|System: Xbox 360|
|Dev: Turn 10 Studios|
|Release: October 11, 2011|
|Players: 1-2 Local, (2+ Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-720p|
by Patriel Manning
Gearheads unite! This week, Turn 10 released the sequel to this generation's highest-rated racing game. Forza Motorsport 4 has just hit stores and we've put it through its paces to find out whether it's worthy of a place in your garage.
If you've played any of the previous entries in the franchise, you'll know that it is developer Turn 10's goal to attract as many potential gamers as possible, regardless of their age or experience with video games. They've had mixed success at this, but that hasn't necessarily been a bad thing. Forza Motorsport 2 failed on that front, after all, and some argue that the game was better because of it. The series' third installment made considerable strides and was generally well-accepted.
With this latest release, it seems Turn 10 has struck a pretty good balance with the introduction of Autovista. Chances are you've already been briefed on the intricate details of this mode by now, but if you missed out, it basically lets you ogle ridiculously hi-res car models with or without the help of Kinect. If you're a car lover and strictly a console gamer, before Autovista, there was never really a way to interact with cars on this level with the visual fidelity presented in Forza 4. Games like Test Drive Unlimited and its sequel allow for vaguely similar levels of interaction, and while they aren't ugly, they're certainly nowhere near as good-looking as this. And there's still something to be said for Polyphony Digital's painstaking modeling (on 20% of their cars), but all of the interaction with the cars takes place on the track and in Photo Mode. There simply is nothing on consoles that comes close to Autovista. The pretty graphics aren't confined to that mode, either. The entire graphics engine has been revamped as a result of Kinect integration, and the results are difficult to believe at first. That Turn 10 have been able to achieve this on five-year-old hardware is pretty impressive. It's like digital witchcraft.
Kinect menu navigation works alright via voice controls, but I'd rather use a controller than wave my hands around, especially since Kinect can be a little inaccurate. Head tracking is great and adjustable—an excellent addition—but I can't see enjoying that enough to warrant putting down the controller in favor of motion controls.
When you're done drooling over your TVR or GTO and are ready to get out on the track, you'll find that there have been some considerable changes there as well. Turn 10 partnered with Pirelli to provide the tire model for the simulator instead of the amalgam that had evolved over the past versions. The specifics are only fascinating to a select few, but the way it translates is instantly noticeable. The tires on all the cars in the game behave the way you'd expect them to. A person can literally bring their real-world driving experience into the game and have little to no trouble navigating even the toughest of courses. That isn't to say that they'll set great times, of course, but it also means that the road to becoming experienced has one less hurdle.
Forza 4's career mode is unique in that you can play through the entire game in one car if you'd like. Turn 10's philosophy seemed to consist of getting completely out of the way and allowing the gamer to enjoy the game as they see fit. Not a lot of racing games are structured that way—it's extremely difficult to pull off—but it definitely works here.
Among the complaints about Forza 3's hidden assists were those tied to the "always-on" steering assist. It basically 'guessed' how much steering input a player intended to make based on speed, how quickly the wheel/control stick was turned, and things like that. As a result, the steering in Forza 3 felt wooden and stiff. In Forza 4, however, hardcore racers will be happy to know that you can turn this assist off and enjoy the harsh consequences of erratic lock-to-lock steering.
Speaking of which, the damage modeling has seen a step up from the last iteration as well. In Forza 3, if you so much as looked the wrong way at any opponents' rear bumper, the tail lights would disintegrate. The damage this time around is much more localized and a lot better looking. Performance is affected, as always, and the results coupled with the physics model are convincing. It's especially satisfying finishing a race in first even though you're hobbling across the finish line after a nasty crash.
The robust online options from Forza 3 have also made a return, complete with the enormous user-generated marketplace, the Storefront. While Forza 4's Storefront exists as separate from the last version (meaning that users' Storefronts won't travel with them) it shouldn't take long for the creative painters, photographers, movie-makers, and tuners to build up an extensive library of content. That's because Turn 10 has taken ideas from the community and added them to the already-exhaustive graphics menu that painters had to choose from.