Forza Motorsport 4
No lack of racing games lately, but when it comes to consoles – simulations that is – the battle is again between Gran Turismo 5 and Forza Motorsport 4. That each of the series has its strengths and weaknesses is clear, and who is the winner therefore largely depends on your personal preference.
What is also clear is that this new Forza mainly builds further on the excellent foundations of its predecessor and delivers us most of all an even more extensive and more refined version of Forza 3. And that means this too is a fantastic racing game, a lot better than the previous edition and this on just about any aspect.
We also have to admit that there are still a few shortcomings. The X360-exclusive still has to do without dynamic weather and the number of new tracks is limited. We don’t complain, as the offering remains quite extensive and without a doubt through DLC we’ll see some additional tracks arriving. On top of that, the tracks we already know, just like all cars, have been given new graphics that give better light effects and make the tracks and gameplay bathe in a new and realistic atmosphere. Sunbeams blind you more and you almost feel the heat of the desert, the fresh air of Maple Valley or the icy reflections on the snow of the Bernese Alps.
Turn 10 didn’t only focus on the graphics, but has made improvements in just about all areas. The handling is a lot better and more engaging. While counter-steering you need to be quite a lot more careful than before and you feel your car setting itself more when pushing the throttle. The contact between rubber and the road also seems better than before and without looking you immediately notice which car you’re driving, only because of the way it handles on the road. You automatically go sitting at the edge of your seat, even when there are no adversaries nearby. Quite an accomplishment!
Not only the driving model makes for that bigger engagement. The AI of the other pilots have improved a lot; they’re more aggressive (something that in the first rounds unfortunately almost always leads to a clusterfuck on every corner) but they also make mistakes of crash under pressure. Annoying is that they sometimes brake without reason where they shouldn’t, something that surprises and makes you hit on them (and not in a loving way). Personally I find it therefore a strange decision that the option to make the opponent AI easier has been removed. This way players who prefer to drive on their own and concentrate on the track instead of battling for positions can no longer enjoy an empty track after the first 500 meters.
Nonetheless the devs did make that this is just about the most flexible sim of the moment. You can play with Kinect, there’s the cooperation with Top Gear that doesn’t only deliver the test track and accompanying challenges, but also car soccer and commentary from Jeremy Clarckson in the Autovista mode (where you can look and explore beautifully recreated cars up to the finest details). There are still the very extensive community features in which you can tune cars and paint them, and you can now also challenge your friends better than ever thanks to the Rivals mode.
In the latter you can put down times in predetermined challenges after which your friends are challenged to do better and then challenge you again. On top of that you now get more credits than ever which makes that you can put the extensive car park in your garage faster and upgrades are a lot cheaper or even free once you’ve driven a certain brand a couple of times. The latter plays a large role in the World Tour Mode where you need to finish events and improve your level. More variation, more playful challenges, autocross, faster progression and more exciting races; it feels less like real work and more as having fun than in the previous episode. Even if we would like to see even more variation and more personality, it’s clearly a step forward in the right direction.
Something that also got a lot of time and effort put in it is no doubt the sound. Cars and engines sound raw and more varied, you hear the high whistles from a supercharger coming nearer and the bass of a V12 barks in your surround system. In combination with the realistic but also interesting surroundings, the new light effects and the never failing smoothness of 60FPS this all drags you truly in a race, and certainly if you use the in-cockpit view that’s available and beautifully worked out for every car. For us this is the only way to play Forza 4.
Who despite all this still prefers to play against real people will be happy with the extensive multiplayer options. Next to the Rivals mode there are the official Cat and Mouse mode, Tag and Top Gear challenges. You can now also start up your own auto clubs, get members and assign roles (like your local tuner or movie maker) and share your best cars with the other drivers in the club.
Interesting, frustrating and hilarious at the same time are the multi-class races in which half of the up to 16 contestants take place in for instance S-cars and the rest in D-cars. Golf vs. Audi R8 in other words and there’s something to say for trying to keep up with the faster cars or passing the slower ones in a fast corner. If the faster ones don’t end up making it a bumper car ride, something that also dares to happen.
There are quite a lot of improvements in Forza Motorsport 4 which make it the ultimate racing game for the Xbox360 and confirm its status of top title. We wouldn’t call it Forza 3.5, but for Forza 5 – probably on the next generation of consoles – we expect more of the same quality, but with even more variation and more new tracks.
Turn 10 has created this one for the fans of their game, and for fans of speed, and given them everything to make it a platform for their free time spend. An absolute must on all accounts for those who even have the smallest interest in anything with four wheels!