I met Game Director Dan Greenwalt. He’s an honest man. The first thing he said during a Forza 4 press event was he loved cars. As the opening cinematic played, one thing became abundantly clear; he was not lying.
A second, glaringly apparent aspect would be Forza 4’s startling beauty. It startled me. More of that later...
British automotive personality (and all round drain on my patience) Jeremy Clarkson provides voiceover, accusing us of being a dying breed: Car Lovers in a time where economic, environmental and general safety issues diminish the Supercar.
Though I failed to share his regret I wholeheartedly agreed with his closing declaration. There is a final bastion, one last refuge for the unapologetic fanatic of power, speed and design.
This sanctuary is Forza 4.
And before ‘Press Start’ so much as litters the Titles, you’re treated you to a lap across the Bernese Alps in a roaring beast that takes bends at 150mph. The reason: why to celebrate speed of course.
Third facet: Forza 4 is fast!
Accelerating into career mode, I’m forced to choose between eight, exquisitely rendered... hatchbacks! A step down? Yes, but with reason.
There are numerous international events to participate in, each with varying style and reward. Drive well to earn player and affinity points. The former unlocks new cars for your ever expanding car-hole, the latter opens discounts with particular brands. Nothing like discounted neon headlights for the enjoyment of those behind!
Racing in these glorified buggies is a slower affair to that initial Alpine lap. But unconscious ‘first-car’ fidelity swells, spurring you, driving you to feats such as executing the least dramatic (and arguably least necessary) handbrake turn in motor-racing history for a last minute win. Nice.
Not representative of my actual driving.
It’s not all sombre racing however. Soon enough you’ll visit England’s Top Gear track for the sole, vaguely defined mission of knocking as many man sized pins as possible in a single lap. Later, you’ll participate in a frenzied game of 3 on 3 automotive footie.
Career’s combination of progression, commerce, excitement and whimsy best showcases Forza’s mantra.
But soon enough you’ll crave speed. We all have our vices, but in this regard, Forza 4 is an enabler! Quick Race accommodates this basest of needs, offering an unwieldy collection vehicles. Even choosing between tracks is a painstaking endeavour; each magnificently rendered with scenery, breathtaking sunsets, waterfalls and superfluous yet involved detail.
The cars look equally astounding, but at those speeds you’re concentration is fixated exclusively on the next corner. If you’re insane/skilled you could race without assists, sapping your focus further. But take my word on it, everything looks real purty!
A word of warning/encouragement, drive dangerously and bumpers, bonnets and boots will fly! One hard shove from my Jeep and a tenacious Honda flipped a half dozen times down the track. Damage offers a refreshing, if needlessly violent, change of pace.
Car lovers no doubt want to admire as well as drive. Rather than reaching for Wikipedia, Forza debuts its informative, interactive Autovista mode. Again Mr Greenwalt’s honesty rings true. Though Turn 10 Studios’ automotive knowledge is extensively detailed, as a group, they’re a little dry.
Once more, the villainous Clarkson fills this void, offering detailed commentary on most vehicles. Autovista presents a level of simple interactivity (open doors, start engine etc) you’ll simply not achieve shy of convincing a Ferrari dealer to let you take a test drive.
Expectedly, races and leader-boards pepper the online functions. Though the addition of Car Clubs enable dedicated players to swap cars, compare times, compete, and pool funds for those most alluringly expensive items. It’s a fast and fun way to get your hands on Forza 4’s myriad treats without doing all the hard work yourself. Basically it’s cheating.
Though perhaps overwhelming for casual racing gamers, Forza 4 is an intimate love letter to car enthusiasts, a sublimely detailed, virtual alternative for we humans to which speeding up the M50 in a Mercedes SLR is sheer fantasy.