Last year, the much delayed and hotly anticipated Gran Turismo 5 was finally released for the Playstation 3. Fans of the series were pleased by its high level of quality, though most were a bit bothered by how inconsistent the game was across its various features. Some things were fleshed out, and others were bare-bones. Meanwhile, Xbox 360 driving enthusiasts were still putting hundreds of hours into Forza Motorsport 3. While the game may not have looked quite as good as its PS3 competitor, it still offered a complete and consistent experience. Microsoft and Turn 10 Studios have now released the much anticipated sequel to Forza 3, and consistency and quality seem to be the name of the game yet again.
What Is It?
Forza Motorsport 4 is Microsoft's flagship racing title for the Xbox 360. It tries to be all things to all people. Normally this isn't ever a good idea, but somehow Forza 4 manages to be accessible, deep, beautiful, and social while not overdoing any one element. It has an in-depth simulation model for those that want the most realistic driving physics possible. If you just want to drive around, you have a comprehensive suite of driving assists, and a Kinect-enabled mode where you pretend to hold a steering wheel. For the kids, this will most likely be a lot of fun. However, if you want to play with a steering wheel controller, Fanatec has released a new wheel optimized for Forza 4.
What Makes It Worth My Time & Money?
The first and most important thing to realize about Forza 4 is the new, more realistic tire physics model. In a collaboration between Turn 10 and tire maker Pirelli, Forza Motorsport 4 incorporates Pirelli's extensive tire testing data. The end result is that the cars feel a lot more like you would expect them to. This means that you can now drive the cars a lot harder than you could in Forza 3 before they will lose traction.
There are many modes available for you to play. Fans of single player will be treated to an extensive World Tour mode that takes you around the world, racing on both real world and fictional tracks. On each stop of the tour you will have the choice of three different events. These events change based on the cars you have available to you in your garage and the car you are currently driving. Completing races earns you Experience points which work towards your driver level as well as your Manufacturer Affinity level, which is a new feature in Forza 4. Unlike the previous game's Car Level where you could earn small discounts on upgrade parts, Forza 4 changes it from a per-car to a per-manufacturer level. You do not have to drive a specific car to level it up; you simply have to drive any car from that manufacturer. The rewards are discounts on upgrade parts and cash bonuses per level- a much better system than the previous one.
Forza 4 sports a roster of over 400 cars. Unlike its competitor Gran Turismo 5, Forza 4 has interior views for every single one of them, as well as high polygon count models. There is no Standard or Premium confusion to be had here. Every car in Forza 4 looks stunning. There's more of that consistency I alluded to earlier. The game's visuals on the whole have improved markedly since Forza 3 as well. The level of detail in the environments has gone up dramatically, and this is accentuated by the game's very clever use of lighting. You do not have a 24-hour day/night cycle in Forza 4, but races do take place at different times of day, and the look of the tracks and cars change depending on the sun's position. That's a rather nice touch. Unfortunately Forza 4 does not have any weather changes or options of that sort yet.
Why Should I Care?
Turn 10 has put a lot of effort into creating what they believe is the best racing game on the market. In many ways it is. It has a fantastically realistic driving model, yet at the same time it offers numerous assists to help newcomers get into the groove. It has tons of cars, and it has content from the BBC show Top Gear. For those that want to explore the cars, the game features a unique AutoVista mode which lets you walk around, get into, and find out about some of the cars in the game. Along with all of that, Forza 4 has a suite of online modes and features, from the Rivals challenges to the now mandatory Auction House. These online features though are Forza 4's weak point at the moment. Turn 10's back-end servers have been under a lot of strain lately, and they have been up and down nearly constantly.
Aside from Forza 4's few rough edges, it is the closest thing to the perfect racing game that we have seen to date. It may even be enough to convert a few die-hard Gran Turismo players. At the very least, it's a must-have for any Xbox 360 racing enthusiast.