Review: Forza Motorsport 4


Forza Motorsport 4 is, quite simply, a lovely game.

The latest racing offering from Turn 10 Studios and Microsoft Studios, Forza Motorsport 4 is one of the most visually appealing games to appear on the XBox 360 console. From the scenic vistas of the game’s Bernese Alps track to the detail applied to each of the vehicles, Forza Motorsport 4 is a game that is wonderful to look at, but more importantly, boasts smooth controls and a variety of customization options that make it fun to play.

Forza Motorsport 4 excels, it would appear, because its developers are true automotive enthusiasts. This reviewer may need to confess that he cannot count himself among the ranks of the “car guys,” even if he did get to drive a several Porsche models at Auto Club Speedway one day, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the development team had enough car guys and tech guys around to make a game that can instantly appeal to a novice, while adding other features aimed at players who know their way around a real life engine, or at least a stack of car magazines.

Indeed, the developers’ own enthusiasm shows in the game’s opening narration. Jeremy Clarkson, host of the British television show “Top Gear,” hails players as “lovers of speed” and “devotees of power, performance and noise.” But Clarkson goes on to lament that his and others’ enthusiasm is becoming forgotten in a world where safety and that killer of spirits, commuting, rule the day.

What Clarkson celebrates is pure “automotive lust,” and as soon as the talking is done, Forza Motorsport 4 goes on to tempt the player with just that.

The game itself begins behind the wheel of a Ferrari 458 Italia on the Bernese Alps track. The opening race offers speed, roaring engine noises, tight curves and a view of the mountains.

And then all that goes away for a while.

For players who immediately dive into the career mode, the next race is a contest between subcompacts. The game proceeds from contest to contest, and players get to unlock more and better selections from the game’s hundreds of cars as they win more and more races. Players can view the races from a variety of perspectives, and as nice as it is to see one’s car from a third-person view, this reviewer preferred the challenge of racing from a first-person perspective from inside the driver’s seat.

(Passing and maneuvering just feels a little too easy when one can see everything at once and does not have to check one’s rearview mirror to watch out for rivals.)

The game also lets players upgrade and custom tune their cars before each race. And players who want custom paint jobs and decals can spend as long as they want giving their favorite ride a unique look. One of the nice things about the game is that these features are mostly optional, so players can spend as much or as little time as they wish adjusting tuning settings for each race.

Forza Motorsport 4 also boasts an Autovista feature in which players can complete a series of race challenges to not only unlock cars, but take a close look at their engines, tires and other features. The game also boasts Kinect compatibility for those who want to try to control the game with the Kinect camera’s head tracking capabilities. (This reviewer does not own a Kinect. If you have played the game with Kinect, let us know what you thought in the comments.)

This reviewer’s only gripe against Forza Motorsport 4 is that Microsoft decided to offer retailer-exclusive cars and day-one downloadable content. In today’s marketplace, DLC is almost inevitable, but the idea of offering players different content depending on where they buy or pre-order the game seems absurd. Nonetheless, enough gamers are willing to play along, so the practice is not likely to change any time soon.

On the whole, however, Forza Motorsport 4 is an excellent game that should appeal to anyone who likes the idea of driving a very expensive car at ridiculously high speeds. Recommended.

Forza Motorsport 4
Turn 10 Studios/Microsoft Game Studios
XBox 360
Rated E for Everyone