Everyone will have their own Forza Motorsport 4 story, and while many might have similar tales, much of my journey through Turn 10's fourth entry in its seminal racing series was in the 458 Italia, the luscious Ferrari that adorns the front cover.
It's an obvious choice of beautiful supercar, regardless of whether or not you paint it in its iconic red hues, and a modern signature piece from the legendary Italian manufacturer; the 458 is a guaranteed head-turner, an absolute joy to drive when blasting down wide straights, and a giddy feat of engineering that kicks like a mule and demands unwanted restraint of the throttle. The 4.5 litre V8 engine, rear-wheel drive sports car produces 562hp, goes from 0-60 in 3.4 seconds with a top speed of 201mph, and on my first race the crimson beauty ended up in even worse shape than Stefan Errikson's ill-fated Enzo.
Turn 10 will say Forza Motorsport 4 is a game about car passion, a slightly grandiose statement that only clicks when your attachment to a virtual automobile becomes prescient and tangible. Or, as happened to me, when you become absolutely convinced your Pagani Zonda is driving so erratically because it is actually trying to kill you.
This is a serious driving simulator, fashioned with the now-familiar breadcrumb trail of shiny new cars and an unravelling chain of events. At its core Forza Motorsport 4 is a blissful and earnest homage to the relationship between the wheel, engine, and the next apex, but the overall experience is something much larger, spiralling outwards with myriad customisation options, modes and features to make an overall package that's as hard to narrow down as it is to fully experience. This isn't just a po-faced simulator for devoted racers but a driving simulation for the everyman, a car game for all people, built on a foundation of Turn 10's wildly infectious obsession with the automobile.
At its easier difficulty levels the game still takes care of braking and handling for you, and now there's also support for steering with an imaginary wheel, via Kinect, to entrance players who find the minutiae of the Xbox 360 controller too daunting. Playing Forza 4 like this is functional but somewhat lacking, creating a competent way to ease players into the game while simultaneously stripping the driving of its most enjoyable intricacies.
But that's the whole point: Forza Motorsport 4 has some of the most rewarding and satisfying driving seen in the genre, yet it doesn't have to be a game that solely revolves around fiddling with your ABS and TCS. Dedicated petrolheads can switch all the driving assists off and play on a difficulty level that recommends real-life driving experience as well as a steering wheel peripheral, or just spend dozens of hours painting or tuning their vehicles, and some players will be more than happy to invest their time in producing and uploading photos and videos. It's a swiss army knife for car culture.
As with Forza Motorsport 3 before it, Turn 10 has once again balanced the demands of both ends of the player spectrum to create an accessible package out of daunting source material. It's an extraordinary accomplishment.
The game is also a complete joy to play. The new driving physics, developed partially by feeding reams of real-life data from wheel manufacturer Pirelli into an undoubtedly intelligent megacomputer, change the game in ways that can be hard to pinpoint but combine to make each corner more of a delight. The virtual recreation is almost entirely persuasive, from the sense of weight and momentum as the cars brake, to the growing apprehension as you feel yourself losing control of the back of the car after applying too much countersteer on a particularly tricky corner. The simulation feels slightly less authentic when compared to Polyphony Digital's Gran Turismo 5, its closest peer, but the overall driving experience feels far more entertaining.