Earlier today, during a visit to Microsoft's E3 booth, we had an opportunity to play Forza Motorsport 4 for the first time. Turn 10's upcoming racer is being shown on a number of different setups; there are several where you can just play with a controller, a couple where you can play in a seat with a racing wheel and a Kinect set up for head tracking, one with a force feedback seat set up in front of three large screens, and one where you can control everything in the game with a Kinect. While in line for one of the head-tracking rigs, we got a pretty good look at the full Kinect setup, which was mostly being used to show off how incredibly detailed the car models are this year.
Viewing one of the game's many Ferraris inside a nondescript garage, the guy using the Kinect was able to reposition the camera simply by moving, almost as if he were walking around the car. Furthermore, using his hand to control a small icon on the screen, he was able to interact with part of the car. Focusing on one of its wheels, he called up an overlay detailing its specifications, for example, and when he moved around to the rear of the car, he popped open the engine cover to look inside. Later, we saw him open the driver's side door and, by interacting with an icon that appeared onscreen, climb inside. At this point, he was sat in the driving position and interacted with the fantastic-looking interior in much the same way as outside. Putting the key in the ignition lit up all of the dashboard instruments, and when he reached for the steering wheel, he was given the option to participate in a driving challenge, which he accepted. Because we weren't playing the game ourselves at this point, we can't comment on how well the Ferrari controlled using the Kinect, but the driver certainly didn't appear to be having any major problems with it.
What we can comment on is how well Forza Motorsport 4's head-tracking feature works. After sitting down and getting comfortable with the steering wheel and pedals, we opted to drive a Subaru (one of only three cars featured in the E3 demo) around the spectacular-looking Switzerland track that was shown during the Microsoft press conference earlier this week. The car handling was great, though we're pretty sure that a good number of the game's driving assists were turned on by default. The effect of the head tracking was pretty subtle; when we went out of our way to try to look out of a side window, it didn't respond as much as we had hoped. When we stopped thinking about it and just let it do its thing as we subconsciously leaned into corners a little, though, the effect was really good. It wasn't so dramatic that it was distracting, but it was definitely noticeable enough to add to our sense of immersion while using the cockpit view.
Forza Motorsport 4 is currently scheduled for release in October, and based on what we saw of it today, it promises to improve upon its predecessor in more ways than any of us could reasonably have expected. We look forward to bringing you more information on Forza Motorsport 4 just as soon as we can; maybe we'll even swing by the Turn 10 area of Microsoft's booth again before E3 ends.