Review: Forza Motorsport 4

The Forza Motorsport series began way back in 2005. but now in 2011 it’s time for the 4th edition. I’ve been lucky enough to have been playing the game...

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The Forza Motorsport series began way back in 2005. but now in 2011 it’s time for the 4th edition. I’ve been lucky enough to have been playing the game for the past week under embargo.. but that just ended ! So strap yourself in for the review.

The home screen is made up of 5 sections, Play Career, Community, Autovista, Free Play and Marketplace, in the demo, you only had access to 2 of these, so below we’ll take a look at each one.

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Career
Finally a game that recognises your commitment to the series ! After firing up Forza 4, it identified the saved game from Forza 3 sitting on the same hard drive. The game prompted me to import the data, naturally I did which resulted in early unlocks of cars and a badge (Level 50, VIP). Unfortunately despite your previous experience, your career will still start using slow class F cars.

Track locations are now visualised with the track selection panning over a map of the world. This contextualisation works remarkably well compared with selecting from a list. The thought process involved in creating this is pretty impressive, there’s even made up tracks still have locations on the map.

The number of races in Forza 4 is simply astonishing. With some many track and race variants, there are hundreds of events to race. If you want value for money, this game will satisfy your cravings, there’s no 10 hour FPS here, hours required are measured in 3 figures.

Rival events is another mode that places your times against the best in the world. Rival challenges come in many forms including hot laps, drifting, time attack, track days, top gear and Autocross. These game modes make for a nice break from hours of standard circuit racing. Autocross races can contain objectives like knocking over a specified number of Pins, or driving slalom between Barrels around the track.

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Community
If there wasn’t already enough places for you to sink time into, racing online is a massive part of Forza. It’s been a little difficult to test during the pre-release phase as there’s only a select few with early access. This section will blow up on release day. Naturally you can join or create an almost infinite number of race modes with players across the globe.

An important new addition in Forza 4 is the ability to use Clubs. Naturally Motorsport communities online want to form group and race competitively with others in the game. Forza 4 lets you do that by creating Clubs. A really nice feature is that you can share your cars with the group. This means someone entering the game for the first time could try a heavily customised, specked out ride. A great idea and well executed.

You may be used to comparing your best times with Xbox Live friends, or the top leaderboards, but now you can compare with club members as well. This team system is something we’ve seen many games try, but rarely done well.

There is still the same Auction House for selling cars and Store Front for selling graphics and vehicle setups – sadly not much has changed here from Forza 3.

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Autovista
25 amazingly detailed cars are on display for you to investigate. Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear fame also gives his dry humoured run down of each. To unlock a car for Autovista, you need to select it and complete a challenge. While it may seem a fair bit of effort just to look at a car, I can assure you, it’s completely worth it. My personal favourite is pressing X to ‘explode’ the car, opening every door, bonnet, boot and wing available.

You can even get inside the car to get a run down of the dash and interior, which looks just as detailed as the exterior. Clicking on the steering wheel will show off the start process, complete with gauges, displays and the engine revs. Unfortunately you don’t get to control the revs yourself, you need to drive the car for that.

There’s also Kinect integration in this mode, this allows users to step left and right to move around the car. This does have it’s issues, at times it can be jerky and you end up doing things you didn’t intend like exiting the car when you meant to inspect something.

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Free Play
Brand new in this version is the ability for two players in split screen to use in-car view. Some how those wizards at Turn 10 Studios managed to extract some more horse power out of the 5+ year old Xbox 360 and get this to work. Clearly the momentum in multiplayer gaming is to go online, but there are still circumstances when you want to race a friend in the same room.

There’s also Quick Race and Hot Lap sections in Free Play, great if you want to break from serious racing and want to test the damage engine at 300km/h into a wall.

Marketplace
Apparently where you can get ‘the latest content’ for Forza 4, Marketplace is basically a front end to DLC. What is promising is the multiplayer game mode currently lists ‘soccer’ but is unavailable. This famous Top Gear soccer match should be available at launch.

In Autovista, the 2012 BMW M5 is also tagged as DLC and not yet available, this suggests Turn 10 will release additional Autovista cars overtime for you to drool at while emptying your wallet.

Marketplace introduces the notion of Tokens. Buying Car Tokens with Microsoft Points (real money) allows you to buy any car in the game. So if you’re time poor and bank rich, then you can buy your way to the best rides.

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Cars
The cars in this game look fantastic, highly detailed both inside and out. This is the first game I’ve played (and maybe ever) to feature moving components based on physics. The Lexus LFA for example has a rear wing that opens at high speed to keep it glued to the road. The same is true of the super fast Bugatti Veyron, which also uses the pop-up wing for aggressive braking, like a parachute on a dragster. 

