Into the Horizon.
When Forza Horizon was first revealed, there was an element of surprise because the title didn’t have the Motorsport moniker beside the Forza name. It seemed like a party game with fancy fireworks, people partying, high speed races. However as more details were revealed–open world setting, hybrid driving mechanics–realization set in that this game was turning into something special.
It’s a game where you can simply drive a Ford GT leisurely staring at the varied and incredibly pretty Colorado setting. The great thing about Forza games have always been the sound. The attention to detail Turn 10 and Playground games have observed in the audio department, not only rivals Forza 4 but gives that extra dimension to Horizon as well. The reason I mentioned Ford GT earlier was due to the intense horsepower you can feel just due to the sound it generates. It’s thrilling. Something that will make every male who loves cars feel really weak and in a dreamy state.
Of course, there are a lot of cars here ranging from super cars to your every day car–the list isn’t as gigantic as Forza 4’s however, but after playing for 15 odd hours I just had 20 cars in my garage. That’s not something I’m proud of considering the type of money saver I am, but it also makes me feel more involved in the game due to the replay value it offers. They could have easily ported all the Forza 4 cars over, but it would have just been pointless.
They have ported quite a bit of things from Forza 4, however, like the physics and graphics engine–which cannot be a bad thing. One major change here is that the game runs at 30 fps instead of 60 fps that we have normally come to associate with sim games like GT and Forza. Initially I was a bit skeptical considering I cannot tolerate frame rate drops in a racing game, but Horizon has been tweaked a lot to offer consistent performance. With 30 fps, Playground Games also had the opportunity to jazz up the visuals significantly over Forza 4, and they have done exactly that with the game having crispy clear image quality. Not to mention night races which I remember Turn 10 saying was not possible at 60 fps on the Xbox 360.
Night racing is something that will awe you because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love to drive at night with the headlights on? It’s what I call driving nirvana due to how intense it is. Imagine driving competitively to win a race at night; it is not only scary but also exhilarating. Forza Horizon offers all sort of varied experiences like that. However, the omission of rain and other effects was definitely a bit perplexing to me.
Yes, the dashboard illuminates at night, so you don’t have to worry about that. Whatever cars they have brought here from Forza 4 are tweaked a lot to ensure a consistent driving experience, and on the default difficulty, it offers an arcade-y physics model which can be set to sim model if you have a wheel. The latter is recommended because of how enjoyable it is to drive here, resembling real life minus the hot cars.
Let’s talk about the Festival mode which the meat and bones of the game. It allows you to compete in a variety of races, letting you earn credits to buy new cars and also upgrade them. There are skill points which lets you upgrade your credibility. You start from the 250th place and have to work your way to no. 1, it won’t be easy as you will have to drag and drift at every chance you see.
The races themselves are quite simple just like Forza 4 but with a twist–there’s a story here. It’s kind of cheesy like Need for Speed, but cool nonetheless. There is traffic here too, which is great since it adds an extra dimension to the competitive races. You can also find other festival racers to compete against letting you gain more credits.
Street races are the best type of racing usually where intensity is concerned. The payout is incredible but it is also very challenging usually putting you in urban locations where you have to dodge traffic and high speed opponents. That’s the thrill of it all, however, I could just keep playing street races all day, it’s that good. I do have some gripes with the structure though. There hasn’t been a satisfying career mode in racing games for a long time. It eventually turns into mindless driving from one location to another, and after a while Horizon feels the same way.
It’s a repetitive, sure, but there are some incredible races that will completely thrill you, just like the one at the start of the game where you go mano-e-mano with your lead “competitor”. There’s no scope for error at all–you blink you lose. These races are what makes this game so special because the sense of speed the game delivers especially when choosing the cockpit view is second to none. You can literally feel the speed as other cars zip by you. Take into account the audio engine, which is classier than ever, you have a perfect recipe for success.
I do hate the fact that the radio stations that you can tune in to are absolutely horrible and it feels like the music is a complete downgrade over Forza 4. I miss Lance Hayes, and you should too, because his work on the previous Forza games was exemplary. There are some good tracks here but it depends on your taste.
You can also smash into discount boards which are scattered all across the mammoth map offered to you as your playground; there are Unicorn cars that you have to find in barns–which is incredibly difficult unless you buy the treasure map from the marketplace. Customization system from Forza 4 is back! That is something that was a masterstroke of a decision considering it fits this game so well. You can also import your rims, liveries, kits from Forza 4 into this game, sparing you the effort required to recreate your masterpiece.
There is also a splendid multiplayer mode which increases the replay value drastically. You can play all the single player missions online too, or free roam with your friends. Almost everything you do gets uploaded to the leaderboards increasing the competitive nature of the game. You can also create clubs and other things here, and whatever core online functionality you saw in Forza 4 is available here.
