E3 2018: Hands-on – Forza Horizon 4

Playground Games needs no introduction. The Forza Horizon series has put them on the map with what is perhaps the best open-world racing game ever created. 9 million people have played Forza Horizon 3 – so they did something right in an era where racing games aren’t as popular as it once was. This year they are back to deliver yet another racing game of epic proportions, and if the time I spent listening to the Creative Director at Playground Games is anything to go by, it’s another step in the right direction for the series.

As you would have realised by now the game is moving to Britain. Due to it moving into the developer’s backyard it has allowed them to perhaps create the most authentic game in the series yet. Generally, a small team is sent to a location (like Australia in the last game) who then capture all the small important details for artists and other developers in the team to base the game on. Seeing as it’s Britain, it’s allowed the entire team to do research and one look at the scenery shows the fruits thereof. Forza Horizon 4 is absolutely gorgeous and racing fans will be glad to hear that it runs at 60fps on the Xbox One X in 4K and HDR. Every cottage, castle, stone in the wall and leaves that fly up behind your car is of the highest quality. I’m obviously happy that it looks good, but what’s the use of it looking a bit better without a significant improvement in other areas? They worked their Playground Games magic and there is much more to it.

Firstly – no, you don’t get to ride a bike. Ever. The bikes you saw in the briefing were purely part of a showcase in the game, along with that cool hovercraft that appeared out of nowhere. Car porn is still the most important ingredient and I got a chance to give the McLaren Senna a go. Yes, it feels like Forza and bashing through stone walls and other plantation is still as satisfying as it’s ever been. Now, obviously the seasons now play a huge part in the game. Visually it changes, as you would have seen, but there are small other improvements, such as the audio (creating a particular mood) that completely changes up. Should it be summer, the tar on the road will also heat up, allowing your tyres to stick better around corners. In winter you can expect to slip and slide all over the show as it takes longer for your car to build up heat in the tyres and, yes, the rally driving in mud is f**cking amazing. Feeling your car slipping and sliding through the mud as you enter a corner sideways to drift around it feels absolutely perfect. How do the seasons work? Any particular season will last for seven days. The next day you switch your console on it’ll automatically move over to the next season. In other words – this game has four unique sets of assets for the entire map. The map will be a similar size to the one we played in Forza Horizon 3. Then there is the ‘Forza Life’ as Ralph calls it, where you get to live in Horizon.

The Horizon Festival has been upgraded. You are going to buy a place to live, create your own character with his or her own clothing and meet up with people all over the world who will appear in your game. Worried about trolls bashing into you and screwing with your fun? Fear not. Unless players are your friends you’ll have cars ghosting through you, or you ghosting through them. That’s the troll problem solved. That said, if you want a solo game with only drivatars to race against that’s still there. You’re not forced to race online with other players, but if you are after that classic Test Drive Unlimited feeling then it’s going to hit those highs. Dropping in and out of co-op games is going to be a breeze and you can play co-op with up to five other players now. For the first time you’ll also be able to rewind any mistake you’ve made and use photo mode… while in an online game. Players will also be able to create their own point-to-point routes or courses and share it with friends. It’s not just a new map in another country. Playground Games are perfecting their trade and adding features that fans have asked for. So, what about good steering wheel support? I asked the question the answer was, “It does, yes, I think it has an expanded peripheral list. We will release that later in the summer [our winter]”. Make of that what you will, but I do hope the steering wheel support works better this time.

In the time I had to play the game I blasted through all four seasons with different vehicles that showed off the on-road and off-road abilities. It’s a Forza Horizon game that has been tweaked to perfection and just looks like an enormous amount of fun, and there isn’t much more a game can do when it brings a big smile to my face as this did.

Forza Horizon 4 launches on PC and Xbox One X on 2 October 2018.

Married to a gamer and she kicks my ass at most shooters. If the game is enjoyable I'll play it, no matter the format.

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