If you are like me, racing games rarely grace your interest. My experience with racing titles always involves crashing into walls, skidding off course, and leaving car parts scattered across the pavement. My personal gripes with racing simulators aside, the Forza Horizon series is one I’ve returned to with every iteration. If you read my review of Forza Horizon 3, you’ll know I fell in love with the game with the amount of rich content, replayability, and breathtaking visuals. Does Forza Horizon 4 continue the tradition of rich content or does it nose-dive off the cliff to the series’ demise? Spoiler: It’s a pleasant drive.
The ongoing mechanic with Forza Horizon 4 is its weather, with the concept being shoved down your throat before you even make it past the title screen. Spring for damp roads and colourful landscapes, Summer for iridescent foliage, Fall due to its vibrant Orange/Yellow colours, and Winter for when you are reminded of mother nature’s failures. Every season has a degree of terrain differences with the exception of Winter where the sky eventually dry-heaves snow and horribleness across the road. The game’s first year of seasons goes by in a matter of hours, allowing you to experience each season, and catch a small glimpse of the content to come. This design allows the player to test out the vehicle’s reaction to different terrains, preparing you for the inevitable snowstorm rapidly approaching. In my first two hours of gameplay, I rotated seasons like a kid on a merry-go-round. I wasn’t given much time to appreciate the game’s Summer and Fall seasons before I careened into the wall thanks to Old Man Winter.
I crap on Winter, but the mechanics are quite remarkable, albeit a tad unrealistic. Winter roads are treacherous, especially with how they are perceived in the game, but there are times when you are travelling at high speeds that I expect an ice patch to carry me away. See, ice is very unpredictable. You can drive for miles on icy roads, but all it takes is one unforeseen ice patch to send you flying. That doesn’t happen in Forza Horizon 4, and rather, the roads are just a tad slippier. Perhaps I’m being too critical, but for a game that prides itself on its “Simulation”, I find it quite disappointing. Cars definitely don’t react the same way they should, even with assists off — but perhaps I’m being a little picky. The game serves simulation-enthusiasts well, but in the end, the game is more focused on providing a fun experience. This is shown in the “Showcases”, where players take on unfamiliar cross-country transports. I’m talking trains, planes, and other miscellaneous mechanical marvels; it keeps you enthralled by the action. I won’t spoil the surprises for you, but knowing there is a jaw-dropping challenge awaiting you near the end of every season, it keeps you pulled into the game’s rhythm.
Some aspects of the game aren’t “Simulation” enough, and that’s okay. The trade-off is an accessible game for players of all skill-levels; Racing game fans or not. Those who prefer the arcade classics will feel at home with several of the assists on. Users are able to fine-tune the game to their preferences, and enjoy the game at their own pace, something Forza Horizon seems to excel in. Making a game accessible, but fun, is a very rare thing to see in traditional games. Forza finds the sweet spot with leveraging the game’s rewards versus the number of assists enabled. The difference in rewards isn’t anything remarkable, but it does encourage experienced players to disable as many of these assists as they can, with difficulty control remaining in the players’ hands.
The scenery found in Forza Horizon 4 is full of excitement with lots to take in. It is easy to get lost in Forza’s visuals whilst playing, almost to a fault. The vibrant colours showcased in 4K HDR gameplay make the game “Pop”, similar to past Forza titles. As you play more, you notice plenty of details from the environments to the sheer shine expressed by the car’s finish. It is something to behold and the development team continues to deliver industry-leading visuals that match the intensity of driving some of the world’s most high-performing cars — it’s just perfect.
“My hands feel like they are Velcroed to the controller, and I never want to let go.”
The amount of content found in past Forza Horizon titles return for Forza Horizon 4, with more diversity. Street, dirt, and stunt races give the player relief from the traditional Forza simulation experience and provide enough land for you to enjoy a leisurely stroll. I never felt exhausted with driving, especially with the many different types of racing available at launch. Furthermore, there are “other” races a player can participate in, including one that takes the world of Halo, and throws the player in the driver seat as The Master Chief. The number of throwbacks to pop culture in Forza Horizon 4 is incredible and are exciting to rip around in. Oh, and it isn’t like they just give you a Warthog and say “Have fun“. No. They brought in the original voice actors from Halo 5: Guardians, throw you in a Halo UNSC Simulation and get you cruising around the Halo universe, dodging convenient forces along the way. The feeling was indescribable, and Forza Horizon 4 is filled with many surprises like this one. It’s experiences like this that keep you coming back for more, and with more content rolling out post-launch, I can’t see to wait what the team comes up with.
This segways me into Forza’s online content. Similarly to games like Destiny, there are online events that take place, some involving a squad of strangers to compete in drift challenges, speed traps, and speed zones. Other events will roll out from time to time, meaning there is always something to do, keeping the game exciting and fresh. with the game’s seasons changing each and every week. Each season is wonderfully complemented with its own content, meaning you may only see some events in the hellish Winter, with several collectible barn locations, found only throughout the Spring. This, combined with the content readily available within the game makes for an addictive experience. My hands feel like they are velcroed to the controller, and I never want to let go.
Playground Games impresses me time and time again with the amount of content in their games. Forza Horizon 4 is no exception to that. The series has always had plenty of content, but I am impressed to see the number of things to do inside of Horizon 4. I genuinely thought that Forza Horizon 3 would be the “coup de grace” of racing games, and here they go with Forza Horizon 4, with more race events dropping than I can barely count. It can be easy to get lost and distracted by nearby events, especially when a unique circuit drops, but I feel that Forza takes it in stride.
Forza Horizon 4 releases for the Xbox One and Windows 10 PC on October 2nd, 2018.
Thanks to Microsoft for providing us with a digital copy of Forza Horizon 4 Ultimate Edition for review.