“A new king of racing games has been crowned”
- Exceptional gameplay
- A massive garage and track list
- Robust online modes
- Only a handful of race types
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.
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)
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