Iâ€™ve been looking forward to getting my chubby little hands on a copy of Forza Motorsport 4 since the first title was unleashed on Xbox, way back in 2005. You see, before Forza, there had only been Gran Turismo, and after Forza... well, for a while, there really was still only Gran Turismo.
Forza was a great game, but it fell slightly short of bottling the magic that the PlayStation stalwart had been conjuring up for the last eight years.
Then along came Forza 2... it was better, perhaps even a GT beater in many peoplesâ€™ eyes, but it was still not quite what Iâ€™d hoped for. The graphics were adequate and the physics pretty darned nice but it still didnâ€™t feel as much of a quality title as the GT series.
Forza 3 set the bar a hell of a lot higher with nigh-on photo realistic backdrops and car models and now, thereâ€™s number 4, and it is jaw-droppingly beautiful.
There may be the odd mismatched texture spotted by the eagle eye, and a few unwelcome cardboard cutout onlookers, but for the most part, the visuals are stunning... more so than a naked Scarlett Johansson wielding a taser between her boobs.
Just as stunning is the audio aspect of the game. Never have I heard engine notes so real! From the metallic shriek of the RX7â€™s 13B rotary engine to the heavy thumping of a fully blown American V8, Forza 4 gets it right EVERY time... just not with the music, which is a bit too Ridge Racer / glow-stick-waving for my liking.
And the game itself, well, thatâ€™s almost as exciting. Almost.
You see, the problem I have with games like Forza and Gran Turismo, is that it all becomes a bit â€śsameyâ€ť. You visit the same tracks over and over and do the same thing over and over... sure, itâ€™s a racing game and thatâ€™s what itâ€™s all about, yet Iâ€™ve never had the level of commitment needed to complete one of these â€śtunerâ€ť games as I have had with titles such as Colin McRae Rally. But, in saying that, Forza 4 throws in a heap of goodies to keep the gameplay varied and enjoyable.
As well as the stock-standard races that youâ€™ll find yourself competing in for the bulk of the game, there are extra events such as one-on-one racing through slower traffic, Project Gotham styled overtake challenges, and even bowling on the Top Gear test track.
Yes, bowling. With cars.
And yes, it is as stupid as it sounds. The Top Gear bowling segments see you trying to knock down as many pins as possible during a lap, and it is the only part of the entire game that doesnâ€™t feel as though you need any amount of talent to do reasonably well. It just doesnâ€™t fit within the walls of this otherwise highly polished title.
The Top Gear integration isnâ€™t all terrible, mind you. Itâ€™s fantastic fun blasting around the airfield from the show, trying to beat the Stig (youâ€™ll have to look up his lap times yourself), or even try your luck in the â€śreasonably priced carâ€ť.
Of course, once youâ€™ve finished your hot lap, you owe it to yourself to sit back and watch the replay through the eyes of the actual Top Gear TV cameras... okay, they are virtual cameras but they are placed exactly as they are on the show.
Itâ€™s incredible to watch, and nigh-on TV quality. On top of that, Jeremy Clarkson makes an appearance from time to time to educate you on vehicles and add to what is quite possibly the best intro to a racing title, ever.
Another worthy addition to the Forza series is the manufacturer affinity system. Win races and - depending on what make and model of car you are piloting - points are added to the affinity gauge, resulting in heavy discounts off performance parts. The more affinity you garner with your manufacturer, the greater the rewards - both monetary and vehicular. Itâ€™s these rewards that really keep you coming back for more.
As with the earlier titles, you start off with a choice of fairly modest vehicles. Youâ€™ll need to pick one, take to the track, and win coin before you can upgrade or purchase hotter rides. Although it can take quite some time to raise the cash to purchase that brand-spanking Lamborghini, you will be awarded new vehicles for reaching driver level goals, and will soon find yourself within reach of that shiny supercar.
Donâ€™t expect to jump straight into this game and pilot a Bugatti Veyron, or a Koenigsegg CCX, however, as good things take time. Of course, you can drive such hypercars in the free-play mode, but itâ€™s the career mode that youâ€™ll be spending the lionâ€™s share of your time with.
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