It’s the start of Horizon Festival on a brisk fall day. Everyone has brought their hottest rides for the race through the Edinburgh city streets. You’re sitting in your brand-new 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS at the front of the line, heart racing as adrenaline is rushing through your veins. A woman rushes out to stand between you and the bright yellow 2014 Lamborghini Huracan LP 610-4. You look at her, tightening your grip on the steering wheel. She gives you a flirtatious wink, throws both hands in the air, and after a split second, drops them, causing tires to screech as your car screams past her. This is Forza Horizon 4.
The Forza Horizon games, for me, have always been the better of the two exclusive titles that Microsoft pumps out each year. Motorsport is a blast, don’t get me wrong, but there’s just something special about free-roaming through a giant open world and having that freedom to explore. Forza Horizon 4 is no different, allowing you to explore all the areas around Edinburgh, raising the bar on what is my favorite racing game of all time.
Forza Horizon 4 is everyone’s favorite semi-simulation racing game. This year, they take you to the world of Great Britain, where you have the city of Edinburgh to explore, as well as the lush surrounding areas. Not only do you have an amazing open world to explore (that’s full of beautiful landscapes and winding backroads to explore in one season), Playground Games has upped the ante yet again, this time giving you all four seasons to play around in. They first introduced a different season back in Forza Horizon 3’s DLC, Blizzard Mountain. This first DLC of FH3 was set in a mountainous area completely covered in snow. They showed that not only can they change the entire scenery, still making it quite beautiful, but also still making it a blast to drive in. Well, they decided to go all in and not only give you winter, but spring, fall, and summer as well. What’s even more of an amazing feat is that each one handles slightly differently when driving in it. Winter driving is just treacherous all around, so you better make sure to get an all-wheel-drive car, like a Nissan GTR or Subaru Impreza STI, something that will take the snow like a champ and beg for something more difficult to drive in. If I had to pick two seasons that were quite similar when driving in, spring and fall would be it. Spring and fall both have some winter-like driving elements when going off-road and driving through muddy terrain, causing you to slide all over the place. Driving on the road is definitely better, but can have its slick moments as well, due to the quite frequent raining you have to deal with. Summer is just an all-around perfect season for driving all over Britain. No puddles, no mud, no snow, no rain, no problem.
When first starting out the game, they run you through each one of the seasons in one race. Then, after you become acquainted with the seasons, you must drive around doing races that pop up and earn influence to put you in the running for the next season’s Forza event. Once you get past that little section and go through all the seasons, you enter Forza Horizon Life, which changes the seasons each week for everyone, no matter what server you’re on. All races remain on your map no matter what season, so unless you use Blueprints to change the season yourself, you’re stuck racing in whatever season it is that week.
With the changing of the seasons being the newest thing they’ve added to the game, there are a few other things that I feel are worth noting that are new. In previous titles when you’d do something spectacular like get enough influence, do a certain challenge, and get a wheelspin? Well, they’ve added Super Wheelspins, which now grant you three things instead of just one. They are a bit harder to come by but totally worth it once you get them. Another new aspect that I feel is worth mentioning is the My Horizon Life section. This is a place where you can track your levels for each type of race and a few other things like speed traps and how good of a photographer you are. You have your own separate levels for standard road racing, cross country, dirt racing, drag racing and much more. When you’ve earned enough influence doing these races, you’ll level them up, giving you new race events to try your car on and everything from credits to spend on rides, phrases you can yell to your friends and much more.
Now, while new things are always nice to get with a new game and especially one of this caliber, some things are kept the same because, why fix something that isn’t broken, right? The music playlists like Bass and Pulse (my favorite) are back and just as good as they were in previous entries in the game. Photo mode is another fan favorite comeback that has, personally, been one that has taken up a decent chunk of my time. I love taking photos of these beautiful cars in spectacular settings all over the map and showing off my photography skills to anyone who wishes to see them on the web. For those of you that loved finding old cars, the hidden barn finds are back and still packed with plenty of antique treasure troves to keep your car collecting mind at ease.
Pros and Cons
Forza Horizon 4 has a few flaws that more or less irk me a bit and but it has an overwhelming number of pros. The music is stellar. Every time I’m driving and jamming out to Pulse Radio, I instantly get the feeling like I’m actually driving this car across the countryside, going well over the speed limit, without a care in the world. It really adds to the immersion of the game and puts you right in the driver seat of some of the fastest cars on the planet.
Speaking of the countryside, this is one of the best-looking games I’ve ever played and by far the best-looking one in the series. Each season is just as jaw-droppingly gorgeous as the next and none fail to be a distraction while racing. As for the racing itself, it’s absolutely flawless. When you first start getting faster cars and finally break over 200mph, you really feel that speed. Other racing games seem to have a hard time generating the sense of going fast and make it feel like you’re going 50 when you’re really going 150. Some less pretty aspects of the game are the customization. No, I’m not talking about the engine mods, those have always been great, even though some cars you are restricted in what you can add to them in that field. I’m talking about visual customizations and while this is a petty flaw and I accept it as such, I still feel it needs to be mentioned. I loved when I would play the Need for Speed games and be able to add body kits to make my car wider or add under-glow neon lights to make my car stand out. I miss being able to do that and I feel like even though this is more of a simulation style racing game, Playground Games has always gone a bit crazy with some of their stuff in these games. I mean, they had DLC for FH3 that was a Hot Wheels track for god’s sake! I want to be able to make my cars stand out even more, aside from the radical paint job I decided to do on it. It hurts my heart just a little bit when I get a car like a Nissan Silvia and want to make it look like a street racing car and realize, after I get engine mods on it, that I’m never going to give it the complete look that I want and be forced to settle for less.
One last issue I have, before I have people finding where I live and keying my car, is that I want them to remove buggies from the game. I’m not talking about program bugs, I’m talking about the Polaris, two-man buggies that they like to throw at me for certain races. I will not hold back my feelings when I say I hate them. I hate them so much that I refuse to use them anymore in the game and anytime I’m faced with a race where they are used by default, I blueprint them away and instead, choose a nice Subaru or Jeep to use on that track. Why do I hate them so much? Well, because the handling on them is appalling. Some people might like them and I just want you to know that you’re wrong. During a race I was in, I decided to give them a chance and was faced with such a problem of keeping my car going straight and not spinning out, that racing completely left my mind. I was no longer racing, I was on some horrific slip and slide that would not end and rewinding to a previous moment where I thought I had control would not help my cause. Playground, if you’re reading this, please either make the handling on them comparable to a car with rally wheels or take them out entirely.
Now I got that off my chest, I want to reiterate that this game is my favorite racing game. I have never had so much fun racing with AI and friends before and I can’t wait to finish this review so I can get back to Britain, leaving a trail of burnt rubber wherever I go. Between the music, the cars, and the landscape, this is a Game of the Year contender for sure. This is definitely going to be a game I come back to, not only to see what other crazy DLC Playground Games can whip up, but to continue to experience the seasons of Edinburgh and all the crazy beauty it offers.
This review of Forza Horizon 4 is based on the Xbox One version of the game.
David loves to play the guitar, though not always to other peoples favorite genres. He loves to play video games and has played them for longer than he cares to admit. His Favorite games to date include The Witcher 3, Rocket League, Titanfall 2, Bioshock, Halo and a new favorite, God of War. He has always wanted to do something in the gaming industry. Since he’s no programmer (yet), writing about them and why he likes them will have to do. Feel free to follow him on Twitter for all things gaming and maybe a few things that aren’t. Currently teaching himself programming and learning UE4 to make games that he’s always wanted to play!