2011-10-21

Forza Motorsport 4 – For Car Lovers Everywhere

by Yo Snyder

I like cars. I don’t really know a lot about them – if you were to
ask me anything about cam shafts, spark plugs, or drive belts I’d ask if
they’re located next to the Johnson Rod – but I do like them. I like
the way they sound. I like to drive them. And for some of them, I really
like the way they look. I think it goes back to my boyhood fascination
with Hot Wheels (a fascination that never really died; I have some
sitting my desk right now). I loved playing with those toy cars, and I
loved seeing the real versions at car shows. So while I’m not really a
“car guy”, I am a guy that loves cars. Forza 4 understands that.
It understands that not everyone wants to tweak and tune cars, some
people just want to enjoy them. No matter what your passion, though,
when it comes to cars, Forza 4 is your playground.

At first glance, it might be easy to dismiss Forza 4 as a mere upgrade of Forza 3.
A lot of the tracks and cars are the same, and the experience of racing
said cars on said tracks will feel very familiar. However, there’s much
more to this game than what it brought over the last. In fact, Forza 4 takes the foundation laid by the already excellent Forza 3
and builds on it. The racing experience is both deeper and yet more
personal and open. The community features are more extensive. Online
racing is a vastly superior experience with far more options. And the
cars…yes, the cars; well, they’re more beautiful and detailed than
ever before. Yes, past the surface similarities, it’s easy to see that
this is a whole game.

As I mentioned in my impressions from the
demo, the visuals have received a big boost in this sequel. A large part
of that is the new lighting technology that more accurately simulate a
single source lighting effect (i.e. having the sun illuminate everything
from its place in the sky).  There are times where you almost need to
squint as the sun reflects off a car’s window in front of you or bounces
off a snow drift  or radiates off the concrete of the track at sunset.
Everything is saturated in a warm, beautiful light that really changes
the look of this game compared to the last. Of course, the cars are no
slouches either. Beautifully detailed inside and out, it’s easy for any
car fan to appreciate what’s on screen. In the new Autovista mode, you
can get an even more detailed look at some of the select cars in the
game. Learn fascinating details, poke around under the hood, start up
the engine, and even take it for a ride. It’s all gorgeous. And while
you can use Kinect for this – using your hand motions to interact with
the car and even drive it – it’s a bit finicky, so the controller is a
much easier way to enjoy this mode.

However, Forza 4 isn’t
just about looks. Turn off the inoffensive sound track and you will hear
these cars sing. Some with a deep, throaty rumble, others with a
consistent, even pitch, some with a higher vibrato. Regardless, they all
sound amazing and are truly music to the ear of any car lover. Other
sounds help enhance the experience as well. The rush of air flowing past
the car. The whine of tires being pushed to the edge before they start
to squeal in protest. The crunch of vehicles smashing into each other.
Then there’s the refined voice of Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson who
introduces this safe haven for lovers of all things automotive in the
intro, and who shares details and insights and a few frank opinions of
cars as you explore them in Autovista. As with all of the Top Gear
integration, it’s a wonderful addition that helps the passion for cars
is this game flow from every pore.

As I mentioned, gameplay is
much more open this time around; letting you forge the type of racing
experience you want. I think the biggest testament to how things have
changed in this game is how I’ve tried way more cars than I ever did in Forza 3
over the course of my career.My Mustang. Sweet. This is due to the fact that not
everything is just about credits. In the last game I always raced
whatever got me the most money, this time however I may want to boost an
affinity bonus so I can get performance parts from Ford cheaper.
Perhaps I want to boost my driver level so I can get a new gift car
faster. The variety of bonus and different ways you can level up means I
race a much bigger variety of cars and have a much more varied racing
experience, and I love it. Plus you can also earn experience and credits
for your career with online and community events as well. In fact, a
quick way to get experience and cash is to do the online Rivals race.
Plus, when you do get gift cars, you aren’t just given one, but you can
choose from several options. This again means I have cars that I want,
which means I’m racing a bigger variety of cars because of the choices I
make, whereas in the last game I never even touched some of the cars I
gained during my career. 

Speaking of online, there’s lots to like in Forza 4. The auction house returns giving you full access to the bevy of creativity in the Forza 4
community. I’m not a great tuner or even much of designer, but there is
so much talent out there you can find the right paint job, decal look
and tuning setting for your car from someone who really knows what
they’re doing. Then there’s the community car clubs. Much like Madden’s
online communities, here you can get together with like-minded racers
and race in events you like. In the club’s garage, you can even share
cars. If there’s a ride you want to try but haven’t unlocked yet or
haven’t bought, you can borrow it from someone else in the club for
online events. Nice. The Rivals mode is also a great addition online. If
you don’t like racing with others, which you can now do with up to
sixteen people in a huge variety of events, you can mano-y-mano and race
for the best time against another player’s ghost. There’s so much
variety online that once you make it through the career mode, you’ll
still have plenty to do.

The true brilliance of the Forza experience, and especially in Forza 4,
is that you can make it as hard-core or casual-friendly as you like.It's all in the details.
Personally, I’m somewhere in between. I like to challenge my driving
skills and improve them by learning the various handling characteristics
of the cars and the importance of braking, turning, and accelerating at
the right times in a race. However, I don’t really get excited about
fine tuning a vehicle’s performance, or getting into the details of
various parts upgrades. Well you know what, Forza 4 caters just
to me and my particular tastes. It lets me take the simple joy of
playing with cars, like I had with Hot Wheels, and just run with it
however I like. It may not have the thrills of something like Burnout or
Need for Speed, but if you like cars, if you like racing, and you like
well made video games, there really isn’t a reason not to play Forza 4. 

Score out of 7:

Graphics:
7 – Gorgeous looking game with some beautiful lighting, amazing car
models, picturesque environments; it’s just all around a very pretty
game. Many times I’ve heard comments about how a side-glance or looking
at it from a distance it’s easy to mistake it for real cars on a real
track.

Sound: 6 – If you love the sounds of classic muscle cars
and refined exotics, this game has you covered. For some, many of the
cars may sound the same. For others, it might sound like a symphony.
Nevertheless, this is one game where it doesn’t hurt to crank up the
volume.

Controls: 6 – You can tweak and adjust these to your
heart’s content, but you should find a sweet spot. The Kinect controls
are bit finicky, although the Kinect head tracking feature is a
impressive and fun, if unnecessary, addition.

Gameplay: 7 – It’s
your game to play the way you want. Race the races you want in the cars
you want. Set the difficulty where you want. Play online with the people
you want. Forza 4, more than any other racer I can think of,
let’s you shape your own racing experience pretty much how you like. Get
as in-depth or not as you want, or anywhere in between.

Story: N/A

Content: 6 – Mild lyrics in the songs, but turn that off and you have pure racing bliss.

Final: 6 – It’s hard to think that Forza 4
could have so much in common with the last game and yet improve on it
so vastly. Still, this is the definitive racing experience that’s only
slightly marred by less than precise Kinect controls, a few too few
tracks, and the lack of any Porsches. But don’t let those things prevent
you from getting behind the wheel, it’s far too much fun to miss out
on.