After a couple weeks with Forza Motorsport 4, what impresses me the most about it is still the very first thing that ever impressed me about it. Not ever really “getting” sim-style racing games, I was surprised at how accessible Forza 4 was when I played it in June at E3. I managed to complete a race without spinning out or going off the road, which is something I can’t claim about Gran Turismo.
The secret to Forza’s accessibility is the sheer number of options and tweaks it has. When I first started playing, I had assists like ABS, traction control, stability control, a racing line that gives braking hints and more helping me out. It’s a nice counter to the difficulty dilemma in racing games. For an easier experience you can play with the assists, but the game incentivizes you to turn those things off for bigger cash bonuses.
The whole system creates this nicely flowing learning curve. While I did start with all those assists on, the more I played I started to progressively turn them off, one by one. Now, with hardly any assists on, I’m making huge amounts of bonus cash and I feel like I’ve gotten much better at the game. It’s uncanny how good the game is at taking someone inexperienced and encouraging him to become better and better.
There’s plenty of ways to become better, too. Forza 4 is a veritable fountain of content, containing something that any sort of car lover can enjoy. The main career is designed to be played with any car you want, no longer forcing you to follow its idea of car progression. Rivals mode pits you against the times and ghosts of your friends and can create a sort of weird neurotic obsession to be number one in even the most casual players. The game also features tons of online race types and an extremely detailed decal/paint editor.
Added to the mix is Autovista, which lets you inspect heavily-detailed car models up close. At first glance I would dismiss it as a throwaway Kinect tie-in, but the mode also features commentary on the cars by Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson. You don’t have to be a fan of Top Gear to enjoy listening to him talk about cars and some of it is really informative.
Information is something I actually wish there was a lot more of in Forza 4. It’d be great if each car in the game had a little paragraph along with it to give you a little bit of backstory on the car. I understand that it’d be a lot of work for 500+ vehicles, but it’d certainly be appreciated.
But really, if I had to complain about something in Forza 4, the AI would be the only thing I could think of. When racing against AI cars, they simply stick to the in-game racing line and never deviate from it. It makes them seem a little on-rails and they’re not very interesting to play against. They also seem to brake way, way too early for turns, which has created numerous wrecks for me. Thankfully, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of rubberbanding when racing against the AI and I couldn’t be more thrilled about that.
No matter who you are, you’ll likely find something to enjoy in Forza 4. Between the dozens of classic cars, tracks featuring great scenery, complex tuning options, and more, the game easily earns its price tag. Me, I’m still most impressed at how easy it is to pick up, play, and get better at.