Forza Horizon

I have to admit, I approached Forza Horizon with some amount of trepidation. Here was a brand which I have come to love over the years and they were doing something ‘different’. The move from circuit-based racing to an open world environment, from a controlled and measured set of race series and formulae to the ad-hoc highway chases and loosely structured one-off event could have gone horribly, horribly wrong. It’s happened in the past and I’ve resented them for it!

So sitting down in my race-seat and booting up the game saw me hoping for the best but expecting the worst. Then I started smiling and I don’t think I’ve stopped since!

Forza Horizon has succeeded in taking the elegant and precise car physics from Forza 4 and transplanted them onto the open roads and off-road trails of Colorado with the centerpiece of the Horizon music and car festival.

The scene-setting is what we’d expect: you’re an unknown who turns up at the Horizon festival with all of the other hopefuls and you race your way through the events toppling the favourites as you go. There are many cars to be bought, upgrades and tuning to be done and stylish and sometimes breathtaking car liveries to be created but the open-world element has been used to add some additional spice into the mix too. One of these is the “Barn find” where, after a little searching around, you come across iconic cars which have been rolled into old barns and forgotten about. Of course you have to suspend disbelief at this point as your ‘luck’ in finding all of them when no-one else seems to be able to is simply astonishing but it’s a nice way to introduce some classic cars into a game which would otherwise be dominated by the latest, fastest machinery that Italy, Germany or Japan has to offer.

One of the other elements which the open-world structure brings in is the instant challenge race. If there’s another Horizon Festival attendee on the road, you can pull up behind them and issue a challenge. This results in an instant point to point race for cash. Always nice and handy if you’re getting short of readies!

Another way to go for cash is the street races which operate outside of the main Horizon Festival, operated by one of the locals and offering very nice bundles of boodle if you win. Being street races you don’t have the luxury of a closed course, so there are ‘civilians’ to deal with too, but this all adds to the mix which Horizon brings to the table.

So far there seems to be a lot right with the game, so what’s wrong with it?

My biggest gripe is with the sat-nav, which on a couple of occasions directed me over slightly longer routes than was optimum and caused me not to win challenge races. As I’m getting to know the roads, this becomes less of an issue, but is still annoying. I think the other things is that, in multi-player mode, the civilian vehicles disappear and you basically have the entire road network to yourselves. OK, this is fine, but seems to lack the levels of realism I’d like to see in this mode of racing. Not the end of the world, sure, but it’s a ‘thing’ nonetheless.

Our friends over at TORA are already looking at how Horizon can be used to introduce a different type of race series, so if the street or dirt racing scene interests you, you could do a lot worse than seeing what they’re up to. I believe they’re running some casual multi-player races to see how the mechanics all work.








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