The sense of speed that the Forza series depicts is more than just immersive; it is soul-gripping and my body feels like is moving 215 miles per hours across the United Kingdom’s rural roads. I completely lost myself in the beautifully rushing landscape of the UK. Lamborghinis and Ferraris falling passed me as I scream down the countryside roads of England and Scotland in my McLaren pushing 150…155…160…180…200 miles per hour! The upbeat of the EDM and the positive and enthusiastic voice-over of the in-game radio host made it a borderline, if not entirely, emotional experience. The flash of colors watering my eyes, the roar of the engine growling in my headphones, my held breath in the final stretch with crowd screaming and the overall optimistic and positive vibes of the finish line and atmosphere in general all made for a rather euphoric experience. And that’s just the opening sequence.
Forza Horizon 4 is an open-world cornucopia (or, should I say car-nucopia) of different play styles, like drag racing, drift competitions, mindless driving through the rolling hills of the U.K., and even goofy multiplayer competitions like Infected (where one car “infects” other cars as “zombies”) and all through all four seasons of the year. This game excels in almost every aspect an open-world racing game can offer.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
The graphics are mind-blowing, plain and simple. I have the privilege to play this game on my 65” 2017 B7 LG OLED television and Xbox One X. With the “Graphics” option enabled over the prudently-placed “Performance” mode Playground Games offered, I believe this is probably the best-looking game I’ve ever played.
With the “graphics” option selected, you take full advantage of native 4K and HDR (high dynamic range) nature of this game and the horsepower that the Xbox One X has to offer. The sun gleaming off the roof of your candy-painted Pagani as you fly through some poor farmer’s fields of flowers in the spring is a sight to behold. Or, you could have a groovily painted Volkswagen parked outside your lake house in the middle of fall with screenshots that could deceive almost everybody you show into thinking you took these photos yourself.
The only place this game’s graphical fidelity falters is with the character models. It’s obvious; this game is primarily a car game, so all of the effort will be focused on the car exterior and interior models. When it comes to your avatar and the other character models, it can easily be seen as coming secondary to the world around you, the skybox above you and the car model in front of you. And with rumors flying around with Playground Games making a non-racing game, I pray they use their technology to create another incredibly beautiful and immersive world.
The sound is also a beast of its own, in its own regard. The sound design of the engines themselves, the stress of the tires, the roar of the crowds, and the music playlist all fit perfectly in the world housing a never-ending party celebrating the universal culture of cars. However, there are a few bones I want to pick with the game, as a casual car lover. This game, like Motorsport 7, seems to suffer from misrepresentations and inaccurate sounds of the cars. A few car-makes don’t have the most accurate purrs and growls of engines as their real-life counter parts do. Which is a shame, as I would have loved to hear an accurate representation of the Jaguar XKR. On top of that, all of the superchargers and turbos sound quiet and similar.
That all being said, the sound isn’t bad by any means, but it does seem that sound took a backseat to the visuals, modeling, handling and gameplay.
GAMEPLAY AND FEEL
This game feels good. Let me reiterate this; this game, in feels amazing. There is a noticeable, the difference between the traction of Forza Horizon 3 and Forza Horizon 4. While this game isn’t a racing sim, it still has options for the more serious players to get a taste of how a car actually feels like on the tarmac.
There are a series of assists you can toggle on or off, such as casual and simulation steering, automatic and manual transmission, anti-lock breaks, traction control, drive and break lines, etc. Like all Forza games, the more of these assists you turn off, the more of a credit reward bonus you get. But, the nature of this game being a little more arcade than simulation, the game is welcoming to many, if not all players. Anecdotally, there have been a decent handful of players I witnessed picking up this game and becoming infatuated with it, despite never have played a Forza or racing game in the past. That alone lends credence to the open arms this game presents to us players.
Now, the things you do in this world is a metric-ton of various events! Starting with the showcases, as I believe are the most memorable moments I’ve experienced in any racing game. You start off by having one show-case per season, in about a 2-hour “trial period” of tasting each season and the types of races each offer. In the fall, you start off racing against a hovercraft, for example. In the winter, it’s against a train. As goofy and ridiculous as these races sound, that’s the point, because they stand out! Racing against a British jet, against a roaring train and even with a very special guest against a particular bad-guy force every Xbox fan would know (without giving anything away), have plastered a goofy smile across my face for days on end. Even though these showcase events are one-offs, I still catch myself grabbing my wife, sitting her on the couch, and excitedly saying “Ok, now watch me race THIS THING!”. I cannot tell you how many times I have caught myself giggling from the sheer fun-factor of these events.
