Thursday, 6 October 2011

Forza Motorsport 4 review

The racing sim of the year has arrived. Forza Motorsport 4 brings the ultimate racing experience exclusively to the Xbox 360. The previous three titles in the series were all received amazingly well, and with a host of new features, modes, cars, locations, an updated engine and state of the art graphics, there is no reason why this one should be any different. Saying that though, there is also a lot to live up to. A successful back catalogue always adds extra pressure on the development team, and fans will always compare it to previous titles in the series; not so much a problem for debut titles or series that were never really good in the first place. So Forza Motorsport 4 approaches the finish line. Is it in pole position, or dead last? Read on to find out...

The game starts by placing you in a Ferrari, in the scenic Bernese Alps. The car is beautifully detailed, the reflections absolutely perfect, everything is flawless. This is true of the full game. Everything has been created with perfection in mind, and not just on the graphical side. Sound effects are realistic, each car sounds unique and as it would in the real world. The F class cars are audibly unremarkable, but the R1 class vehicles pierce your ears with screaming engines, sure to satisfy even the most dedicated petrol-head. There is literally nothing wrong with the game's presentation. As proof of how good the visuals are, all the screenshots in this review were taken with the in-game photo mode. They have not been edited at all.

The cars are what Forza games are about. Turn 10 don't do things by half, they never have. There are almost 500 cars in Forza Motorsport 4. It may not be as many as Gran Turismo 5, but it's still a remarkable feat, and is definitely the most a racer has seen on the Xbox 360. Each car has the same, high level of detail and polish, and each feels different. Each car is fully tunable, allowing you to change minute things such as tyre pressure, differential, drive ratio, and the list goes on. Not only can you change all these settings, but you can also buy engines, tyres, bumpers, clutches, etc. You can almost fully change your car, and bring it up a few classes at the same time. The level of customisability could be overwhelming for the more casual player, but there are many features in Forza Motorsport 4 that cater for the gamers with no racing experience. One of these is the auto upgrade, which automatically chooses all of the best upgrades and alterations to make your car suitable for a specific race. It's awesome if you need it, but if you want to tune the cars yourself, you can do that too. It caters for newcomers whilst staying complex enough for the hardcore players to enjoy.
There are classic vehicles, to modern hyper cars
The cars handle really well, and again, they each feel unique. The handling, the speed, the gear changes, the braking, all depends on which car you choose. Picking a specific car for a certain race can make a big difference, so it's always a good idea to have as many cars as you can. It's easy to rely on the free cars that you are given upon each level up, but there are so many more to buy that are much better. As for the handling, there are many options which define how you drive your car. Easy settings allow players of any experience level to enjoy it, as it has braking and steering assists. You can literally hold the acceleration down for the whole race, and just focus on the steering, which is also helped by the perfect line, which is projected onto the track in front of you. Absolutely fantastic for beginners. The experienced players can choose to play on simulation mode, which gives no help whatsoever. Not only is there no perfect line, but you must manually change gear, control the clutch and stop for tyre and fuel changes. Damage your car too much and it's game over, and flipping your car onto it's roof also means you must restart. It's relentless in it's mission to provide the most realistic racing experience yet.