Forza Horizon is a surprise hit of the year. It offers something different from Forza 4, is less serious, and the driving intensity on offer here can’t be rivaled by many racing games. It’s no PGR 4, never will be, but it’s something that has its own identity, and all it requires from you is to push the gas pedal and drive off into the horizon.
Second opinion by Leigh Groocock:
I’m a huge fan of the Forza series; I’ve been hooked on it since it first released because of it being one of the few top quality racing simulators that Xbox 360 users can get their hands on. So, I was quite nervous coming into Forza Horizon due to the fairly dramatic new approach they’ve taken to the games addictive single player campaign.
Forza Horizon takes place during the fictional ‘Horizon’ festival where drivers from all over the world head to Colorado to listen to awesome music and drive incredible fast, luxurious cars in a whole bunch of events in a range of different environments. Instead of shifting through menus until you find an event you can participate in like you have done in previous Forza games, you’re now free to burn rubber around Colorado’s beautiful landscape.
The Horizon festival is broken down into several different tiers, each being represented by the type of wristband that you’ve earned. Almost every event you compete in will earn you points towards unlocking the next colour wristband (yellow to gold and a whole bunch more in between) which will allow you to compete in more prestigious events. The higher up the wristbands you go, the more points you need to earn, eventually becoming the champion of the Horizon festival. As long as you’re placed in the top 3 in a race you’ll earn points and be able to come back and re-enter an event to get the gold trophy.
As you progress through the Horizon festival, you’ll compete against the computer in either sprint (point A to point B) or circuit events; nothing that special. The real magic is the ‘Showcase’ events; when you reach a certain popularity level, you’ll be invited to challenge a showcase event. In these races, you’ll be performing insane challenges such as racing a plane. Yup, it’s as epic as it sounds.
Almost all the events will also require your car to meet certain requirements, whether it’s the car being a certain performance class or it being from a specific region. Thankfully, you can quickly change the car you need to use at the event, saving you’re a crap load of time as the game is going to take you a crazy amount of time to 100%.
In past Forza titles we became used to the driver level which has made a similar appearance in Horizon. As you progress through the game, you’ll earn popularity for pretty much anything you do; as you earn enough, you’ll move closer to becoming the most popular driver in the Horizon festival, starting at 250 and clawing your way up to #1. Popularity points are earned by drifting, speeding, overtaking, near enough every single thing you do will earn you points. This does unfortunately mean the top centre of your screen constantly has a flashing number reappearing.
If you perform enough of a certain type of popularity area such as drifting, speed, wrecking the environment, you’ll unlock a sponsorship challenge which will give you a quick, cheeky boost of money which goes straight to your back pocket.
Car lovers, you’re going to love this one. Forza Horizon contains freakin’ tonne of cars, near enough every make and model that your heart desires can be unlocked by progressing through the story or by paying a few Microsoft fun bucks; everything from pickup trucks to the delicious new 2013 viper.
If you’re more into the creative side of Forza, you’ll be happy to know that the extensive car designer is back. The car vinyl’s that people made in previous Forza titles were truly mind blowing, so I can’t wait to see what people make with this one.
Okay, let’s get this out the way; the soundtrack which Forza Horizon features is one of the best in video game history. It features what can only be described as the perfect racing game soundtrack; 3 radio stations dedicated to bring you everything you could ever want whether it be drum and bass to rock.
I love open world games, especially driving ones. The main reason being just how much freedom you are given; having the option of just having a casual drive around the beautiful Colorado roads is one of Forza Horizon’s best features. Every type of surface can be explored; suburban city streets to dirt tracks, if only there were weather effects to add to the immersion. As you casually drive around Colorado, you’ll stumble across a whole bunch of collectables which come in the form of upgrade discount signs (100 of them!) and hidden barns which contain classic cars.
The competitive multiplayer in Forza Horizon is still pretty extensive; allowing players to compete in all sorts of different game modes and rules which can easily be altered before the start of a match. If the competitive side isn’t your thing, you’ll be happy to know that the auction house is still around where you can buy and sell all sorts of different goodies between players, building your virtual currency.
Forza Horizon is one of the best racing games of this generation; the new approach to franchise is a fresh of breath air, something the series needed. The single player alone will easily suck 30+ hours of your time and a crap load longer than that if you plan on getting all gold medals and collectables. The multiplayer just adds to that replayability. The only real ‘problem’ is that its new arcade-y handling may put off the more hardcore fans of its predecessors.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Lots of customization and collectibles. Variety of cars with tweaked dashboard for night driving. Open world racing experience is unrivaled. Physics and audio engine from Forza 4.
No rain, snow or other effects. Single player can get repetitive. Soundtrack is poor.
It's no PGR 4, never will be, but it's something that has its own identity, and all it requires from you is to push the gas pedal and drive off into the horizon.