Forza 4 begins with a rallying cry. The unmistakable voice of Jeremy Clarkson insists that you and he are a dying breed, the sort of person who still loves the sound and feel of a gas-guzzling V8 in spite of general sentiments moving in a more environmentally friendly direction. There aren't a lot of places modern-day gearheads can go to be celebrated, he says, but you can find one of those places in Forza 4.
But you needn't necessarily be a fan of monstrously powered V8s to feel at home in the game. In fact, that's sort of the entire point of this game. Turn 10 Studios is taking a more hands-off approach to the game's career mode, dubbed World Tour, in an effort to let players more easily find a few favorite cars and really stick with them. Game director Dan Greenawalt sees the irony in this by acknowledging that there's something a little funny about offering 500-plus cars only to let players narrow in on the three or four they really like for the entire duration of the career mode. But if there's one thing Turn 10 doesn't want to do, it is force people into playing someone else's idea of a driving game.
One big change has to do with the way driver levels work in the World Tour. In previous games, you'd be automatically gifted a new car every time you collected enough XP to reach a new level. Sometimes that car was exactly what you wanted; other times, it was a Volkswagen Touareg. The problem had to do with the fact that it was one predetermined car at every level of the game. Now, you're given a choice that is handily organized by theme.
The first level of the game offers you a choice of nimble subcompacts like the Ford Ka or the Toyota Aygo. As you level up, you're greeted with other choices like zippy hot hatchbacks, sport coupes, Trans-Am Legends, and Friday Night Cruisers. Some of those collections, like the subcompacts and hot hatches, let you choose from about a half-dozen cars. Others are more like boxing matches between iconic classics where you get to choose the winner, like the choice of Friday Night Cruisers. Will it be the 1960 Corvette convertible or the substantially larger 1957 Ford Thunderbird? Who knows? It's your call.
What you wind up with is a garage that's a lot more personal than it was in Forza 3's career mode. You won't always find a car you're in love with at every new level of the game, but for the most part, when you cycle through which car you want to take into an event, there's a much more substantial feeling of ownership in knowing that you weighed the pros and cons of all those cars versus the competition. You're the one who brought home that car. You're the one who took that '57 T-Bird and put a sweet decal of a rabbit farting fire on it. (Oh, wait, sorry. That last one was just us.)
Then there's the way World Tour events are structured. If you remember Forza 3, you'll recall that whole calendar system that took you from one specific event to the next. Those events were largely determined by which cars you had in your garage, but there was only one event to choose from at a time. In Forza 4's World Tour, you're instead flown around to different tracks throughout the world and given the choice to race in any one of your cars. When you pick a vehicle you want to race in, the game will give you a few different event options, like rear-engine cars only or Audi versus BMW and events of that nature.
The result is a game that gives you a lot more choice over the cars you take to events, if not the events themselves. The sequencing of tracks is all done by the game, and occasionally, oddball events will be thrown into the mix (like the delightfully fun Top Gear Bowling where you're driving through bowling pins on the famous Top Gear test track) that you can't skip in favor of a more traditional race. But overall, we really like how you can just focus in on the cars that you want to race. The lower-end cars will peak eventually, so you can't take that fully upgraded Ford Ka up against other A-level cars and expect to win a race. But on the whole, it's very much about you and your taste in cars.
Forza Motorsport 4 is due for release on October 11.