At the Forza Motorsport 4 launch event in Toronto we got a hands-on demo of the game. Forza Motorsport 4, from Turn 10 and Microsoft Studios, offers a myriad of new gameplay, customization, and community options that are sure to entice any racing fan. However, the Toronto launch event highlighted the variety of controllers a player can use to control the vehicles in the game, which is a particularly unique feature of Forza 4. We had the chance to try out three of the game’s major controller options: Driving with Kinect, using Microsoft’s new Wireless Speed Wheel, and playing with the standard Xbox 360 controller. Thankfully none of the control schemes we tried offered any terrible experiences, but some definitely felt better than others depending on the type of driving experience the player is looking for.
Driving in Forza 4 with Kinect works by having the player hold his/her hands out in front of him/herself as if the player is holding an invisible steering wheel. Once the race starts then the player turns the invisible wheel to steer the car left and right. The steering works fairly well but beyond turning the car there is little else one can do with Kinect. It seems that Kinect in Forza 4 is strictly for a casual experience. When playing Forza 4 with Kinect all the braking, accelerating, and gear shifting is handled by the game so there is nothing else to do but hold one’s hands out in mid-air and pretend like one is driving. The Kinect is also utilized in the game’s Auto Vista mode where the player gets to “walk around” some select cars and highlight sections of any given vehicle to get extra information on the given car. Using Kinect in Auto Vista is a relatively smooth experience but for racing fans wanting an authentic driving experience Microsoft’s new Wireless Speed Wheel is a better choice than Kinect.
That said, Microsoft’s new Wireless Speed Wheel is not really a wheel at all. The controller is in the shape of a U and the player holds on to each side of the U when playing the game. The A, B, X, and Y buttons are placed near the top of the right side of the controller and the triggers are placed on the underside, near the top, on either side of the U shaped controller. With the Wireless Wheel one can accelerate, brake, and gear shift with ease. Steering is handled by turning the controller left and right in mid-air. The controller is surprisingly responsive and playing the entire game with the wireless wheel certainly seems like a viable option. However, the Speed Wheel does not offer any force feedback, which is not a major concern when driving low-end to mid-range cars, but once one drives a high-end car some force feedback would help with turning at high speeds.
The wheel definitely requires some getting used to and starting out using the Wireless Wheel with faster cars is not recommended (unless one is playing on the easiest difficulty settings). Rather, one should begin with low-end to mid-range cars to get used to how the wheel works and feels then move on to higher-end vehicles. However, making fine directional adjustments with the Wireless Wheel can feel like a chore at times (especially if one wants to make sharp turns with a supercar without the car careening off the track). Nevertheless, based upon how the Wireless Wheel felt in our hands, and after acclimatizing one’s self to the feel of turning in mid-air, one can most likely manage to control very fast cars, coupled with difficult game settings, using Microsoft’s Wireless Speed Wheel. However, if one is looking to jump right into the game with tight, precise, and responsive controls then the standard Xbox 360 controller is the best option of the three we tried.
The classic 360 controller’s dual joysticks, rumble, button positions, and the placement of the triggers all add up to the controller that offers the best controls for the hardcore gamer wanting to top the leaderboards with his/her track times. The joysticks and triggers give the player complete control over any vehicle and allow for miniscule directional adjustments with even the most unruly cars in Forza 4. However, before one simply pushes the Wireless Speed Wheel aside one should note that Forza 4 offers a myriad of options to make the game either easier or harder. For example, one can adjust the braking settings to offer assisted braking, which means the game will actually brake for the player at times, or the player can choose to have no braking assistance at all. The player can also turn traction control on or off, adjust the difficulty of steering (ranging from assisted to simulation), and so on. These difficulty options are important to note because they do adjust how both the classic controller and the Wireless Wheel feel and how easy it is to control the game with either (Kinect is locked into one difficulty mode that seems set to the easiest difficulty settings). So if one has the Wireless Wheel but feels that it is too easy or too difficult to use then one should try adjusting the games settings to find the optimal sweet spot that fits how one likes and wants to play Forza Motorsport 4.
Overall, the type of experience the player is looking for will determine which controller the player will want to use. If one just wants a relaxing casual experience that might be great for younger gamers then Kinect is a good option. If one wants the experience of gripping a wheel but can’t afford an expensive force-feedback wheel, then the Wireless Speed Wheel offers a nice alternative. If one wants to have maximum control over the vehicles in Forza 4 to make the best turns and track times then from what we experienced the standard controller is the best option. The inclusion of a number of different controller options for Forza 4 shows how much variety and customization the game offers. Though none of the new controllers we experienced can replace the standard 360 controller, it is a nice touch to have the different controller options, which allows for the player to customize his/her driving experience beyond simply tweaking difficulty settings.
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