During our breakneck sprint through the World Tour mode we saw a number of interesting events, including a downhill mountain “Touge” style race. While Touge isn’t new to Forza, this one on one race took place in the midst of traffic, where the goal was to pass the leading vehicle. This is easier said than done given the high number of pedestrian cars cramping the tight mountain road. Unlike the more general races, this event puts a razor focus on improvising and adapting your driving line while keeping your speed up. It's great practice, and it’s nice seeing a trial/training mode styled event integrated into the standard career mode.
A few races later we saw our first event at the Top Gear test track, a car bowling event that had us powersliding through oversized pins for points. Bonus points for the first person to make a Big Lebowski themed car for this event. These challenges add a little levity to the otherwise stoic racing, and are a nice change of pace from endless time attacks and hot laps. It's also a lot more fun that that atrocious VW Bus race in GT5.
These silly events aren’t the only place the Top Gear brand is apparent though, Jeremy Clarkson does color commentary for the Autovista vehicles in his uniquely sarcastic style. Sort of a car porn museum, Autovista certainly feels like it was designed with Kinect in mind, though it’s still entertaining with a controller. The team clearly spent a lot of time making sure every aspect of these vehicles are picture perfect, and the level of up close detail is astounding. Hearing a narrator explain the benefits of carbon ceramic brakes in a Ferrari, or how the Lexus LF-A has a special climate control system that adjusts to keep air on the driver during hard cornering is endlessly interesting to a car geek like myself. That said, it's difficult to imagine coming back to the Autovista entries more than once or twice unless you really like gawking at pixels.
The realism naturally extends to the driving itself, and this is very much the kind of game where braking is just as important as the throttle. Having had a little more experience with hardcore sim racing games like iracing.com, it's hard not to notice how forgiving games like Forza and GT are. Even with all the assists off, it took some serious boners to completely wipe out in the low level cars. The high powered race cars were a different story of course; take a turn too tightly or get on the throttle too soon out of a corner, and you'll be spinning faster than a sorority girl at happy hour. Seeing as we only played the game for a few hours though, we’ll need some more time with FM4 before we can give a truly accurate impression of the handling and physics.
Above: The McLaren F1 actually has gold foil on the bottom of the hood (trunk?) to draw heat away from the engine
Browsing through the menus, we noticed that FM4 looks like it’ll be utilizing the same level of DLC that 3 did, which is to say, a lot. A number of Autovista cars appeared to be DLC, and the game now offers “Car Tokens” that can be purchased with MS Points. These tokens can be used to unlock specific cars you may not have the in-game credits for, though we have a hard time seeing why you’d ever need to shell out the cash to do so. But hey, if you simply can’t wait to get your hands on some uber-expensive Ferrari, it might be worth it. As is the latest trend, a “season pass” DLC pre-purchase discount will be available soon after launch.
Turn 10 isn't attempting to re-invent the wheel with FM4, but given how close to perfection FM3 was, there’s no need to. It's clear they've been playing very close attention to user suggestions and complaints, and the bulk of the game’s changes so far seem to reflect that. FM4 seems more refined, polished and streamlined than FM3, and while that may seem like mild praise, improving upon near-perfection is no small feat.
Forza Motorsport arrives October 11th in North America for Xbox 360
Sept 23, 2011