AI also seems to be an improvement on Forza 4, with the competition more aggressive, more inclined to take risks and – cheerfully – more likely to come off the track having done so. It all makes the game that bit less predictable, and more exciting.
Forza Horizon Graphics
Graphically, Forza Horizon is a bit of a stunner. Forza has always delivered when it comes to beautiful-looking cars in motion, but it’s often struggled when it comes to the scenery. Real-world race tracks rarely look that exciting, and while Forza 4 upped the ante with its gorgeous Italian coastlines and Alpine passes, it didn’t always hit the heights that Horizon almost constantly reaches for. With its mountains, waterfalls, rural landscapes and canyons, Colorado turns out to be a dazzling setting, and there’s almost a subgame to be played in roaming around in a photogenic supercar and taking shots with the game’s elegant photo mode. If ever a game deserved the glossy landscape treatment, it’s this one.
Admittedly, the festival trappings turn out to be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the music, the crowds, the laser light-shows and the radio stations – complete with slick chatter about your recent progress – work well to give Forza Horizon an atmosphere the slightly po-faced Forza Motorsport has never really had. Even with a choice of three stations you will hear a lot of songs repeated, but at least the music is modern, well-chosen and great to drive to. On the other hand, some aspects – like the rival racers who effectively operate as optional boss battles – feel a bit forced. Is the racing improved because each event is prefaced with an appearance from a stereotypical hot chick racer or Jackass-esque TV star? Probably not.
Forza Horizon Cars
Otherwise, we have just two complaints. Firstly, there are no big crashes and only cosmetic damage, and while we’re sure this comes down to vehicle licensing requirements, it means Forza Horizon lacks some of the bite of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit or the criminally underappreciated Need for Speed: Shift 2. Secondly, those looking for a huge car collection should look elsewhere. Horizon covers almost all of the important ground in term of marques, but each has only a handful of models at best. With beauties like the BMW M5 Coupe, Ferrari 458 Spyder, Shelby GT500 and Lotus Evora this isn’t necessarily a problem, and it’s great to see some bigger vehicles, like the new Range Rover Supercharged or Ford Raptor.
At the moment we can’t say too much about the multiplayer. While the servers are open at the time of writing, they’re hardly thronged with racers, and it will take a while before Forza’s excellent customisation and car auction features make themselves felt in the new game. It’s a slight disappointment that Forza Horizon appears not to have the massive multiplayer features of the Test Drive Unlimited series, but it does have a good range of modes, and we’ll report back on these once we’ve had a decent chance to try them.
Forza Horizon could easily have been a mistake – an arcade spin-off that wasn’t arcade enough to compete with Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit or the upcoming Need for Speed Most Wanted reboot, while not being ‘Forza’ enough to appeal to existing fans. Instead, it’s a bit of a triumph; a Forza that should appeal to anyone who likes racing games, whatever their individual bent.
Forza Horizon Verdict
Forza Horizon puts the guts of Forza 4 in a more accessible free-roaming, arcade-style body. The result is a monster of a driving game, with more thrills and visceral appeal than normal Forza, but more satisfying handling than any arcade racer. Like fast cars, good music and gorgeous scenery? Then it doesn’t get better than this.