Forza Motorsport 4 Review
You can increase the performance of your car by doing something as drastic as putting in a new engine or as minute as changing your exhaust. Like other racing franchises, Forza Motorsport is faced with the daunting task of trying to wring every bit of speed out of a familiar formula – race, win, and repeat. The changes in Forza 4 I find most exciting don’t alter this setup dramatically, and yet with just a few tweaks Forza 4 feels like a fresh experience. It's re-invigorated, and every turn is infectious and alluring.
Much like last year, you can race through Forza’s career mode by either choosing races specifically laid out before you or picking from the all-encompassing Events List. The difference is that in Forza 4 the races you choose for your career path are specifically designed around whatever car you’ve selected from your garage. This lets you steer the career mode to your liking even more. Don’t like the races before you? Change your car and new options will conform to your choice. Unlike most racing titles which cement how you progress, this lets you choose between investing in one car and upgrading its car class or sample from the many cars you’ve unlocked through the game’s very generous leveling system. Letting you pick from rewards like increased driver XP, manufacturer affinity XP, or a random payout is also a nice way to customize your ascension. Creating your career path in these ways is great, and the fact that the game still takes you around the globe in a set order of locations (nicely introduced by an announcer) – while changing the specific tracks at those locations – paces the mode, provides interest, and avoids track replication.
Forza 4’s refined career structure is reinforced by a badge and title system that rewards you for achievements in the game ranging from reaching career milestones to good racing, which is monitored by performing Race Feats. These are things like passing and taking turns correctly, drifting, drafting, etc. Badges and titles you win can be put on your online profile. In fact, that game’s seamless transition between online and offline is a powerful motivator to experience all aspects of Forza 4. Whether you’re creating rivals through the game’s endless list of challenge races, sharing the cars you won offline with your online car club members, or simply earning credits through online races that you can spend on cars for your career mode, the game feels like so much more than a list of cars and tracks.
Forza 4’s actual racing is no less impressive than how the game itself is structured. The wide variety of car types feel distinct from each other, the tracks and background environments look fabulous, and the driving itself is demanding and really conveys a rush of adrenaline. My favorite race is the Fujimi Kaido mountain track. As you navigate the tight switchbacks, altitude changes, and car traffic with Mt. Fuji in the background, it’s easy to lose yourself in the moment. Fuijimi Kaido’s one-on-one races highlight some of the different racing disciplines that keep the game fresh. Similarly, drag racing, the Top Gear bowling pin challenges, the technical Autocross cone obstacle courses, and multi-class car races (where both high- and low-end cars race amongst each simultaneously on the same track) – as well as various online modes like Tag or the team-based Cat and Mouse – give you lots of options.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t impressed by the Kinect integration with the game. Autovista mode is cool, but navigating through it with the peripheral just simply meant it took me longer to get the information I was looking for. Racing with it is confined to its own mode and it isn’t satisfying since your arms get tired and the game controls the gas and brake for you. At least, however, driving with the peripheral teaches you not to make wild movements with the steering wheel. Finally, the vaunted (and optional) headtracking isn’t useful since having to turn your whole head to move the camera around the cockpit means you can only look at the TV with your peripheral vision.
Racing games have always strived to strike that balance between being a virtual showroom for car lovers (see the well-done and informative Autovista mode for that) and actually being fun, compelling experiences. Forza 4 successfully bridges this gap and is the racer you’ve been waiting for.