Greetings, friends. A little about myself before we go any further, but not for narcissistic reasons—it’s just so that you understand a couple of contributing factors behind the adoration I’m about to heap upon Microsoft Studios’s Forza Motorsport 4: I love cars. I love anything with four wheels and an engine, especially if that engine is connected purely to the rear wheels, with little or no interference from infernal machines with names like ABS and DSC. You get my drift, I’m sure. So when I was contacted and asked if I’d write a review about this game, they didn’t have to send me a copy. I already had three of them: one for each Xbox 360 in my three-screen Forza setup. There’s a steering wheel bolted to the desk, some pedals on the floor and sod-all room for anything else in my tiny apartment.
Just had to make sure we’re clear on all that stuff before I go on…
On the surface, Forza 4, like its predecessors, is an “everyone’s” game. Be you a hardcore sim enthusiast, or a casual “racer” who wants to do little more than steer the pretty car when the line changes colour, you’re covered. That said, it’s when you switch off the ABS, the traction control, the stability control, the suggested line (in fact EVERY damn thing) that this game really shines.
If you’re prepared to put in the effort and learn how this game really handles, you can have an absolute blast! The lads and ladettes at Turn 10 studios put as much (if not more) time and effort into the physics behind the pretty, as they do anything else. Turn off your handbag aids and you’ll soon learn that there’s a lot more to cornering than just mashing your controller button left or right. There’s the balance of the car to consider, the loading on the tires and those pesky old rules that Newton came up with. You’ll very quickly make two new close friends… one called understeer and another called oversteer. The latter can be your best friend and induce grins wider than George Clooney’s (every time he wakes up and realises he’s George Clooney), the former is, as Richard Hammond puts it “the sound of disappointment”. No, FM4 is not anywhere near like driving a real car, but it is as close as you’ll get for less than a hundred bucks!
Anyone worth their salt will ask, when a sequel game comes out, “so, what’s better about it?” Either that, or you’re like me and you’re such a fan of the series that you just pre-ordered it on-spec, the second you found out about it. Either way, allow me to answer your unasked question. There really are only a couple of things that are better about Forza Motorsport 4, most of it is very similar to its predecessor.
Firstly, the core gameplay and physics engine were perfect already. To monkey too hard with that would have been madness. It takes time to learn how to drive even reasonably well in a game like this, so to have to learn all over again would have sucked.
Then there’s the graphics. They. Are. Stunning. There is no other word for it. I’m not going to try and explain it using numbers and statistics, I’m just going to say “go and check it out somewhere, you’ll understand!” If you stand back from the screen about 6 feet, you’ll swear, at a glance, that you’re looking at a photo. I’ve had friends look at replays recorded on an iPhone 4 camera and assume it was real footage. Again, I say it: stunning! If I’ve had a long day at work, or I’m bummed about something, I fire up Forza 4, put some tunes on the stereo and drive an old-school corvette (one that I could never afford in real life) through the mountains of Japan. I don’t drive fast, I just cruise around and soak up the scenery. It really is that pretty. Seriously, correcting a tiny bit of oversteer while some Sabbath plays on the wireless is the most relaxing thing known to man!
There is one important addition, and that’s The “Top Gear” test track. If you have a pulse and you’re a fan of the show, you have to go out and buy this game immediately. Seriously, stop reading, you can finish reading this on the train on the way to the game store. Go!
Doing a lap of that famous stretch of blacktop is truly awesome. Especially in a Suzuki Liana or a Kia Cee’d (the latter of which will earn you an achievement or two). There’s something amazingly satisfying about hurling that little car around the track, especially when you realise that the replay is shown exactly like it would be on the show. They use the same camera angles, even the super-wicked-awesome “holy crap that was fast!” shot as you blast past the tyres. You know the one I mean. Seriously, you’d better be on the way to the games store by now. What if some punk kid gets the last copy in stock? GO!
Forza Motorport 4 is an absolute must-have game for any kind of car enthusiast. The Top Gear track alone is worth the price of admission and I haven’t even got to the part where you can play car soccer. Online. With little hatchbacks and a big ball. Just like on the show. And the physics are spot-on enough that I would insist my (hypothetical) children drive this thing a lot, with all the aids off, before they go anywhere near a real car. It’s no substitute for the real thing, but it will give them an appreciation of why one needs to brake before a corner and what to do if you’re understeering etc. Things you shouldn’t have to learn on the road if you can avoid it.
I can’t spend any longer on this review, I must away to continue my campaign…my never-ending, soul-destroying but skill-honing campaign to climb the illustrious leader boards of FM4, specifically the leader board attached to the Nürburgring’s Nordschleife. It’s like some kind of drug, you see! I must get better at it! I’ve got another 20 seconds in me, honest!