The racing simulator genre is a difficult one to get right. It’s easy to make things unrealistic, clunky, and unresponsive. It’s also easy to make a game that’s too realistic, perhaps boring and uninteresting for the casual gamer. Luckily, however, Turn 10 Studios have had a lot of practice in the genre. After the success of Forza 3, it was hard to believe that there was anything left to build on – well, you’d better start believing.
Forza 3 was possibly one of the most realistic racing simulators ever developed for a console. The title incorporated the best of Formula 1, the thrills of NASCAR, and the mean street feel of games such as Need for Speed and Project Gotham Racing. It was no mean feat of game development, but, two years on, Forza 4 has blown it out of the water. Forza 3 was an incredible game at the time, and still is, but Turn 10 have pulled everything out of the bag with this sequel.
It’s difficult to pin-point the single best aspect of Forza 4. However, it’s easy to see one of its best aspects in action: the game graphics. More specifically, the cars. It’s a racing simulator, so you’d be right in arguing that the cars should look good, but these motors don’t just look good; they look incredible. They’re streamlined, perfectly formed, and roll seamlessly along the amazingly detailed backdrop of the tracks and settings. But, most impressive of all, they look real. Hold a photograph of a TVR next to the model from Forza 4 and you’d have a job separating the two. To be honest, the only reason you would see a difference would be because the quality of the photograph may be a little grainy compared to your flat-screen HD TV; that’s saying something. Turn 10 set out to create a racing simulator, and with the incredible cars, backdrops, and tracks, it’s the most realistic simulator out there.
But, as any ‘good guy’ would tell you, it’s not all about the looks. Forza 4 sounds incredible, too. The roar of the engines, the slight dip in the throttle as your Bugatti shifts gear – each sound is crisp and clear, adding a real depth to the races. Each car sounds unique: the deep boom of a muscle car is easily distinguished from the whine of a Ferrari zipping past. Every possible detail has been considered, and it really shows in the finished product. Yet, it’s not just the cars that make this game so special. A cameo from Top Gear’s car-nut, Jeremy Clarkson, adds an extra oomph and air of authority; the cherry on top of the other cherry on top of the triple chocolate-fudge cake. From the very beginning of the game, Clarkson acts as the ambassador for car enthusiasts. He highlights a world where it’s not necessarily popular anymore to be a gear head. In these modern times, where economy saving and environmental protection are the buzz-words for a new generation, is there any room for gas-guzzling, ground-tearing, rubber-burning car fans? Well, if there’s no room left in the real world, Forza 4 gives you the perfect opportunity to practice your driving skills from the comfort of your own home (and it’s economically pro-active and environmentally friendly to boot).
But what good is a game if it only sounds good and looks pretty? Well, there’s much more to this game than its aesthetics. Cars handle realistically, braking is sharper, and cornering is smoother. Everything has been tweaked and updated since Forza 3. Even car damage has been updated, with the player given the option to choose the level of realism to their races. Pick cosmetic damage, and you’ll find a slight bill at the end of your race for the small scratches and dents that your reckless driving technique has landed you. Choose realistic damage, and you might find yourself turned over on your roof with wheels missing and windows smashed. Either way, you’ll be footing the bill if you drive like a maniac.
These updates bring a new level of realism to the Forza Motorsports series which may well have been un-imaginable whilst playing its predecessor. The single player has been given more depth with various different game modes; from the all new world-tour mode to the drop-in and race modes, Forza 4 has plenty to keep you entertained. You can even take your favorite cars online (which are fully customizable from engine size to decals on the boot) and race against the world. Share your vehicles, sell your custom designs, and race against the like minded – this really is the home of the car enthusiast.
Like most new games that are released nowadays, Forza 4 has Kinect integration. However, unlike most new releases, the integration enhances the game. Travel through the menus with the flick of a hand, peer around the corner of a track by turning your head; the Kinect integration immerses you into this incredibly detailed racing world, and it feels right.
If you’re a die-hard car fanatic, then you’re probably already playing this game. If you’re not already playing it, then you should be. If you’re looking for a new game to try out, then give Forza 4 a shot. What’s under the hood might scare you a little, and, true, it’s not easy to tweak your ride if you don’t have a clue about cam-shafts and carburetors, but that doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying the experience. Just sit back and drive.
This review is based on a retail copy of the XBOX 360 version of Forza 4, developed by Turn 10 Studi0s and published by Microsoft Studios.