Genre: Simulator Developer: Publisher: Classification: G Release Date: 13th Oct 2011 Platforms:
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The further you delve into the world of Forza 4, the deeper the game becomes - but at its core it will always be a combination of car collection and actual racing. What this means is that while you will always have the opportunity to race some truly amazing vehicles, a lot of the time the key to success is to pick the correct car for the correct track - minimising player skill to some extent.
This simplicity - inherent to the very nature of the game type - is mitigated thanks to some very clever game design. The way you gain cars and money via the leveling system allows you to focus on racing, on taking lines better and on becoming a better driver. The way the difficulty system slowly encourages the player to challenge themselves more and more is brilliant - though it's not particularly new.
The many ways you can race against your friends - via the traditional racing format or by downloading ghost data - shows that Turn 10 (the developer) has been watching the racing landscape while developing their latest game and they've adapted Forza 4 to suit.
Even the way Forza 4 uses its Top Gear connection establishes it as the pinnacle of car collecting/racing games. The game opens with Jeremy Clarkson lamenting the way concerns for the environment have robbed mechaphiles of their guilty pleasure before highlighting Forza 4 as a safe haven. Once in-game you can race the actual Top Gear test track - in the 'Reasonably Priced' Kia Cee'd no less.
Sadly, as you make your way through the new World Tour mode you'll also notice a lot which hasn't changed. The World Tour mode itself allows you to choose how you will approach the races - instead of being forced to do specific races in specific cars to continue moving towards the end, each new stage offers you three different races and let's you pick. Further; if you change cars and come back to the stage you'll have three new races available - races potentially more appropriate for the car you're now in (though not always).
What hasn't changed are the vast majority of the tracks. If you thought you'd raced your last 1000 laps around the autumnal Maple Valley Raceway, think again. It's gotten to the point where I feel like I could almost do the track blindfolded - and the occasional 'reverse' version does little to stop me from sighing.
This doesn't mean you'll have seen all the tracks before - new to Forza 4 is Germany's Hockenheim (the alternating German Grand Prix track) and two US tracks, the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Infineon Raceway. The Alps is the setting of a series of new tracks - oh, and as previously mentioned Top Gear's Test Track provides a welcome breath of fresh air.
Aussies will be happy to see quite a few local cars - Holden and Ford V8 Supercars are available, as is the Joss Supercar. All told there are nearly 500 cars available in Forza 4 - nearly 100 more than the previous game (after taking all the DLC into account). The odds are pretty good that you'll find a car you like - though if it's Porsches you're after, you'll have to deal with RUF.
Another highlight is the sound - each car sounds great and noticeably distinct across the various vehicle classes/types. It's obvious that a lot of attention has been paid to making the game sound as good as it looks.
The auction house of previous titles returns and it's still fantastic. It's a great way to grab a bargain or to make some money out of your prize cars, thanks to the way prize cars work this time. When your driver level increases instead of just getting the one car you get a choice between at least two. While I might not particularly care which Volkswagon Bug I have, car collectors out there might desperately want every prize variant out there - and I'm not using it, so I'll throw it up on the AH.
People who spend hours creating complicated decal skins for their cars can now also get a little compensation by putting them on the store. You won't make the 30 to 300 thousand you'd be looking at for a car, but your decals can be sold multiple times.
All of these little things do wonders to reinforce the dichotomy of Forza 4 - it's not just a racing game, it's a collecting game as well. The combination works spectacularly well - though I can't help but feel that the game could learn a little from the Formula 1... even small edits to the tracks we've all driven hundreds of times would do wonders.
Forza Motorsport as a series will probably never shake the label 'The Xbox's Gran Turismo' - both games are as much about loving cars as they are about racing them - but with Forza Motorsport 4, the team at Turn 10 can rest assured in the knowledge that they have the upper hand.