Review: Forza Motorsport 4 cometh and it IS awesome.

It’s finally here and truth be told, Forza Motorsport 4 lives up to all the hype. It truly is a great game.

Indeed, the game is so good that after a few hours playing the game with an Xbox controller yesterday, I ordered a Fanatec CSR wheel to take my Forza 4 driving experience to the next level.

How is the game with a standard xbox controller?

It is VERY sensitive to your inputs with the aids off. You only have to touch the trigger to apply the brakes and even a moderate squeeze will take you to full lock making the cars pretty hard to control e.g. if you release the throttle too quickly, you can easily send even the F class car into trailing throttle oversteer. With the Ferrari F458 and no assists, you’ll need the touch of a saint to control the car around corners.

Ironically, the fact that the cars are so hard to control and the way they lose control (e.g. forced trailing throttle oversteer or brake lock ups leading to understeer or the screeching as you reach the limit of grip on a corner) is the main reason I want to buy steering wheel and pedals for this game. I think Forza 4 is realistic enough that the extra control and force feedback will be worth the investment.

So enough of the sim side of the game, what about other features?

Here’s a picture taken in AutoVista.

Forza rendered Ferrari F458

If you click on the picture above, you’ll see a full size “big shot” image. It’s a whopping 3840×2160 pixels in size. The quality is great though the wing mirror spoils it slightly (it doesn’t look attached to the car).

AutoVista is an interesting concept and works pretty well. The cars look gorgeous and the mode contains plenty of interesting facts about them. I wish I could rev the engine rather than just turn the ignition on and off but I guess you can do that in the racing challenges that are offered from inside AutoVista mode.

You have to complete challenges to unlock additional AutoVista cars, having a handful to view initially. I found the challenge with the F458 practically impossible with the controller as I’m used to driving with a steering wheel and pedals now. I’m not going to try the challenges again until my xbox-compatible wheel and pedal set arrives.

I’ve completed the first set of races in career mode. As pointed out by the guys at insidesimracing.tv, the AI competition is pretty slow in these races and it’s easy to win even when you’re totally uncomfortable using the controller to drive the cars. One thing I found a little disturbing is that there doesn’t seem to be much penalty for hitting other cars or going off the track. Being used to the strict incident points and safety rating system of iRacing and the benefits that brings in terms of how clean the races are (most people don’t want to hit each other or cheat by cutting corners on iRacing as the penalties are severe) I will probably give online competitive racing on Forza 4 a miss.

My favourite mode so far is Rivals mode. In this mode, real people post their best lap times. If you challenge their time and win, you get a bounty bonus. Initially the suggested rivals are very slow but as you beat them, the suggested rival times get closer to your best lap time. I can see myself spending a lot of time in this mode once the new controllers arrive. It’s much more interesting pitting your skill against another human than a faceless collection of automatons.

Setting a lap time in Rivals mode

What are the tracks like?

The detail is great. There are plenty of trackside objects to use as braking and turning markers and, if you’ve got time to take in the scenery, the views are stunning at times.

There are some tracks in iRacing that are also in Forza 4. For instance: Silverstone, Suzuka and Road Atlanta. The courses are quite similar though the trackside detail can vary substantially. I don’t run iRacing at full quality and I’m not interested in the greenery so I can’t tell you which looks better. I recognised one track from Gran Turismo but the course configuration was completely different.

What else?

Well, I bought the limited edition version of Forza 4. I like the special metal case and the additional booklet. I haven’t tried any of the extra content yet. Overall I think this edition is value for money. The booklet gives you some of the AutoVista info and some gorgeous shots of the high end cars.

I will probably get the season pass for the game as well which reduces the value of the Limited Edition somewhat as much of the Limited Edition content is included with the season pass.

In summary…

The racing seems more alive in Forza 4 than its predecessors and, possibly, Gran Turismo 5. It’s the first Forza game that I’ve found interesting from the outset. Even the slowest cars in career mode are fun to drive. This is a massive improvement over past versions (and Gran Turismo 5) where the name of the game in the early stages of career mode is grinding through the slow cars to get to the faster ones.

Overall Forza 4 delivers a compelling driving experience and more generally embues a real sense of passion about cars. I heartily recommend it.

Great job Turn 10!

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