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Forza Motorsport 4 Review

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Forza Motorsport 4 is a fantastic driving game, but the improvements over Forza 3 feel pretty incremental.

The Autovista mode lets you see some nicely detailed car models and cockpits.

Forza Motorsport 4 doesn't reinvent the Forza franchise, and given the exceedingly high quality of Forza 3, it'd be insane to expect dramatic changes from the sequel. Some new features have slid into place around its periphery, but this is still the same accessible, configurable, and wonderful driving game that it was in 2009. How that bit of info strikes you will largely depend on your feelings about the previous game. The quality and depth offered is practically indisputable--but if you left Forza 3 feeling like you've had your fill, Forza 4's new additions probably aren't going to be enough to make it all feel fresh and exciting.

The structure of Forza 4's career mode has changed on the surface to form a world tour mode. When playing the world tour, the game moves you from one track to the next, presenting multiple events for each track once you get there based on the cars you currently possess. So if you're sitting in a Mazda MX-5 Gen 1, you might get offered a slower E-class race or an event built specifically for Mazda MX-5's. Hop into a 2009 Dodge Challenger and you might see something like the Charger & Challenger Club event, built specifically for those two models to face off. Upgrading your cars also impacts the events you'll see, since plenty of events are built around which class your car is currently in. While this automatically takes you around the game, the world tour is essentially just a guided way to check off boxes on the game's huge event list, where hundreds of different races await. If you'd rather select your own events, the list is available to you at any time.

Forza 4 has an additional Rivals mode, which is a leaderboard-and-ghost focused option that lets you load in the replays of your friends, car club members, or if none of those people have tried the event, you can grab the ghost of a player you don't know. The events, some of which will rotate on a monthly basis, span a lot of different race styles, like simple lap times on empty tracks, full-on races, driving on tracks littered with slow-moving traffic, drift events that score you based on how awesome your drifting is, and so on.

It's easy to spend hours just sifting through the storefronts and finding amazing vinyl groups.

Regardless of how you play, after each race you'll earn some amount of driver experience points, credits, and manufacturer affinity points. Driver XP gives you a free car every time you level up. Credits are used to, you know, buy stuff, like cars, vinyl designs, tuning setups, and parts to upgrade your car. But if you can hold off on buying parts for your cars until you clear a few levels of manufacturer affinity, the prices on parts drop lower and lower, eventually becoming free. It'll only take a few races to hit that 100% discount, so it's worth it to stick to one brand of car for a bit, especially at the beginning of the game, where money is harder to come by. If you're impatient (or just plain crazy), you can also buy "car tokens" with Microsoft Points and exchange a few of those for any car in the catalog. But the world tour will focus your career on a reasonably gentle speed slope and when you're playing online you get access to a lot of cars for free, so that doesn't necessarily make a whole lot of financial sense.

Online, you can get up to 16 players into a lobby and roll through a ton of different options to configure events to your liking. The basic race types are available, but you can also go custom and create your own weird variants with different types of scoring, team settings, and the like. You can lock out specific car classes or even force everyone in your lobby to use a specific camera setting. And if you're anticipating troublemakers, you can even disable on-track collisions, making the game more of a group time trial than a traditional race. Considering the way this all went down in previous Forza games, turning off collisions might not be the worst idea, as boorish random players seem to always want to bump their way into first place or fly into corners at full speed, using the other racers as cushions to help them make turns, and what have you. If that's how you want to play, fine, but if you're attempting to behave in a civilized fashion, you might want to team up with some likeminded individuals ahead of time. That's where the game's car club feature fits in, letting you build your own racing teams online and struggle on club leaderboards. You can also share cars in your club, letting players pool their resources and build a great, versatile online garage.

Customization has been a huge part of the Forza franchise and it returns intact in Forza 4. You can paint on your cars using primitive shapes, which can result in some startlingly detailed designs. Also, if you bought or made a lot of layer groups in Forza 3, they'll import right into the new game. I'll never be able to put together anything cooler than a bad-looking pixelated Space Invader, but a quick search of the game's storefronts turns up all sorts of amazing decal work. Tuning setups and full car designs can also be placed up for sale on a user's storefront, creating a fun little economy that keeps the in-game credits moving around. If you're looking for a new car at a possible discount, there's an auction house that, once again, lets you find all sorts of stuff, including the ultra-rare "Unicorn" cars, which get their own tab in the auction house.

The Top Gear test track offers some quick bowling events.

