Gamescom 2011: Forza 4 preview

Let’s just get this out of the way shall we: Forza 4 is looking absolutely fantastic and in the graphics fidelity department, it’s going to give Gran Turismo 5 a serious run for its money. I got to sit down with the game’s Creative Director, Dan Greenwalt to see how the game was shaping up.

I’ll admit, I went into this private presentation wanting to know more about how Kinect was going to play a part. When I saw the game in action, however, I was more blown away by just how gorgeous everything looked.

One Kinect implementation many of you already know about is the use of the peripheral when ogling cars. You’ll get to pan around a meticulously detailed version of some of the most rare cars, and using Kinect you’ll be able to open doors, bonnets and hop in and out of the driver’s seat. Greenwalt emphasised just how hard the art team had been working on this feature, creating textures that don’t pixelated the closer you zoom in. This means that you can get really close to everything you want to and you won’t lose graphical fidelity.

While poking around this collection of cars (this Kinect-enabled feature will not be available for every single car in the game) you’ll be able to get a description and opinion about the vehicle from Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson. Clarkson is synonymous with car fanaticism so hearing him wax lyrical about what you’re poking around with is a really neat addition.

Kinect will also be used for head tracking during races, and we were assured that the camera will be picking up very slight movements of your head so that your vision doesn’t move from the screen (which was my first concern). Additionally the menu systems in Forza 4 will be completely navigable by voice commands with Kinect. This is particularly helpful because you can jump from one section to another even if you’re five sub-menus deep.

The team at Turn 10 Studios is focusing on playing off a person’s passion for a particular car manufacturer. Do you love BMW? Prefer Mercedes? The game will see which cars you’ve acquired and then begin to streamline races for those particular manufacturers. If, for example, you’re a BMW fan, then you’ll get more invitations to partake in BMW events around the world during your World Tour career.

Passion for cars is at the heart of this game. You’ll be able to start your own Car Clubs online with your friends. You could, for example, start a Ferrari club, which would mean that your club would get a shared garage. Greenwalt admitted that acquiring super cars in Forza is somewhat difficult as they’re very expensive. By starting your own club, you’ll get access to the cars that the club members have. This means that you could work together to full your club garage with as many Ferraris as possible. All of the cars will still belong to the individual, but club members will have access to them even if the owner is offline.

Sticking with multiplayer, Turn 10 Studios has added a new game mode called Top Gear Football. It’s pretty much exactly what you think: you use cars to play games of soccer. There are 5 vs 5 matches and 8 vs 8 matches. Team customisation will be supported so you’ll be able to create a paint job for your car “players” so that you can develop a team identity online. The fun part comes when choosing what models of cars to use for which positions; Lamborghinis and Ferraris should probably be your strikers.

All in all, the next spin in the Forza franchise is looking quite special indeed. There is a renewed emphasis on a player’s passion for cars as well as developing online communities and social interaction. The Kinect functionality is a wonderful bonus on top of an already fabulous looking racing game. Greenwalt and his team had always intended to implement Microsoft’s toy even before development on Forza 4 began. Consequently, the Kinect usage is not a half-hearted attempt at shoehorning in Microsoft’s hardware, but rather a means of further igniting player passion for cars.