Having established the arguably top racing simulation video game on the market, Turn 10 Studios, the developers of the Forza franchise could have set itself on cruise control in creating Forza Motorsport 4. Instead, they decided to re-tool some of the game’s fundamentals, incorporate motion and voice control, evolve user-generated content, and bring the gameplay to new heights.
Creative Director at Turn 10 Dan Greenawalt saw the universe that was taking shape among Forza’s fans. Gamers with varied interests began forming their own communities, tailored and dedicated to those niche areas of racing. Drifting fans, drag racing fans, and even artists focusing on custom paint jobs and video editing, for example, had their own vibrant communities. Greenawalt saw Forza 4 as an opportunity to foster each of these diverse components of the car culture-at-large.
At the heart of Forza 4 is the ability to connect with other enthusiasts with similar interests from various levels of experience and skills. The casual and hardcore can find commonality in one aspect of the game. This is done with several tools and features, one of which is a shared garage. If one member of the garage has purchased a high-end car, all members have access to the car – at any time, even simultaneously.
Car clubs take the livery concept to the next level. Not only can club members share paintjobs and logos, but they also share specialized tuning in their shared garage. Players can create their own events, focusing on specific types of racing, or specific types of cars. Forza 4 is as much about forging communities and connecting people of varied backgrounds as it is about racing.
The individual gaming experience has also been renovated. Instead of forcing gamers to go through every single class of vehicles, gamers can focus on their favorite classes and a career will be developed around that class for the gamer. This means that each new challenge presented by the game will be customized to each person’s car type preference to pull at a gamer’s individualized passion.
Auto Vista is a mode that takes advantage of Kinect’s motion tech (but a standard controller can be used) by allowing interactivity with some of the game’s hottest cars. The amount of detail that is shown is staggering, particularly when it comes to the interiors of the vehicles. However, not every one of the 500 car roster will be available to virtually tour – the cars apparently start to look too similar. Ultimately, Auto Vista is a bit of eye candy that serves to immerse the gamer into the car world.
Within each player’s “home space,” every car can be viewed from any camera angle and photographed (although only Auto Vista allows the user to manipulate the car itself). Images can then be uploaded in high-resolution for print quality photos. The home space is filled with studio lighting and backgrounds that are livelier than Auto Vista’s sterile environment, which make for stunning photographs.
Forza 4 is promised to behave more realistically than ever, with new suspension, engine, and tire performance. By sourcing tire performance data to partner Pirelli Tires, the team at Turn 10 was able to focus their efforts on improving the other aspects of racing, including the A.I. performance of non-human racers, in addition to suspension and engine data. Interestingly, using varied brands of brakes this time around will not alter braking performance, but players can still select different brands if they so desired.
I did not get a chance to try out the new soccer mode, where cars take on roles of soccer players in a silly gaming mode inspired by Top Gear. There has already been some backlash over the inclusion of this non-racing activity, but the idea of goofing around with realistically-performing exotic cars in a setting other than a racetrack is tantalizing to me, as a more casual racing game player.
Forza 4 will be released on two discs, with the first containing 300 cars and all the tracks. The second disc will contain the remaining 200 cars.
With an opening anthem that will have environmentalists cringing, ultimately, Forza 4′s pedigree as a racing sim is preserved, but the level of accessibility has been improved tremendously. Casual and hardcore fans alike can join car clubs, unified by the varied passions that exist in the universe of car culture.
Forza 4 is set for release on October 11, 2011 for the Xbox 360.