Forza Horizon 4
Very rarely am I so amazed by a game that I can’t really find anything bad to say, but Forza Horizon 4 is pretty much one of those games. Forza Horizon is a mix between a sim racer and an arcade racer, and the series has found a middle ground that is simply fun. Forza Horizon 4 takes everything that has been great about the series and tweaks it just enough to feel refreshing and fine-tuned.
The game starts off by throwing a lot of content at you right away with an expansive map, new features, and a few cars to choose from. Yet it slowly streams more content your way and makes basically hourly changes that slowly introduce new mechanics and features over time. This is simply a beautiful way to explore a game because you don’t feel tied down to a tutorial, but also don’t feel overwhelmed with a whole bunch of content at once. The mechanic allows you to basically master a skill, then evolve into other aspects. Forza is very careful in when something is introduced as I was a few races in and already qualified for the Autumn events and the game had just introduced new aspects to me that I thought were neat. It keeps things refreshing.
The game still treads a formula that is very familiar to arcade racing fans, and Horizon fans in general. There are tons of races, landmarks, and events to travel to. The open world will lead to random occurrence events, and there are hourly (daily) challenges to do with online friends. If you ever get tired of that then you can even customize your own events with blueprint mode, or find some co-op experiences online where everyone is racing towards the same goal. I’ve been playing the game for days and new cars and races are still popping up for me, and I simply just can’t stop playing.
The game really impressed me with how it bridges two major components. The first being a loading sequence. You can go from open world to racing rather fast, considering the “track” is literally just part of the open world. Within a minute you are racing, and that includes a very miniscule countdown to start the race. No standing by waiting for anything to start, you just go, which helps keep you playing longer. I still find it neat that I can do last minute performance enhancements, press okay, and immidiatly be in the race. The rewind feature, and restarting, are also flawless and never take away from you playing the game, which means I'm more likely to use them.
The second thing is how flawless the online environment is. If you are connected online and have friends playing, you will see them roaming around the town with you when you are in the open world. Races can still be stand alone vs AI, but it’s rather neat to randomly come across real world players all over the streets. Then if you decide to go offline, or lose connection for whatever reason, the game simply transitions them to AI bots with their names. However you won’t lose any progress and you won’t need to reload the game to enter an offline environment. And if you ever go back online, it transitions right back and you never know it until you run into someone. The nice thing about being online is that you can’t be disrupted. If a player attempts to hit you, or vice versa, the cars enter ghost mode and cause no collisions. So you don’t need to worry about griefers at all, which makes it kind of pointless to not be online. (If you actually join a party, or invite a friend to a race, that’s the only time they can hit you.)
My favorite thing about the game is the details given to everything. Every car has a personality instead of sounding like a hollow tuner, so muscle cars will sound beefy and high power cars have a real roar to them. Tires moving on the streets is phenomenal, you can hear slight screeching if a tire slips a little, but it won’t be annoying to a point of sounding like it’s sliding all the time. My favorite time was doing a dirt track and hearing all the rocks hit the car and watching as small little scratches occurred along the sides of my paint. The sound is so good that you can hear animals in the background, crowds off in the distance as you near the end, and so many finer details that make using a headset or turning up your speakers worth it. The only sound quality I was a bit disappointed in was the lackluster music, with no real ability to add your own.
Then you have the world which is beautiful and constantly changing. The game cycles weekly through seasons and each season drastically changes everything, and isn’t just a template blanketing the colors. Driving mechanics change, courses change, the look and feel of everything changes. The game also has “showcase events” again which are amazing, and have some special surprises for fans of say Halo.
The cool thing about seasons is how dynamics change. The game offers a lot of hills in certain regions and that leads to some really cool mechanics. Figuring out how to feather the gas to slide into turns is something that doesn’t take very long, but is easily mastered. It makes you feel absolutely amazing once you get it. Then once you feel good about it, the track changes to snow or rain and now you are fish tailing a little more. Most tracks are unforgiving too in a sense that you can crash right off the sides and end up in an open field, which I think is the coolest thing ever. Instead of say a physical barrier where you hit it and your car stops. It makes watching the map and learning courses all that more important, and then applying what you learned about the weather (and your car) to make sure you hit the corners just right.
There are multiple moments where the game gets to show off the beautifully crafted lighting mechanics. Obviously during certain times of the day you will be blown away, but my favorite was when a rain storm moved in. Seeing the water splash on the car, and left over rain drops dripping down the body was so photo realistic I instantly entered photo mode and was simple in awe of it. Then there are some spots in the game where you could find the sun shining through the leaves in a tall tree, so you park your car in front of it and simply soak it all in.
Obviously Forza is all about the cars and the game doesn’t disappoint in that area either. With 450 cars to choose from at launch, and more to come, there is plenty to choose from. Each car has very in-depth tuning options including tire width/spacing, and some higher end detailing. You can truly make a random car look extremely awesome easily. You can also download pre-made sets from the community, pay for all the parts, and have your car tuned in that regard. The game also continues to separate tuner cars from normal cars, so you know exactly which cars to pick if you want to spend a lot of time fixing them up.
There is an odd wheel to win prizes added to the game which is the only thing I was kind of eery of. You earn in game points, separate from the ones used to buy cars, and use it to get random loot like outfits for your character etc… I didn’t really care about it at all, and it doesn’t offer any cars or parts, which is good, so it’s kind of a feature that is there but isn’t needed. It also feels like an after thought because the animations to dances and the clothing don’t live up to the rest of the game, in fact the characters are what make you realize “okay, this is a game.” I mean we have cars where suspension will react to a dime on the street, but character models that are basically floating. That’s really my only complaint.
Overall though, like I said before, rarely do I find a game where there is almost nothing I can complain about. I’ve enjoyed every second I’ve spent with Forza Horizon 4, and I can’t stop playing it. This is a game for racing fans, and if you are like me and enjoy a more arcade style over simulation then it’s absolutely perfect. I’m a big fan of Need For Speed Underground, and Horizon always seems to nail that aspect. Forza Horizon 4 simply does everything right, while keeping you astonished of the world you are racing in.