If you ever find yourself trapped on a deserted island, with nary a soul in sight but a nice couch, TV and an Xbox 360, in this slightly unlikely situation, Forza 4 may be the best game you could possibly have. While the deserted island scenario might be more palatable, realistically speaking if you (like the other 99-percent of us) are on a budget, then you simply won’t find a game with more value than Forza 4. It’s insane how much this game has to offer, and it’s compounded by the wacky notion that everything it does, it does well. No, scratch that—it does it excellently.
There is enough to do in this game to make a lifetime prison sentence seem like a good deal if you want to go for 100-percent completion. Throw in the ever changing online challenges and competitive modes, and this game could in theory outlast the sun. But simply throwing content at people isn’t enough. What would be the point if the game wasn’t worth playing?
The gameplay of Forza 4 is intuitive and variable based on the level of challenge you want. The game modes are varied and easy to get to thanks to fantastic navigation. The game seems to know every little thing you could want to do, then gives it to you. If you want to upgrade your car before races, you can not only do so, with an extra button touch, you can be online scanning through any custom kits created by other users, or scrap the car and buy a new one through the auction mode. If none of those cars appeal to you, you can choose a new ride from over 80 manufacturers, each with multiple offerings, with more (and more and more) planned through DLC.
The track listings are also incredible, and just when you think you’ve seen everything the tracks can offer, an entirely new type of track will emerge. Getting very, very picky, you can’t hit a switch and make the track night, and the weather selections are limited, but with dozens of courses, including night and wet tracks, there is more than enough to do. It should even offer plenty for the people that dedicated hours and weeks of their lives at the altar of Forza 3.
It really isn’t even a question of whether or not Forza 4 is the best racing game ever made—it is, for now—the real question is how good of a game it is compared to all other games of all genres.
And the answer is that it is one of the best.
The Story of a Boy Against the World
It’s a racing game, there is no story. Moving on…
Actually, while there is no story, obviously, there is a World Tour mode which walks you through the racing campaign, and explains the new track you are about to race, including a brief history. It is an unnecessary addition, but doing things that aren’t necessary, just because they can, is part of what makes Forza 4 so incredible.
The campaign offers several series to work your way up through, and each series offers several tracks. Each of those tracks then offers multiple races, and you simply pick one that appeals to you to progress. The track generally offers a standard race, but it will usually offer something special too. That may be a race for a specific make and model of car, or it could be a type of car like American muscle cars. Other times it will offer different classes of cars, which means you may be racing in a super car or a Miata; it’s up to you.
The campaign will take you hours. And hours and hours. But if you just want to jump in a race to earn credit, or maybe you saw a race type you would like to play but something else caught your eye first, you can choose races individually from the lists. And there are a lot. I lost count somewhere around 600. Seriously. Many of these are the same races just with different cars, and therefore different opponents, but each car feels slightly different, so racing a Yaris—while admittedly embarrassing, but fun—will feel totally different than racing a Bugati even on the same track.
As you race, you earn experience, credits and manufacturer affinity. The experience leads to leveling up, and with each new level you are allowed to choose a car from a handful of options. The credits are your cash, and are used to buy upgrades and new cars, while the affinity is awarded based on the car manufacturer. If you race a Chevy, or several Chevys’, you will earn points that level you us. With each new level you earn credit rewards and discounts on that manufacturer’s parts. And then there are the tokens.
Tokens can be purchased for real cash, and then redeemed to buy new cars. The Bugati Veyron is 1.4 million credits, which could take some time. If you want to skip that, you can drop a few real life bucks. This may be a slightly controversial addition, but since it doesn’t take anything away from the game and just offers a shortcut to those with more money than time on their hands, it isn’t a bad inclusion.
Along with the campaign and the single races are the free races, which allow you to immediately jump into any car the game offers without buying it and race either a single AI opponent or a hot lap against your best time. Once you have tried all your favorites over the dozens of tracks, you can then head online, where the game explodes like a blooming onion.
Blazing Fast Download Speeds
Online racing games typically consist of two things: races against others, and more races against others. Sometimes there may be a league of some sort mixed in there, and perhaps a hot lap leaderboard, but in general they aren’t very deep. That’s not the case in Forza 4.
To begin with, the online section of the game is where you can find the challenges: Various game modes that change constantly. Sometimes it will be a new challenge from the developer—maybe a new hot lap time to break, or a race with a particular model of car. These promise to pop up frequently and be continually changing. But you can also sort through several lists and find races you want, then try to beat the overall leader, or just a frenemy of yours.
One of the cooler aspects of Forza 4 is the inclusion of the BBC show Top Gear. Host Jeremy Clarkson voices several segments, and there are Top Gear-specific challenges, located on their track in England. You may find yourself trying to knock over as many bowling pins as possible by drifting into them, or you could find yourself in a “reasonably priced car,” attempting to set a new lap record.
While online, you can also stop by the auction house to bid on new cars or unload your extras, or you can check out the player-made upgrades that include custom decals and paint jobs. This makes its return from the previous games, but it is simplified, streamlined and there are far more options when it comes to customization, so therefore there are more kits you can buy or sell.
You can also form clubs, which are like clans. Once a person becomes a member, everyone in that club can share cars in a central garage, give gifts and compete with other clubs or against each other. If there is one particular race you need, but it requires a specific and hard to find car, then you may be able to borrow one from your friends. The clubs are something that will continue to grow and change as the online community decides what to make of them, but they are a nice addition with a ton of promise.
Then there are the online races, leagues and games. There are 10 online game types in total, including the races you expect, but also a few other things like a game of soccer and tag. It takes all the online modes you have seen in racing titles, then essentially doubles them. There really is something for everyone online.
But content is one thing. The real focus of Forza 4 is the gameplay.