I’ve always enjoyed racing games. Dating back to my first console, the Nintendo Entertainment System, R.C. Pro Am was a game that I sank a huge amount of hours into. Through the console generations, racing and driving games have evolved into full-blown simulations. Hell, we even play them with realistic wheels and pedals for the closest possible experience to being in an actual vehicle. Personally, I get more enjoyment out of a game that lets me drive cars that I otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to, and on roads that will likely never be beneath me. I’ve played my share of racing games over the years, but none have nailed the experience I’m after as well as Forza Motorsport, and the fourth iteration is no exception.
When Shift 2: Unleashed (AKA Need for Speed: Shift 2) was released back in March, I rented it hoping for a similar experience to its predecessor, which I quite enjoyed. But an hour into the game, I was ready to call it quits. It lacked the excitement of the previous game and was forcing me to race D and E class cars with no modifications repeatedly. I understand that you need to climb the ladder and gain experience, but how many times are we supposed to start from the ground up and play these boring low class events before it becomes tedious? Hint; we’re already there.
The MotorStorm franchise is a weird one. There’s absolutely nothing “simulation” about it, but it can be a lot of fun at times. Or at least, I had some fun playing the first two games in short bursts. The third game in the series, MotorStorm: Apocalypse is utter shit. Instead of focusing on the fact that you have monster trucks and dirt bikes (and everything in between) racing down mountains and through rain forests, they tried to jam this awful story into it. Tied together with un-skippable cut-scenes featuring awful characters and horrendous voice acting, it was nothing short of an atrocity. To top it off, the first dozen or so races are so insanely easy that it feels like you’re doing time trials. Needless to say, I couldn’t stomach this game for more than a few hours.
So as you can see, my experience with racing games as of late has not been enjoyable. With the onslaught of games on the horizon, I wasn’t counting on playing Forza 4 until I had a chance to get through some of the other “high priority” games. But when I saw mentions of it on Twitter through-out release day, it got the better of me and I raced (pun intended) out to my local video store to rent a copy. Not even 5 minutes in, I find myself sitting on the edge of my seat, with a smile from ear-to-ear.
When it comes to video games, the first impression is of the utmost importance. That first hour better be a good one, if people you want people to sink another 8, 10, 20+ hours into it. Forget about the first hour, in the first 5 minutes of Forza 4 I had watched an enthralling intro movie (below), raced a Ferrari through the Bernese Alps, and received some bonus credits and cars for importing my Forza 3 profile. That is how you get people stoked on your game.
I’m only a few hours into Forza 4 and just reached driver level 10, but I can see that I’ll need to pick up a copy of this game, as it’s definitely followed in its predecessor’s footsteps and built on the incredible foundation laid by Forza 3. As Rock Band 3 is to rhythm games, Forza 4 could very well be the definitive racing game of this console generation.