There are a lot of different ways to play Forza Motorsport 4, and it's tunable enough to let players of any skill level get something out of it. With all of the assists turned on, the game practically plays itself, and all you really need to do is follow the on-screen driving line and occasionally pass the AI racers. But that quickly gets boring. Once you start reducing the assistance level to put more of the car into your hands, the game becomes a lot more exciting. But if you can't handle every single turn by yourself, the game again has a rewind feature that lets you roll back the action when playing by yourself to undo mistakes. This has an impact on how your score enters the leaderboards, but that isn't the end of the world. There are also different control options, with wheel support--including support for the new Wireless Speed Wheel, a goofy little flight yoke sort of controller that's great if you only want to play games that feel like Mario Kart Wii did when you slapped the Wii Remote into the center of that plastic steering wheel attachment. It works as advertised, but doesn't feel like a great way to play the game for long periods of time.

Forza 4 also has Kinect support in a few of its modes. You can't drive with Kinect in career mode, though. Instead, starting the game with Kinect takes you to a separate menu where you can set up quick, mostly meaningless races or time trials. Steering with Kinect is as simple as holding your arms up in front of you, sort of like Kinect Joyride, though you can drive sitting down, if you like. You don't have any control over your acceleration or braking when playing with Kinect--all you do is steer. As you might imagine, that isn't fun for very long, though perhaps very young children might get a kick out of it. You can use the Kinect camera along with a controller or racing wheel by enabling head tracking. This tilts your view as you move your head from side to side, which feels like a pretty superfluous addition.

GET LOOSE

You can also use Kinect to "walk" around cars and explore them in the new Autovista mode. You can also do this with a controller, and the experience isn't markedly different either way. This isn't really gameplay, it's more like visiting a virtual car museum and taking a tour of some of the game's rarest, most interesting vehicles. As you pop the hood and get up for a closer look at the engine or wheels, specific points on the car pop out and offer a spoken description of that section. You can also get an overview of each Autovista car from Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson. I can't imagine anyone spending a lot of time leaning their way around these different car models to hear every single bit of detail. Mostly, it's an interesting feature to try two or three times, and then maybe one or two more times if you're showing the game off to someone else. Maybe if you're an absolute car fiend you'll really want to devour all this information?

It's still a beautiful game and it's probably the world's best driving simulator, at least for consoles, but a lot of Forza 4's changes feel incremental at best. The game includes many of the same tracks found in previous installments, and I found myself getting a very "annual sports game update" vibe off of it. With that in mind, it seems like the game's most die-hard fans and people who didn't play the previous Forza will get the most out of Forza 4. It's easy to see that Forza 4 is a great game, but after playing hours of Forza 3 back when it was fresh, it was hard for me to get as much out of Forza 4's largely similar offering.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
104 Comments
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Posted by readymix

nice...cant wait to get this!!

Posted by j3ffro919

The next four days will not pass fast enough for me.

Posted by Drallcom

Maybe I should look into it, never played 3.

Posted by MeAuntieNora

Cool review, I'm happy quality racing games like this can come out with some regularity. Incremental upgrades are great and all, and it's nice to see the new lineups of crazy concept vehicles and models that won't roll out until next year, but this is about as frequent as the releases can get without seemingly going overboard. I'd hate to see quality racing games like this get diluted and abused by more frequent iterative releases, but I guess there's hardly a market to warrant that in the first place so no worries right?

Posted by Swoxx

Don't you mean Fourza? ahahhaha

Sorry, go ahead and stone me.

Edited by chilibean_3

I don't know. It seems like it lost a star because Forza 3 was also really great and this one isn't extra great enough. Sounds like it's still far and away the best console racing sim.

Posted by bigsmoke77

I can't want to dive into the autovista and Im not that event that big of a car nut. I do hope they maybe take their time with the next Forza and release with the next generation of console unless that is alot farther away then we suspect.

Posted by LoktarOgar

How Clarkson is Clarkson in this? I imagine they had him play it straight, so as not to piss off certain car manufacturers, but that automatically means that he's not the Clarkson you want.
 
From that perspective, in practice, he just seems useless.

Posted by yoshimitz707

@LoktarOgar: I think I read somewhere they kind of just let him say whatever he wanted.

Posted by MormonWarrior

Cool...but I guess that means since I don't own any of the games I'd be best to get Forza 3 for like $10 on Amazon.

Posted by Enigma777

Looks like a fine game, but I really don't like sims. 

Posted by tourgen

I know it's not a really big deal to most? but showing geographically where the race tracks are on the globe is REALLY COOL. The recreation of the top gear track is awesome too. O.K. maybe a boring track to most, but I love the show and the track means something to me knowing the people who have posted time trials on it.

