20th October 2011 - My interest for Forza Motorsport 4 has been a tad shaky over the development, since the appalling re-release and cash grab with the Forza 3 “Ultimate Edition”. However there's some very good news here though – Turn 10 has worked some Racing Sim magic with Forza Motorsport 4! Read on to find out about this addition to the racing genre.
The first thing that will hit most gamers upon firing up Forza 4 is that, like Forza 3, a second disc install is necessary to access all the content – of which there is heaps. 500 lovingly rendered, beautiful, detailed cars, all waiting for you to tear their tyres apart and distribute them all over tracks which are, to put it simply; the most memorably gorgeous tracks I've seen in a racing game. Forza 4's cars don't consist of 20% good and 80% shoddy PS2 quality level as found in Forza 4's direct competitor, Gran Turismo 5. These are five-hundred fully rendered/premium quality cars. There is no lower quality level here.
The second thing most gamers will notice, as soon as they turn into a corner in their first race, is that Turn 10 has made the controller a lot more user friendly than it has ever been in a racing sim. When using the controller and the way the camera moves in the cockpit view, the gaming car nut can feel weight transfer, understeer, oversteer and bumps in the road. It's almost as if your mind fills in the feeling of the road and the tyres, like you're actually driving a car with a controller – similar to how, in GT5, you can almost feel the back end of the car moving around and skipping on the bumps when you use a wheel – except this is with a controller.
Multiplayer suffers from a bit of a slightly clunky matchmaking system – but, thankfully, Turn 10 took a sanity pill (unlike MANY developers these days) and has implemented a Server Browser to find custom, player-hosted games, just like Halo should have. The actual matchmaking playlists have heaps of variety, having everything from serious Circuit racing in any class you'd like, to cat-and-mouse, all the way to things like Top Gear Soccer/Football!
The servers have been causing trouble, though, with things like the matchmaking and rivals system being completely inaccessible for a few days now (at the time of printing this review). Makes you wonder if Eden Games' colossal failure in the release of Test Drive Unlimited 2 has made developers and fans think it's OK to sell a game with a huge online implementation and have it not functioning on launch day. One thing though, is that we can be assured Turn 10 will rectify this reasonably quickly.
My personal favourite feature in Forza 4 is the Rival system. Anyone can set times in various events, with specific car and track restrictions making the times even closer. When you hover over an event, you can see your next rival to your time, and can opt to try and set a better time than they have – for a (sometimes very generous) wad of cash and XP. It doesn't sound all that advanced, but it actually is very fun and intense – and improves your ability to race cleanly and find 0.001 of a second anywhere you can, which really pulls you into the experience of being some kind of crazy, super-rich, schizophrenic racing driver, competing one moment in a purpose-built race car, then the next in a Kia Cee'd.
It may seem odd to get to the career mode here, but in Forza 4, the multiplayer is so accessible to anyone that it's what you'll most likely be playing for the majority of the time. Here, we have another big improvement on Forza 3 – now, before every race, you'll get to choose between 3 current-car-sensitive races, meaning you don't feel forced into driving a car you don't want to. Another plus with this, is to choose between different bonuses – things like bonus driver level points (resulting in achievements and free cars), bonus affinity level points (resulting in free upgrades for the make of your current car) and credit bonuses! The singleplayer career is ridiculously long- and good thing, too. You're rewarded for driving whatever car you want, whenever you want!
As I mentioned earlier, all 500 cars are fully and beatifully rendered, both inside and out, matching the direct rivals in GT5, and without a checkerboard shadow over the dashboard! I'm going to compare to GT5 a bit here, because these two games are in direct competition and are, in fact, very close.
The tracks are one area where Forza 4 flies ahead in its Bugatti Veyron to GT5's Golf TDI. The tracks look mouth-wateringly awesome, both with the brand-new tracks and the ones from Forza 3 – the latter being reworked and reimagined, with new backdrops and slight changes in layout.
Cars, really, are pretty similar, although obviously Forza 4 has more actual current-gen cars, 500+ as opposed to GT5's 231 premium cars – more than double, and in a development time nowhere near that of GT5. However, those 231 cars in GT5 do look just a little bit better than those in Forza 4, that is unless you look at the shadows. But that little bit really is microscopic.
Menus are a bit of a downgrade from the elegant and beautiful system from Forza 3, with white replaced by black (which makes picking any aerodynamic parts for a black car a chore, with the low lighting). You can see what Turn 10 was going for here, but they just didn't pull it off.
The audio is another area where Forza 4 really shines, with you actually being able to hear your car within a 50 mile radius of any others on the track *cough* GT5 *cough*. And what a sound.
The cars are extremely well recorded and captured, from the scream of the race cars to the roar of the big V8 muscle cars, from the growl of the Veyron to the whistle of the turbos on a Skyline GTR or Supra MK IV. Tyre noise is there, and not enough to ruin those engine notes – but not so little you can't hear it. Turn 10 seems to have worked some sonic magic here, and as someone to whom audio is very important, they really aced it here.
This is a proper sequel in the Forza Motorsport franchise, with heaps of new features and innovations. There is singleplayer to last the average gamer more time than they could want, and the multiplayer just never seems to dull. The rival system, especially – I know that it alone will last me as long as I want it to, with new challenges and rivals to beat all the time! So, in the value department, this is a real killer!
I have had, and still am having an absolute blast with Forza 4 – its quality and quantity are both genuinely without match in the console racing sim market, and the fun just doesn't seem to disappear from tearing round any track you'd like in any car you'd like – fearless of last-gen quality cars ruining a great looking picture or replay, fearless of having no cockpit view, fearless of having to change cars and going through a loading-screen-ridden, irritating menu system.
The community implementation through things like the Auction House and Storefront are absolutely fantastic, always enabling you to go about your life in Forza 4 any way you want. Racing, tuning, painting, buying, selling, learning. There really is something for everyone who likes cars here, and in a world where the car fan is an increasingly oppressed and antagonised breed, it's almost exactly what the doctor ordered.
+ Driving physics spot on
+ Graphics really raise the bar, both in terms of cars and tracks
+ Heaps of content
+ Accessible, fun online which is full of variety
+ Great community & implementation
+ Tuning mode and Autovista have heaps of interesting information
- Menus look a bit bland in areas, such as when upgrading aerodynamics
- Matchmaking sometimes feels slow
- Had server issues for a couple of days (at time of printing this review)
Reviewed and Written By Frankie Main