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Game of the Week: Forza 4

Turn 9.

'Something for everyone' is an overused term, but in a bulging, eclectic and hugely enjoyable sack of new releases this week, it really does apply: from sports fan to toddler, retro enthusiast to party girl. And all without a single first-person shooter in sight. Well done, games industry.

There was plenty of quality, too, although perhaps we should start with the disappointments. In our Dead Rising: Off the Record review, Chris Schilling found he wasn't sold on Capcom's pitch for something in between overblown DLC and a remake of a 14-month-old game. Meanwhile, Joao's WRC2 review discovered the low-budget, earnest sim racer had made precisely no progress from last year's shaky but promising effort.

Launching it against Forza was probably a foolhardy move in any case, but Sony wasn't above a more bullish attempt to gatecrash Microsoft's party by releasing the impressive 2.0 update to its PS3 rival, Gran Turismo 5. We'll be taking a detailed look next week, after the paid DLC components of the update are released.

Moving from tarmac to turf, we find two excellent sports releases. Rugby finally has a worthy champion in the game world, Nick Cowen revealed in our Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge review, while Konami's flagship football series took another large step forward on its road to rehabilitation. "If you're looking for the better football simulation, FIFA 12 is now the place to be. But if you're looking for a more entertaining game of attacking football... then PES 2012 is well worth investigating," Tom wrote in our PES 2012 review.

PES was once one of the most bankable yearly contenders on the games marketplace, a club now joined by Ubisoft's egregiously daft and thoroughly enjoyable Just Dance. Johnny Minkley, whose enjoyment of exercise, bad music and personal shame has led him to review many a multi-platform motion gaming release, found himself surprisingly impressed with its Kinect debut in our Just Dance 3 review.

There are even two actually-alright Kinect games released in the space of a week, thanks to a hopelessly adorable pre-schoolers' delight from Double Fine. Dan (and Daisy) Whitehead's gentle but incisive deconstruction of it in our Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster review is essential reading, if only for pointing out that someone needs to put Double Fine on a Muppets game ASAP.

Where are the real games, you're asking? Why, Sega and Namco Bandai are only too happy to oblige. The former offered an amazingly lavish remake of Treasure's classic Saturn brawler, Guardian Heroes, on Xbox Live Arcade for a measly 800 points, perhaps because the port had been handled in its entirety by just one Treasure staffer. "One of the strongest in the developer's sterling catalogue, a product of its time that here proves itself to be timeless," Simon wrote in our Guardian Heroes review.

Simon also had the pleasure of sampling a more modern take on a classic gaming thrill in the latest Ace Combat. This slick entry in the neglected non-simulation aerial combat genre embraces the scene-setting spectacle and sexy militarism of the COD generation without betraying its own roots. The result is "the strongest Ace Combat in a decade," he said in our Ace Combat: Assault Horizon review.

The week's releases were all really about catering to niches and doing it well - none more so than our game of the week.

Forza Motorsport 4

Car enthusiasts are a pretty big niche, but - like football fans - they are still a niche, and they have their own concerns. Concerns which don't always tally with what would otherwise be the rules of good video game design.

That's how it is that top-selling series Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo are staggeringly huge and make enormous technological leaps, yet to a disinterested observer, can still seem clumsy and repetitive. Give a car fan the right handling on the right vehicle in the right environment and they won't care about anything else: but you must give them that, and it is actually a daunting task.

The varying needs of the niche also explain how come you end up with two games that, on paper, sound identical - even offering much of the same content - yet to a discerning fan have very different strengths and characters. GT, with its exotic machinery and outré challenges, is designed for the true obsessive, the lone romantic of the road.

Forza, with its thriving community creating, trading and competing with each other, is less of a curator and more of a neutral enabler. It's where you come if you like to share your passion with others. Forza 4, with its relatively meager new content but fantastic new features, especially the Rivals time trial mode, reinforces those strengths.

And no, I'm sorry, but you won't find us choosing between them. At least until Forza has GT's incredible garage, or GT has Forza's immaculate online suite. But, Martin found in our Forza Motorsport 4 review, it has at least mustered a little more heart.

"The series' steely heart has softened, revealing a game that's as exhaustive as it is exhilarating and that's now been infused with a little extra passion," he wrote. "Forza has always been a series to admire, but now it's a little easier to fall in love with it too."