Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Forza Motorsports 4: Hands-On First Impressions

A new demo of Forza 4 has dropped, and Chris puts the pedal to the metal...

Racing games have always been a staple of my video game library.  But I would never say that I’m a racing fan.  For the most part, I choose 1 or 2 games per console cycle and stick with those.  I’ve always been a fan of the more arcade style of racer, so my tastes are more Burnout than Gran Turismo.  These days, however, the Burnout series has devolved into a downloadable shadow of it former self, with the Criterion team developing entries in the Need for Speed series.  From all accounts, NFS: Hot Pursuit was very good, but it lacked a lot of the destruction and zaniness that made Burnout special.  On the other end of the spectrum, Gran Turismo 5 was recently released following an extremely long development cycle.  I think most people would agree that GT5 was extremely underwhelming.

Which brings us to Microsoft’s exclusive racing series: Forza Motorsports.  In the time it took Gran Turismo to release one entry in its' series, the folks at Turn 10 have turned out 3 amazing games, and have elevated themselves to a top-tier developer.  One thing I have always enjoyed about the Forza series is the copious amounts of assists that are available to less-than-skillful players, such as myself.  I generally lay on the gas pedal as much as possible, and the braking assists help to keep my lead foot tendencies from spinning me out on every turn.  This helps to position the game as a great middle ground for the balance between arcade and simulation.

This is also in the game, for some reason.
A demo of Forza Motorsports 4 recently landed on XBox LIVE, and I spent a few hours with it.  It totally blew me away.  Forza has always been a good-looking game, but Forza 4 is downright beautiful.  The car models are photorealisitic, and its obvious the developers put a lot of work into making every car as close as possible to the real thing.  There are three cars to pick from in the demo, encompassing muscle cars, sports cars, and racing models.  Only one environment is available, but it is a doozy.  The Switzerland area is breathtaking, with snow covered mountains in the distance, gondolas speeding overhead, and chateaus lining the track.  The huge scale of the environments means that there are several track configurations possible on each race, with several unique landmarks you may or may not see on your high speed tour of the Alps. 

You know what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps?
The assists work just as they have in past Forza games, with the dynamic driving line being a godsend for speed-freaks like me.  The cars’ handling can be adjusted in several configurations, making them as arcade or simulation like as you’d want.  The damage can also be toggled from cosmetic only, to completely disastrous to your chances of finishing the race.  Fortunately, the Y Button functions as a “rewind” allowing you to go back to a point in the race BEFORE you decided to play bumper cars, but this can also be turned off if it goes against your beliefs. 

The demo allows for Quick Race or Rival mode only, which is basically a Time Attack against a ghost opponent.  Nothing special, but it’s fun enough.  The full version of the game will include the new Autovista feature, which allows for full 360 degree tours of the car models.  With all the love Turn 10 put into these car models, I’m sure auto fans will love being able to get up close to the cars of their dreams.  Forza 4 really blew me away with the short amount of playtime available in the demo, and it seems like Forza fans will be too.  If you have any interest at all, get the demo available now on XBox LIVE.

Christopher Linendoll has several different racing puns he could've put here, but didn't. He can be reached via Twitter, or found in the hummus section of your local grocery store.



  1. haven't played this ones yet, but I did play Forza 3 for a bit. Definitely appreciated that it could be as helpful as I liked. not really a fan of the ultra-realistic handling of games like Gran Turismo.

  2. If the cars don't have a boost or nitro button it's not a car worth driving.

  3. Generally I agree with you. My racing heart really lies with the Burnout series. But Forza is a great middle ground, and looks amazing.