Posted by Altrezia

Best console racer for sure, but not a patch on 'Simulations' out on PC. Still, I'm looking forward to next Friday (UK Release).

Posted by Ben_H

This will be the only Xbox game I buy this year other than LA Noire, and Catherine.

Posted by Falconer

Jeff, you didn't mention the voice navigation stuff. In my opinion, I think this is a bigger deal than head tracking, invisible wheel, or walking around in Auto Vista. Did you even know it's in there?

Posted by EvilKatarn

Humph.. I find it strange how Jeff seems to find this game so similar to Forza 3 when to me and my Forzacular Friends find Forza Four to be the most impressive leap in the series to date. Forza 3 was pretty much like Forza 2 save for cockpit view and a bit better graphics. Now Forza 4 has so much more going for it - the tyre physics they talked so much about makes for a much more realistic driving experience where every spin and wheelspin make sense. Then there's the Simulation Steering option when using the gamepad (my preferred way of playing as I can't afford a steering wheel) which is a lot more involved than the steering in Forza 3 which felt like you were giving mild suggestions - steer left, steer right - the steering had a floozy speed dependancy on it which simply restricted you from doing anything remotely interesting when going at high speeds, you simply couldn't steer the way you wanted to. Of course the graphics are also looking remarkably better in my opinion, especially the lighning. Cocpit camera is also an impressive improvement. The sound features ferosity and rumble unlike the dull bubbling back in Forza 3 and 2. Autovista and all the Top Gear stuff is but a cherry on top of the cake for a mild vehicle faggot such as myself.

I respect Jeff's opinion and I understand he might not be interested in stuff such as "simulation steering" and all that babble, but I do recommend he try it out just for once.

Posted by Reuben

I wouldn't mind waiting 3 years if that meant a Forza with more than just an incremental update. Still going to get this though, great review!

Posted by Gordo789

@Enigma777 said:

Looks like a fine game, but I really don't like sims.

my sentiments exactly... I could use another WipeOut game maybe.

Posted by TheKing

"but the improvements over Forza 3 feel pretty incremental."

Most of the other reviews I've read so far seem to say the opposite... Either way, I guess I'll find out on Tuesday.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

I can't wait to get all up in Forza 4's business.

Moderator
Posted by zombie2011

This game looks amazing.

I kinda disagree with the "annual sports game update" feeling of this game. Adding new cars and tracks is a whole lot different than changing a name on a jersey.

Posted by FritzDude

@LoktarOgar said:

How Clarkson is Clarkson in this? I imagine they had him play it straight, so as not to piss off certain car manufacturers, but that automatically means that he's not the Clarkson you want. From that perspective, in practice, he just seems useless.

He is THE Clarkson. Look him up in the autovista and you'll see. He makes fun of porsche and americans in this game.

Posted by Winsord

This is what I was expecting, and I'm alright with it. Super excited to get my collector's edition next week and sink a ton of hours into this game. I've been playing Shift 2 lately, and it's just making me hunger for a better driving sim.

Posted by bybeach

This seems like a 'love cars' game. Simply that. Kind of wierd but at same time for the modern person, really kind of natural.

Posted by GPink

Judging by the review, I'll eventually get Fourza, but it looks like I'll be sticking with Forza 3 for a while. I was worried about how incremental the new game was, and on top of the tough choices I'll be making of what games to buy in the coming weeks, there seems to be a lack of improvements, and Porsches.

Posted by jaycrockett

I found Forza 2 amazing, played a million hours on it, got 795 gamer score. Forza 3 was clearly a better game, but I didn't play quite as much, 660 gamer score.

Played the demo of Forza 4, definitely felt the same. I think downward slide will continue. (Of my enthusiasm, not quality) I think I'm going to wait until it's available for download.

Posted by lordofultima

@zombie2011 said:

This game looks amazing.

I kinda disagree with the "annual sports game update" feeling of this game. Adding new cars and tracks is a whole lot different than changing a name on a jersey.

That's a bit of a silly comment, if you don't play sports games you can't even appreciate what they change mechanically from year to year. Same with Dynasty Warriors, they actually have changed a lot about that series of games over the years, but everyone gives their opinion on the game without even playing them. Just sayin'.

Posted by Elod

@LoktarOgar said:

How Clarkson is Clarkson in this? I imagine they had him play it straight, so as not to piss off certain car manufacturers, but that automatically means that he's not the Clarkson you want. From that perspective, in practice, he just seems useless.

Everything I have read has stated that Clarkson wrote his own material for the cars selected.

Posted by l4wd0g

Great review.

