While Microsoft Studios used to pioneer the racing genre with two polar racing franchises, the arcade influenced Project Gotham Racing and the simulation based Forza Motorsport, in recent years the former has faded into obscurity. Perhaps it was seeing the release of too many iterations in such a short period of time, or perhaps it was the sale (which lead to the eventual demise) of Bizarre Creations, but despite the recent rumours of a revival, Xbox 360 gamers are left with but one core racing title. Forza Motorsport makes no bones about its intended market, and those who previously enjoyed the buoyant interpretation of vehicle handling in Project Gotham Racing may be left wanting, but in Forza Motorsport 4 Turn 10 Studios has created every car enthusiasts’ dream compilation of vehicles and disciplines.
As a simulation videogame, Forza Motorsport 4 features an incredibly realistic interpretation of vehicle handling. Gamers who insist on turning off all of the available assists must be sure to know what they’re doing, as sending your vehicle careening off the track and into a wall is only ever one misplaced twitch away. Of course, this is when playing with the control pad; Forza Motorsport 4 also includes Kinect compatibility, and here it takes on a different form altogether.
When playing with Kinect, Forza Motorsport 4 becomes the kind of racing videogame that car enthusiasts would hate, but their less enamoured friends and relatives could easily jump on board with. Best played from the interior view, Forza Motorsport 4’s Kinect gameplay is designed to be a traditional racing videogame with motion controls; it’s a more serious version of Kinect Joyride, and one that anybody can easily jump on board with. Some may feel it’s accessibility for perception’s sake, but for many it’ll be the perfect addition to the core Forza Motorsport experience.
Forza Motorsport 4 features a wealth of content, both in terms of vehicles and gameplay modes. World Tour is Forza Motorsport 4’s career mode. Beginning in the amateur league players progress through events at their own pace, choosing those applicable to their current car collection. Of course, completing new races will unlock further options for your progress. What’s more, each race offers additional bonuses, whether it be extra credits for purchases, an additional boost to your Driver Level or further gain for your Affinity Level. The Driver Level system will be familiar to anyone who’s played a previous edition of Forza Motorsport, while the Affinity Level differs slightly from the Vehicle Level in earlier outings. Here the player earns experience with a manufacturer, opposed to a specific model, and in turn unlocks discounts and new items available across that manufacturer’s range.
While the World Tour mode covers all of the basics – tracks, vehicle selection and challenges – it’s far from being all that Forza Motorsport 4 offers. Prior to release Turn 10 Studios had enthused to Electronic Theatre about the amount of progress that had been made with the community aspect of the videogame, and how big a piece of the puzzle it would be this time around. Players can create or join car clubs and share unlocked vehicles with any other member. Races can be organised between individuals within the club, or as one club rivalling another. Additional gameplay modes include a Rivals mode, in which players set a lap or race time for others to challenge with specific car classes, and players can opt to challenge any of the monthly updated events. The range of online gameplay is simply staggering – especially given the quantity of on-disc content – and of course, this is before taking into account that standard one-off races and split-screen gameplay.
Gamers are always trying to compare Gran Turismo to Forza Motorsport, and while their subject matter may be similar the delivery couldn’t be any more different. Gran Turismo 5 tried to be every vision of motor racing possible – every discipline, every manufacturer, attention to every minute detail – Forza Motorsport 4 however, is more concerned with encompassing all that is gaming into the sport, harnessing high-definition visuals, network play and of course, Kinect. They are the two polar extremes of racing simulation on current-generations consoles, and your preference is more likely to do with your appreciation for real world racing than it is the technical performance of each videogame.
That being said, Forza Motorsport 4 is a technical accomplishment in its own right. Many fans of the series will recognise cars and tracks from earlier iterations of the franchise, but here in Forza Motorsport 4 the presentation is leagues ahead of any other racing videogame on Xbox 360. The once flat sidelines, lacking in detail bar a very basic grass texture or seating block, are now just as detailed as the tarmac and rubber burn placed upon it. The Autovista mode is simply a stunning presentation, and any car enthusiastic worth their salt should consider purchasing Forza Motorsport 4 simply for this comprehensive asset. The soundtrack follows the pattern of near every modern racing videogame, with an assortment of modern and widely respected tracks ready to be chopped-and-changed into your own playlists, but no one could argue that most of that which is included is perfectly suitable for the adrenaline rush gameplay of Forza Motorsport 4.
At times Forza Motorsport 4 is overwhelming with its content that is defies belief. Not only is there a staggering amount of vehicles available on the disc, but also a second disc is supplied with additional content ready to be installed to your Xbox 360 hard drive. What’s more, early adopters will receive a redemption code for yet more vehicles, downloadable from the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, and since release an incredible amount of downloadable content packs – both free and paid – have been made available. To say that Turn 10 Studios are offering significant support for the videogame is an understatement of the highest order, and to suggest that the fans won’t appreciate this would be overlooking some of the finer aspects of the videogame’s presentation: Forza Motorsport 4 is built for the fans by the fans, and there’s no better way to have it.