There is something about the great outdoors – the wind in your hair, the early morning sun shining on your face and just the general freedom to go wherever. Now, throw in screeching tires, gasoline and a bunch of really eager street racers, and you have yourself the makings of Forza Horizon.
The game is the latest title from developer Turn 10 and follows on from their hugely popular Forza franchise, which is now in its fourth iteration.
The games are renowned for their beautiful recreations of actual motor vehicles, stunning graphics and extreme fun.
And Forza Horizon is no different: the title features a number of cars rendered in their true form, which provides for stunning realism and high levels of excitement. Players of the previous Forza games will be right at home, as everything will be familiar to them in terms of controls, graphics and overall gameplay.
But it is not all about the racing – there is a plot as well. The game takes place at a fictional music festival in the middle of the Colorado Rockies in the US, and is portrayed as an annual event where racers come to test their mettle against some of the best street racers in the world.
The player enters this racing festival as a rookie, and it goes without saying that they will have to race their way to the top in order to claim the number one position on the podium. Turn 10 also decided to include a number of different race types, and while the usual point-to-point and lap races are present, there are a few other exciting models available.
Since the racing festival is highly published (in the game, that is) there are a number of Showcase and PR events that players can compete in. The purpose of these events is to elevate the player’s standing in the “media”, which will attract more sponsorship and more cars. They range from taking pictures of a certain car at a particular destination to racing a helicopter to the finish line.
For each race that the player completes , they will receive XP, which will contribute to their overall standing. The more XP means that more races will be unlocked after they achieved a certain rank, or wristband.
The wristbands are a player’s entry form to particular races – a green wristband will not give them access to blue races and so on. It is rather simple really: the more they race, the more XP they get, the better the wristband, the bigger the prizes. The ultimate goal is to be first on the last wristband.
The central point of the festival is an encampment where players will find their garage, an Auto Market, upgrade their car parts and even a paint shop. Everything functions around these shops in the middle of the Horizon map, and players will also be able to fast-travel there without having to drive there directly.
At the Auto Market, gamers can buy new cars from a host of different manufacturers, but it is not the only way that they can increase their garage. At sporadic points in the game, players will be notified of a Barn Find, where they will be given a general location of a vintage car stashed in an old barn. If they can find the car, they can keep it and use it in races.
In terms of gameplay, the great graphics help to convey a feeling of actually driving the vehicle, as each car will respond the same way as it will in real life – sports cars slide around corners, muscle cars spin out on launch and off-road vehicles fare better on rough terrain.
The gameplay is incredibly smooth, but players of previous Forza titles will already know that. There are only a handful of games that can keep up with Forza, but this title is firmly leading the pack.
The game also features three different radio stations to which players can listen while driving, each with its own DJ (which can be turned off). The stations respectively feature rock, dance and indie rock, which provides for a great mix.
The open-world mechanics is another factor that propels Forza to the top, and while other racing games have also adopted an open-world strategy, there just seems to be something special about this one – maybe it is because of the vast expanses that can be driven on, the great graphics, the easy controls or the responsiveness of the cars.
Forza Horizons is a lot less arcade-like than what the media previous made it out to be, and in terms of the original franchise, it is easily one of the best Forza games. Lovers of the series should definitely invest in a copy, and it will also be a great starting point for new players.
The only criticism that can be lobbied against it is that some of the races can be incredibly difficult – even to an experienced driver. The game features a number of driving assists that can be toggled on or off, and sometimes that will be necessary to complete a race. And on the odd occasion, it seems like the AI racers will not really attack the player’s position when they are out in front.
Other than that, the game is highly enjoyable, features fantastic graphics and fits squarely into the Forza mould.
Our score: 9/10
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor