Growing up with the stone-walled backtracks of Ireland, the rolling hillsides of England’s Lake District or the historical charm of Edinburgh, there is an obvious draw to Forza’s Horizon 4.For the first time in a long time, gamers in the UK can experience their own back garden in a shiny next-gen racing game. You might have to cast your mind back to the original Play Station’s Italian Job or Xbox’s Midtown Madness to find a game which so lovingly recreates these Isles.
Horizon 4 is more than a nostalgic road trip, it’s the best looking, most addictive racing game to be released on next-gen. Beyond being an Xbox Games Pass exclusive, free for all subscribers, Horizon 4 offers a jumping in point for gamers that don’t typically drive. The opening grind of races offers a platform to hone your driving skills, explore the expansive but not huge map and build your car collection. Across the constantly changing four seasons of the year, driving conditions shift and give opposing perspectives to the world. Getting to terms with street racing, rally courses, cross country and stunt races, finding which cars suit which style gives an idea of driving variety on offer.
Obtaining classic track speeders, vintage racers, modern rally and converted off-roaders is what drives you to progress in this game. It would be easy to blow hard-earned in-game currency on iconic models for face value but you soon learn that the game throws cars at you, from Barn Finds to Wheelspins, you have as much chance of bagging an S2 class McLaren as the C class Reliant Robin.
The best way to make serious cash and test drive the most elusive and expensive of models is the game’s auctioneering. Cars like the 1955 Maserati A6G worth an eye-watering CR 2,500,000 can be snagged for a few hundred thousand with a little class upgrading and an authentic racing design skin can be resold at face value. Forza has avoided making this economy a freemium one and you can escape feeling cheated by wealthier gamers. Priced DLC content does exist but in the form of car packs like authentically recreated Bond collection and offers a less excluding way of the game making online money.
The grind needed to make it to the full festival road-blocks you from experiencing racing online with friends, once you do however, Horizon 4 feels like a truly social game. Selling cars to friends, comparing race times and competing on live circuits maintains the game’s addictiveness.
Like Forzas’ gone by, your garage and upgrade customisation feels authentic and detailed, you can’t just turn any car into an X class monster but you can push the boundaries of models, like fine-tuning the Subaru Impreza into an all-terrain race winner.
— Jamie Taylor (@Jamie_Taylor_63) October 11, 2018
Horizon 4 is not without its faults, glitches and framerate drops can occur, certainly on the Xbox One. The game lacks a Test Driver Unlimitedstyle showroom that utilises its ‘Forzavista’ features, not being able to show off rare classics to friends or view garage cars in something other than a menu takes some of the fun out of collecting. Something like an online car show using ‘Forzavista’ could hugely improve the social side of the game.
It’s easy to get bogged down in the menus, shops and auctions of your garage, it’s when heading back on the road that hammers home this game’s strengths, it looks and feels incredible. The level of detail put into the surroundings of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales and the minutia of authenticity into specific makes and models are what makes it stand out. Reinvigorating not just the Forza series but racing as a genre for next-gen.