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E3 2011: Forza Motorsport 4 Preview & Impressions

Feature; Jun. 12, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Robert F. Ludwick
Subtypes: Opinion, Preview
The realistic racer made an appearance at Microsoft's E3 2011 booth
Los Angeles, CA, USA

The realistic racing genre can be summed up in two game series: Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo. Microsoft's latest entry in the battle, Forza Motorsport 4, had three drivers seats available (one of which was a massive contraption that felt like an air fighter simulator) as well as a few consoles with controllers available to play. After standing in three separate lines for quite some time, I got my hands on one of the two "lesser" driver seats.

Forza Motorsport 4

I've got a disclaimer here - I've never played any of the previous iterations of either Forza or Gran Turismo. Needless to say, however, I found my experience with Forza 4 quite enjoyable. On hand was a new prototype racing wheel. It felt excellent: very well built, nice trim and force feedback. It's still a prototype, so I can only imagine how much more polished the wheel will become in the time before its public release.

The Kinect sensor can also be used in Forza 4. The sensor is used to track your head while you're driving. After a brief calibration of the sensor and track setup, I was off and racing against 11 other computer AI opponents in what felt like a relatively straightforward track in medium mode. The Kinect sensor tracked when I moved my head to the left or the right, and the game responded exactly as I expected it to -- it shifted the viewpoint from within the car to the left or right, as if the driver were looking to the side to see opponent racers or scenery.

Somehow or other I ended the race in first place. I think it was a dumb stroke of luck, really. I've never been all that great at realistic racing games. However, I drove more aggressively and wasn't afraid to hit other opponent vehicles, something that I'm sure those looking for a more realistic experience wouldn't have done.

The visuals in Forza 4 are outstanding. I absolutely cannot stress this enough. There are times I thought I was watching a pre-rendered scene instead of real-time graphic output from the 360. There are some that say the 360 cannot match Playstation 3's graphic capabilities, but this game proved to me that creative and intelligent developers can pull all sorts of horsepower from the system.

The driving with the wheel felt very natural. For those of us who have driven actual vehicles before, it felt perfectly normal, and the car responded as I would expect it to. I got to spend some time talking with Tatyana Dyshlova as well, a program manager for the Forza series. She informed me that Microsoft had professional racers come in to the studios to test the game out for comparisons to real-world racing. Apparently, many of the pro drivers were able to recreate their performance in Forza as they would have driven on real-world tracks.

This is a game that I will be keeping tabs on as it nears its release date Oct. 11. Being a Microsoft game, it will obviously be available only on the Xbox 360.

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