Since the original Forza Motorsport launched on the Xbox back in 2005, we’ve seen a new game grace the franchise every other year. With Forza 4 set for 2011, the excitement is already ramping up but, when you have a series as highly regarded as Forza, how can it live up to the inevitable hype and pressure?
The first major announcement made regarding changes to Forza 4 has been the inclusion of Kinect support. Considering Forza’s inherent realism, I don’t see how a sim as realistic as Forza will appeal to the casual crowd who are most likely to own Kinect sensors but that’s neither here nor there. The game will include Kinect support whether you like it or not.
What the Kinect will be doing in Forza 4 hasn’t been entirely elaborated on yet. An E3 demonstration last June showed off a game very much like Forza 4, where players used the Kinect to overtake AI on a race track. Actually racing with the Kinect could be a good thing, though it is often a mixed blessing if previous Kinect racing titles are anything to go by. (Check out our reviews for Sonic Free Riders and Kinect Joy Ride for more on that front.) For all my scepticism regarding Kinect though, it is only a matter of time until a Kinect racing game gets done properly. Considering Turn 10’s reputation with the previous Forza titles, they could well do the unthinkable and make Kinect controls work. Even if they don’t, core gamers needn’t fear. The game will still support the tried and tested standard controller input.
One of the more interesting Kinect additions is the improved cockpit view. Competing title Need for Speed: Shift 2 made an intriguing attempt at incorporating realistic head movements into the cockpit view but, as it was an automatic and non-user controlled motion, it was really only presentational in its use. Forza 4 goes a step further by incorporating Kinect head tracking so, as you look left or right when going round a bend, the 1st person camera will automatically follow. A small addition, but it could well increase Forza 4’s sense of immersion.
Kinect controls could be used for alternative purposes as well. Last year’s E3 showing displayed footage of someone walking around and interacting with their vehicles using the Kinect. By pointing at various aspects of a car, players could get more detailed information on them. Considering the Forza games have only ever come under any kind of sustained criticisms for their menu and interface systems, this could well be a breath of fresh air. Even if the actual racing blows with Kinect controls, new menus could be a welcome change. That said, can a motion controlled menu ever be more intuitive than a normal control setup? Motion controls always offer novelty, but ease of use is a different matter entirely.
One of the key areas we can expect to see altered, based on criticisms of Forza 3, will be the vehicle roster. Leaked gameplay footage has shown that the cars will be presented in a greater detail than ever before. Though this is in part to do with graphical tweaks and upgrades, it also extends to details on the aerodynamic designs of specific car models. The number of cars available in Forza 3 was also considered unimpressive when compared to rival franchises, so we can expect both quality and quantity to get an improvement in Forza 4.
In terms of the online components, we can also expect some sharpening up. The first big addition is 16 player races, trumping the meagre 8 players present in each race in Forza 3. It is likely that Forza 4 will also address issues cited in Forza 3’s online modes. Problems like no car tuning in public games and no custom public matches should be rectified by the time Forza 4 pulls up in October.
One of the more interesting announcements for Forza 4 was that it would sport increased authenticity via the folks from Top Gear getting involved in the game’s development. It is uncertain how much their input will influence the final product, but the lovely voice of UK Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson will serve as a narrative voice in Forza 4.
Though there will be many fuming at the sight of their favourite racing sim bowing to the casual and family audiences, Turn 10 definitely seem hard at work catering for the hardcore crowd with their immodest list of tweaks and additions. With the game set for an October release, we can only expect to see much more of Forza 4 at E3 in June. Until then, all we can do is hope.