GAME NAME: Forza Horizon
DEVELOPER(S): Playground Games, Turn Ten Studios
PUBLISHER(S): Microsoft Studios
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360
RELEASE DATE(S): October 26, 2012 (Europe)
First five minutes….
From the first 10 seconds of the intro you know that this Forza is different to the four previous installments of the series. The soundtrack and visuals start out by taking you on a chilled fun journey with a warm lazy sunset as a backdrop and then BAM…the beat kicks in and you see where this game is going to take you. A place you think about while sitting in your own car in the real world. It’s a place where you are THE pro driver and a force to be reckoned with. Fast cars, hot women, cash at your finger tips and respect!
You jump right into the game by racing the new SRT Viper GTS. You are up against Darius Flynt, defending champion of the Horizon Festival for 3 years running. You immediately feel the realism of the driving experience as well as the freedom of roaming game play. This quick race setups up the hype for what’s to come. Mid-impromptu street race you are taken to a second storyline, your game’s storyline. There are only ten openings left to enter the festival and the first ten racers there are in! So the race is on. Your starter ride is a ’95 VW Corrado VR6 and this beauty and your driving skills is what get’s you to the festival to snatch one of the ten openings. The best part about the first five minutes of this game is that you go from a super sports car to a retro classic but don’t feel the frustration of lost performance. Obviously the VW isn’t close to the Viper’s engineering but you still have the horse power you need and the handling isn’t useless so frustration and annoyance is eliminated from the beginning, making you even more eager to get going.
Backround and gameplay:
Forza Horizon was developed by Playground Games. The company is a team that formerly worked at various studios renowned for earlier racing titles and series such as Project Gotham Racing, Driver, Colin McRae: Dirt, Colin McRae Rally, Race Driver: Grid and Burnout. The idea behind the open world for Horizon was to look at 30 real world locations with the winner being Colorado, USA. Trips were made to the state to take hours of footage and over 50,000 still photos for reference so you know every effort was made to make this racing world as realistic as possible. They have broken away from the clinical and precise and entered the realm of awesome with the Forza dash of class. The developers didn’t sacrifice the quality on the detail of the cars. They just enhanced the fun side of racing. The magnificent detail on each car and the breath taking scenery enhances the thrill and enjoyment of every turn and pull off and just makes you want to keep progressing even if it is 4am with a full work or school day ahead of you.
The controls are simple and laid out perfectly, which is ideal because there is so much happening around you at any given moment. The on screen “dash board” and map are also minimalistic and easy to navigate. Once you get used to each car and the turns, drifting and dodging become second nature. A major savior is the rewind feature to help you master that tricky corner that keeps putting you behind, alleviating your urge to throw the controller through the screen because you have to restart the race that’s holding you back from the next wristband. There is an added value to just cruising around or pulling some crazy moves and near misses, you get bonus points to help build your rep in the festival which allows you to enter showcase events such as racing an airplane and getting extra credits. Driving around between races helps you find upgrade discount boards, when smashed you receive a discount on your engine upgrades. The garage is the place to get your engine upgrades which will help you get the edge on your opponents. A great time saver is when entering a race and your engine isn’t up to the standard of the other cars you can upgrade right there instead of driving back to the garage. There are a good number of “side” missions to keep you coming back for more and stop the game from becoming monotonous e.g. Barn Finds. Forza Horizon has borrowed some well tried and tested events from Burnout, Need For Speed, Test Drive and some other well known racing titles. In the same breath they have integrated these events so seamlessly and in their own way that it doesn’t feel like a bad copy cat. This just makes the game that much better and even more addictive.
Online Multi-player Features:
Online, the showcase events are even better, with a car version of “hide and seek” being a particular highlight. You can also team up or compete with friends and rivals online in event like “King” which is a super fast version of tag. At www.forzamotorsport.net there are forums with information about challenges and upcoming network races, which is great for getting more game play and really testing your driving skills against human opponents.
To buy or not to buy?:
This racing title has everything I personally have been waiting for since Need for Speed Underground. It has combined all the great free roaming titles into one with the added professionalism that Forza is known for. It isn’t pretending to be something it isn’t and has broken free from the stigma of being a simulator. I hate and struggle to put the control down, even to get food. Which speak volumes.