Posted by Guttyg

I think a lot of people who are really into cars will appreciate the nuances that Forza 4 delivers over Forza 3 (me included), more than a casual car game fan. Thats why it is fantastic that we can enjoy an experience that is not dumbed down like a lot of so called simulations on consoles (Need for speed, et al).

Posted by Nadafinga

I just picked up an Xbox a few months ago, so I think I might just save myself $40 and pick up Forza 3.

Posted by zombie2011

@lordofultima said:

@zombie2011 said:

This game looks amazing.

I kinda disagree with the "annual sports game update" feeling of this game. Adding new cars and tracks is a whole lot different than changing a name on a jersey.

That's a bit of a silly comment, if you don't play sports games you can't even appreciate what they change mechanically from year to year. Same with Dynasty Warriors, they actually have changed a lot about that series of games over the years, but everyone gives their opinion on the game without even playing them. Just sayin'.

I buy Fifa and NHL every year and have bought Madden the last three years so.................what were you saying????

Posted by Deathpooky

I'm interested in getting into one of these games and trying it out for a while, but as not a serious sim guy it sounds like I might do just as well buying Forza 3 for $20.

Posted by therealminime

So if I never played Forza 3, this will be a pretty good game to get into, right?

Posted by WickedFather

It is more like having a job than having fun. Go on.

Posted by Dany

I feel like Microsoft is forcing first party devs to churn out another title in 2 years, ala fable, viva pinata and Forza where the changes made across board are incremental and have them feel rushed like Fable

Edited by wrathofconn

@zombie2011 said:

@lordofultima said:

@zombie2011 said:

This game looks amazing.

I kinda disagree with the "annual sports game update" feeling of this game. Adding new cars and tracks is a whole lot different than changing a name on a jersey.

That's a bit of a silly comment, if you don't play sports games you can't even appreciate what they change mechanically from year to year. Same with Dynasty Warriors, they actually have changed a lot about that series of games over the years, but everyone gives their opinion on the game without even playing them. Just sayin'.

I buy Fifa and NHL every year and have bought Madden the last three years so.................what were you saying????

He was saying that they change more than the rosters with every release of those games, which you should know since you buy them every year.

Also, hype.

Posted by zerdune

I will probably buy this at some point since I haven't played a Forza game since the first one. Still have to finish Grid, Dirt 2 & 3 though....

Posted by Slumberpunch

Good read, Jeff. I am looking forward to getting this next Tuesday and playing the shit out of it.

Posted by Rio

My excitement for a game like Forza is in a lot of ways fairly irrational so I wont bother making a comment on Jeffs review quality either way. It is a little sad though to see Jeff not really capable of understanding why someone might really really love the autovista mode. Is it that hard to understand infatuation with cars?

Posted by aldofigueroa

I'm very tempted to buy Forza 4, but I recently picked up Forza 3 (w/ ODST) and haven't really played much of it. From the review, it sounds like there aren't revolutionary features that makes this game shine brighter than Forza 3. I think though, with all the great games coming out, I'll have to make do with Forza 3 and spend my cash elsewhere.

Posted by TwistedGamer

heyyyy, im looking to get a Challenger too! i <3 Jeff now :p

Posted by Altrezia

@Rio said:

My excitement for a game like Forza is in a lot of ways fairly irrational so I wont bother making a comment on Jeffs review quality either way. It is a little sad though to see Jeff not really capable of understanding why someone might really really love the autovista mode. Is it that hard to understand infatuation with cars?

This is a good point. It's for the same people that grind GT5 to buy *that car*. I'm included in that bunch, hence why I'll still buy it, even though sim-wise I'm PC all the way. There's something about collecting a million credits and blowing it all on a car just to check it out in replays!

Posted by xXxLYNCHxXx

I 'S-ranked' Forza 3 but thought GT5 was a disappointment, so this will be a day one perch.

Posted by Devil240Z

After reading the review. I am now more excited for GT5 Spec 2.

Posted by PrivateIronTFU

Ugh, this comes out on Tuesday already? Well, looks like I'll never S-Rank Forza 3.

Posted by JackColt

Some say he knows two facts about ducks, and both of them are wrong.

Posted by Rio

@JackColt: I almost typed in the obvious reply to that, but instead I just laughed.

Posted by WickedFather

The most amazing thing about Forza 4 is.... is that it's probably...... the most boring racing game...... in the world.

Posted by sungahymn

Four stars. Totally called it.

This game, despite its big iteration on Forza 3, seems to be still a great driving game based on this review, though I won't be buying this because driving games aren't my thing.

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