Forza Motorsport 4 Review (Xbox 360)
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Day 1: Initial Impressions
Day 2: New Modes Impressions
Games as deep and challenging and Forza Motorsport 4 typically struggle with accessibility.
Ask a gamer with no knowledge of football to pick up the sticks in All Pro Football 2K8, and he'll probably throw down the controller in frustration after a few minutes of getting manhandled.
Developer Turn 10 Studios knows that most gamers aren't certified auto mechanics. The developer's fourth version of Forza Motorsport provides a number of "training wheels" to keep beginner racers on the road, as well as modes like car soccer and car painting, which don't require any knowledge of racing to be fun.
But when it's time to take the racing assists off for some serious driving or car-tuning, Forza 4 crosses the finish line first, offering the finest racing simulator on the current generation of consoles.
Creating a simulation-style game that's accessible and deep isn't an easy task, but it's what makes Forza 4 a sports gaming classic.
Improved car physics and computer AI are among Forza 4's biggest enhancements.
Jeeps and Hummers can now push lighter cars off the track and absorb lots of damage before breaking down. Alternatively, fragile sports cars and coupes can be ruined with only a single collision against a rail or barrier.
Increased inertia reduces spin-outs on the heavy vehicles, but it also makes turning tank-size cars difficult. Featherweight cars corner easily, but risk over-steering and spinning out if the driver turns too hard or the car's tires lack grip.
The Forza series' trademark lack of grip on muscle cars still feels exaggerated -- to the point that some muscle car models aren't even drivable -- but overall, there's a nice variety of handling among the different car classes.
AI improvements have created a more "human" driving style for the computer. Forza 4's AI drivers protect their racing lines by cutting off pass attempts, boxing out other cars on turns and generally driving more aggressively than in past games. Computer cars even occasionally wipe out on their own by misjudging corners or drifting too close to a guard rail.
The only major fault with Forza 4's on-track gameplay is a nasty glitch that causes certain wheel peripherals to disable all post-race cash/experience. The current workaround is to set wheel sensitivity to "270," but a full fix to the issue is planned in a future patch from Turn 10 Studios.
Accurate interior designs and engine sounds make Forza 4's races feel as close to driving a real vehicle as possible. Car models are gorgeous, whether they're fully intact or have lost a few broken parts on the track. Bumpers and mirrors snap off when struck, rear collisions cause brake lights to go out and even the in-car dashboard clocks show correct time.
A lack of weather and night driving are Forza 4's only missing presentation elements. Fog, rain and snow were features in 2007's Project Gotham Racing 4. It's inexcusable for the Xbox 360's third edition of Forza to still be lacking weather and night races.
Most tracks in Forza 4 are locked into a single lighting style, such as "sunrise" or "late afternoon," but the differences between the lighting schemes are minimal, and outside of the occasional lens glare, nothing affects the actual driving conditions like Project Gotham Racing 4's weather did.
Not being able to remove the in-game HUD will impact Forza drivers who like to use the cockpit cam. Lap times, car positions, etc., can never be completely turned off, obstructing the mirror views on several car models' cockpit camera.
With 290 total events, Forza 4's career mode will keep racing fans busy for months. Standard races make up most of the career mode. Minigames like "car bowling" and "autocross" -- where you weave through a series of cone gates -- add some variety to the World Tour.
World Tour's 10-season schedule offers access to about half of Forza 4's 290 events. Players can bring up an event list at any time during career mode to skip around or finish up any leftover challenges that aren't covered during the World Tour.
The event list also includes selectable difficulty settings, which are disabled during World Tour mode. "Adaptive AI" is exclusive to the World Tour, withForza 4 automatically tweaking the computer's difficulty based on gamers' performance.
Most racing games' "car editor" feature includes little more than changing the paint job from red to blue. Forza 4's car editor is so in-depth, artists can create pixel-perfect decals -- from the Batman insignia, to McDonalds' golden arches or South Park's entire cast of characters.
Left-brained gamers who don't feel like dipping a virtual paintbrush can simply buy completed masterpieces from the online auction house and apply art to any of their existing cars.
Gamers who believe it's "what's on the inside" that counts can add parts or tune-ups to their car, with each tweak affecting on-road performance. Gearheads will want to do their own work, but gamers who can't tell a powertrain from a soultrain can download the best setups online.
Despite doubling Forza's online capacity to 16 drivers per race, lag is never felt during multiplayer contests. Aside from the added "synchronization" delay before the flag drops, online driving feels identical to the offline modes.
Losers' lame excuse of "you only beat me because you had the better car" is now invalid, as friends can upload and share cars among themselves via a club garage. After smoking whiny opponents in a same-car race, further embarrassment can be attained by uploading the replay to forzamotorsport.net for the world to see.
Autolog-style online leaderboards for the monthly Rivals challenges will have score-attack aficionados busy trying to keep atop their friends' times.
With tons of tracks, car restrictions and game varieties to try, Forza's online component will stay fresh for months, if not years.
I have to go back to 2009's million-selling Xbox Live Arcade hit, Trials HD, for the last time a racing game gripped me this much.
Even if your knowledge of cars doesn't go beyond a childhood Hot Wheel collection, putting down Forza Motorsport 4 becomes impossible once the "just one more race" syndrome takes over.
Visuals: Forza 4's graphics are the best seen in a sports game to date. No weather or night driving, however, will disappoint players of Project Gotham 4or Gran Turismo 5.
Audio: Muting the bad techno soundtrack is mandatory. Thankfully, it can be replaced with a custom playlist or the violent sounds of the road.
Control Scheme: For a simulation racer, Forza 4's controls are surprisingly simple: brake, gas and rear-view mirror buttons are all that's needed. Being able to customize the controller layout is a plus, as the default placement for the rear-view mirror button (right bumper) is awkward.
Learning Curve: Simply staying on the road is a challenge at first, but the numerous driving assists make the transition to simulation racing as smooth as possible.
Score: 9.0 (All-Time Classic)
What does a 9.0 Mean? 9.0 - 9.5 (All-Time Classic) -- These games are the type of games we talk about for a long time on OS. They are great in nearly every way, and while they have a minor flaw or two, they are easily overlooked because of the level of greatness present here. These are rare, but they are quite awesome when they come around. A must buy for any sports fan.