Forza Motorsport 4 Review – Racing Refined
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
When Turn 10 gave us Forza Motorsport 3 in October 2009, I spent many hours with my favorite car on the Benchmark test track dialing it in for the absolute best in speed and handling that I possibly could. For the first time in many years, I was able to sit down and truly enjoy a racing game in all of its glory. FM3 also introduced a new set of features including one button assisted driving and the rewind feature.If you were looking for that perfect line, that rewind came in really handy. In many ways, Forza Motorsport 4 became the pinnacle achievement in a racing game. After I had finally managed to pull myself away for the last time, I thought there was no way that a racing game could be any better.`
However, Turn 10 has kindly served up a new helping for us to devour with Forza Motorsport 4. As for me, I’ll be enjoying mine with a nice, hot, steaming side of crow, to boot.
At first glance, Forza Motorsport 4 looks exactly like FM3 with an extra coat of wax; and for the most part, you would be right. However, if you take a closer look under the bonnet, you’ll find some exciting new features that add to the experience when you’re in the driver’s seat. For example, FM4 now sports Kinect functionality, allowing the less experienced drivers to partake in the fun of driving an Italia 458, Bugatti Veyron, or any other one of the 500 cars that are available in the game. While the experience is limited to just driving with the computer handling the braking and acceleration, it does open the door for those who find racing games too complicated to be able to just jump in and enjoy the fun. All the user has to do is hold up their hands as though wrapped around an imaginary steering wheel, and drive. You could draw comparisons to Microsoft’s Kinect Joy Ride, however you would be mistaken in thinking that Forza Motorsport would handle in the same clunky fashion. Driving an exotic car with your imaginary steering wheel never felt so accurate or natural as it does in FM4.
Likewise, FM4 now sports head tracking, which can be enabled while you’re using the standard controls or the Kinect device to drive. Head tracking allows you to tilt your head to the left or right to pan the view from the cockpit and see what’s next to you while you’re screaming down the track at one hundred plus miles per hour. This gives you an enhanced level of situational awareness which allows you to drive more precisely in a pack of cars without crashing into an unseen opponent. The head tracking options also allow you to tune Kinect to clip the background from its field of view in order to make sure that no ghosting takes place while you’re driving. The response to your movements is surprisingly quick with little lag experienced. The only real issue you may have is with the use of the Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel, which the Kinect device seemed to mistake as my head quite often. Most likely this is because I hold it up relatively high while I’m racing through the turns. But it is a bit annoying when Kinect continually tells me to sit up straight, or sit closer continuously while I’m tearing through the Fuimi Kaido Mountains.
If you were looking for car enthusiast fan service, Forza Motorsport 4 does a damn fine job of it. Having partnered with Top Gear (the UK one, not the crappy US one), the geniuses at Turn 10 have drizzled a fine layer of sweet, sweet, motor-head loveliness with access to the Lotus designed, Top Gear test track at Dunsfold Aerodrome. FM4 also comes with the Star In A Reasonably Price Car vehicles; the Kia C’eed (or as Mr. Clarkson likes to call it, the Cee Apostrophe Dee), the Suzuki Liana, and the Chevrolet Lancetti. So if you think you can beat Tom Cruise’s 1:44.2 track time in the C’eed, or Sebastian Vettel’s 1.44.0 track time in the Liana, you can give it a shot. There might even be an Achievement award in there for you!
You can also hear Jeremy Clarkson’s voice in Autovista, Forza Motorsport’s new feature which allows you to get up close and personal with the supercar of your choice. Using Kinect (or a controller if you must), you can walk around the car, taking in the minute details of the in-game models, such as the drilled and slotted carbon ceramic rotors nestled lovingly in the bright red Brembo brake calipers, through the spokes of the machined aluminum wheels. Or, take a deep dive into the Ferrari 458 Italia’s 562 horsepower 4.5 liter V8 engine, complete with wiring harness, with a wave of your hand over the points of interest. As you wave your hand over a select spot, Mr. Clarkson will regale you with vehicle specs, performance numbers, and his own experiences or thoughts on a given vehicle. This is by far the most amazing feature for the car enthusiast, allowing you to take in the details in an up-close-and-personal manner – an experience that you could only get by attending an event such as the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. That is, without getting arrested.
