Racing games appeal to a wide variety of gamers because they cater to casual and core players. As Turn 10 Studios found out, pleasing casual gamers is a far greater task than pleasing hardcore gamers. Microsoft and Turn 10 Studios have been working on Forza Motorsport 4 for several years, perfecting the experience no matter the level commitment from the gamer. This means Forza 4 will have a variety of gameplay modes including single player, multiplayer and community features. Like most Microsoft games going forward, Forza 4 is "better with Kinect."
When designing Forza 4, the main goal was to make a game that would appeal to people who don't necessarily love games or love cars. While working on Forza Motorsport 3, Kudo Tsunudo showed Turn 10 the Natal. At first, like most of us, they didn't know what to make of it. Turn 10 decided to look at the Kinect as something other than a controller. It wouldn't be how you play, but it could affect how you approach gameplay. In the end, the hope is that Kinect will mean more copies of Forza 4 in more living rooms.
We last saw Forza 4 at E3 2010. Since last year's game demo, many changes have been made. Turn 10 decided to use the past year to focus on the idea that gamers will see how great their cars look and want to get up to see the cars, touch the cars, have a borderline inappropriate lust for the cars. Speaking of lust, the first car they showed us in the Kinect-compatible garage was a Ferrari.
The garage lets you put your cars on display. The controller, or the Kinect, controls how close you get to the car, up to six inches away from it. Turn 10 doesn't want you to just look either. You'll be able to interact with the cars too, open the door, trunk, get inside, and start the engine.
The interactive options don't stop at leaning forward to look in the window either. Points of interest will offer players factual information, trivia, stats, and most importantly, commentary from the BBC's Top Gear. A partnership with Top Gear surprised me. I first wondered how car manufactures would feel about having their cars scrutinized with snarky jokes and clever remarks. I wondered until I heard one; it was hysterical. I'm hardly a car enthusiast, and even I thought their opinions were funny and informed. The car manufactures are on their own; I'm with these guys.
Since most people aren't car people, Turn 10 Studios made an advanced lighting engine and used special rendering techniques to make their cars look as appetizing as possible, and, at times, down right delicious. Seriously, they were so shiny it looked like they were coated with a layer of sugar, and maybe tears. During my demo, there was a constant emphasis on how advanced the lighting engine was. I can't speak for the mechanics of it, but it looked amazing. Again, sugar.
Now that you've thoroughly scoped out your ride, it's time to start a career. In the Career mode, choice matters. The choices might not be as dramatic as a BioWare's choices, but you can decide which car to choose, which tracks to race on, and from there, options open based on those beginning choices. I like that there is some degree of uniqueness with each play-through.
My first lap was in the Swiss Alps. The course was an original creation inspired by research. And by research, I meant a vacation. I've lived in the desert long enough to appreciate the snow. The demo's focus again shifted to the lighting. The sun reflects off the snow and off the cars even more in this map.
One of the modes on display was called track day. The point of this race is to pass as many cars as you can. There are an unlimited number of cars you're racing against. The game's AI has undergone gruesome testing to make sure the cars drive realistically. This AI also extends to the dynamic difficulty. How well you're doing will determine the level of skill in the AI and the courses.
Racing is better with friends, and that's why Forza 4 will boast a variety of community features. Sadly, these features weren't working during the demo so I couldn’t see for myself. Some of the social features you’d expect, like news and leader boards, will of course be included. There will also be features that are surprising. Car Clubs allow gamers to play and share. The clubs have a voted on hierarchy. Yes, you too could be the president of your own car club. My favorite feature was within clubs, where members will be able share their cars. The idea of a social unit means gamers will be able to work together to earn even more cars.
Once the focus was back on the driving, I saw both the first-person and third-person camera angles. The Kinect will track your head's motions. If you prefer, the Kinect camera will adjust the screen when you move. If you, in real life, look up to the corner of the screen, the in-game camera will look up too. Another Kinect feature is voice recognition. By saying a course out loud, the game will save, and take you where you want to go in the menus.
All of this is grand, but multiplayer is where the magic happens. Forza 4 will rock 16-player multiplayer and team matches. Matchmaking will be included to make sure there's always someone of comparable skill to race against. People can challenge your times even when you're not online. If this happens, you'll get a message like, "so-and-so just beat your time, want to challenge their time?" All of the XP gained from these matches carries over to your total from career mode. With XP you'll be able to purchase skins, upgrades, and even user generated content. Skins from Forza 3 can be carried over as well.
You'll be able to take Forza Motorsport 4 out for a spin on October 11, only for the Xbox 360.