If, like me, you’ve sat watching episodes of Top Gear and dreamt about what it might be like to have Clarkson’s job, then Forza Motorsport 4 is for you. If you’re an unremitting petrol-head who devours every aspect of the motoring world, then Forza Motorsport 4 is for you. If you relish in fine-tuning your garage of virtual cars, fiddling with gear-shift timing, tyre pressure and more, then Forza Motorsport 4 is for you. If, again like me, you are weary of racing games that are overly technical simulators rather than arcade racers, then Forza Motorsport 4 is still for you.
Honestly, unless you have some deep-seated, psychological objection to all things on four wheels, then I really cannot think of any reason why you wouldn’t fall head-over-heels in love with this game. I certainly have, and I’ve never played a Forza game in my life.
From the onset, as Jeremy Clarkson provides voiceover commentary during the game’s introduction, it is clear that Forza Motorsport 4 has been made by fans of genuine motoring art. Clarkson himself is synonymous with passion for cars, so mix his reverence for the subject matter with that of the team at Turn 10 and you get something quite awe inspiring. Despite the melancholy tone of the introduction, there’s an overwhelming sense of revelry as meticulously recreated, digital cars glide around their equally intricate race tracks.
If some racing games are all about quantity, then Forza Motorsport 4 is all about options. You’re free to make the game as technical or accessible as you wish; newcomers to this driving simulator sub-genre need not be afraid of becoming overwhelmed. Conversely, veterans of technical racers will be right at home thanks to the myriad difficulty options that shirk the gaming standards of Easy, Medium or Hard. You can toggle traction control on or off and even opt for turning assist if you’re a complete rookie when it comes to realistic car handling. Braking can be done automatically or you can opt for ABS or turn off all assistance entirely. Then there are the line paths superimposed onto tracks; these are nothing new to racing simulators but newcomers to this genre will find them indispensable.
Customisation doesn’t end with sculpting your own level of difficulty, or rather realism. Once you own a car (and you will own dozens the further you progress in the Career mode) you can get right down to customising everything from the colour (standard, metallic and pearlescent paint jobs are all available) to what sort of clutch (stock, street, sport or race) you want in your drivetrain. And if you have no idea what I just said then fret not because the game has a Quick Upgrade feature as well. With Quick Upgrade, the game will scan all available parts and put together the most complete upgrade package you can currently afford. Convenient, no? Then, for the ultra car tuners amongst you, you can create a custom Tune Setup for your cars. You’ll even be able to upload them for other people to download, meaning the people who cannot tell their Front Caster Alignment from their Rebound Stiffness will still be able to squeeze the maximum out of their cars thanks to the hard work of others.
It’s not just custom Tune Setups that you’ll be able to share online; Forza Motorsport 4 has a phenomenally robust paint and decal customisation tool. You can spend hours creating vinyl sets and subtle paint tones for each of your vehicles, or you can browse other people’s creations and download model-specific offerings instead. If you create something particularly impressive you can even charge in-game credits for the download.
The Forza Motorsport 4 experience hinges on passion for cars, or rather passion for a particular make of car. I’ve always been a huge fan of Honda’s offerings and as such began to collect the various Hondas available in the game. Sensing my penchant for the Japanese manufacturer, the game started offering Honda specific races during my Career Mode playthrough. It’s a neat feature that really highlights just how personal Turn 10 wants this game to be for each and every player out there.
I could go into what the cars “feel” like while driving them, or how Turn 10 fed reams of test data (that had been captured by tyre manufacturer Pirelli) into their physics model, but it really wouldn’t do the game justice. The driving experience is loaded with subtleties that you initially don’t even notice because they so closely resemble the act of real driving that you almost expect them to be there. I’m talking about how your Xbox 360 controller will issue the most minute rumble as your car shifts to a higher gear, or how Turn 10 collaborated with Pixar Studios to develop the Image Based Lighting tech so that light reflection off the car’s body is executed in specific ways depending on the time of day during which the race takes place. It’s that level of fanaticism that permeates this title, and that makes me so undeniably awe inspired while playing.
Kinect implementation was publicised quite a bit in the months leading up to the release of Forza Motorsport 4 and while it definitely works well in some areas, it’s not quite as effective in others. The game’s Autovista Mode is a triumph, there’s no doubt, but navigating using Kinect is hit and miss. While it’s fun to be able to lean towards your TV in order to get a closer look at various parts of the cars, you’ll occasionally have to lean at awkward angles to get the view you want. Fortunately you’re free to use a standard controller if you wish.
As for driving using Kinect, the experience is a barebones one as the only thing you control is the steering. Still, you’re definitely not meant to play the entire game using just Kinect and Turn 10 seems to have implemented this control distraction for completion’s sake. Where Kinect implementation really helps is in using voice commands for menu navigation. With a single word you can jump from one menu level to another despite being numerous sub-levels away from your desired destination. It works seamlessly and is a perfect solution for navigating a fairly convoluted menu structure.
Turn 10 has created something amazing in Forza Motorsport 4. I’ve always liked racing games but have never really progressed past the more arcade-like Need for Speed games or the Burnout offerings. Weary of the finicky controls and elaborate customisation requirements I avoided the more realistic driving simulators. Forza Motorsport 4, however, is not a racing game to be avoided; it’s one to be rushed into with the sort of reckless abandon ordinarily afforded a new love interest. It’s a game in which becoming swept up in the unabashed worshiping of both past and contemporary vehicles is practically guaranteed. If this game doesn’t stir your inner petrol-head, or at least introduce you to the one you never knew existed, then you can consider yourself missing out on a truly special gaming experience.