- Kinect Sensor Optional
- Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
- Developer: Turn 10
- ESRB Rating: “E" for Everyone
- Genre: Racing
- Pros: Fantastic graphics and sound; career mode; new race variations; Autovista; amazing gameplay; tons of content; livery editor; car clubs; head tracking
- Cons: No night or weather effects
With so much new stuff to talk about, this review is only going to cover the new features and improvements introduced for Forza 4. For a more general overview of what to expect, check out our Forza 3 review.
So what new stuff? How about an improved career mode. A complaint about Forza, and most racing games, really, is that the career mode is too dry and bland. In Forza 4 you play through multiple seasons with an increasing number of races in each season. Each stop of the season uses a specific track, and then gives you three choices of events to run on that track. And if you don't like the options they give you at first, you can pick a different car and get some new events to run. As you complete races, you earn credits and XP which raise your driver level. A nice touch this time around is that you have a choice of reward cars for each driver level you reach. Instead of being gifted a set car at each level, you have a choice of between 2-10 or so, which lets you build your garage with cars you actually want to use. Also new is that instead of each car having its own affinity level, you now earn manufacturer affinity that rewards you with credits and discounts on parts (free upgrades past level 4, heck yeah!) for that manufacturer.
Dotting the landscape of your season are new tracks to visit, along with most of the old favorites from Forza 3, as well as new race types. New tracks include the Top Gear Test Track, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Infineon Raceway, Hockenheimring, and a fantasy track in the Burmese Alps. These join the returning tracks to give you a grand total of 26 tracks, each with multiple variations and even different times of day. There is no night racing or weather, which is disappointing since the competition does offer it, but we aren't that bothered by it. Personally, I don't really like racing at night or in the slop.
New race types are also featured in Forza 4. In addition to standard races (now with up to 12 cars on track!), there are bowling challenges (where you knock down pins laid out on the track for points), autocross (weave through cones set up on the track as fast as possible without hitting any), multi-class events (like Le Mans where you have faster and slower cars all out on the track at the same time), and fascinating overtake challenges where you and an opponent race on a track filled with slower moving A.I. civilian cars that act as moving chicanes.
It is also noteworthy that the way the career races are set up makes for much more competitive races than past games. In many races, the A.I. cars are mostly equal to the car you enter with, which means you actually have to drive well to win rather than just overwhelm opponents with a car that completely outclasses them. You still sort of can do that - an "A" class Ferrari is much different beast from an "A" class Mitsubishi, but both can enter "A" class races all the same - but if you stick with cars more appropriate to each event, the competition is much better. The A.I. actually puts up a fight this time around and drives really well. I haven't just easily won every event I've played, unlike in Forza 2 and 3, and have had to settle for a second or third place finish now and then. The A.I. still has a habit of spectacular failure where they overdrive corners and wreck if you pressure them late in races, but it isn't as bad as it was in Forza 3.
The handling has changed a bit as well. Throttle management is more important than ever. You won't really notice it with the FWD cars you start the career with, but the first time you get in a RWD car and the back end steps out on you when you hit the gas too hard, you'll definitely take notice. You have to feather the throttle and really be smooth with your braking and acceleration. And it is pretty easy to be overwhelmed the first time you get in an actual "good" car. The finesse required to drive well at 150+ MPH is very different compared to driving around at 120. This isn't necessarily anything new to racing sims, but is much more pronounced here than it has been in past games. The nice thing is that the game does a good job of really letting you know (controller vibration, sound, visuals) when the car is breaking loose so you can correct it in time so you aren't just spinning out constantly. Once you get used to the handling, though, you won't want to play a racing game any other way.