Forza Motorsport 4 review
- Turn 10 Studios
- Forza Motorsport 4
- Forza Motorsport
Made2Game Forza Motorsport 4 review score: 9/10
Formats: Xbox 360
Format reviewed: Xbox 360
Developer: Turn 10 Studios
If there’s one thing you can glean from Forza Motorsport 4, it’s that Turn 10 are clearly passionate petrolheads.
To some, a car is merely a convenient method of transportation to get you to Sainsbury’s and back. But to you and I, every car has a unique soul and personality, each the result of hundreds of hours of careful craftsmanship. They’re objects of affection, objects of grace and beauty: we pine over posters of automotive powerhouses we could never dream to afford, marvelling at their sleek, illustrious curves.
It’s hard to describe the bond between man and machine - even I’ll admit to naming my first car Jez like a cherished member of the family. Turn 10 sought to create a world where us anoraks can share our passion unashamedly. And my have they succeeded. In short, Turn 10 fully understands the mentality of a true petrolhead.
Take Forza Motorsport 4’s alluring car collection, designed with the petrolhead in mind. Straying comfortably past the 500 mark, it still falls short of Gran Turismo 5’s overwhelming 1000+ figure on the neighbouring console. Not that it matters, because unlike Polyphony, Turn 10 actually appreciate quality over quantity. You won’t find over 130 identical Nissan Skylines here for a kick-off.
Admittedly, Turn 10’s US origin shows through in the overabundance of husky American muscle cars, much like how Polyphony made GT5 feel more like a guided tour of the Japanese car industry. But on balance, Forza Motorport 4 is a solid representation of the global car industry, spanning 80 manufacturers in what is undoubtedly the most diverse and pertinent car list ever featured in a driving game.
Everything a self-confessed petrolhead could want and more is here, from the very latest European hot hatches and Italian supercar exotica, to forgotten classics and rarities. In no other game will you find both the brand new Lexus LFA and a stunning 1958 Aston Martin DBR1, which matters to petrolheads. It’s just a shame that Porsche weren’t allowed into the party, but we all know who to blame for that. *Cough... EA... cough*.
Turn 10 want you to experience the pleasure of driving each and every one of them, too, which is why accessing this gargantuan garage has been made so easy. Rather than frustratingly restricting you, Forza Motorsport 4 lets you drive exactly what you want, when you want.
Every car is already unlocked and ready to play with in the free play mode, but if you want a sense of progression the new World Tour makes collecting cars less of a chore by awarding you a new car whenever you rank up. You even get to choose from a selection of five, thus eliminating the problem of your garage becoming overrun with unwanted gifted rides. Don’t think, however, that you’ll be stuck with your entry level Ford Ka for too long - after just a few ranks I had already been rewarded with a fierce Ford Mustang Boss 500.
Turn 10 also understand that players like to stick with their favourite cars or manufacturer. With this in mind, Affinity points are rewarded for driver loyalty: keep driving cars manufactured by Ford for example, and you will gain cash bonuses and useful performance discounts from each rising level. Race events are also selected based on your current car, conveniently pointing you to manufact1urer-specific races for your currently selected cars.
It’s Forza’s ingenious way of adjusting to your play style, and is a world away from GT5’s cumbersome, archaic navigation structure. Generic menus are even replaced by swooping Google Maps-style views displaying the next tier of events for each location.
Drives like a Dream
Of course all this would mean absolutely nothing if the handling was anything less than stellar. Fortunately, Forza Motorsport 4 is Turn 10’s most successful attempt at simulating the sensation of driving a car yet, performing significant leaps from Forza Motorsport 3.
Steering is pin sharp, as cars respond with ample eagerness while still conveying a realistic sense of weight and the feeling of grip is very tangible, presumably as a result of Turn 10’s collaboration with tyre maker Pirelli.
As usual, a number of driving aids can be applied which makes things more accessible for casual players, but the difference is profound when you switch them off. Trying to tame a rear wheel drive BMW on a controller with the driving aides off is a challenge in its own right.
Equip yourself with the new Forza-branded Fanatec CSR Wheel and the experience is truly brought to life, with the added level of control and the immersion of being sat behind a wheel. Its bone shuddering force feedback also helps, allowing you to feel exactly when the car is on the brink of losing grip and feel the moment of impact in collisions. Again, the physics impress as the realistic suspension jostles violently in accordance to the impact.
For whatever reason, engine sounds in racing games rarely sound as realistic as they should; some often resembling dying Dyson vacuum cleaners (I'm looking at you, Gran Turismo). Forza Motorsport 4’s engine notes on the other hand have a decidedly rich, organic quality that put the competition to shame – I urge you to crank up the volume of your surround sound system to hear the thunderous growl of a V8 Mustang. Eargasms were had.
As its legions of fans will tell you, the television phenomenon Top Gear has become a sensational staple of contemporary car culture. Turn 10 are clearly aware that a good proportion of its players are likely to be fans of Clarkson and his cronies, which is why its inclusion in Forza Motorsport 4 feels so timely. Rather than just acquiring the license for the track, Turn 10 have gone one step further. Their attention to detail doesn't go unnoticed, as even the replays mimic the same authentic camera angles used for celebrity lap times in the show.
The famous studio, complete with haggard Toyota Hilux pickup truck, has been faithfully modelled as a usable backdrop for photographing your cars and a couple of Top Gear-inspired challenges appear in World Tour. While car football is a fun distraction, the numerous ten pin bowling challenges, supposedly chosen by the Top Gear team, feel like something of a misfit. It’s not ambitious, but it’s certainly rubbish.
Most importantly, both the Kia C’eed and Suzuki Liana are available to drive on the track, enabling you to create your own fantasy Star in a Reasonably Priced Car segment. This raises a question to Gran Turismo 5: why bother to license the Top Gear track and not include the Reasonably Priced cars?
Clarkson’s inimitable words of wisdom are on narration duty for the new Autovista, too. Here you get to gawp at a limited selection of Forza’s cars in eye-wateringly exquisite detail, with the freedom to move around and open up the panels. We only wish more cars were given the special treatment – with only 26 cars available to examine, including the novelty Halo Warthog, it’s little more than a lavish gimmick. Nevertheless, it’s still fun to hear Clarkson provide a rare insight into the defunct DeLorean.
Every one of the one million pixels used to craft these cars are used to full effect here – you can practically touch the intricate interiors and see yourself in the reflection of the immaculately rendered bodywork. Fortunately, Forza Motorsport 4 is still a stunner in-game too, but it’s the new lighting effects that steal the show and puts a realistic sheen over the staggeringly detailed cars and tracks. I’m genuinely staggered by how much juice they have managed to squeeze from the almost geriatric 360.
Online features can often feel skimpy in racing games, but not so with Forza Motorsport 4. Aside from the standard 16 player races, there are two significant innovations: Rivals and Car Clubs. Rivals is not too dissimilar to EA’s Autolog, whereby players are challenged to beat each other’s times. Like Autolog, you are notified whenever a friend beats your record, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery as they say.
Car Clubs are just the tip of the iceburg of what is the beating heart of Forza: the community. Car Clubs allow you to seamlessly browse and share each other’s car collections, but it’s the substantial array of car customisation that keeps everyone coming back for more. Many players have produced an impressive array of vinyl designs, which can then be sold for a pretty penny.
By now, you’re probably thinking that Forza Motorsport 4 is perfect in every conceivable way. Well, not quite. While the car selection is bang on, the track selection is a bit lacking, especially when only five are completely new. Turn 10’s own fictional tracks just aren’t that special or memorable.
Racing AI is also a tad too aggressive (you will at least see them make their own mistakes like veering off the track) and there is rubber banding, though it arguably keeps the intensity of the close racing up.
Perhaps the biggest blunder is the damage, or rather the lack of it. Minor scrapes and paint scratches just don’t cut it anymore. For a game that takes just about everything up to the next level, it’s disappointing to still find the damage so primitive and it clashes with Forza's dashing good looks and supreme driving physics.
You may have also noticed some fleeting comparisons to Gran Turismo 5, but it’s practically impossible not to allude to Polyphony’s baby. After all, in its heyday the series pioneered the racing simulator for consoles, and for all its shortcomings Gran Turismo 5 is still considered a monumental success.
In all honesty, Gran Turismo’s physics engine remains the more sophisticated of the pair, the result of Kazumari’s unrelenting OCD over the years. Let’s also not forget that GT5 can claim that it has night time racing and dynamic weather, features that Forza does not have, but then you could argue that Turn 10 focused on the core areas that mattered most instead of the garnish.
But, crucially, Forza Motorsport 4 is the complete package. From its jaw-dropping graphics and perfectly pitched car selection, to its unmatched community support and highly flexible World Tour career, a driving simulator has never been so accessible. Forza Motorsport 4 is a concerted celebration of automotive achievement, and hands down one of the finest drives of this console generation.
Words by Martin Bigg (Twitter: @drivinggamespro)
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