Oddly, Turn 10 has also included some fan service for the Halo crowd as well. The M12-FAV Warthog is available in Autovista mode. This vehicle isn’t actually drivable like the others, because, as Turn 10 has mentioned, the engine for Forza Motorsport 4 would have to be retooled to allow for the front and rear wheels to turn and it wouldn’t make sense to do this for a car that doesn’t even exist. Even Jeremy Clarkson sounded confused when he was reading the script for the Autovista tour. It doesn’t make any sense to add this vehicle in, especially since you can’t drive it. But it is Microsoft, and I suppose they want to drum up chit-chat about Halo wherever they can.
The vehicle selection in Forza 4 is simply immense. Classics such as the Ford Gt40, the ’69 Camaro Z28, to the modern supercars and everything in between have been included. My personal favorites, the Toyota MR2 MkI and MkII models, are available as well as the Toyota AE86 Trueno – which, if you haven’t seen Initial D, then you’re not a very good motor-head/geek. These are among the many vehicles that can be purchased, upgraded, tuned, and unleashed onto the track. Like FM4’s predecessor, there are a number of selections for upgrading the power train, suspension, tires and even body are available to increase the performance of your vehicle. The price of the parts depends on how often you race your car and gain the manufacturer’s favor. Discounts are applied to the cost as your manufacturer level, or Manufacturer Affinity, increases. Once you reach a certain point, all vehicle upgrades will become free from that manufacturer, allowing you to save up your pennies for an even more expensive piece of four-wheeled enjoyment. On top of that, the car maker of your choice will also send bonuses your way when your affinity goes up. You are, after all, making them look good and you should be rewarded for your deeds.
I wonder if I can get Chevy to give me money for beating the crap out of Mustangs in my front wheel drive Impala. Hmm..
Many of the cars will also allow you to install body kit parts from notable aftermarket manufacturers, allowing you to add another layer of customization to your cars look. However, be aware that if you’re looking for speed, adding that extra weight to the car can sacrifice performance. Once you’ve built your car the way that you want, you can then paint it any one of a billion colors that you’d prefer, and then add vinyls to it to style it out the way you would like. There are entire communities dedicated to creating custom vinyl applications on a car and the detail that they can get into, using the basic stamps made available, are absolutely insane. However, if you want to make an intricate custom design of your own, you can expect to spend a lot of time and even more patience, building it out.
While you can spend many hours decorating your car and making it generally faster, the one thing I found lacking was the ability to tune the engine to your liking. Yes, you can set the gear ratios, adjust the suspension or tire pressures, and even how the car brakes. But, what it really needs is a whole different section for the engine tuner. You know, those guys that will plug a laptop into your car and make it even faster? I would love nothing more than to be able to fine tune fuel air ratios or ignition timing to squeeze just a few more horses out of my car and really take it to the breaking point. Alas, it’s just not there.
Graphically, I think the screenshots speak for themselves. Turn 10 has very visibly put in a metric ton of blood, sweat and tears into turning up the graphics on their engine to the max. Every curve of shaped steel, stitch of cloth, and metal casting on every car is painstakingly detailed. Each environment is carefully crafted to be an almost exact replica of the original. Every straightaway is a sight to behold, every corner to be relished. The only exception that I found to this was with the Top Gear garage. It appears that the resolution of the camera that they used to capture this Motorist Mecca simply couldn’t keep up with the super high-resolution of the game’s graphics engine, bringing us another example of a digital world looking better than real life.
“But, how does it drive?” you may ask. In a word, wonderfully. While using a controller for a racing game isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, it does do the job. However, if you have the opportunity to grab a racing wheel and foot pedals, I would recommend that, hands down. Even the Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel performs admirably if you’re looking for a more immersive experience, but you simply don’t have the $200 to throw down for a full setup. Much like its predecessor, Forza Motorsport 4 can be configured to suit the needs of the driver. For the less experienced, the basic configuration will take care of braking and shifting for you, while the more advanced drivers can take full control of the vehicle, even going so far as to disable the traction and stability control to let the beast under the bonnet go ape crazy. Each of these settings can be selectively enabled or disabled allowing those that start at a basic level to progressively get themselves acclimated to the full driving experience as they see fit.
At the end of the day, Forza Motorsport 4 is really about the driving. Whether you’re in a Bugatti Veyron going flat-out on the Nürburgring or drifting through the Fujimi Kaido pass in a tricked out Supra, this game brings players as close to a real connection with a car of their own creation as you can get without plunking down between fifty grand and a cool million and-a-half. The only thing that matters is going to the limit, and never coming back. Forza Motorsport 4 is more than just a new coat of wax; it’s everything we love in a car game.
Forza Motorsport 4 receives a score of 4.50/5.
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