Other examples of things you can do in Horizon 4 is almost uncountable, if I was going to be hyperbolic. You have cross-country races, rally races, dirt races, drag races, drift competitions, and events called “World’s Fastest” events, street races, and everything in between. With a roster of over 450 cars to choose from, you will never find yourself without the perfect car for the even of your choice! In speaking of your car…
Every single car has its own skill tree. Now, this isn’t something like “increase speed 10%” or anything game-changing on a competitive level like that. But, it does effect bonus on credit earning and influence (this game’s experience currency) when you do certain things, such as “clean racing”, drifiting, or passing.
As enormous as this game is, it will take quite some time to cover exactly everything you can do! This is just a taste of the sheer amount of content this game has to offer.
REAL-TIME UNIVERSAL WEATHER AND SEASONS
Forza Horizon 4 offers a real-time season mechanic, too; a first for the Forza series. Every Thursday in real-time, the season in-game will change for all players: it started in fall, will change to winter the following Thursday, to Spring, to Summer and finally back to Fall where the cycle beings again. In one month’s time, every player will witness a year of changing seasons and weathers. Everybody gets to experience at the same time together.
With these seasons comes with different weather patterns. In the winter, one can expect frozen streams and lakes making some areas accessible, where they weren’t during other seasons of the year. During the spring, the increased rainfall lead to more gushing streams and hire water levels of lakes and rivers. In the Summer, heated tracks lead to hotter tires which ultimately affect how your car controls during a race.
During these seasons are also season-specific “barn finds”, which are a sort of treasure hunt for old classical cars one would find delipidated in a barn. When you find it, it will be restored to its former glory and will be accessible to you through your garage.
And if that wasn’t enough, there are even season-specific events, such as special dirt racing circuits and championships, street racing circuits etc.
These seasons, cosmetically alone, breathe life into the world, making it feel like its moving around the player, rather than a static backdrop one would see in most open-world games. Adding the seasonal weather and how it affects your gameplay is icing on the cake.
MULTIPLAYER AND THE NEVER-ENDING PARTY
This game has brought together the driving community in a way that would make other aspiring open-world racing games blush (I’m looking at you, The Crew 2…).
You can opt into a server where you are not greeted by Forza’s Driveatars, but with real-life drivers and players. This furthermore brings the world alive. You don’t even have to worry about trolls or griefers; if you aren’t in a race, the players around you cannot run you off the road, rear-end you, or cut you off if you’re just enjoying a stroll through the UK. Instead, they turn into a ghost and pass through you.
While the world is filled with players driving around, every hours Forza will alert you with a “#Forzathon” event. You are given five minutes to reach the destination of the first event where you and the rest of the players on the server have to work together to achieve a goal, like filling a meter by speeding through a speed trap or zone, drifting through a drift zone or even hitting ramps and flying your car as far as it can fly.
The races and even you choose to do, including even the awesome showcases, can be made into a multiplayer (co-op or PvP) experience through the event’s menu! When you select a multiplayer option for the even you want to run, the menu pings a green icon on the other player’s HUD, indicating a player wants to race with others. Unfortunately, I found that this a bit too subtle, and I don’t notice this notification until its too late and the player gives up. I think this is the case that I’ve run into, as I have tried to set up a multiplayer race many times but to only have maybe one or two players accept. That’s unfortunate, because I feel that this feature is almost seamless.
One final and unique thing this game has to offer is called “Playground events”, where you don’t even have to race. The game I played just last night was an infected game-type. For those you can infer what this game includes just from the title alone, “infected” game-modes have one player start as a lone “zombie” who needs to “infect” the other players. When a player gets infected, they must infect other players until there is a final survivor. Can you see where I’m going with this? That’s right; you have to drive around and dodge infected cars while keeping your car alive for the longest time.
This has got to be the single-most fun I’ve had with licensed cars that didn’t involve racing.
I could spend days and days talking about this game and what it has to offer and all of the tiny other things it has to just make it one of the greatest, if not the greatest racing game I’ve played. Taking the stunning graphics into consideration, alongside the unfortunate handling of the sounds of the cars, the feel-good atmosphere and attitude this game oozes and the sheer fun-factor this game glows with, I have to give this game a solid:
I will be testing this game with a driving wheel set-up in the coming days, so stick around and check that content out when it arrives!
Forza Horizon 4 was released October 2, 2018 and is available on Microsoft’s Gamepass as a Play-Anywhere title or can be bought for $59.99 on the Microsoft store, for the base copy. If you already are subscribed to Gamepass, you can buy the VIP/Expansion pass for $44.99.