Forza Motorsport 4 Review - October 18th 2011

As one of the most popular Xbox exclusive juggernauts, Forza Motorsport continues to evolve and improve with each instalment. The fourth title in the series bundles in some shiny Kinect options, a streamlined suite of game modes, and even some commentary by Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson! It's certainly a loaded package, but is it enough of a leap to justify its existence?


As a huge fan of Forza 3, it's truly gratifying to be given the opportunity to import your profile into the sequel right from the outset. The reward of additional credits and some early vehicle unlocks may seem trivial, but it's a pleasant notion that acknowledges any prior investment. The slightly over dramatic title sequence (narrated by Clarkson) then discusses the many joys of high octane virtual racing and how you don't have to worry about global warming and rising fuel costs. Despite the overt theatricality, it does hint at Turn 10's desire to focus on fun, and soften the barrier of entry for new players. Everything from the menu navigation to the customisation has been pleasantly streamlined and presented in a very clear cut manner.

The Autovista mode is cool but fairly superfluous.

This brings us nicely onto the Kinect functionality. The various features are designed as either a supplement or an alternative to traditional controls, which means that those of you with no desire to buy the divisive motion sensing add-on won't feel short changed. However, if you have it, you should be aware that it doesn't always succeed here. Selecting game modes and other options using gestures is clumsy and slow. In this case, I found very quickly that it's far easier to use good ol' fashioned buttons. Voice interactivity is better, although some options are curiously omitted from the list of possible phrases.

The best Kinect enabled stuff in Forza 4 is the head tracking and Autovista showroom. Whether you're playing with a controller or you're going hands free (by steering your vehicle whilst the game handles the acceleration and braking), leaning out into corners feels natural. Even when you're mimicking the gestures of a steering wheel to turn left and right, the game is surprisingly responsive. You'll probably have to run the Kinect Tuner to get it working at peak efficiency, but once everything is set up, it does add something unique to the experience.

Autovista meanwhile is something of a technical marvel, despite being little more than a glorified rotatable camera. Crouching down in front of the Kinect (and stepping closer or further away) allows you to take a closer look at specific components. Admittedly, this feels pretty magical, despite being fairly gimmicky. You can also lift up the bonnet and explore interiors with the appropriate gestures. It's a very well made bonus feature that doesn't add a great deal to the core experience, but it's nice to have it in there.

You can race in various different locations from around the world.

The 16 player racing limit (increased from 8) is another welcome change, and the Top Gear branding, which includes a playable version of their famous test track, is a good fit. Apart from that, Forza 4 is largely more of the same. Handling is still absolutely spot on, and although the A.I. are slightly more forgiving, they've still got an attitude problem and won't think twice about giving you an unhelpful nudge on a hairpin bend. Sumptuous audio design and excellent graphics are both present and accounted for.

It's all pleasingly familiar, but at the same time, Forza Motorsport 4 is definitely much more accessible. The Kinect control options remove any potential frustration for newcomers and serve as a means to ease them into the game. Long time fans are also looked after, with a renewed focused on community options and the same great sense of speed and scale. It's the best version of Forza to date, and one of the most complete driving experiences ever made.


Jon Titmuss

 

Gameplay:

Optional Kinect functionality is nice, if a little uneven. The actual driving mechanics however are superb.

Audio:

Simply outstanding.

Graphics:

Forza has never looked better.

Longevity:

An expanded career mode and full online multiplayer support should keep you busy.

     

Final Score:



The Kinect stuff is not perfect, but Forza Motorsport 4 is one of the most satisfying and rewarding games of the year.

 

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