One of the most mindblowing new features is called Autovista. Autovista has a small selection of the most exotic cars available in a virtual showroom, and you get to investigate. The graphics in Autovista are the best that the Xbox 360 has ever seen. You'd be forgiven for thinking it was just an image of a real car. But it's not. Turn 10 have pushed the boundaries of the Xbox 360's capabilities, and have created not just one masterpiece, but a handful of them. The cars are smooth, there are no jagged edges. The detail is incredibly high, you can zoom in on each individual bulb on the headlights of cars. You can see incredibly small screws in the engine, you can see the text and reflections on the disc brakes. With each car comes a selection of information points, and you can find out all the specifics about the car parts, the development of the vehicle and in some cases, the history of the manufacturer. Jeremy Clarkson also gives his verdict on each car, in a way that only he could. His parts will feel very natural for fans of Top Gear, although people who aren't aware of him will be confused by his cynical descriptions and comparisons. Autovista is one of the most powerful features that the Xbox 360 has seen in any game to date.
Autovista gives you access to ultra rare cars, such as the Reventon
The Career mode is the deepest mode in the game, and is the one that players will spend most time in. You play through years, and each year contains a set number of races, starting with 5 and increasing with each following year. There are tracks from all around the globe, and there are more than enough to keep everyone busy. Each round in the series has three options for you to choose from, each with different specifications for the race, and a different bonus. So you can play it safe by choosing the lowest class race for each round, but the credits and XP points won't come in very fast. Or you can choose the high class races for much better bonuses and faster level progression, and access to more powerful cars. Switch cars for even more options, there are so many. Career mode takes a long time to completely finish. It's by far longer than the majority of games that come out these days. The amount of content for the price is amazing. There is two, three, maybe even four times the amount of content in Forza Motorsport 4 than some of the biggest games on the market. Upon successfully completing a race, you earn two types of XP and some credits. The first XP is for your driver level. The second type is slightly more interesting, as it depends on the manufacturer of the car that you are using. You gain an Affinity level with each manufacturer, the more you use and win in their vehicles. Level up to earn discounts on their products, and cash prizes. Considering there are over 80 different manufactures, there is a lot to do. Credits are the form of currency in Forza, and are used to buy vehicles and upgrades. If you can't seem to win a race, don't fret. You can use the Hire a Driver feature. You will have no input for the race, the AI does it for you. It's good if you're stuck in a rut, but it does come at a hefty price; you lose a chunk of your winnings.

The Rivals mode has over 60 challenges for you to beat, and successful completions will be posted on the leaderboards. It's great to challenge your friends and beat their times, who then have the option to take on your ghost. Rivals works similar to the Autolog function of Need for Speed, in that your friends are automatically updated on the challenges that you have taken on, and are notified of any instances in which you may have beaten them. Credits and bragging rights are the prizes in Rivals mode.

A great new feature for the Forza series is the introduction of Top Gear content. Whether it's Jeremy Clarkson's unique verdicts on the Autovista cars, racing around the Top Gear test track in the reasonably priced car, or taking on your rivals in many Top Gear inspired events, fans of the TV show will find them incredibly fun. Even if you're not a fan of Top Gear, more content for the game is always a good thing. Some of the best Top Gear additions are slightly tongue in cheek, with Car Bowling and Soccer. Bowling sees you following a track whilst also focusing on knocking down blowing pins. It's a lot of fun, and a nice change from the serious racing. Car Soccer sees up to 15 people recreating the crazy game that was made famous by the show, and is just how it sounds. Cars instead of people, a giant soccer ball and the same rules apply. Get the ball into the goal. Again, it's so much fun, and with a large group of friends online, you will have some of the best fun the game can provide.
You can even display any car in the Top Gear studio

Car Clubs have also been added to the Forza repertoire, which allow you to create groups. The purpose of the group is completely up to you, the creator. If you want to create the ultimate group of painters, tuners or racers. Even more simply, you could just create a group for your friends. It's an amazing way to keep tabs on the people you want to, to see their new lap times, designs or set ups, and it's an even better way to take on other clubs, and try to rise to the top of the club leaderboards.

Turn 10 have clearly put in the effort to not just deliver a firm racer, but to create one of the defining automotive experiences of our generation. The amount of content is insane, the level of detail overshadows anything we've seen so far and the overall experience is inspiring. Forza Motorsport 4 is one of the best experiences you can have on the Xbox 360, and the fact that it is great for all skill levels just makes it even better. Autovista needs to be seen to be believed, Career mode has an insane level of depth, and Online play provides even more thrills. Everyone needs to try this game, regardless of their previous experiences with racers, good or bad. Forza Motorsport 4 is something else, something that shouldn't be missed.


by Louis Gardner

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