Developer: Playground Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Review Context: I have played all the games in the Forza Horizon franchise and have given up on the mainline Forza Motorsport games, since they are geared (no pun intended) to the simulation fanbase. It is unfortunate that the Horizon series is the most well-known/only arcade racer that gets attention. I am happy the games are made from the team that made the Project Gotham Racing series.
Date of Playthrough: October 4, 2018
When the series was first released back in 2012 on the Xbox 360, people were amazed at what Playground Games could do with the aging hardware. Now with the advent of 4K/HDR gaming, the company shows they can still produce amazing visuals to showcase what the console is capable of. I have played this on the my Xbox One and my friends’ Xbox One X, the difference is night and day when playing on a 4K/HDR TV. Not to say when I played it on my 1080p TV was bad, as the visuals looked amazing on my TV after the in-game setup calibration. This game was made to be played on 4K/HDR TV, so much so when playing on the Xbox One X you have an option of running the game in either 1080p/60fps or 4K/30fps.
The UK countryside is beautiful and the colors pop out naturally, as you drive by with the seasonal environment, which is new to the series. You’ll be driving from a spring environment to fall, so you get different scenery from time to time. I did notice some pop ins on my Xbox One, while the Xbox One X version was barely noticeable. Every time I play this game, I remember what it was like looking from the passenger window at the scenery when I was visiting Europe/UK during the summer of 1998. That shows how realistic this game is for me.
Controls remain the same as it should with a racing franchise. This game allows multiple control options, including Wheel support for people who want a more realistic experience. Even when you choose transmission type there is an option for manual with clutch. Though the handling is catered towards an arcade feel, you can tweak the controls to your liking. The D-pad is now used for changing stations, navigation, and quick chat replies.
For those unfamiliar with the Forza Horizon series, what sets this racer apart from the serious Forza Motorsport is the open world you can explore in a setting based on a real location. The game goes back to having you as the new driver, where in the previous game you were the boss of the Horizon Festival in Australia. The big difference now is how the weather plays a huge part other than effects. The game runs on four different seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter. As each season approaches, the handling becomes different due to the changing environment. Winter means the roads will be slippery and the river/lakes will be frozen, while spring and summer have the roads become muddy after a rain storm. These small factors help with the level design, as the changes keep the game fresh as you prepare for changes in vehicle handling.
Among that, you have showcases which have you racing against something crazy like a train, among others, I won’t spoil because you have to see to believe. There are barn finds where you have to search for legendary cars in certain areas and they have upped the difficulty on some of them, where before it took a little bit of patience to find them. Being able to create an event has returned from the previous game, giving you the ability to have a race done your way. Overall, between racing for the top spot as Horizon’s ultimate racer, to doing side missions, barn finds, bucket list challenge, and running into secret signs to level up your driver’s popularity, they will keep you busy for a while. That’s just the offline portion.
The online is now called Forza Live, where you can interact with other racers and partake in co-op action, or join a club for some fun outings, including all the features of offline mode and you have one pack game whether you chose to play on or offline.
Last game introduced the ability to change your driver’s look and name. Now, you can customize your driver once you buy a house (another feature that is first to the franchise). Speaking of, this game is keeping up with the times by having Microsoft’s livestream Mixer built in. When turned on, you will unlock exclusive rewards for streaming the game. While some games tend to feel the same with yearly installments, the extra year gives the developers’ time to implement some tweaks and add features without it feeling shoe horned in. Because of this, I feel this franchise will never get stale.
While the sound effects of the engines and tires will make any car enthusiasts happy, what pulled me in back in 2012 is their soundtrack. I applaud whoever is in charge of choosing the music, because to me, that is the heart and soul of the series. All the radio stations have come back (indie rock, classical, rap and hip hop, techno) with new tracks and the DJs from certain stations make a return and have callbacks about how much some missed Australia (setting in the last Horizon game) for that continuity. It should be noted when you turn on Mixer the music switches over to one station to prevent your stream from being cut off by the music copyright police.
Similar Games Liked:
Forza Horizon 3 (XB1)
Forza Horizon 2 (XB1)
Forza Horizon (Xbox 360)
Similar Game Disliked
Test Drive Unlimited 2 (PS3)