It took Polyphony Digital nearly six years to produce a sequel to Gran Turismo 4, yet Turn 10 has managed to meld its follow-on to Forza 3 in a little less than two. The result, pertinently named Forza 4, boasts over five hundred cars, twenty-two tracks of various configurations and as much car tuning as you could wish for. Forza 4 is automotive epicness and it hasn’t lost its showroom shine.
Rather annoyingly, for those desperate to get their petrol fume fix, there are a few preliminaries to get through before proceeding to the track. An optional install of the second disc is one such bane, and the unskippable intro movie and announcer voice-over is another. Once through this process it’s a flamboyant start, with a lap around the new Swiss mountain circuit in the Ferrari 458 to test your driving prowess. From this illustrious beginning though, things get a little more mundane in the world tour mode, at least initially. Starting off in a lowly powered class F motor, more in keeping for mums who go to Iceland, there is a monstrous task ahead to reach the upper echelons of the R1 racing series.
However, things upgrade at a reckless pace so it doesn’t take too long before faster and more desirable metal hits your garage. For those virtual drivers who played the previous game to death, it’s possible to import some of the collection into the sequel, giving access to a vehicle in every class the title possesses. What’s great with the World Tour mode is the game will tailor itself around the cars you have available, suggesting races throughout the experience that might just appeal to that oil and grease spirit.
Once on track the changes to the handling model and AI become apparent. Turn 10 have teamed up with Pirelli on their tyre physics modelling, which has transformed the sticky sure-footed handling to one that gives a little more movement. It offers a greater feeling of being in the car, especially with the graphical renovation to the in-car views, which are now more detailed and slightly easier to live with. The AI in the game has become a lot more aggressive, and not everyone will get on with it spectacularly well. Passes have to be timed properly as the computer drivers have learnt where the gas pedal is since the last outing. There are some oddities to it, stock cars seem to fair better than tuned vehicles, meaning even cars with far lower performance indexes can pull away. Once after-market parts are fitted though, the AI seems to be able to out accelerate even the most able cornering masters. Unfortunately there is no ability to turn this off or tweak it, so you’re stuck with this performance throughout the World Tour mode – it seems like an odd decision to force this on the player. Go in to the alternative series selection and AI level can be changed at will, though you will miss out on the air miles of the main gaming mode.
Forza has always been about the cars, and the metal love fest has been extended in the Autovista feature. A number of motors are available to ogle over in minute detail, and as Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson has uttered on occasion, it’s enough to give you an automotive semi. Jezza is also on hand to give his unabashed opinion on the cars on display, not all of which are complementary, but nonetheless are entertaining.
Rivals mode is a very engaging feature of the game, which encourages battles for track domination amongst friends and random acquaintances alike. Circuit challenges are listed with times set by people close to you in the rankings, and it’s down to the player to crush the opposition making them feel like Terry Wogan rather than Jay Kay in the reasonably priced car around the Top Gear Test Track. Want to prove you’re quicker than the celebrities in the Kia Cee’d? Here’s your chance.
Perhaps the biggest makeover in Forza 4 is the multiplayer aspect of the game and it was an area that needed a spruce up, as Forza 3 previously gimped much of the online portion. The racing options have been revitalised to allow a vast number of preferences to be poked and tweaked to get the best possible set up for an online race. Along with simple racing choices, there are alternative modes to pick from, such as Car Football Top Gear style, Cat and Mouse, Car Bowling – all this available with an increased number of players; up to sixteen gamers can battle it out now on-track. The level of community involvement in the game is unparalleled by any of its peers and if you want to join a car club, feel free to look-up the ConsoleMonster team.
Forza 4 has also painstakingly reinvigorated the driving sounds in the game. They are quite spectacular, especially with the surround sound turned up to volume “extra loud”. Engines roar, dump values wheeze and tyres squeal like a pig being anally raped … it’s fabulous and enough to wake coma patients up from their hibernation.
The game is not completely without its issues however. Like the pigs, it does feel a little bit that your wallet is taking a bruising, with Day-1 DLC vying for 2400 of your hard earned Microsoft Points, nearly doubling the cost of the game from the off. For your money you get the season pass giving access to all the planned DLC car packs, so if you are planning to purchase the lot it does make things a bit cheaper. Also along for the wallet emptying ride are car tokens; too lazy to earn the in-game credits to purchase those £30 million pound motors? Then spend real money to gain access to them early, it’ll feel just like filling your car up at the petrol station. A single token can be yours for 80 MSP, and at every opportunity the game gives you this option. Given the cost of some of the cars (and one achievement being purchase the five most expensive cars at the dealers), it seems almost disingenuous of Turn 10 to plonk this in the game. Sure you don’t have to use it, but why place it so in-your-face?
Another shoe-in to the game is the very gimmicky Kinect support; menus can be navigated via voice commands, although this seemed to happen randomly at times, making it enough of a nuisance to cause the device to become unplugged. Kinect can also be used for in-car tracking by tilting your head left and right, however if Kinect loses its lock on you, a great ugly banner keeps popping up at the bottom of the screen begging you to recalibrate throughout the racing, with no means of dismissing it. Finally, if you really want to (and you don’t), Kinect can be used to drive the cars controller free in the free-ride mode.
These minor points aside, Forza 4 has been given plenty of polish to make it a worthwhile purchase for those gaming racers who feel the need to strap themselves in to the motoring cockpit once again. Although the driving physics of GT5 might be a little sharper, Forza has its rival beaten in every other aspect – it never forgets that it’s about the cars and welcomes the gearhead with open arms. Forza 4 is the driving game that PD should have made and perhaps even secretly really wanted to make. Speed to the shops now and buy it, and bask in fossil fuel heaven.