Forza Motorsport 4 Xbox 360
Published by Microsoft Studios
Developed by Turn 10
During the lifespan of the Xbox 360 the Forza Motorsport series has become Microsoft’s premier driving game series. Forza Motorsport 4 is the third game in the series to arrive on the console (not including the re-release of Forza Motorsport 3 with support for the Kinect sensor). As impressive as it is however, there are times when the game appears a little too familiar to its predecessor. Thankfully there's enough here to make this, just about, the best game in the series to date.
If you've played Forza Motorsport 3 you'll be forgiven for thinking that you're experiencing a Career mode that hasn't changed much at all. This is due to the fact that the majority of the circuits and vehicles (there are hundreds of cars in the game from over 80 manufacturers) that you can choose to drive, initially at least, appear to be the same as in FM3. As you get more into the Career mode however it becomes obvious that there are some striking differences here such as the Top Gear challenges which ask you to knock over a specific amount of giant bowling pins whilst driving around on the Top Gear test track. These challenges and the handful of new circuits that have been included help to make your virtual driving career more enjoyable. However, a lot more could have been done to the single-player game to make this feel like a true sequel.
You can either choose to receive the races as part of a World Tour or you can simply choose the available events from the Event List. The races offered to you are tailored to suit the cars you have available. After you take part in a race in FM4 you're given experience points (which amass to increase your driver level), some credits (which you'll save up to purchase upgrades and new vehicles) and Manufacturer Affinity points. In FM3 you gained levels for each car but in FM4 you gain levels with the manufacturer instead. As you increase your level with a manufacturer you'll gain bonuses. For instance, for getting to level 4 with Chevrolet I received 100% discount on their performance parts which is certainly a welcome bonus.
In addition to the Career mode and the ability to race in one-off races and set hot lap times, you can also take part in 2-player split screen races. There's also a new mode called Autovista which allows you to fully explore various cars in the game by sitting in the driver’s seat or taking a look at the engine if you wish. It isn't really a proper mode but it's something that should appeal to motor racing anoraks (it could have been subtitled however and deaf gamers will be completely unaware of the verbal content in this mode). Of course you're free to create your own custom paint jobs and designs for your cars just as you have been in previous Forza Motorsport titles and it's just as impressive and enjoyable here as in previous games in the series. Once again you can sell your designs (or purchase the creations of others) via the in-game auction house for in-game credits if you wish.
Online play is supported for up to 16 players and as before you can setup car clubs and engage in a variety of race modes with the option to create your own race types thanks to a collection of customisation options and yes you can turn off collisions too, to prevent the crash aplenty antics of those who simply want to spoil the races rather than playing fairly. Rivals mode allows you to grab a ghost of a friend, fellow car club member or complete stranger and attempt to surpass their performance. There are various race types on offer here. Results are monitored on leaderboards and it's all very addictive, particularly when you're trying to outdo the ghosts of your friends.
Forza Motorsport 4 has some Kinect functionality of course. I still don't have access to a Kinect sensor so I'll simply mention here what using a Kinect with the game enables you to do for the sake of completeness. You can drive a car without using the controller or steering wheel. Essentially you have the ability to steer and little else. Rather more inviting is the ability to use the Kinect to track your head movements to enable you to angle your view as you move your head which in theory at least should add to the immersion factor. You can also use the Kinect to interact with the cars in the game's Autovista mode. In short it doesn't seem that the Kinect improves the FM4 experience in any significant fashion but those who do own the sensor will appreciate a top level game for the Xbox 360 that makes use of it.
As you would expect given how previous games in the series have been, Forza Motorsport 4 manages to straddle the line between arcade and simulation to perfection thanks to a myriad of assists that make the game as forgiving or as challenging as you want it to be. You can still rewind a race, to attempt that poorly taken corner again if you want to, in addition to displaying a dynamic racing line to show you where you should be on the track and if you're going too quickly. With the difficulty at its lowest and with all the assists enabled almost anyone should have no problem in winning every single race against the AI competitors. At the other end of the scale FM4 is a challenging experience that will really test your virtual driving ability. The handling of the cars seems a little more responsive this time around and the AI seems a little sharper. You'll also find that the AI is more aggressive this time and the AI drivers are not averse to making contact with your car if they feel the need (which thankfully isn't that often).
It's a little surprising to find that Forza Motorsport 4 manages to visually improve upon FM3 given how good that game looked. The car models are more impressive and look slightly more detailed than they were in FM3.The handful of new circuits look good and the ones that have been reused from FM3 appear to look better here than they did in the previous game thanks to some extra polish and wear and tear modelling. The frame rate remains smooth throughout and the game really gives you an impressive sensation of speed which really adds to the enjoyment factor of the game. There is damage modelling in the game and it doesn't look bad, although it's far from being realistic.
It's fair to say that Forza Motorsport 4 can be enjoyed by deaf gamers without running into any obstacles. That's not to say the game is as good as it should be with its support for the deaf and hard of hearing however. The announcer's comments, of which there are many, are not subtitled. Jeremy Clarkson's comments are also not subtitled. In the game's Autovista mode the announcer's comments give you details about the car being viewed and you'll miss out on all of this content which is unfortunate. All of the absolutely essential information is shown visually however so the game is accessible. It's just a shame that more care wasn't taken with the game and that an effort hasn't been made to make sure all of the content in the game is deaf gamer friendly.
If you're a long standing fan of the Forza Motorsport series you're going to find Forza Motorsport 4 a familiar experience to Forza Motorsport 3. In many ways the game represents a refinement of the Forza Motorsport experience and given how good the series has been to date that's certainly no bad thing. Of course you're going to get the most out of the new additions if you have access to a Kinect sensor but even without the Kinect, there's more than enough here to make Forza Motorsport 4 an essential purchase for fans of the series and driving games in general. Let's just hope that the next game in the series makes more of an effort with new circuits and actually subtitles the spoken dialogue.