Simulation and Gameplay
Much of Forza’s success as a franchise has come down to the way it simulates racing. Most other simulation games, both past and present, have focused on modeling the pure physics of the cars and the track. Forza also goes to great lengths to make sure that cars handle as they would in the real world, but the franchise is one of the few that realizes a simulation is experienced through simulated controls.
Forza 3 made the breakthrough in that area. Enhancements in the game made it possible to, at least, truly feel the car through either a standard console control or a wheel. It was possible to tell when a car was going to break traction through the feel of the controller, and as a result driving in Forza 3 was both more realistic and easier than in Forza 2. There were far fewer situations where a car suddenly broken traction without warning.
With the new version, this has only been improved. It’s not as noticeable in the slower cars, but in supercars and race cars, the improvements are apparent. These cars communicate more information through the controller than before, and aren’t as prone to going out of control at a moment’s notice. They’re still hard to handle, and I’ll probably never be able to push a R2 or R1 car to its limits without crashing, but they’re far less frustrating than before.
One simulation improvement that is noticeable no matter the vehicle you’re driving is the addition of “simulation" steering. In Forza 3, even with all the assists turned off, there were some minor steering assists that were designed to help keep over-corrections and very tiny driver errors from sending a car skidding off the track. These likely made sense in Forza 3, but with Forza 4’s even more detailed and predictable handling characteristics, a simulation steering mode with all assists off is now available.
The difference between this and Forza 3 isn’t noticeable in most situations, but in extreme instances, it becomes apparent. Coming into a corner with far too much speed in a rear-wheel drive car, for example, is a harrowing and exciting experience, as every twitch of the steering wheel or controller stick is communicated.
With all of this said, Forza 4 is most certainly not as big of a leap over Forza 3 as that game was over Forza 2. The refinements are appreciated, but gamers who were expecting something that feels entirely new might be disappointed. It appears that Turn 10 has settled on a physics model they’re comfortable with.