Version tested Xbox 360
The 330 P4 never triumphed at the Circuit de la Sarthe, but it's as if the car was built for Le Mans' Porsche Curves - and it's as if, despite what their name suggests, this extended slither of road was laid down and tarmacked with the express purpose of putting Ferrari's low-slung sports car through its paces, designed expressly to tease out the pleasures of this legendary machine.
String each corner together and there's a sense of heady weightlessness, the steering loosening beneath your fingers as you find yourself in the throes of a perfect four-wheel drift. Nailing the sequence requires you to throw the car from one drift to another, a delicate dance between throttle and steering that's scored by the throaty growl of one of Maranello's finest V12s. It's heart-in-mouth gaming, and it's one of many moments in which Forza Motorsport 4 reveals itself to have a real heart of its own.
It's all about passion. Beyond the lists of torque ratings and wheel dimensions lies the simple love between man and machine, as pure and innocent as that between a eight year old boy and the Ferrari GTO poster haphazardly blu-tacked to his wall. It's that very passion that Forza Motorsport 4 endeavours to evoke.
But the truth is, Turn 10's has typically been a slightly cold passion. Contrasted to Polyphony's wild-eyed, crazy love that resulted in the flawed genius of Gran Turismo 5, there's always been a cold glint to Forza. As it's methodically worked towards creating a driving experience that's comprehensive, it's often failed to embrace the emotion its subjects can inspire.
There are times when that stony glare returns in Forza Motorsport 4, but there are many, many others when it feels as if Turn 10 has learnt to love a little, where it has softened its approach and brought a little tenderness to a formula that the developer has whittled towards something approaching perfection.
It's there to be seen up front in the new visuals that remove the flatter edges of previous Forzas. Image Based Lighting is the cold, hard name behind this soft new look, with differing times of day (not dynamic, sadly) showing the new model in all of its glory. Even the most banal of autodromes is lent a little warmth when bathed in the glow of a rising sun, the light glimmering through trees and painting the tarmac a dim gold.
It's an added character that even finds its way to some of the more austere backdrops. The Nordschleife, long established as the yardstick of the serious racing game, has arguably never looked better, here permanently overcast and with a melancholy fog hugging the trees that line its 12.9 miles.
And there's more character behind the wheel too with the in-car view, surely Forza's default, enlivened by a new dynamic camera. Partly inspired by Need for Speed: Shift's dramatic approach though stopping little way short of Slightly Mad's visual theatrics, the camera pitches and yaws across each handsomely replicated cockpit, helping to gently escalate that all-important sense of speed. Paired with Kinect-enabled head-tracking it provides a minor revelation - while a little slow to react it proves surprisingly intuitive, and it's well ahead of Gran Turismo's disappointingly digital take on the feature last year.
It's got a little more personality to the touch, too. Forza 3 marked a step away from the sterility of the first two games, seeing a taste for oversteer that's developed and further refined here. Cars are never less than lively, with even the lower tier models all too happy to step out of line with a tickle of the throttle. Finding the limit of adhesion is easy thanks to some generous feedback - no doubt helped by Pirelli's involvement in this department - and Turn 10 ensure that you'll spend much of your time operating in and around this zone.
Indeed, Forza 4 is often so eager to kick the rear end out that it can feel more akin to Project Gotham than any of its more serious-minded competition. A reward mechanic that's the distant cousin of Bizarre's Kudos goes hand in hand with the abundance of mid-corner oversteer, a soft chime greeting every well-taken corner, graceful drift or successful pass.
There's further character, too, in the online, which takes Forza 3's extensive feature set and pushes it that little further, makes it that little smarter thus sending it several leagues ahead of its competition. The community mode that sits at the heart of Forza is trimmed around the edges, the auction house and storefronts returning to ensure that there'll be a bustling automotive bazaar here for as long as players wish to support it.