Forza Horizon is a video game born from veteran developers who were behind several of the past decade’s best racing titles, and the finished product shows how good collaboration can lead to a great product.
The game deviates slightly from its conventional past approach to simulation racing, but it nonetheless becomes a thrilling experience.
The game’s story revolves around the Horizon Festival, a seeming amalgam of Woodstock and the Fast and the Furious, where racers do battle by day, while bands and DJs perform in front of raving crowds by night. The idea is to make the single-player game more open-ended in that you can choose which order to do certain races, and choose what you want done to the litany of vehicles that you eventually attain.
By giving the game more of an arcade look, self-respecting gearheads who love the Forza franchise will be relieved to know that there is still a great deal of customization in how to play this.
All assistance can be turned off, opponents’ skill can be revved up and there are plenty of side races to keep things fresh. These can happen at any moment – be they some driver passing by, a sponsor looking for a challenger or some other offer that pops up from the event’s handler.
Even driving between races has a purpose. You earn points and popularity by how you drive, like drifting, “trading paint” with other vehicles on the road and driving as fast as possible, whenever possible. Once you get into the thick of the races, you will find some variety to keep things interesting. Racing a Mustang against an old 1950s-era Mustang plane is one of the early ones, while doing stunts and rally racing come a little later.
These races are almost completely different when there are no virtual assists to help out. Disabling traction control and turning on simulation steering will ideally be the place to get to for players who really want a true simulation, which is something the developers call “Forza DNA.” That DNA is essentially what made the franchise famous to begin with, and the level of customization means that a stickler for real-life detail (the game rewards you more for it) can get just as much out of the game as novices who need their hands held.
This applies to playing online as well, where beginners can go into a lobby meant just for them, while simulation aficionados can enter the Veteran lobby. The number of races and things to do largely depends on what you want to do. The benefit of being active online is that you get cars and points that apply to the single-player campaign.
About the music – if you’re not too keen on house, electro-pop and modern rock, you might want to go into options to turn down the music’s volume, while raising the volume of your car, so the engine isn’t deafened by the music and DJ chatter from the radio stations in the game.
Forza Horizon isn’t a sequel as much as it is a complement to the excellent Forza Motorsport 4. Take it as it comes, and you’re not likely to be disappointed.