I’m an absolute sucker for the Forza series. Forza 3 is one of my favorite games of the last 10 years, with super-detailed visuals and a wonderful match of simulation and casual racing. Damn, just thinking about it makes me want to play it RIGHT NOW.
In the mean time I’ll spill a little info about Forza 4, the latest in the ultimate racing game series coming to Xbox 360 this Fall.
If the preview is at all indicative of the final game then I’m just going to build my racing bunker and hibernate until then.
There were several stations for Forza 4 on the show floor, each showcasing a different control method and technology. We’ll focus on the non-Kinect demos right now, which included the standard Xbox controller and the new wireless “mini-wheel”.
The Xbox 360 controller is going to be the de facto control method for somewhere around 70% of the people who play this game. It feels exactly like Forza 3, which feels like just about every other racing game this generation. The only (major) difference is Forza’s super-precise translation of physics into the game, committing to making each car drive exactly like it’s real-world counterpart.
I choose to race with a blue 2011 Subaru WRX STI and immediately blew past the competition on the fictional “Alps” course. Having played a few races of Forza 3 before E3 week I was already primed and familiar with the controls. The improvement to the visuals is immediately noticeable. The new dynamic lighting creates accurate highlights on the sheet metal, rendering each vehicle more realistic than even those of Gran Turismo 5. The cars looked better than ever, and the shadows cast on the pavement, grass and gravel helped me visually position my Sube on the track a little better.
The audio, though a little difficult to hear with all of the show floor noise, seemed at least on par with previous Forza installments. As cars passed me or I passed them, the engines boomed on either the right or left audio channel.
I mentioned above that I immediately took the lead as the race started, and used the “rewind” feature a couple times to stay up front. That is, until I blindly slammed into a wall around 1/4 of the way around the final second track and fell behind. I think I actually only completed the race in 6th position.
This was everything I’d wanted in a taste of the game.
Here’s something a bit different. Microsoft has aped Nintendo’s Mario Kart-loving Wii Wheel. The rep explained to me that in order to try and make the casual gamer feel a bit more at ease with the game, they’ve created a new wireless wheel held out in front with both hands. Yeah, exactly like the Wii Wheel. It’s not a bad design, but I don’t think that the casual gamer will want to drop another $60-$70 on the new controller just to make an already-$60 experience that much more palpable.
Regardless, it didn’t seem to work quite as intended. As you can see by the video above, the players are constantly checking and re-adjusting the wheel. When I prompted one person why, he noted that it seemed to be over-steering a lot, and he was looking for a slider or dial to turn down the sensitivity.
With my time with it, I can’t really agree with his assessment. Again, this is because I’m a little more understanding of racing games and mentally adapt to overly sensitive controls fairly quickly. The casual player may not. I don’t expect my wife to grab this wheel and be able to easily drive an Enzo. The car is still tuned to be fast and precise.
I actually really did like the idea of the controller and its design, and the lights at the tips of it are a neat little gimmick. But… that added price for just one game. Hrrm.
It’s all about the physics
I mentioned it above, but it needs reiterating: Forza 4 is all about recreating accurate track and vehicle physics. Turn10 teamed up with Pirelli Tires to run tests on several of the world’s most famous and diverse tracks to map out how tires grip each kind of texture, under a variety of speeds, vehicle weights, and weather. A more accurate racer doesn’t exist, and neither does one that is as deserving of my money as this is.