Name: Forza Horizon 4
Developer: Playground Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platforms: Xbox One, PC
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Acquired: A copy of this game was provided by a publisher for review purpose
Forza has returned once again with its fourth installment in the Horizon series, taking the cars out from the tracks and instead of giving us a massive open-world to unleash them in. Last time the Horizon Festival was being held in Australia but has now been moved to the United Kingdom, giving us new landmarks to visit and new terrains to overcome. But you will still have to drive on the left side of the road if you try to drive legally that is.
In Forza Horizon 3 we got the chance to be the boss of the Horizon Festival, being in charge of the whole thing. Now we are going back to just be a contestant, random dude/dudette which is racing to make a name for themselves. But after a while you will become an unknown legend, someone everyone is talking about. You will be hearing rumors about what you have done, and being mentioned by others on the radio and so on. You progress by, of course, winning, but you also have certain characters that you will be meeting through your progression that offer different “missions.” One of them is that you are being hired as a stunt driver for a movie production, where you will have to perform action scenes in varying degree. You also have missions where you join a drift club, where you are being used as the face of the group to recruit new talent. When you have met these people, you can play through their mission at your own pace even finish all of them right away. I chose to save them since they worked as a nice break from all the racing.
The game wants your character to feel a bit more personal this time, you still have preset characters to choose from, but this time there is more customization for you to choose from. All you can think of from top to bottom can be changed, you unlock new clothing by leveling up and by spin-wheel prizes. Progression is made by winning races, this you do to gain followers and notoriety. And in Forza Horizon 4 there will be plenty of activities to gain followers, there are many types of races but also drift zones, speed cameras and danger signs are returning from last time. The map is filled up with this, and you don’t often have to drive for long before you find them. As you progress special showcases will be available, this is the action-packed highlights of the game. There is even a special Halo showcase, where you play as Master Chief trying to escape before Earth explodes. You will be surprised by some of the vehicles you will be racing against, and how massively insane it all seems. Blueprints give you again the ability to make the races more personal, changing the car classes and specifications on all races. So in theory, if you have a favorite car, you can pretty much use the same car on all races in the game if you want. This freedom helps to give us a chance to actually get to know the cars we own, instead of always buying new cars driving a couple of races then switching them out again.
To sum this up it’s more personal with even a bit more focus on the story than previously, there is so much to do that it feels like it never will be done (in a good way). The new stuff that has been added to the game is great, all races and showcases feel different. Then there is the biggest feature of the game, that changes the game completely. I guess you know what I’m talking about, and that is the seasons. Because Forza Horizon 4 has four seasons that changes every week, and that gives us completely different experiences. It changes the landscapes, how the tracks are set up and how the cars drive on the surfaces. Winter seasons might be the most drastic change, giving us slippery surfaces and snow filled landscape. If you played the Blizzard Mountain DLC from Forza Horizon 3 you know kind of what you will be getting. Autumn might be the most stunning to look at, with its colors showing that we need to prepare for winter. In the first hours of the game, you will be in the prologue stage, where you compete in many different races in all four seasons. So you will be getting plenty of time with them all before you connect to the server and then have to wait a one real-time week before it changes. With all seasons there is season specific challenges and Forzathon challenges, so there is always a reason to come back every week.
Forza Horizon 4 really shows what the Xbox One is capable of, giving us one of the most beautiful car games to date. Forza Horizon 3 looked great last time but was a small downgrade from the main series Forza Motorsport, but this time it is even better than Forza Motorsport 7. This might sound like a weird way to compare it all since one is on-track racing and the other is open-world. But it’s just simply one of the prettiest car games that we have been getting, even more, impressive is the scale of the world and what details they have been putting into it. I had to stick with the game’s default “Quality” mode (native 4K, HDR, 30 frames per second) because I only own a regular Xbox One, but there is also a “Performance” mode (with 60fps and sets the resolution at 1080p, also with HDR) if you play on an Xbox One X. So it was really tempting to just order a new Xbox One X, but when logic struck me I just had to be contempt with playing it on a regular Xbox One. It is not disappointing to play it on that one either, it might not look as beautiful as it could, but it still looks really great. The lighting, the rain, snow and grass everything around is a threat to look at, with great textures. It took everything great with the previous games and made it better. How shiny the cars look and the details on them are just fantastic, so if you are curious how certain cars look you can check out every small detail of the car. And with that in mind that they have created four different seasons that change the whole map, with that level of detail to them all is impressive. So you don’t have to invest in a new TV or Xbox One X to see it all or for fear of how it runs, since it’s solid and smooth from top to bottom.
The sound is also an important part of the game or car games in general. It’s not very fun to drive car games where all the engine sounds are the same, or if a beast of a car with a V8 engine and 500++ hp sounds like a scooter. But that is far from an issue in this game, every car has a personality because of the sounds it makes, and everything around makes beautiful sounds too. Like when you drive on gravel and hear all these small rocks that hit the bottom of your car and how the different sliding tires sound on different surfaces. Or the scraping sound when items hit the paint job on your car leaving marks. It’s the attention to details that gives Forza the edge, thinking about and record these small things that might be hard to notice. Playing with a good headset or a home sound system of some sort will immerse the experience, even more, making the cars sound like the beast they are hiding under the hood.
