The calming lime green glow of the Microsoft press center was a relaxing change from the techni-coloured madness of the E3 floor. It was also a chance for me to talk to Dan Greenawalt, the creative director of Turn 10 Studios about his re-visioning of Microsoft's upcoming Forza 4.
While Forza 4 was being drafted up, Microsoft legend Kudo Tsunoda turned up at Turn 10 studios with a Kinect prototype. According to Greenawalt it wasn't pretty; a camera and an IR sensor strapped together with a rubber band. However what it did was inspire the team to integrate some of its capabilities into the new Forza.
Greenawalt was careful to state that Kinect functionality is 'integrated'. It's not a replacement control system and instead supplements the basic core gameplay that fans have grown to love. Instead it's used for an extra tier of interactivity, something that was beautifully demonstrated with a virtual tour of a car.
And Forza has always been about the cars. Greenawalt proudly stated that one of Tour 10's main ambitions has been for players to establish an emotional connection with their ride. To their credit, it won't be hard to fall in love with a McLaren L1 when players see the all new lighting and rendering engine in Forza 4.
With Kinect, you'll be able to stand up and look at every tiny detail of your prized collection. Examining the dashboard, engine and carbon-fibre finishes with excruciating detail, Forza 4 lets players get so close to the interiors that you can almost smell the leather finish. Whether via Kinect or with a standard controller, users can open doors, bonnets and foils as if they were standing next to it. The level of interactivity and sheer detail in every 3D model is absolutely incredible.
To compliment Forza's love of cars, they have teamed up with the hit British TV car show Top Gear. As well as the recognisable Top Gear track being fully drivable in the game, they have partnered with the show to supply a wealth of extra content for the game. For example cars will have a commentary from the sophisticated, uncensored mouth of Jeremy Clarkson to listen to. But be aware, his amusing and insightful view on your favorite car isn't always positive. It was pleasing to hear that Microsoft were happy to let Clarkson speak his mind on the huge assortment of vehicles in the Forza 4 line-up.
The other impressive feature demoed in Forza 4 by Greenawalt was the improved AI of fellow racers. He divulged that previously in the world of racing games, AI controlled cars usually only ever focused on 20 to 30 feet directly in front of them. Because they weren't looking far enough ahead or aware of their surroundings, it often led to them ploughing into the back of you or simply slowing down to avoid collision. However Forza 4 implements a whole new approach where the AI will adjust and learn to suit both the car they're in and the track they're on. They will know to ignore ideal driving lines to use the outside or inside line if that's ideal for overtaking. They'll also switch gears and accelerate intelligently to find gaps and position themselves to their own advantage on corners. The end result has every car on the track behaving like seasoned drivers. The AI will also auto-adjust according to your skill level, resulting in a perfect difficultly setting and a challenging race every time.
There is plenty more in store for Forza 4, but unfortunately an extremely efficient Microsoft PR rep had to move us on. But you can rest assured that we'll post more on Turn 10's latest driving masterpiece closer to launch.
The Good: Drop-dead gorgeous visuals.
The Bad: Guaranteed car envy.
The Ugly: My Audi after a test lap.