Another year another entry into the ever popular flagship racing franchise Forza. As has been customary for the last while, this year’s installment is for the slightly more arcadey racing sim with the 4th entry into the Horizon series. Personally, I think I prefer Horizon just a shade above Motorsports. Mostly because I love tooling around and making my way to various venues/events and basically deciding what path I opt to take.
The formula that’s made the Horizon series so good and popular remains largely unchanged. Everything revolves around the Horizon Festival which takes place in the UK this time around. The map looks and feels smaller but don’t let that fool you. With over 500 roads, 507 cars (at my count), 12 houses (More on that later), 5 showcases, hundreds of signs to find and multiples stages of 5 different race types(Road, dirt, cross country, drag and street) coupled with the ever changing seasons, multiple danger zones, speed traps/zonez, barn finds(they’re back and i love them) there’s so much to see and do you’re not going to be bored. One of the things that I think the Forza series does so well is just how easily accessible it is to players of all stripes. From the customization of your gameplay settings, braking/steering assists and the ability to just play the game and still be rewarded even if you don’t win is commendable. It has something for everyone and you can make is as easy or difficult as your skills will allow thereby keeping the player engaged and continually pushing forward towards the goal of opening the Forzathon and Forzathon Live Events. Forzathon and Forzathon Live are like gaming seasons. Each week the actual season in game will change and players will have the opportunity to complete special challenges to unlock unique rewards. This should help to keep the game fresh and exciting for gamers bringing them back week after week.
The first thing most will notice much like previous versions, your eyes will melt when you gaze upon these absolutely stunning graphics. Players can choose to run at 4K 30fps (this is where I was set to) or 1080p 60fps. Each car is painstakingly detailed to damn near photo realistic jump off your screen beauty. I don’t know how else to say this. That’s not to say the world has been sacrificed for in favor of the main attraction though. No the world itself has received just as much TLC as the vehicles. Just stop your car a moment and take in the fresh air and look around you. The beauty is absolutely everywhere. Better yet, go fine a few of the landmark sites and take a breather as the camera pans out and shows you some of the most incredible real life vistas.
Speaking of taking a breather, that reminds me a little detail that seems so small on the surface but the outcome of it was so impressive. Be on the look out for herds of sheep. Try and run them down. It’s absolutely beautiful how they run from the car and their paths will change as you try and change direction in an attempt to run them down. I know it seems silly to make note of this little thing that really has no bearing on the game but it’s really something to see.
There is one area that I felt the graphics kind of failed. The character models for the career mode. The lack of options for your character creation is a bit on the disappointing side. They just have this lifeless cartoony sort of look and feel out of place. If Playground Games wants to make the players character a bit more of a focal point as it seems they do, give us the ability to actually create our own look and feel. The pre-made out of box designs really aren’t very good in my opinion.
The seasons also add a new level of finish and a certain level of pretty and create a whole new dynamic to the game. You can drive a race in the summer and then do the same race in the spring and it’s like you’re doing a whole different race thanks in part to the softer ground, mud and puddles. It’s quite remarkable just how different the cars feel in the different seasons/weather patterns. Do yourself a favor and when you’re in Winter, I highly recommend you just drive somewhere in the middle of nowhere and stop. Look around and notice the tracks you made in the snow then take real notice of something I found to be incredibly stunning. The glistening off the snow is just mind blowing. I hate winter. I hate snow but this little effect really takes you there. You can almost see your own breath.
The options for tuning your car are dizzying as always. I still have no clue what I’m doing but the gear heads out there who have loved this about the series will continue to love it and tweak and tune their way to victory. Thankfully you can still hit the autotune option that allows you to OK select what grade you want the car to be and it calculates the cost for you.
Not surprisingly the wheel spins are back. Micro-transactions, however, are NOT. You’ll have to earn those spins the old fashioned way. The wheel spins, just like last time, will open up Cr bonuses, avatar clothing options or … dances. Yes you read that right. Dances. I’d prefer to keep it to just cars and CR bonuses for me. There’s nothing more annoying than getting s spin and receiving a pair of shoes or a silly hat. If you want to make the in game avatar personalized with clothing, give us the option to actually create the character from the top down. Just a small gripe from me. It’s not a mountain I’m prepared to die on it’s just irksome.
Forza Horizon 4 is THE bright shining star in the Forza series. From the stunning vistas to the meticulous detail on the cars, to the sheer number events and the stunning seasonal changes everything about Forza Horizon 4 says that this is now the defacto standard by which all racing games should strive to achieve. This is without a shadow of doubt the very best game that racing has to offer.