soon as your treated to the opening cinematic narrated by the guy everyone loves to hate, Jeremy Clarkson, you get behind the wheels of a Ferrari 458 on the Bermese Alps. It isn’t long before you realise why you are thrown right in; the game is absolutely stunning to look at. The detail on the car has to be seen to be believed. After a couple of corners, I was at the top of a hill and was met with one of the best views I’ve ever seen in a game. Before me there were snow-capped mountains and others covered in lush greenery; I just wanted the park the car and have a look around.
But I didn’t. I got on with the race and won. Then the whole game opened up to me and although the main menu is just filled with half a dozen options, it isn’t long before you realise how deep each menu goes. A menu can easily have five or six sub-menus and you can find yourself lost. To rectify this, Turn 10 have added voice command for players who have Kinect. You can tell the Kinect exactly where you want to go in the game. Kinect has more functions but more about that later.
The career mode has changed slightly since the last iteration. Instead of picking series of races to fill the gap between championships, there are a set number of events all over the world. You don’t get to choose the location, but you do choose the class of cars used. This all comes down to what cars you have in your garage. For people who have Forza Motorsport 3, they can import their save when they begin the game and receive their cars and a credit bonus to get things started. If this is the case, it won’t be long before you are racing around circuits in high-end cars like he Audi R8.
Top Gear have a deeper integration than just the name and track. There are Top Gear challenges as well as modes inspired by the hit TV show like the star in a reasonably priced car. Jeremy Clarkson lends his voice to the game to add a bit of humour to the Autovista mode when describing the luxurious cars.
The career modes spans 10 years and will easily take dozens of hours to complete. As you win races, you earn XP. Now when you choose events, there are bonuses attached to most of them. These can range to a 1,000 XP bonus to a random amount, or even a percentage of what you earned. Once again, as you level up you earn XP. You can earn XP though through rivals mode.
This new mode lets you go up against ghosts of other players with different skill ranks. Each challenge starts off relatively easy but as you beat the ghost, doing the same challenge again will be tougher keeping the difficulty strong.
It will take hundreds of hours to hit the cap of level 150. What has slightly changed in the affinity level. In Forza 3, your car could be levelled up to level 5. Each time you level it up, you earn bonuses like cheaper parts for that car. In this game however, you level up the level of the car manufacturers, rather than just the car. This creates a greater connection to the car you’re driving and may lead to an alliance with a particular manufacturer.
The content is the game is quite mind-blowing. There are will over 100 circuits and 500 cars. You may race on every track eventually after quite some time, but chances are you are never going to get the chance to drive every car, but that’s the point. Within the mass of cars at your disposal, you should find a handful that feel great to the type of player you are.
But driving isn’t the only side to Forza. You can design decals or vinyls for your car. There is every sort of editor at your disposal in Forza and it’s easily the deepest found in any racing game. Lead designer at Turn 10, Dan Greenawalt said before that the percentage of people who race and who design cars is 50/50. There’s a huge reason for it too: The storefront. The designers of great decals can make enough credits to buy all the cars in the game without ever having to do a single career race.
If you are rally into cars then the tuning is for you. This is where the hardcore car lovers may spend their time getting the most out of the supercars. It goes very deep in every single part of the car so if you are not an expert at car mechanics, then stay clear, or at least check it out and see how much you can change the feel of the car.
So there’s three different types of players that may play Forza 4. How can you help each other out? Car clubs. In these clubs you can share cars, designs and more. If you have different members that are good at their own discipline, then you will take over the online space. It’s not all competition though because it can just be a place where you and your friends can hang out and share cars between each other.
I mentioned above that Forza 4 has Kinect features. After playing around with them for some time, it’s quite easy to say that this is the best integration of Kinect used in a game. None of it is essential, but it makes the game even more fun. Players who don’t have Kinect won’t be losing out on any of these features bar one: head-tracking. While playing a race, you can turn on headtracking. This allows you to look into corners to see how close you are to the apex. The best part of it is just how natural it feels. It never feel like you are jerking your head to make it work.
For the casual fan, there is racing using Kinect. You can allow the game to accelerate and brake whenever you want it to. Using your hands feels weird at first but it works really well. It can be pretty hard using the more powerful cars but it was created to be casual so more low end cars should be favoured.
The best Kinect feature though is Autovista mode. In this mode, you use Kinect the walk around the car leaning with your shoulder. If you walk towards the Kinect, you get closer to the car. You can use gestures to open the doors and look in at the engine, and even get in the car itself. Unfortunately not all cars are available in this mode, and the number that are is disappointingly low. Still, the cars used are incredible to look at.
In fact, the whole game is simply jaw-dropping. Forza 4 utilises a brand new Image Based Lighting system. Without going into details, it means all lighting and light sources are natural and dynamic. It doesn’t take long until you see the difference. Cars in sunlight glisten while rays dance across the dashboard when in helmet view. The locations have seen just as much care taken into them as the tracks themselves leading to some inspiring views.
It would be wrong to say that Forza Motorsport 4 is a racing game, just as much as I wouldn’t be doing it justice to say that this is a car game, or a car collection game. Forza 4 has so many options and features that it doesn’t just feel like a game; it feels like a platform. My experience with this game will be totally different to yours but one thing is certain: We will both love every moment of it.