Once or twice a year a game comes along that causes the Sports Gamer to miss deadlines (sorry, Professor), forego meals, forget to call his mom back, and skimp on sleep in the name of maximizing playtime. Forza 4 (360, $59.99) is one of those games.
The Forza series--pro tip: "forza" in Italian mean "force," by the way--has been around since 2005. Originally conceived as the Xbox-equivalent--and thumb in the eye--of Sony's PS3-exclusive Gran Turismo series, the Forza series has consistently evolved since its humble beginnings.
The first thing you'll notice is how absolutely incredible this game looks. Forza 3 looked great, but Forza 4 looks downright awesome, thanks in large part to the new image-based lighting model, which makes the cars and the tracks they're speeding down come together in a far more organic fashion. Squint a little, and this game looks borderline photorealistic.
Like cars? Forza 4 is the place for you. The game features a virtual garage containing more than 500 rides from 80 different manufacturers. From Italian super cars to vintage British roadsters, everyone will find a car to fall in love with in this game.
The experience points system is better this time around, giving gamers plenty of opportunities, and incentives, to earn XP early and often. The A.I. of opponent drivers has also been noticeably improved. The better you drive, the better your opponents drive, making for tighter, more dramatic races.
While there's a ton of stuff to do offline in Forza 4's single-player mode, it's the online modes where the Sports Gamer has been spending the bulk of his time. Rivals mode, in particular, is a personal favorite. Rivals is basically a bunch of different events that allow you to race against friends or other Forza 4 players online, even when they're offline. How does it work? Your rival appears as a ghost car in the event. Beat the your rival's ghost card, then earn bonuses based on his position on the leader boards. And once your rival sees that you've bested him, he'll get a message inviting him to try and best you. And so it goes, back and forth, late into the night…
Which is why I'm going to end this review with a word of caution. If you have any interest in cars, and any interest in video games, then play Forza 4--which is easily one of the greatest racing games of all time--at your own risk.