Forza 4 Hands-On

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Forza Motorsport 4 will be pulling into the Xbox 360 garage in a matter of days now, and this Tuesday, you’ll be able to give the game a test drive, as Microsoft is preparing a demo for Gold members on Xbox Live.  We recently had the opportunity to check out the demo, which features three cars and a sweet-looking track in the Alps; it gives you an idea what kind of racing utopia you’re in for.

First off, we didn’t get a chance to test out Kinect features, as the demo we tried out didn’t quite come with them.  We can guess, however, that it’ll be pretty in-depth, letting you explore cars and test things out virtually before you hit the open road.  It’s like going into an auto dealer for the first time and shopping around to see what has to be offered – but much fancier.  That and you don’t have to deal with a yutz in an ugly tie.

Now, to the racing itself.  The demo features three cars in all – the Ferrari 599 GTO, the Impreza 2011, and the Mercury Cougar, an old-school style Bullitt car.  Each car handles remarkably well and are very different from one another, though you’ll be able to make adjustments to your ride before the start of each race.  After selecting your vehicle, you’ll be taken to a sub-menu where you can switch certain things, such as driving and braking assists and AI difficulty.  We recommend going as realistic as possible so you can feel the genuine thrill of racing as you brace for every turn, gunning for first place.  Granted, if it is your first time with Forza, start with the assists on and adjust from there.

As for the racing itself, it’s even more gorgeous than what we experienced in Forza Motorsport 3 two years ago.  Though we only got to see the one track in action, the Alps setting is beyond realistic.  At a sixty frames per second frame rate and with the utmost detail, from the up close grooves on the road to the snow-capped mountains sitting in the distance, it’s simply amazing to watch.  You can adjust your view at any time, using the right analog stick to look around your vehicle (and the surroundings) and switching between five camera settings, from in-cockpit to behind-the-car, with a press of the select (back) button.

Don’t get too distracted by looks, though; Forza 4 has the kind of authentic racing action that you’ll want to stay focused on.  These cars handle like their real counterparts, to the point that you’ll need to corner to avoid a spin-out, and step on the gas when you see an opportunity to pass a car.  You want to avoid collisions as much as possible (this ain’t Burnout), as you’ll add a few violation seconds to your lap score and have to shoot for a better time the next time around.

The game feels like a dream, whether you’re riding with the comforts of driving assists or going for the “real” approach, like any given driving fan would.  Turn 10 Studios has installed precision handling with all the cars, and the rumbling is so in-tune with what’s happening on-screen that it’s almost a life-like representation.  You’ll want to take a few practice laps with it just to see how it all sets in, and then go after the first place victory when you’re good and ready.  If you do make a mistake, the “Rewind” feature once again makes a return, should you screw up too much.

Forza 4’s audio isn’t quite exhilarating when it comes to music selection, as you can’t really hear it.  Everything else, though, is spot-on.  The engine noises are excellent.  Likewise, the crowd noises, though brief, are also worthwhile, especially as you win the race.  Don’t forget, you’ll be able to play your own tunes through the XMB.  Might we suggest “I Can’t Drive 55” by Sammy Hagar?

The demo for Forza Motorsport 4 may be short, but it gives you an idea of the racing fundamentals that are in store with its three cars and sweet-looking track.  It’s a nice little snack to prepare you for the meal coming next week.  Be sure to check it out when it arrives this Tuesday.  Besides, where else can you race a Ferrari?  In the frickin’ Alps, no less?

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Robert Workman
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