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11/28/2011

REVIEW: Forza Motorsport 4 (Xbox 360)




Forza Motorsport 4 is the latest entry in the racing-game series developed by Turn 10 Studios. It is an Xbox 360 exclusive title that comes from a franchise that has always been famous for having beautiful car models from dozens of brands in the world, a lot of varied tracks and game modes and especially, a very realistic gameplay design that allows for both newcomers and pro gamers to enjoy it equally. The fourth game is no different, it takes all those aspects to a whole new level making it one of the best, if not the best racing game in the console and the entire generation.

The game features several distinct gameplay modes in which you can play either solo or with friends online or locally. The most important single-player mode is Career, where you start out as a level 1 driver with zero affinity to any of the brands available in the game. A narrator will take you in a set order to different locations in the world where you will have to race many types of races like muscle car, drifting, bowling and the like to earn credits to buy new cars or upgrade the ones you already have, experience to level up and points to increase your affinity to the brand of the car you’re driving.

The cars in the game are divided in several categories depending on their power and skill, they go from F to A and then to the R+ categories, the highest ones in the game. Each time you level up your driver skill, the games gives you a new car as a gift. The first ones will be of the “F” category, but as your level goes up and up, the free cars will be better until you start receiving come of the best cars for free. The affinity, on the other hand, is a separate level-up system that works independently for each brand, when you raise the affinity level with, for example, Peugeot, you will get discounts and free parts for the cars of that brand. So the game rewards your faith in your favorite cars.

In Career mode you can also tune your car to make them better. The game kind of works like an automobile encyclopedia because each time you highlight a specific part, like suspension, tires, brakes and such, you will get an explanation of how they work and how can you upgrade them. It’s a very interesting way to learn more about the racing world and the results of choosing the best parts for your cars are very rewarding in the races. But one of the most impressive things is how (like in Forza 3) you can decorate the cars with thousand of patterns, drawings and logos of hundreds of colors to really personalize them. You can even save your design and offer them up online for people to download, or of course, download and use the ones someone else shared.

There are other modes like Community, where you play online with other people and share content like cars, parts and designs, Free Play, where you can play Split-Screen with a friend on any of the tracks the game offers, Time Trial to try and beat a set target time or a Quick Race against AI opponents with the rules and settings that you choose. The downside of the Free Play mode is that you don’t get many prizes for racing and Career is a better option if you want to level up and get better cars for free.

One of the most curious and pretty game modes is Autovista. On it, you can take a look at several cars inside the game, around 20 of them and look at them from any angle, open their doors, sit inside the pilot’s seat and really feel how the car is in real life. This mode works better if you have the Kinect sensor since you can control the angle of the view, doors, steering wheel and such as if you really were sitting on the car. But the truth is that it’s not very fun and it only works as a way to show the graphics of the game and an excuse to somehow use the Kinect sensor.

Graphically, the game is definitely one of the best titles in the Xbox 360. It takes the visuals of Forza 3 and other racing games and takes them to a whole new level. The anti-aliasing, lighting effects, FPS, environments and cars are almost photo-realistic and sometimes can even fool you to think you’re watching a real race on HD television. When the cars crash on the walls or at each other, they will get damaged and though the hit spots are not perfect, they make an excellent job at recreating the fact that the car is damaged, sometimes even affecting the performance of it in a race. Only for the visuals, the game deserves a perfect score. It takes the power of the console to maximum.

Forza 4 runs at a solid 60 FPS as well, making it look very smooth and realistic, especially on the high-speed races with the most powerful cars. All of the vehicles in the game offer cockpit view and they’re insane, the movements of the pilot’s hands steering the wheel and controlling the gearbox are stunning. If you don’t like racing games, this one will truly change your mind about the genre. It’s epic and beautiful in that way.

Sound-wise, the game is excellent, the cars’ engines are amazingly represented, especially the iconic sounds of the Ferraris or Lamborghinis. The drifting sounds are insane as well as the environmental ones. Everything sounds like the real deal, making Forza 4 the first game that probably feels and plays like a real racing scenario. The music is also great; it has many different kinds of pretty and varied songs in the menus and the actual gameplay. Though the epic menu songs from Forza 3 are gone, these ones never get repetitive and bother you while playing so there’s no real need to turn it off or switch to a custom soundtrack.

In gameplay, Forza 4 manages to take the “A minute to learn, a lifetime to master” saying to a whole new level. The game is easy to handle at first and offers several different assist for newcomers like braking assist, ABS controls, automatic gearbox, traction control and things like that.  But as you start playing without using those, the game slowly becomes harder and harder to control and will take a lot of practice to master a single car, and there are hundreds of them in the game, each one with its own potential and capabilities. The downside is that the AI is kind of dumb sometimes and even if you’re not driving in an excellent way, the cars ahead of you will sometimes crash in weird ways or turn horribly in a corner like they want to let you pass. Of course, that doesn’t happen online since you will be playing against people who want to beat (or crash) you.

With all the modes, hundreds of cars and variations of tracks the game offers, you will literally have an infinite amount of replay value in Forza Motorsport 4. Other racing games do have online multiplayer but the tuning, cars and gameplay tweaks are nothing like the ones in here. This is most likely the most complete racing game ever created and as mentioned before, it will even change the mind of those out there that, for some reason, are not fond of the genre.

For closing comments, Forza Motorsport 4 is one of the exclusive games the Xbox 360 was lacking. Everyone who owns a console must try their hands at it. The visuals, gameplay, sound and DLC are of the best any of the console’s games will offer and you’re guaranteed to have a blast with it. This is the definitive racing game. 100% recommended.

Pros:

-          Excellent graphics and visuals make the game look almost photorealistic
-          Gameplay design is like driving an actual car
-          Assist will manage to not scare casuals away
-          Hundreds of different cars to choose from
-          Decoration options are limitless and the mode is very fun by itself
-          Multiplayer runs very smoothly both online and split-screen

Cons:

-          AI acts retarded sometimes, even on the higher difficulties
-          Mastering the game without any assists will be very hard and time-consuming



-          Graphics and Visuals………..10
-          Music and Sound Effects…...9
-          Gameplay……………………10
-          Replay Value………………..10

-          Overall Score……………….. 9.8 / 10

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