Next Tuesday will see the release of the much-anticipated Forza 4. In preparation of this review I’ve been playing a ton of Forza 3, and more importantly, I also went to a big gaming event here in the Netherlands to check out the final version of the game, including the Kinect support. So here is what I think of it!

Firstlook 2011

The event me and Clemens went to was called “Firstlook 2011″ and was hosted in the magnificent city of Utrecht in The Netherlands. The event hosted a wealth of games but its focus was unfortunately not on Kinect. There was only one game that was playable with Kinect at this event…and that was Forza 4! The Forza 4 play area was huge! There were tons of pods where a stripped down version of Forza 4 was playable with a normal controller, there was the three screened racing chair with steering wheel setup and there was a closed off booth where Forza was playable with Kinect. Fortunately our press passes allowed us to go in a full two hours before the masses so we could check out the game in all peace and quiet before the doors of Firstlook would officially open.

Forza 4 with Kinect

The first thing we did after being welcomed by two friendly people from Xbox The Netherlands was check out the Autovista mode. I chose to check out a badass looking Dodge Challenger and hopped into Autovista mode! Checking out the car from all sides is a bit awkward at first (I tried moving left and right and was soon obstructed by the wall of the booth) but as soon as you figure out that leaning left and right is enough and that the camera will automatically circle around the car this turns out to be a very pleasant way of checking out the car.

After selecting the door of the car and making a ‘opening a door’ motion your virtual self will get into the car and you will have all the freedom to check out the insides. This is also where I saw the biggest graphical difference with Forza 3; the dashboard just looks so much better! While inside the car you can start it or just look around and check out all the fancy electronics that can only be found in cars that are far too expensive for me to ever lay my hands on.

Steering with Kinect

From the Autovista mode you get the option to immediately take the selected car for a spin in a number of challenges. I did so and took out my Dodge Challenger in a race against a whole bunch of Fiat 500′s. More interestingly the game assumed I was going to use Kinect for steering so I was finally given the chance to try out the much debated Kinect steering of Forza 4.

The steering takes getting used to: at first you’ll probably make far too sharp turns since the steering is pretty sensitive (totally different from an actual steering wheel), but once you figure out that subtlety is key the steering actually works pretty well. One thing that I totally do not like about this mode is that the game will automatically break in corners, this means that cornering goes pretty well but the car will not break for opponents on the track. This resulted in me driving like a madman into all of my opponents since the AI simply does not break for them. I think the game will also come with a setting where you can use your foot to break while in Kinect steering mode but I was unable to test this.

Steering with a controller

When leaving the Kinect steering mode for what it is and instead picking up the controller the game turns into the real powerhouse of a racing game it is! The graphics look amazing, the controls are sharp and the cars sound like the real thing. I immensely enjoyed playing the game with a controller and can’t wait to test it in the comforts of my own home with Kinect head tracking enabled. This game is going to rock so hard!

Forza 4 will be out next Tuesday and will be the first Kinect hybrid game. If you at all like cars or racing you should be looking out for this one. Expect a full 123Kinect review of the game soon!