Gaming nerds are divided into two camps: console gamers and PC gamers. I’m a PC gamer. You can keep your crap textures, arcadey first person shooters, and giant menus off my dual monitors, and I won’t pwn you with my mouse and keyboard. But strangely, there’s one genre that keeps pulling me back to the couch: racing games. I even tried once to download and play Need For Speed on my PC, but something was just not right.

When I heard Forza was coming back for another round, I jumped on the twitters, and the PR company very kindly responded. I’m so glad they did. I was expecting subtle revisions to the game, but Forza 4 is a revelation.

It’s the best car racing game you’ll find on any platform.

Dropping into the introduction race, the whole game just felt more visceral from the start. I couldn’t pick out any one thing that nailed it, but everything from the subtle head bobbing inside the car to the twitchy new physics and incredible audio just drew me into the game instantly. I’ll try to break it all down logically.

The Gameplay

The Forza you remember is all here. World Tour, multiplayer (now with public, custom lobbies), free and purchased cars, upgrades, car categories, everything. The in-game experience is also similar with the suggested driving lines and other optional assists (each one counting against your points potential). But all the new additions make so much sense.

Rivals mode lets you challenge friends and anons on a track and mode (hot lap, drift, etc.) with the same car, racing against a ghost. Each time you beat the rival you can race again against someone a little faster. You move up the ladder and earn credits as you beat rivals. It’s a fun and interesting new way to earn cash for cars and upgrades. There’s something special about racing against real people instead of computer opponents.

In-game has been tweaked too. The most notable addition is a subtle rating system for cornering, passing, drafting and drifting. After each corner, for example, you’ll see four little boxes in your peripheral vision, rating how well you handled the corner. It turns every track into a series of minigames, and you find yourself paying much more attention to using the right lines and all of the track through the corners. Same goes for clean passing: bumping your opponent on the way through is a sure way to get a 1-star rating for that passing manoeuvre.

The Cars

They’re all there, and they are all there. From the Kia Cee’d to the Bugatti Veyron, by way of muscle cars and Japanese drifters; if you can’t find a car you like, then you don’t like cars. There’s even a selection of V8 Supercars so accurately modelled that I’m positive Avesco are getting a cheque for every copy of Forza sold. Unfortunately there’s no Bathurst track to take them around, but then again how often do you get to blast around the Nurburgring in Craig Lownde’s Holden?

Every car has an active dashboard, making the in-car view my new preference (I’m usually a bonnet-cam kinda guy).  I haven’t had an opportunity to try out the Kinect head tracking, but I’m told it works well.

For someone like me who has outgrown the desire to lie under his car every weekend, Forza’s upgrade system is my happy place. I’ve upgraded my ’89 MR2 to A-class and happily race it against Porches and Audis. It’s lowered, got a giant intercooler and a rorty exhaust system. I love it.

The Tracks

Again, all your favourite Forza tracks are in 4, with a few new ones to boot. Perhaps the most notable is the addition of the Top Gear test track. Yes, you can drive the Kia Cee’d to see what time you can run as the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car. Having Jeremy Clarkson narrate the intro and car descriptions adds to the Top Gear flavour. Check out his overview of the Halo Warthog:

The tracks have had a makeover, and seem just that little bit more real. Maple Valley has more stuff over the fence, and the Nuburgring has more paint on the track. There’s no weather effects, but the low cloud at Nurburgring has an entirely different feel to the blue skies over the Amalfi Coast.

The Physics

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I certainly don’t remember being able to unsettle a front wheel drive in any other sim the way that I can in Forza 4. If you’re a driving fanatic, you’ll know you can spin a front wheel drive by lifting off aggressively in a corner. The front wheels bite, the rear lifts, and you’re going backwards before you know it. Forza does this, and I think it’s incredible.

But! If you’re not into the simulator physics, turn it all off and you’ve got a friendly arcade racer.

The End

If you like driving games, just buy it. Heck, buy an XBox too if you don’t have one.
As usual, fire away with questions in the comments if there’s any particular aspect of the game I missed, or questions you want answered.

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  1. I always thought that the thing about racing games and consoles is not that PCs are worse at it than consoles, just that the best racing games just happen to be on consoles. (GranTurismo and Forza)

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