Forza Motorsport 4: Complexity meets accessibility

Forza Motorsport 4 is the franchise's most ambitious and expansive racing title to date, delivering an incredibly thorough racing experience exclusively to the Xbox 360.

It's one of the last mutually exclusive genres left in gaming. PlayStation owners have Gran Turismo and Xbox 360 loyalists have Forza Motorsport. Both franchises are proven winners, and the latest incarnation on Xbox 360 allows Kinect users the chance to race controller free. But does that ambition steer Forza away from what it does best?

Jeff:
Forza Motorsport 4 packs in such a shocking amount of content and detail, most racing buffs will salivate just at the introduction movie. Sure, it can be a bit overwhelming for people who don't have transmission fluid running through their veins, but part of the reason I've become so fascinated with the game is partly because of its incredible sense of accessibility.

Literally anyone, regardless of their familiarity with the Forza franchise, can sit down and feel a sense of accomplishment by jumping into the game's enormous career mode. The game adapts to any skill level, providing gamers with as much help as gas and braking cues or complete hands-off racing.

For those who have mastered Forza 3, there is a fair amount of repetition to embark on in Forza 4, especially early on, as you'll be driving some of the same cars. Of course your path in the game will branch off organically as you choose to ride different cars and develop affinities with various manufacturers.

Graphically speaking, Forza 4 makes for some genuine jaw-dropping moments, due mostly to the painstaking amount of detail in each and every car, not to mention the absolute gorgeous racing tracks represented in the game. It's hands down the best-looking Forza game to date.

Xbox 360 owners can rest assured that the racing void has been properly filled by Forza 4. But how does the alternative controls play out? Those curious about Forza's Kinect and Wireless Speed Racing Wheel compatibility should read on for Scott's take.

Turn 10 Studios

Scott:
Hard-core racing games sometimes feel like one part flight simulator, one part Pokemon: between endless tune-ups and collecting/unlocking hundreds of vehicles, some of the fun gets lost in the shuffle. The Xbox 360's Forza series has stolen the crown as of late from the increasingly joyless Gran Turismo franchise on the PlayStation, mostly because it's trying so hard to bring that fun back.

This year's Forza 4 doesn't change too much of the underlying game from what you remember in Forza 3, but it's all bigger, better, and prettier-looking--and, aside from online social matchmaking improvements, it now works with Kinect, too.

Slapping on compatibility with Microsoft's successful but still somewhat superfluous advanced Kinect camera feels like an injustice at first, but the big surprise is that Kinect controller-free steering works better than with most Kinect games we've ever seen. Holding both hands up in a steering-wheel alignment works for large and subtle moves, although gas and brake controls seem to disappear.

Turn 10 Studios

Alternatively, a new wireless steering wheel offers a more compact variation on the gigantic steering wheel/gas pedal monstrosities often sold with racing games like these. Microsoft's wireless wheel has all the necessary controls, and it does make steering easier versus using the standard controller, simply because it's easier to prevent oversteering. You certainly don't need Microsoft's wheel or Kinect controls to use Forza 4, but their presence isn't distracting.

Another new layer to the presentation includes "Top Gear's" Jeremy Clarkson providing narration and car facts, and a Kinect-controlled virtual tour of a good handful of the car models. It's largely car-fetishist stuff, but the more that games like these can help educate, the better off all of us will be. Sports games need to continue heading in this direction (Madden, we're looking at you).

Forza 4's easily the best version of the game yet, which isn't too much of a surprise. What is a surprise is how much casual user and Kinect owner will also get a kick out of the game. Somehow, Microsoft had its cake and ate it, too.

Turn 10 Studios

Forza Motorsport 4 is available starting today exclusively for Xbox 360.

 

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