Upgrading your car and the modification system works essentially the same as Forza 3. There is one key difference – loyalty discounts can be achieved by winning races with a certain manufacturer. Discounts on part upgrades range up to 100%. Yep, free upgrades !

I mentioned earlier the extra detail in the car models. This extra level of detail even extends to flames shooting out the exhaust when unburnt fuel reaches the hot exhaust tip and combines with oxygen. These guys have thought of everything. Those for an eye for detail will also appreciate the reflections in the car bonnet are now smooth as silk. Incredibly low quality in the last version, this improvement likely comes as a result of their new lighting engine.

Car handling has been improved with 3 options available. Assisted where the computer really wants to help, this mode is for beginners only. Standard which actually makes it easy to drift without an aggressive snap back. The last is Simulation where real driving physics are applied.. this is the hardest and really for the most advanced ra
cing drivers. If you have a steering wheel and pedals, this is the option for you.

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V8 Supercars
Australian motorsport fans will be keen to know the evolutions with V8 Supercars in the Forza franchise. While there is no Bathurst or any Australian tracks for that matter, there is an update in regards to V8 Supercars included in Forza 4. So we’ve gone from 4 Fords and 4 Holdens, to 5 of each. Not exactly the whole field we were were hoping for. Expect DLC or community developed liveries for other teams.

Ford Holden
#19 Mother Energy Racing Team FG Falcon
#5 Ford Performance Racing FG Falcon
#9 SP Tools Racing FG Falcon
#17 Dick Johnson Racing Team FG Falcon
#4 Irwin Racing FG Falcon
#1 Toll Holden Racing Team Commodore VE
#11 Pepsi Max Crew Commodore VE
#33 Fujitsu Racing GRM Commodore VE
#88 Team Vodafone Commodore VE
#8 Team BOC Commodore VE

 

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Damage
One of my biggest criticisms of Grand Turismo 5 was the lack of damage. Now apparently it does have damage, but so far in most players will never see it. I never understood that. Forza 4’s damage engine has been upgraded significantly and damage applies only to the area impacted. Sideswiping another car may result in scratches along the front or rear guard, not the simple switching of a ‘damaged’ texture for the entire side of the car. In simulation mode there’s also tyre wear, engine damage and fuel to worry about for that real driving simulation.

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Kinect Integration
The hardcore Forza fans had been concerned when the K word was mention in relation to their beloved realistic driving sim. While it’s amazing technology packed into a small box, it can create child-like or basic experiences, the exact opposite of what ‘real’ drivers want.

Good news. The use of Kinect in Forza 4 is completely optional, so if you don’t have or want to use it, you don’t need to. The cover art for the game uses the term ‘Enhanced with Kinect’ and essentially that’s true. While racing, Kinect is used for head / upper-body movement. This translates what you would typically use the left thumb stick for, looking left or right out windows. Sure it may be to check your blind spots, but I found it most useful for looking out the side mirror while drifting.

Forza 4 Trailer

Overall
What Turn 10 Studios has created here is without a doubt the best racing game available today. With stunning car models, a realistic physics and lighting engine, Forza 4 is now the benchmark for racing games. It was cute that GT5 had a at try, but it has seriously been left behind.

Whether your a dedicated racing fan or a complete newby, you will enjoy Forza 4. Advanced Forza 3 fans may find the Career progression a little slow, but that’s a pretty mild complaint. The achievements come thick and fast in the first few hours of the game, these really should have been distributed more evenly over the hours required to complete the game. Turn 10 clearly recognise the number of people willing to commit the time to complete is minimal, so front load to provide a sense of achievement.

My biggest complaint is the lack of new tracks in Forza 4, clearly a very expensive thing to build. Turn 10 chose only to add a couple of new tracks to the game and enhance the existing ones. This game would have been made just that much better had it included an Australian track like Bathurst. There is after all V8 Supercars in the game, but no tracks that they actually race on in real life.

Unfortunately the most realistic driving game is missing something realistic.. weather. There is still no rain, hail or snow. Sure there is sunrise and sunset skies that look amazing, but this is a big omission from the experience. Looks like we have to wait for the horsepower in the next Xbox and Forza 5 for that one.

Forza 4 is available in Australia on October 13th and exclusive to the Xbox 360. If your into driving at all, I strongly suggest picking this one up. Just remember this is more of the same great game with some nice improvements, not an revolution.

More @ ForzaMotorsport.net

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Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.