You can have more content than any sane person could ever hope for and include things that will entertain you for weeks, but if the gameplay isn’t there, the game will still be a failure. That is absolutely not the case with Forza 4.
The game handles amazingly well. There are plenty of tuning options, and each little change can make a difference. Lowering or raising the PSI even a bit can make a huge difference, as can adding a new exhaust. But the best thing about the tuning aspect is that you really don’t need to do it. If you want to embrace your digital gearhead you can, but if you just want to tweak a few things, you have that option. You can even let the AI help, and if you choose to massively upgrade your car, you can automatically let Forza assign the best upgrades you can afford.
But when you are racing is where Forza 4 is really amazing. There are so many customization options on every level of this game, and that includes the difficulty. Rather than just hitting “easy” or “hard,” or “auto” versus “manual,” you can select how you want to play, and the game will match you. If you want to have the game hold your hand and do your braking it will. But if you take that off, you receive a bonus per race. The same is true for all the categories you can mess with, so you can find the exact level of difficulty you want and earn extra credits for the more difficult things you choose.
The AI wont blow you away with their cunning plans, but it is solid. If you are blowing them out, they will be blown out. There is no elastic tether that suddenly has opponents in your rear view. But that doesn’t mean they are easy. Most races you will be racing against yourself in the sense that if you race perfectly, no one can touch you, but if you wreck they will be on you. Even so, barring a catastrophe, the game is balanced well enough that you could catch up. As with most racing games, rubbin’ is racin’, and getting into a shoving match with the AI—while fun—is rarely a good idea. Thankfully, you can adjust the level of damage. If you prefer to smack people around, you can make it all cosmetic. If you want more of a challenge, be careful what you wish for as you could ruin your car.
Once you begin racing, each car you choose has its own logic and feels like it should. Forza 4 also does a great job of balancing the tracks and opponents, so even if you are in a Ford Fiesta, begging the engine to finally hit 100mph, the race is every bit as intense as if you were in a Ferrari Enzo facing other super cars. The fact that it is just as much fun to race an F class car—the lowest of the low—as it is to race the elite S class cars should tell you all you need to know about Forza 4.
The controls while racing are fluid and intuitive, and after a bit of practice, you will know when to allow your car to drift, when to mash the brakes and when to risk an overtake. It doesn’t take much for you to feel like a bad ass on the track. The ultra-forgiving rewind button doesn’t hurt either. Some may think it makes the game to easy, and maybe it does, but it also makes it far less frustrating and therefore fun.
It is easy to become swallowed up by these races since they are all entertaining. One quick race can quickly turn into an entire series, and you won’t care.
Then there are the Kinect controls, which are a neat addition but cannot come close to giving you the level of control—and therefore immersion—that a controller can. It is cool to be able to turn your head slightly and have the view turn as if you were looking out the car in that direction, and steering with your hands in the air is interesting, but it isn’t a major part to the game, and most will probably try and forget it.
The brilliance of Forza 4 is that it is what you want it to be. If you want to try the simplified controls of the Kinect, you can and you will likely have fun. If you want to race an arcade style race with a controller, knock yourself out. If you are a hardcore digital gearhead and want a racing simulator, Forza 4 has you covered. There are so many ways to play the game that it could be a dozen different things to a dozen different people, but all will likely agree that it is a great game.
The Turn 10 Garage
As if to rub salt in the wounds of all other car games, Forza 4 is also beautiful. If it were a woman, it would be a model. And not a stuck up model, but a model that you want to take home to meet your parents. For the ladies out there, the game would be George Clooney. The tracks are covered with detail, and the settings are incredible. But you’ll hardly have time to notice as you concentrate on the race.
The Autovista Mode is there in that eventuality, and it allows you to pick from 20–that you unlcock through challenges–of the best and most exclusive cars in the world, then virtually examine them while an announcer—sometimes Jeremy Clarkson—gives you details about the cars, the engines, or whatever else you want to know.
But whether you are in the virtual showroom or on the tracks, the game just looks amazing. Without the demanding requirements of facial animations, Turn 10 took all the 360’s processing power and made it work to its fullest.
From the online community modes, to the virtual galleries, Forza 4 is an incredibly deep game. It takes what was an already impressive game in Forza 3, then adds several layers upon it. If you played Forza 3 to completion (and there are a few of you out there) then maybe there isn’t enough different to really blow you away, but still, it should exceed all your expectations.
If you haven’t played a racing game in a while, Forza 4 will simply blow your mind. There is so much to do and see that it could take months, even years to experience every little detail.
The inevitable question is going to be: Is it better than Gran Turismo 5. The answer is yes, very much so. GT5 has a few things that stand out, like the TV channel and the offbeat presentation, but overall, Forza 4 is just a better game. You can argue that the Forza series is a clone of GT, and that may be true, but the pupil has definitely become the master.
Many may skip Forza 4 because of the crush of games that surround it. It will likely fly under the radar of those that don’t typically flock to racing games, and that is a shame, because it is so much more—it is one of the best games of the year.
Score: 9.5 out of 10
(This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 on a copy provided by Microsoft Studios)