Forza the win.
Do you have a passion for cars? Sleep at night under your Ferrari duvets in a bed modeled after a Testarossa, and wake to the smell of petrol and burning rubber being pumped through your humidifier? We've got a feeling that you're quite going to like Forza Motorsport 4 then.
SONY's always had Gran Turismo as its automotive mascot, the shiny perfection of Polyphony's series sitting perfectly with the PlayStation brand. Microsoft, on the other hand, countered with Forza, a game that's as precise and exacting as the corporation that bankrolls it. One thing the games have also shared with a big corporation, however, is that they've always seemed a bit soulless.
Forza Motorsport 4 does away with that in various ways. The first is the most obvious: Forza 4 looks stunning. Cars are bathed in a rich, realistic light, with the tracks displaying the kind of warmth that's previously been absent from the series - the famous Nordschleife has arguably never looked better, while semi-imagined locations such as the Bernese Alps are drop dead gorgeous.
The Car's The Star
The cars are really the stars though, in more ways than one. Autovista, a new Kinect-compatible mode, allows you to get up close and personal, and as beautiful as the cars are the real marvel is developer Turn 10's exemplary work - the attention to detail is astounding, with each rivet and bump perfectly recreated.
Looking at cars is one thing, but driving them is quite another - thankfully, Forza 4's made plenty of progress in this regard. Handling is impossibly lively - no matter what you're driving, Forza 4 seems to be keen to get the rear end out and send you into a lairy powerslide. Gran Turismo this most certainly isn't, but it's no less fun for that - teasing cars around corners and catching them as they threaten to break away never fails to raise a smile.
Even if you don't want to indulge in the handling at its most extreme, Forza 4 has much to offer. As ever, Turn 10 has worked tirelessly to ensure that the game is playable by all. There are assists and variable difficulty levels to take the pain out of driving.
This year's model goes a little further as well, using Kinect to make sure that if you want it really easy all you've got to do is mime a steering wheel. It works surprisingly well, as does Kinect-enabled head-tracking, but for the real racers they're just slight diversions. Thankfully there's a lot of meat for that particular crowd to get tucked into.
Top Gear makes an appearance, and if you can cast your mind back all the way to last year you'll remember that it's not the first time that the BBC's best have popped up in a racing game. This time out, though, the license has been used to its fullest.
Jeremy Clarkson makes an appearance, narrating the Autovista mode as you poke around a supercar, but it's the test track that's the real star. A barren strip of land in Surrey's Dunsford, it's a far from spectacular backdrop - but it's been worked in well. The Kia Cee'd, the famous Reasonably Priced Car from the series, makes an appearance, allowing you to see how your lap times compare against the stars.
What's best, though, is how you can compare times with your mates and those playing the game in the wider world of Forza. Rivals mode is Forza 4's big addition to its online features, and it's quite brilliant - you'll be pitted against a time from a similarly skilled rival, and post a belter yourself and it'll be posted for others to beat.
It's the kind of brilliant feature that makes up for the fact that Forza doesn't offer much in the way of new tracks or rides - what it offers instead is a smart and exhilarating refinement of one of the best raving games of this generation, and one of the most thrilling games of this year.
- Looks stunning.
- Rivals mode is inspired.
- Handles beautifully.
- Not enough new content.