As the proud owner of an automatic four-speed Dodge Caliber, I may never know what it's like to top out at 225 mph on the world famous Nürburgring in Germany. I probably won't cut the corners at Laguna Seca. And I more than likely won't be racing in a pack of 12 at the Top Gear test track in England. But thanks to Forza Motorsport 4, I feel like I've been there and done that.
Forza Motorsport 4 is the latest in the line of racing sims from Turn 10 Studios, and continues the series' trademark realism, beauty, and playability. Over 500 cars are included, with dozens more planned as downloadable content. As you get your hands on the more powerful rides, you will notice major changes in how they accelerate, steer, brake, and control.
The cars in Forza 4 run the gamut from major automakers around the world: Ford, Chevy, Dodge, Aston Martin, BMW, Lamborghini, Maserati, Nissan, Toyota, and many more. Every car is gorgeously detailed, from the sleek stylings of a Ford GT to the bulky power of a Land Rover. The in-car camera option available for every vehicle is a wonder to behold.
Once you get on the track, beautiful cars are married to beautiful tracks. Racing through the mountainous Alps, cobbled streets in Italy, or high performance tracks in the U.S. and Japan has never been more awe-inspiring. It may not be a huge leap in visuals over 2009's Forza 3, but I still had several co-workers asking what I was watching as they passed me by. When I told them that I was playing a video game, their jaws hit the floor.
As you would expect, every car handles differently. The speedy McLarens and Lotuses zip around the bends, while classic muscle cars will spin out if you don't have the right touch on the gas. Big trucks from Dodge and Chevy t-bone through cornering Mini Coopers with the greatest of ease, and the damage inflicted is both impressive and hilarious. There's no better way to end a race prematurely than by ramming the wall at top speed and watching smoke billow from the top-of-the-line vehicle you just destroyed.
There are so many ways to get your racing fix that you should never be bored. After spending dozens of hours with Forza 3's World Tour, I was eager to see the changes and improvements to the mode in Forza 4. The setup is largely the same. You'll hop around the globe, choosing from one of three events in each city. These events open up new cars for you to sample and tracks to enjoy. The serious racing challenges are occasionally broken up with fun side-events, notably bowling. On the Top Gear test track, you'll have to complete a lap while knocking over as many four-foot-tall bowling "pins" as possible. It's a nice diversion from the races, and is just rare enough on the calendar that Forza 4 still keeps that hardcore sim feel.
Progressing through the World Tour unlocks new cars over and over again. Experience points (XP) are awarded after every race. Accumulate enough and you'll gain a driver level. Every driver level you rank up gives you the choice from a handful of cars to add to your collection for free. Some of these are necessary for upcoming challenges, but some are just fun to stash in your garage. XP with manufacturers also gives you discounts when it comes to upgrading your parts. Gearheads can tweak the tire pressure and spoilers to their hearts' content. I am grateful for the "quick upgrade" option, which will automatically purchase and install the parts needed to take your D-class car up to A-class or beyond.
You can also set up quick races or hot lap challenges offline if you want a break from the World Tour calendar. Twenty-four of the finest dream cars are available to inspect using the new Autovista mode. Narrated by the BBC's Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson, Autovista is a virtual showroom. You can pop the hood, sit in the driver's seat, and walk your way around the cars. Clarkson will provide details on the history and equipment behind each car. For everyone who has ever read an issue of Car & Driver magazine, this is your Heaven.
The online community will have players glued for months to come. Races online can be customized in a multitude of ways, with everything from car class to damage settings to lap direction adjustable. There was no lag at all during my time spent online. Silly modes like Soccer and Cat and Mouse are a blast, and who wouldn't want to see a Corvette jostling for position with a Ferrari? Credits earned from these online events carry over offline as well.
Those credits can be used to buy new cars, designs, and stickers in the storefront. Forza 4's storefront isn't much different than Forza 3. You can still search for new designs and cars using the decent but clunky menu interface. While hardcore enthusiasts may see it as desecration if you put a Hello Kitty logo on your Mercedes, it's still fun to see what is possible and what the community can create. The thousands of logos already created are all hand made; creators just like me and you have dropped circles and lines