Motorsport is a beautiful thing. It can evoke so many feelings, whether it’s adrenaline and a sensation of speed or simply gazing at the mere beauty of a car, there’s something in it for just about anyone. The Forza Horizon series grasps this. From the very first game, it was always focused on motorsport festivities that ignite pure entertainment and that is not about to change. Welcome back to one of the best racing game series in the business.
Four seasons in one day
Forza Horizon 4 has left the land down-under and returned home, where the game is developed, to Britain. You’ll have little time to take it all in as you’ll be thrown right into the typical ‘this is what you can expect’ intro to the game where you’ll drive down roads at breakneck speeds in a hypercar, followed by some cross-country, a stint with snow in winter and lastly you’ll get down and dirty with the mud in spring. At the end of it all, you arrive at the festival where you’ll get to create your own character with his or her own visual representation. This includes the way you look, your name (there’s no Dawid, so I’m Master Chief), your clothing style and even down to your showboating or victory emotes. Why all these shenanigans for a wannabe driver? Well, you’re actually an up and coming influencer.
Gone are the days of building up enough fans for the four various festival areas and in its place is just one main Horizon Festival hub. Your task is to influence others by winning races, being stylish, by racing a clean race and acquiring perk bonuses. The bigger your influence, the bigger the reward. Events have been split up into three – Road Racing Series, Dirt Series and Cross Country Series. Each series is self-explanatory, but what makes it unique is that you’ll be focusing on levelling up, as you would have before in the series, but also levelling up each discipline. Doing so can reward you with rare clothing and horns (you read that right), but more importantly, it can provide you with a Horizon Wheel Spin. Yes, it has returned, but they’ve gone and super-sized the concept.
The series has always been best when played with friends and other people online, and now it’s moved in the next logical direction.
Spinning the wheel will once again reward you with cash or cars, but you might now also receive clothing or horn sounds. Receiving a virtual outfit or sound does not feel very rewarding, but it’s their new wheel that’ll have you pushing to obtain it. They have introduced a Horizon Super Wheel spin where you’ll be awarded three random items, meaning you can end up with three cars at one time – something that happened to me quite frequently. So you might be wondering – why earn any credit at all? Forza Horizon 4 followed in Test Drive Unlimited’s tyre tracks and you can now buy several properties where you’ll be able to customise your character and also use it as a base to start from when starting up the game. It’s not the only bit of Test Drive Unlimited you’ll find in Forza Horizon 4. Oh no, they’ve brought the most important addition from it too.
The series has always been best when played with friends and other people online, and now it’s moved in the next logical direction. While free-roaming you’ll see many players going about their business, but you’ll now be able to join them in a convoy of up to 12 players to enjoy everything that the vast landscape of Britain can throw at you. Each and every race exhibition and tournament allows you to tackle it solo, co-op, PVP or against your rivals. Forzathon also returns where you and a group of randoms must collectively combine skills to overcome three random challenges. These can range from Speed Traps to Danger Sign stunts. It feels as if Forza Horizon has finally evolved into what Playground Games set out all those years ago – a big family of racers having the time of their life. This brings me to the cars.
If you played Forza Horizon 3 you’ll have a good idea what to expect in terms of handling, though I do think that the elements of the four seasons really spice things up. Autumn and Spring both play very similar in that you are expected to deal with events filled with mud and rain where the cars can slip and slide around corners like never before in the series. It’s a rally fan’s dream. Winter is by far the most challenging. Off-road vehicles will hold to the road but attempt that icy tarmac in your fancy Ferrari and you’re in for a treacherous drive. As before all the cars can be tuned (from the tire pressure to the antiroll bars), but there is one major addition to the game. Skill points can now be applied to individual cars under ‘Car Mastery’, which in turn earns you more influence and credits. For example, five skill points can buy you 30% more skill score when in the air or the skill multiplier builds twice as fast. It’s the perfect solution for the unwanted skill points that went to waste in Australia.
Wheel support was a broken mess in Forza Horizon 3. There was absolutely no feedback from the road other than the rumble working. To date it’s never been fixed, so to say that I was pleasantly surprised when I felt my first jolt of feedback in Horizon 4 would be a bit of an understatement. Not only does it support it, but they’ve done a decent job. Take a McLaren for a spin and it’s a breeze on the road, but touch the grass and you’re in for a wild ride. Move on to an off-road vehicle and it comes second nature. The wheel is also much heavier to turn with bigger cars. You can feel the back end of the car pulling the wheel around corners, when compared to more agile vehicles. I wouldn’t buy a steering wheel for this game, but it’s at the very least now supported.
Xbox One X owners will have to make a visual decision. Play one of the most beautiful games you have ever laid your eyes on, but do so at 30 fps, or drop the quality for better performance at 60 fps. 30 fps is a swear word in the world of racing games and I highly recommend that you play it for the silky smooth frames. That said, there’s nothing wrong with checking out all the details in 4K and HDR. The leaves that blow up behind the car in autumn or the fine details on each building when you enter the city of Edinburgh will have you sitting there in disbelief. It’s a feast for the eyes. The difference in visual quality between the two modes is by far the biggest difference I’ve seen in any game to date, but if you’re here to have a good time you’ll want to stick to 60 fps.
The streets of Britain might sound like a dull theme, but it’s quite the opposite
Don’t look back in anger
One aspect that I’m not a fan of is the music. It’s great that there are so many radio stations on offer, but when you think of all the iconic songs Britain has produced over the years, it feels like a missed opportunity that there aren’t that many featured. Driving through the countryside of Britain and hearing Funky Cold Medina feels out of place. While everything in the game feels so spot on, this is the one element that doesn’t even meet it halfway. Music isn’t going to break the Subaru’s back in 2018, so it’s not a write-off at all.
There is so much more to Forza Horizon 4. The showcases are over-the-top as expected, but fun, you’ll enter drifting events, become a stunt driver in a movie, play out moments of classic cars in video games (prepare to play Crazy Taxi, Project Gotham and more the Forza Horizon 4 way), you’ll use your drone to search for several barn finds, race down the drag strip with friends again, locate all the fast travel and influence boards, take on the street racing scene, bid in auctions, start a club, play Infected and King online, go on a co-op adventure with people you never met or with friends and take some of the most beautiful images in photo mode. There is so much to do in Forza Horizon 4 that it’ll last you well past whenever the next instalment arrives.
Was there ever any doubt? Forza Horizon 4 is an enthralling racing game. It’s definitely a safe play after the success of its predecessor, but as the saying goes – don’t fix what ain’t broke. The streets of Britain might sound like a dull theme, but it’s quite the opposite. It’s filled with hours and hours of entertainment without any end in sight on the horizon.