Forza Motorsport 4 Hands-On Preview
|System: Xbox 360
|Dev: Turn 10 Studios
|Release: October 11, 2011
|Players: 1-2 Local, (2+ Online)
|Screen Resolution: 480p-720p
Trust the Forza
by Patriel Manning
You may remember that before E3 kicked off, six of Cheat Code Central’s writers shared the top ten games they were hoping to see at the expo. Much was made of the fact that Modern Warfare 3 was missing in action. (Vader found our lack of win disturbing.) Our questionable ‘hardcore’ status notwithstanding, at the top of my own list was none other than Forza Motorsport 4. I wanted to see this game more than anything. More than Battlefield 3. More than Tomb Raider. Heck, even more than whatever horribly named new console or handheld revealed at E3. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the latest entry into the Forza franchise.
It was totally worth it.
Straight away, the first thing I noticed about Forza 4 was the graphics. Forza 3 was by no means ugly, but there was something about the way the cars looked in the environments that somehow felt strange at times. It’s a bit difficult to nail down exactly what it was, but you could tell after looking at, say, Gran Turismo 5, that there was something about the lighting that seemed off. Whatever it was, it’s been taken care of, thanks in part to an unlikely assist from Kinect.
During our demo, John Wendl showed off a new feature dubbed Autovista. It’s a Kinect-based interface through which you can interact with select vehicles in the game. You can open the doors, play with the switches, and basically enjoy the cars in all their hi-res glory. Of course, for those who don’t have Kinect, all of this can also be experienced with a standard controller.
We were told that during development, the team noticed that whatever it was that made cars and environments in Forza 3 look just a bit off was especially present during the Autovista mode. This led them to a few innovations in creating a new image-based lighting engine, and the improvements really do speak for themselves. To be perfectly honest, though, the lighting in the cockpit view seemed to be a bit lacking. After a few days of play, it still felt like there are a few other titles in the genre that have a leg up on Turn 10 in this particular area, namely Shift 2 Unleashed. That said, the car exteriors and environments are absolutely stunning.
Another interesting thing about Autovista is that every car included in the mode has a brief commentary by none other than Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear fame. John was extremely cagey about answering any questions about the number of cars available in this mode, though he did offer that it wouldn’t be as interesting as it is on a McLaren F1 on, say, an ’85 Honda Civic.
The new career mode is called World Tour, during which players will get to test their skills on some of racing’s most iconic tracks, as well as a few fictitious ones. One such fantasy track was based in the French Alps. The track itself was gorgeous to look at, but, more importantly, it was a blast to drive. There were a few controller-based setups, which I promptly passed in favor of the custom-built cockpits that were on the floor nearby. After choosing the quick-but-not-dangerous Subaru Impreza and a making a run through the settings menu—full damage, fuel consumption, and tire wear all set to simulation—I was off. On this particular setup, Kinect was available for head-tracking. I’ve personally never been a believer in camera based head-tracking at all; “I should be looking at the television,” I mocked. The way the head-tracking was implemented here, though, was extremely intuitive and didn’t involve looking to my extreme left or right.
John had told us during the demo that the physics engine had been revamped, but honestly I couldn’t tell much of a difference. I don’t know if that’s a testament to Forza 3’s physics engine or not, but it felt great to drive and was extremely familiar, allowing me to set a clean lap with relatively little trouble.
Another new mode is Track Day. It involves passing as many cars as possible in the time allotted. It plays a bit like the overtake modes from Project Gotham Racing. It isn’t unlike the Forza Kinect demo shown at last year’s E3 (except this year, John was playing with a traditional 360 pad.) Here we were shown the strength of Forza’s A.I., which is based on the Drivatar system used in the original Forza. The demo of the Track Day race was set to run on its own, so we could see how the A.I. was aware of the other cars on the road and could overtake them without causing needless collisions. With the racing line clearly displayed, we could see how the A.I. deviated from it without completely falling to pieces.
We were also shown the rewards system for leveling up, which allows you to choose which reward cars you’ll want. In turn, that will shape your career progression. Voice commands also worked well, though I don’t really see myself shouting at my television in the middle of the night—the only time I have to play videogames at home. But it may be useful on those rare occasions when my family isn’t in the house.
I came into E3 excited for Forza 4, and I left wanting it even more. Look for more coverage in the months to come right here at Cheat Code Central.
By Patriel Manning
CCC Contributing Writer