Forza Horizon Review
New look, same great Forza taste.
When Forza Horizon was initially announced, I questioned the wisdom in releasing a new Forza game, right on the heels of Forza 4, that would diverge from the series roots. The people who play the Forza series are in it for the realism, the depth of the simulation experience, and of course the cars. What was Horizon going to do that Forza 4 wasn’t already doing? While the last thing the series probably needed was a story line, Forza Horizon delivers one thing the series could use; fun.
Before you get your driving gloves in a bunch, I’ve played Forza 4 and, yes, it’s a fantastic game and that makes it fun. That kind of fun comes from crushing your opponents through white-knuckled technical driving and hitting all of your lines, all of your shifts, and all of your corners. Forza Horizon’s fun comes from blowing the doors off the driver who’s calling you out in front of everyone at the music festival, and moving up the ranks to challenge the current champion.
Forza Horizon centers around the Horizon Festival, a fictitious music festival that combines popular music with popular cars and their fans. Though the Horizon Festival attracts thousands of car enthusiasts, a select few drivers are chosen to take part in the official festival racing series. You will have to win races, and earn points, to move up in the driver rankings to eventually challenge the reigning Horizon Champion.
I actually kind of like the idea that Turn 10 have come up with here, it sounds like something out of a bad car movie but it allows for a free roaming environment that isn’t predicated on the fact that our cities are controlled by street racing thugs that tear through the business district at all hours. Instead, Horizon takes place in an invented section of Colorado that is far from the cities but still offers plenty of scenery to look at, and plenty of ‘civilian’ vehicles to contend with. This is all told with a pretty predictable story, and stereotypical characters, but if you’re here for the narrative you’re probably in the wrong place.
Your world map will become littered with different events, some official, some unofficial. Official events will allow you to rank up to the next ‘wristband’, which will allow entry into the next tier of events and as you progress you’ll start to hear more about yourself on the game’s three radio stations and receive more calls from the festival’s CEO (who, of course, wears Daisy Dukes and a hiked up shirt). Again, it isn’t poignant or revolutionary stuff but I enjoyed the way Turn 10 used the setting and theme to setup the events instead of just having a menu full of different events you can enter.
The festival sanctioned events are broken up by different challenge events, such as racing an airplane, duels where you’ll face off against one of the other ranked drivers and unsanctioned street race events through the small town streets, for cash. Forza Horizon does a great job of mixing things up and even though you can buy, and upgrade, yourself a pretty ridiculous ride early in the game, events that require a lower class of car still pop up regularly so you have a reason to maintain a fully stocked garage.
Though all of this sounds like it is, and likely is, targeted at the more casual racing game fan the same Forza 4 simulation style racing is still there, under the hood. You can still customize the difficulty and driving assists, and turning them all off will still offer a driving experience that requires almost professional skill to succeed at. You can get away with screaming down a two-lane highway, and running over the grass at the more shallow corners, but removing the assists in Forza Horizon still feels like removing the assists in Forza 4.
Forza Horizon still offers a full range of competitive modes for 2-8 players, which is curiously down from the 2-16 player limit of Forza 4, but custom games are still possible, with a number of custom options for the more hardcore racers out there. If you were worried that the online competitive atmosphere wasn’t going to be as prevalent in Horizon, you don’t have to worry there’s still plenty for the serious driver to do here.
New to Forza Horizon are a series of competitive modes that are far less serious, and don’t involve being the fastest one around the track, but are apparently festival favorites. Infected plays out like similar modes in online shooters, with one player starting as the ‘Infected’ and the object being to infect the other players by crashing into them. On the other hand, is King which is sort of the opposite and has other players hunting down, and crashing into, the King to become the King themselves. These modes are quite fun, and will have their fans, but I’m glad they aren’t the meat of the online experience and that Forza Horizon still has a full competitive multiplayer suite.
Forza Horizon is party in the front, and business in the back. If you’re a fan of the Forza series and are looking for a different experience, but one that can still get serious when it has to then you’ll enjoy Forza Horizon. Conversely, if you like racing games but were intimidated by the Forza series then Forza Horizon is the place to start. Turn 10 turn up the fun without forgetting what got them here in the first place.
Available On: Xbox 360