Microsoft Corp.’s Forza Motorsport 4 for the Xbox 360 is a fine driving simulation entry that includes a comprehensive outfit modes, vehicles, upgrades, and online play for casual or pro drivers.

Modes include Career, Community, Autovista, Free Play, and Marketplace.

Forza Motorsport 4

In Career, users will automatically be placed in driving events around the world beginning with the Amateur Division of sub-compact car racing.

In addition, users can quick select any available events to enter in a range of class-specific, model-specific, or brand-specific races. Each race will add Driver Level XP to earn additional vehicles and Affinity XP to add points to manufacturer association for bonus credit and parts discounts.

Community allows users to race online against up to 16 players, create a club to share cars between members, beat rival ghost times for credit, buy auction cars, or buy tuning setups.

Autovista offers a virtual peek inside racing vehicles, from a close wraparound to a seat inside the cockpit.

Free Play offers Hot Lap and Split Screen racing.

Like prior entries, Forza Motorsport 4 includes true simulation driving with each notch of acceleration and brake tied to car specification. Control is pitch perfect, with tiny nuances affected by simulated physics, from a brush with a side marker or the braking impact from a hairpin turn.

The physics engine remains impressive. Damage from collisions impacts car handling. AI cars drive realistically, not robotically, and can even make mistakes by taking wide turns or running off the track.

For driving novices, Forza 4 offers the ability to turn off many assists, including brake, steering, stability control, traction control, shifting, suggested line, damage, fuel and tire wear, and the option to rewind a live race.

Turning off more assists will equate to more credit earned from each race. With all the assists on, casual drivers can enjoy a painless ride through each track.

Upgrades can be handled in the same manner, with pros able to change engine and power, platform and handling, drivetrain, tires and rims, and aero and appearance. Casual users can auto-upgrade prior to each race with recommendations that will automatically install for a cumulated amount of credit.

Online play is smooth via Xbox Live. While Quick Match can take a few minutes to nab players, races held without lag and integrated microphone chat, though select cars could glide around inexplicably to knock out some realism. Online racers can continue to earn Driver XP and Affinity XP to keep earning credit and unlocking vehicles online.

Kinect options are impressive, with voice recognition to access menus. Each call of ‘My Garage’ or ‘Next Race’ worked without a hitch. In addition, Kinect offers simulated racing with auto-controlled brake and acceleration while holding an air wheel. The experience worked well with hands accurately recognized in each race. Head tracking is more of a novelty with leans to extend the view of the left or right in race.

With 500 vehicles and real-world tracks, the graphics engine holds at a solid 60 frames-per-second. Replays and select rear-view and side-mirror graphics hold at 30 frames-per-second. The entire car, from driver to dash, is rendered to perfection. Models from the 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 429 to the 2010 Ferrari 485 Italia are well-constructed in and out. Lighting effects from the artificial sun able to cast shadows in real-time. Races takes place only in the day and afternoon to leave out night races found in rival titles.

The sound engine is top-notch from the roars of sub-combat cars to the purr of exotic machines. The soundtrack includes standard upbeat tunes in rock, jazz, and pop categories.

Forza Motorsport 4 is the category dominator of the racing simulation franchise. From physics to handling, the world of real racing is brought to life for a casual stroll or a white-knuckle race to the finish line.

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