"Where dreams are driven."
Never has a more apt marketing line described a game's overall purpose and direction. I don't think anyone could say it better (especially with the British accent). Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo are, at their cores, sim racing games where a win can hang in the balance because your car's tuning is just as important as whether you can locate the gas pedal or not.
And like Gran Turismo 5, Forza Motorsport 4 puts you behind the wheel of a lunker long before you'll drive the supercars of your dreams. As enticing as that Lamborghini or Ferrari might be, it'll take a lot of hard work and a ton of race wins to get there. So, to sleep? Perchance to dream?
As I said, Forza 4 will sit you down with a choice of *ahem* low-end automobiles and set you out to race around the world with them. Not literally race around the world… just on some exotic tracks that are so clearly meant for cars with a bit more oomph behind them than your mother's VW Golf. Yes, these starter vehicles are shiny and new, but they stick out like sore thumbs on official German and Italian tracks.
Still, you'll progress quickly and be given choices every step of the way. When you move up in automotive class, you can pick a new car or spend your hard-earned credits souping up your old ride. Turning that Golf into something that can really compete with the big boys is one thing; overlaying it with a sweet skin will make it the envy of the course.
Nevermind the fact that everything you could possibly want to drive is on Disc 1, Turn 10 and Microsoft Game Studios have seen fit to include even more dream-worthy rides on Disc 2. You'll have to install that data if you want to play with those cars, but if you're the target market, you'll undoubtedly pop that second disc in when you see what's on offer.
Forza's racing line returns and brings with it a slew of options for the novice drivers and the hardcore, sit-in-your-living-room-with-a-helmet-on Andrettis among you. Perfectionists will especially love the new rating feature that grades each turn and pass from one to four bars. Cars are even explorable from the comfort of your own couch.
Or standing up… whichever. Kinect allows gamers to take a peek under the hood by moving around their TV and leaning forward or motioning with their hands to open doors. It's a neat gimmick, essentially turning your living room into a showroom, but it won't make up for the software drought Microsoft's little device has seen in the past few months.
Don't forget that nearly every vehicle is available to you to drive from the get-go in quick-race modes. If you're hankering to break up the early circuits with a high-end Audi or some car you've never even heard of before but it looks like the Batmobile, you're more than welcome to.
Otherwise, this is the Forza Motorsport we've come to expect. Much has been carried over from Forza Motorsport 3, including the Disc 2 extras mentioned earlier. Racing well still earns experience points toward your Driver Level and Car Manufacturer Level, earning cars, discounts, and credits toward more cars and car parts. Disabling some of the assists awards additional experience points as before, with the minor but signifcant exception that the AI opponent level can't be changed in career mode, thereby keeping it challenging. The online multiplayer modes, plus the ever busy Auction House, also return.
When it comes down to it, you've really got to ask yourself if Forza Motorsport 4 is for you. There's a ton of content and laypeople like myself will get sucked in when they realize that the enjoyable, speedy racing will unlock them tons of new cars. Still, if you've never dreamt, then what's the point of driving?
You could make the argument that Forza 4 does what Gran Turismo 5 did, but better, but that's fanboy talk and I'm not interested in it. You shouldn't be either. If you've got an autistic bent to your automotive hobby, you'll be picking up both games regardless of the grade. If you enjoy the racing genre and only own an Xbox 360, go pick this up now. If you're not into racing… I hate to break it to you, but Forza 4 won't change that.
So when will a racing game really let me drive a dream? Like the one where I steal the car from clowns and then they chase me up the Hot Wheels ramp? Better yet, let's leave that out of Forza 5.
Review copy supplied by publisher.