Forza is truly a blast to play, giving us the tools to play it like we want. You can take on races is the order of your choosing and as mentioned every race can be changed to what type of race you want to play. Race in a huge truck in an off-road trail, sure no problem, if it’s a good idea that is a whole other question. And with all the customization available, to drastically change the cars, makes no car boring to drive. It’s as massive as it has always been, but now with even more wide-body kits to really change the look of the car. I just love how much there is to change on each car and is one of the reasons I always have loved the Forza series. It might not be as much new stuff to do change, it’s basically the same as previous. But it’s so deep so it would be difficult to add any more. And you have to balance the upgrading, or you end up with crazy cars being way too powerful to even control. But the option is there to do it, and I’m one of those that spends hours on customizing cars and make my garage unique. The UK may not be as diverse by itself as Australia was, but it makes up for it with the seasons and how they change everything. There are old English cities to explore and Scotland’s highlands to drive on the craziest and most dangerous roads there is. There’s also a wider difference between road types, which range from wide, modern motorways to narrow alleys and quirky junctions that could’ve been designed hundreds of years ago, and being used to the roads and landscape from Norway much of it felt really familiar. Except for the crazy layouts English cities have, that makes me really happy about not having to drive there in real life. What Horizon does well is the feeling of driving a simulation, but with tracks that look like they have been set up by an adrenaline junkie. It’s the solid car physics that Forza is known for, with off-road parts that would instantly kill the suspension of any car that would try to jump those distances. There are all sorts of activities that definitely will fit everyone in one way or another. It is off-road, high speed, drifting, and street races if you don’t want to just race against others. Then free-roaming is so satisfying, just drive wherever I want, whenever. I loved to take my drift rockets out for a spin, trying to find the best spots to really test what they are capable of.
One thing that has changed is that you are online as long as you are connected to the servers, but not in a way that you are always online and even can’t pause the game. But the presence of other players is there, and you can choose to join them if you want in activities. If driving around they can’t crash into you, so there is no annoyance of people ruining the game for you. There is no problem if you disconnect since it won’t ruin your progress, it just works and helps to make the game more populated. It gives all the pros of driving online, but all the cons are removed. You can still pause the game, rewind and play alone, but meet and interact with others if you want.
Forzathon is back like previous with challenges that give great rewards, but also a new version. This one is called Forzathon Live which is open to any players currently roaming the world who wish to take part up to 12 players. There are no individual scoreboards; just a group target, focusing on teamwork rather than competition. These will appear every hour, at numerous locations around the world. You get 15 minutes and a group target for something like a Danger Sign, a Drift Zone, or an open area where the goal is to rack up as many Skills as possible any way you want. If the group beats stage one within the time limit, you then go through to stage two, and then eventually to stage three. In the end, everyone gets Forzathon Points, which you can spend on rewards of your choosing in a new area called the Forzathon Shop. This was really fun being a huge group cooperating to finish our shared goal, everyone doing their best to get rewards.
The new changes make the game better, and I was surprised by how great the online connectivity worked.
If it would have been up to me, then I would simply explain this part with one simple sentence.
“No other car game has done it better” – Joakim Ulvær
But I understand that wouldn’t be fair, and some explanation is in its place here. But to this day, I haven’t found a car game franchise that has the handling physics as good as Forza. It delivers great handling, that is really approachable but hard to master. Horizon is just a little bit more arcade then the main series Forza Motorsport, but still delivers one of the most satisfying physics that is both realistic and not too hard to play with a controller. I love to turn off all the assists to really get to know the cars, shredding tires on the road. It’s me who’s in control of the car, not any gimmick from the game. Also, the balance of how the different cars feel is perfect, no car feels the same both in how they handle but also their weight. The controller works great to tell how the grip is on the cars, with the vibration telling if the tires are starting to slip. Its set up really good right from the start, so you might only have to do minor configurations to your suiting.
Forza Horizon 4 is massive, filled up with so much to do, that you wonder if it’s possible to ever finish. The short answer is simply NO! Well, it’s possible to finish the “campaign”, but you don’t have to race through all of the races available to finish. And with it being an open-world racer, give it opportunities that many other games don’t have. You can collect cars through barn finds, treat yourself with a road trip, buy and upgrade all the cars. Or go online with friends or unknown people to take on races or playground activities. King of the Hill, Team Adventure and Championships is just some of them to mention, only your imagination limits what you can do online. And with the seasons that is changing and challenges that are getting updates and who knows what types of content that could arrive later on gives hour upon hours of more gameplay. I personally love to once in a while pick up Forza Horizon and just drive around the map trying new cars and make the best customization I can when I’m bored.
Campaign - 10/10
Graphics - 10/10
Gameplay - 9/10
Controls - 10/10
Replay Value - 10/10
It might be a bit cheesy to say that they have taken everything that made Forza Horizon 3 great, put in some new stuff and made it even better. But it is a really fitting description, it’s a truly great experience from start to whenever the day comes that you finish it. I have so much more I could have said about it, but it would take to long to read it all. If you want a car game that you can spend hours doing so many different things, this is the game. It’s a solid package, that might not be very different from last time but still so good. Beautiful, huge and fun is what this is, and I can’t recommend it more to those who like car games. Playgrounds Games once again sets the bar for what we want in a car game.
- Beautiful Graphics
- Great Gameplay
- Massive world
- Loads of activities
- Changing Seasons
- Car Physics
- Fan Favorite cars missing
- No Custom music list