Top critical review
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Great game - lack of content "out of the box" is a real concern!
on 14 April 2014
I've owned every Forza, I think the series has improved steadily (with the exception of Forza Horizon, which should be considered a totally different title and one to be judged on its own merits). This is no exception, the graphics are stunning (NOT life like, as many have claimed, but good enough to make you sit back and admire them), the cars' handle has been improved, the online features are great and the new features, which have been well implemented (especially for those who prefer to beat their friends list set times, rather than join live races; always a bit of a lottery in Forza that you'll get some idiot smashing you off the track!).
If you enjoyed previous Forza titles (or Gran Turismo; I'm a fan of both and this is certainly a step up), then you will love this game.
I won't say too much of the content of the game (except to say; if you like meddling with cars; tuning/designing liveries, driving without assists, etc you will enjoy this game even more than the "play through the career" crowd), as it has mostly been said in other comments or reviews.
I think it is worth mentioning the content not in the box though. Overall the game shipped with half as many tracks as Forza 4 (and remember that one track is a drag-race straight!), and even less than half of the number of cars (200 v 500 in F4!). The lack of cars was really disappointing, and while many have been added through both paid DLC (a season pass to download MOST - note: not ALL! - of the cars will set you back another £40, to download ALL of the cars you need both the season pass and a VIP subscription!), and one free DLC pack, the lack of content "out of the box" was a real disappointment.
Perhaps the most disappointing part was the lack of drivable space. This game was released with a significant amount tracks from previous Forza titles missing. Nurburgring is gone (it is worth remembering that previous games had several layouts of Nurburgring, playable in both directions), the Maple Valley tracks (a staple of Forza) are no longer in the game, Suzuka is gone, the New York street circuit hasn't returned, nor has Sonoma, etc, etc.
The lack of tracks became noticeable very quickly, as you were soon doing the same routes through the same circuits over and over again during career mode (and later; in trials/challenges/multiplayer, etc). This has been alleviated by new routes through the existing tracks, and the addition of Long Beach and Road America.
Hopefully more free tracks will continue to be added to the game, but I think, despite the excellence of the game play, the stunning graphics and the fantastic new features and game modes, the game that shipped (and the subsequent profiteering; if you're planning to buy this game and explore all of the features you should add another £50-£60 to the price of the game for a season pass and VIP!) was a real let down.
Having said all of the above; many of these problems have been rectified since launch (although some more tracks would certainly improve the experience!); if you can swallow the ridiculous cost of the extras you will own the best racing experience on any platform, ever! (IMHO; and yes, I do/have own(ed) all GTs, Assetto Corsa, F1 games, PGR, NFS, Test Drive(s), the SimBin games (& mods), Wipeout, Mario Karts, blah, blah, etc, etc... going all the way back to Pole Position!).
The 2 missing stars are because I believe the game which exists now, for me as a season pass/VIP paying customer, with all the extra DLC and tracks, would have been a passable 5 star game at launch (even with the DLC it remains far short of the amount of content that Forza 4 shipped with!). It just feels like they either rushed the game out with a lack of content (to be added later), or held content back so they could sell it on; neither of which is particularly acceptable. I don't mind paying for DLC as long as it is extra content, the DLC for this game feels very much like stuff which should have already been in the box when it was originally sold!
TL:DR Summary: racing perfection, with lots of missing pieces!