With the development of Forza Motorsport 4, Turn 10 Studioshas built itself a mountain to scale. They’ve proven themselves adept racing developers, with three excellent titles under their belts, but by expanding and adding to the franchise, they’ve created a challenge. How do you keep your roads straight when you’re expanding a franchise beyond the simple act of driving?
But before looking at the new branches, let’s talk about that driving core. Turn 10 Studios has teamed up with Pirelli Tires to mine data and statistics from real-world tire tests in order to further build upon Forza Motorsports’ physics model. “The idea of simulating physics is like the idea of simulating the weather,” said Creative Director Dan Greenawalt. “We’ve got global warming models. Are they accurate? They’re more accurate than in the 1800s where they held a finger to the wind. Our medicine is more accurate than snake oil salesmen. They’re not as accurate as they will be.”
This dedication to improvement shines through in Forza Motorsports 4’s handling. Whether careening too fast around in a corner in a Mercury Cougar, or riding the line in a Ferrari 599 GTO, I could feel the difference, that point of no return before slamming into a wall. The twists and turns of Forza 4’s new fictional track “The Alps” were a great training ground demonstrating the differences between vehicles. The grip of a Subaru STI Impreza WRX STI speeding under a gondola in the mountains is unique to that car’s weight and suspension.
Dan Greenwalt says Turn 10 is “breaking out of the arms race of numbers” with Forza 4, though it still boasts a high car count. The launch will see the availability of around 500 cars, with 10 new vehicles available through DLC each month, so there’s no lack of vehicles to take to the track. But a dichotomy emerges here in the evolving world of Forza Motorsport. Showing off a beautiful new lighting engine and an encyclopedic look at car facts, the new Showroom mode is a car lover’s dream. Utilizing Kinect to “walk” around the car and “touch” points of interest, Forza 4 provides a plethora of technical specs narrated by Forza 3’s Peter Egan. Other points on the car describe fun facts as told by the Jeremy Clarkson, courtesy of Forza Motorsports 4’s new Top Gear partnership. These stories include hilarious retellings of manufacturer embarrassments and famous, quirky anecdotes behind each car’s design choices.
After blowing the competition out of the water in the new World Tour mode and dropping a million credits on your dream car, you’d think it’s off to the showroom to learn all about it. Well, that’s not how it works. Not directly, anyway. The Career and Showroom aren’t the same thing. The Showroom needs to be seen as a “new level,” said Greenwalt – it’s “not Career.” The Showroom experience has around 10 hours of unique content, challenges, and cars to view, but it isn’t tied to the vehicles you’ve earned and purchased through your racing career.
“In many ways,” Greenwalt says, “racing is the smallest part of the game.” And that’s a sign of where Turn 10 wants to take Forza. It doesn’t mean that the racing has been neglected; from the laps I ran it remains fantastic. But Turn 10 is casting a wider net. Several nets in fact, to pull in a larger audience. Their aim is to “turn gamers into car lovers [and] turn car lovers into gamers.” But what does branching out mean for the complete Forza Motorsport 4 package? At E3 2010, we learned that Kinect would play a role in the Forza 4 experience. It’s a great way to expand the series’s reach, but again, it hurls the experience down yet another road. You simply mimic steering with your hands with Kinect, and the braking and acceleration are handled for you. These Kinect-specific assists don’t change the physics, but they do lower the barrier of entry for a serious game. It’s a nice touch for certain players – but another road for Forza Motorsport as a series.
The last piece of Forza 4’s platform is its multiplayer and community features, the closest ties to the main game and a player’s possessions. Races add experience to your driver level, and racing Clubs and liveries return.