Forza games always eluded me, until Horizon 3, the games reached a point where they had to split into two separate versions, Forza Motorsport version, where it is all pristine, racing cars on real world tracks, and the presentation is key over everything else, the “Gran Turismo” approach, where you spend more time looking at the cars and tuning them up instead of actually driving them. Then you have the Horizon games, that want to do something totally different. Bring the games back to more of a arcady type of feel, where you are encouraged to get the car muddy, dirty and even just bang it up. Really kick the tires and take it to the extreme. It might sound a little weird, taking a multi-million dollar car that one has one in existance and jumping it off a cliff, but that is what this series is for and it makes it so much more fun. A touch don’t look approach to racing games that doesn’t really crop up anywhere else anymore.
The Horizon games always base themselves in one central location, the first was set in Colorado, the second was in Italy, the third was in Australia and now the newest one in the series, is set in the UK. You are just a nameless driver (actually you have a name and it actually pulls from your profile, so the game actually pronounces your name which is cool) that gets invited to take part in this huge festival called the “Horizon Festival” you take part in races all across the countryside and earn your way up the ranks to be the top driver. Pretty simple premise really, and that’s good, because this game doesn’t really need much more than that.
The British countryside is a nice place to drive around in, and it’s nice and hilly, which allows for lots of jumps and good air, which is always welcome in a racing game since San Francisco Rush isn’t a franchise anymore, but this location just feels a lot more bland than 3. There are green fields, but they just don’t have that vibrant pop that the last game did. Again, the location is fine, but nothing really stands out. In Australia you had: Jungles, open fields, Beaches, towns, large cities, vast deserts, cliffs and valleys and more. With the UK, you have: Open fields, and
Some towns and one single large city. Thats really it. There isn’t much varrying locations and it makes the game feel very stale by comparison.
The big tagline for this game was: Seasons. “Seasons change everything”.... No they don’t. Sure Spring time you’d see some more puddles on the road, and more rain durring races. Fall would bring more leaves and an orange tint to everything, and winter would cover the ground in a nice fresh white powder and freeze some of the smaller ponds and lakes. But other than the visual changes, it really doesn’t mean a whole lot. When you are driving several different cars, and you are flying through everything in sight at a breakneck speed, the minor changes to the landscape don’t make a big deal at all. The biggest impact was probably winter in a super car event through the city, where you are driving so fast that breaking for a sharp 90 degree turn is harder. But even then it was a minor inconvenience at most, it just didn’t really seem like the thing to hang your hat on for this big tentpole release.
The cars are perfect, the music is decent (It did get way too repetitive about halfway through the game though, I think having music in racing games is important and it really does need to have more than about six music stations. Once pop electronic station, two drum and bass, one hip-hop, one rock, one classical. All each with about 10 songs. It’s just not enough, especially when we used to be able to have custom soundtracks literal decades ago. With technology now, we have multiple streaming sites that could allow us to link our accounts and give us so much more music at the change of a button, but it just isn’t implemented. The music was ok, I listened to some artists I never would have otherwise, I just wanted a bit more customization from it. One cool thing I did really like was when driving through a tunnel, the music would cut out (makes sense since it’s a radio station, the signal would get lost and you’d hear nothing). It was such a neat feeling, hearing that silence for just a few short moments, where the only thing you would hear is the sound of the engine, the rushing wind and the buzzing of passing cars. It was just a neat little touch that added some realism to the game.
What really stood out to me in the game was the story events. You drive around and find little story beats that all have 10 chapters to them. The first one is a director, that wants you to do the stunts for a movie that is being shot at the outskirts of the festival. They start of simple and fun. But the stuff you are doing at the end just don’t make a whole lot of sense and just didn’t feel well crafted enough, a couple lines of the director telling me to jump over this or that was aimless and felt fake. The PS2 game Stuntman did this better, and that came out in 2002.
The two standout story missions were the Documentary series, and the blogger. The Documentary one has you driving special cars to a spot and the director of the series is telling you all about the car as you drive it. Then when you get to the spot, you’d drive an iteration or another care that was a more modern version of it. It just gave a lot more information about why these cars are so special and it made it fun and interesting. Giving a mini history lesson along side the game.
The stand out mission is the Blogger mission though. This blogger is at the festival and comes up with a Top 10 list of video game cars. Your job is to drive the cars around doing specific objectives pertaining to the game the car is based off of, all the while the blogger chimes in on why the car is on the list and why it's so iconic. An early example is the Ferrari Testarossa from Outrun, you hit checkpoints until time runs out and she is talking about the arcade game all the while doing it. It just was such a unique and fun thing to do, that brought the video game aspect to this “supposed real world” in this video game and just was really neat to see. There is one other special event, where you meet at a location and drive a Warthog from the Halo series, but this time it is an “AR” race, that allows you to see that you are on a Halo planet and have to race to the landing zone before the planet blows up. You have cortana in your head and race a drop ship as convenient ghosts and banshees are chasing you down. It is spectactual and super fun, and with the familiar Halo theme playing in the background it just made it another special moment in the game that no other games really do. Call it an Easter Egg if you want, but it’s something that really stands out and makes a good impression.
All in all Forza Horizon 4 is a good racing game, it brings that fun arcade racing style back that most racing games forget to put in, and just is a blast doing something a bit different. The stories are something that sometimes fall a bit flat, but overall it adds a depth to the game that normally wouldn’t have it. I do wish the location had more variety to it, but for the 17 hours I played, I really did enjoy myself and can’t wait for 2 years to fly by to get behind the wheel of the next super car and crash through stuff again.