Forza Motorsport 4 Review

It’s been two years since racing fans have had their last go at a Forza game, and with Forza Motorsport 3, the developer was hitting on all cylinders.  With some added fine tuning under the hood, Turn 10 has released Forza Motorsport 4, and the question is, have the added enhancements to the already proven formula been worth the wait?

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Forza 3’s fresh coat of paint and visual upgrades were a far cry from Forza Motorsport 2, and it had gamer’s singing the praises of the Turn 10, who seemingly made a generational leap, within a generation.  Now the third game available for the Xbox 360, Forza Motorsport 4 stays closer to the roots than ever before for the franchise.  The new racer offers up some new modes, a streamlined single player offering, some interesting Kinect functionality, and enhanced interaction options for the online racing community of Forza Motorsport 4 players.

With ample customization options also available for the designer in you, your car can look as equally beautiful as it is powerful.

As I said, the game feels very much like Forza 3.  And why shouldn’t it, it’s one of the highest reviewed games from the developer who put together one of the best racing games of all time.  Getting knee deep into the dark and seedy side of simulation racing and car tinkering, Forza Motorsport 4 does not disappoint in this regard.  That said, customization is key in Forza Motorsport 4.  Whether you are taking to the online world or single player World Tour, you’ll need to know your way around an upgrade shop to survive.  With options that can take even the lowliest of 3 cylinder smart cars and turn them into road beasts, your car inventory is literally what you make of it.  Performance upgrades have always only been the half of it in Forza games though.  With ample customization options also available for the designer in you, your car can look as equally beautiful as it is powerful.  Though the options are pretty standard fare.  These aren’t anything new and groundbreaking for the franchise by any means, considering that they’ve long been available with little added for this edition of the game.  You’ll also find many if not all of the tracks that have been featured in Forza games of the past. Fan favorites like Nurburgring, Mugello, Catalunya, Laguna Seca and many others that have been staples of past games, return.  With a couple of new additions added in, like The Bernese Alps (which is excellent), you will have some new scenery, but not much.

Forza games have always headlined a large roster of vehicles, and Forza Motorsport 4 is no different.   With 500 detailed and licensed vehicles across 80 manufacturers in the game, you’ll have your hands full of cars to drive.  Yes, the Porsche license is sorely missed, but unless you are a die-hard Porsche nut, you may not even notice.  Diving headfirst into Forza Motorsport 4 you’ll find that you don’t have access to much once you begin.  As in any single player experience, you’ll need to build your way up to racing with the big boys.  The World Tour is going to be your go to event for the single player portion of the game, and it is as it sounds.  The game takes you around the world to compete in various events depending on your skill level and car selected.  As you progress through the world tour of 12 classes, you’ll be earning XP which will afford you new levels, car bonuses, and in-game currency to spend on your vehicle for upgrades and design modifications.  Earn more points quickly by adjusting the driving assists which are at full by default.  The game allows you to play in any number of ways, from the most casual Sunday driver to the white knuckled veteran, Forza Motorsport 4 offers many different levels of challenge.  The less driving assists that you use, the more points you’ll earn, and the quicker you’ll rank up.  As you reach each level cap, you’ll earn a vehicle for your performance.  You’ll also be rewarded with owner loyalty bonuses as you continually complete races with specific manufacturers.

Microsoft will let you purchase any car you want,  if you are willing to pony up real world dough for your virtual fix.

The single player portion of the game is more streamlined than ever before.  You’ll automatically be whisked to your new destination in the world tour, and once there, you’ll get to choose between three races that are suited for the vehicle that you currently have equipped.  It will at times also show races for vehicles that you have in your garage, and if chosen, the game will prompt you to select the correct vehicle.  Furthermore, if your vehicle is outclassed in a specific event, the game will prompt you to auto-upgrade. This will automatically spend the currency and optimize your vehicle for the race you are driving in.  Even with all the additional streamlining, there are times when you’ll find it necessary to make further changes to your vehicle, whether that be in the form of additional upgrades or tuning, for your car to be competitive.  In my opinion the game doesn’t do a very good job of dishing out comparable cars to what you are racing against as you start rising through the ranks.  Then again, you can always take to the game’s auction house, or the in-game dealership to purchase vehicles.  If you don’t have the money, don’t sweat it, Microsoft will let you purchase any car you want,  if you are willing to pony up real world dough for your virtual fix.

As big a deal that has been made over the Kinect functionality in Forza Motorsport 4, the game certainly doesn’t offer enough to warrant actually purchasing the device for this game alone.  The autovista mode, where you can thouroughly examine each vehicle, is cool, but is a novelty.  Head tracking and driving works as advertised, if you are aware that in the fine print you see that you won’t be controlling your acceleration and braking.  It’s fairly lackluster as a game controller, and a bit of a letdown in that department, considering how much has been made of the Kinect features of the game.  Is it novel?  Yes.  Would we have even phathomed such an experience a few years back?  Probably not.  So in perspective it’s pretty cool stuff, but it certainly isn’t making me want to turn in my controller anytime soon.

As it has always been, the real meat of a Forza game comes in the online arena.  Forza has built a tremendous online community over the years.  Here players make tried and true tuning setups for specific vehicles, custom skinned cars to be sold on the in-game auction block, and because of these features, a lot of the fun in a Forza game doesn’t even take place on the track.  You can spend hours toiling over perfecting the best setups and car designs, then test them against online opponents, or even test the waters of the virtual marketplace with your creations.  The online Car Club features return in Forza Motorsport 4, and this functionality facilitates this community aspect even further.  Members of a club can share experiences, paint-jobs, and tuning setups.  Whether you choose to race against your Car Club mates or not, up to 16 players can hit the track in Forza Motorsport 4.  With a slew of customization options at your disposal, the game can truly be catered to any liking.  Non traditional game modes spice things up a bit in Forza 4 as well.  Modes like Cat and Mouse will definitely break the monotony of the confines that traditional racing games place on the player.  Furthermore, rivaling EA’s Autolog, the new Rivals mode in Forza Motorsport 4 will allow you to load replays of friends or other online acquaintances to see if you can beat their time in specific areas of the game.  As you progress, your ghosts will be saved, so people will be looking to take you down as well.  Without many people online, it’s hard to say if this will work as well as advertised once the game lobbies start filling up. Something tells me it will.

The Verdict

I would have loved to have seen some things included in Forza Motorsport 4 that sadly didn’t make the cut. Namely the weather options and night racing, which aren’t featured in the game at all.  Considering that they are found in so many racing games today, it is somewhat odd that Turn 10 decided to neglect those customization options.  You won’t find the variety that other racing games feature, but what they do offer, they put their best foot forward at.  All things considered, Forza Motorsport 4 is a great game.  Is it leaps and bounds ahead of it’s predecessor?  No, not really, and it doesn’t really need to be to be a great game.

You won't find the variety that other racing games feature, but what they do offer, they put their best foot forward at.  All things considered, Forza Motorsport 4 is a great game.  Is it leaps and bounds ahead of it's predecessor?  No, not really, and it doesn't really need to be to be a great game.
Reviewed on Xbox 360

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