The fall leaves fall from the trees in what I blow past in my Ferrari at 250 km/h. Narrow roads twist miles past lakes and flower beds, and almost shout after being driven on. Rarely has a car game looked as beautiful as Forza Horizon 4.
There is something almost poetic to find in this shrunk version of the UK and I have never felt more like James Bond than when I slipped into the courtyard of my house, with a beautiful view of the water in an Aston Martin DB10 taken out of the movie «Spectre».
This year’s Horizon festival is set to the UK and the size of the map is comparable to Australia from Forza Horizon 3. It may not be exotic but help me so beautiful this game is. I have stopped repeatedly to take screenshots, not just of the deliberately detailed cars in the game, but also of the landscape and the surroundings of the game. The lighting is fabulous in Forza Horizon 4, with sunshine shining through the trees on wet asphalt which rarely looks prettier.
But appearance alone helps little if there is nothing exciting under the hood. And here too, Turn 10 has delivered the goods once again. The Forza series has always found a good balance between arcade and simulation, at least for my taste, and this year’s edition is no exception. The game also has a lot of choices to make the experience exactly fit your own preference, both when it comes to driving assistance, as well as difficulty.
There are lots of cars to choose from and each one has their own driving pleasure. No matter what kind of car I’m driving into, driving experience is a bit different. The Aston Martin DB10 and Jaguar are two cars in the same class, but one feels a bit easier, slipping slightly faster, but better acceleration than the other. Getting to know and learning how to drive the cars is a delight. You also have all the same adjustments when it comes to the cars, and if you really want to control it, you have the opportunity.
Lots to learn
The game starts with an approximately five-hour introductory sequence, where you will soon be introduced to the various races you are going to drive, the activities that are scattered around the map, as well as many other underlying mechanisms. This sequence takes you through the four different seasons, and serves as a kind of qualification for the Horizon event itself. Five hours may sound long, but it takes a lot less time before you can buy and replace cars, and choose which activities to run when. In addition, it was none of the first five hours where I thought I was bored in any way.
You are also introduced to the many underlying mechanics in the game, and there is a lot to cope with. The different races have their series, as it is called in the game, and you go up to level in each of these. When that happens you will have access to many new races in the given series. You as a player also go up to level by running races and doing activities, and you collect “influence” that will qualify you for next season with Horizon events.
This may seem a bit overwhelming and chaotic initially, but you get to know the systems quite quickly. And the main feature of very much of this is simply to reward everything you do in the game. No matter if you just drive like an idiot over the lawns, you collect some kind of experience points, earn money or get up to the level of something. It may be a bit much at first, and it will be a bit difficult to keep track of what you got where. However, the game presents all this in an overview, a little bit of fun with over the top graphics and music. The fact that they take themselves very little solemnly is something I appreciate.
A shared experience
When you finally finish the five hours, the game’s new online part will be locked up properly. Before, you’ve shared the map with so-called «Driveatars», computer-controlled versions of your friends. Now you load on a map along with many other players, and the game is structured after seasons. One season lasts for 7 days and you have more activities to complete. You have daily activities that are quite simple, as well as others that require you to do more things with a specific car, for example.
It remains to be seen how developers make their seasons last and somewhat various in terms of content, but for so long, I really do not need another reason to play Forza Horizon 4. But that they try to make the experience a bit more shared where you drive and play with others, as well as giving you new challenges every single week is solely a positive thing in my eyes.
My interest is held by the good variation in the type of race you are driving, how great the driving pleasure is, and all the delicious, narrow roads scattered around the map. Here there are street racing, off-road rally and lots of other things to enjoy. Some races run on shorter runs with multiple rounds, others run from A to B. The game does a good job of telling you that you win too easily, and maybe you should turn up the level of difficulty a little, to a level where you really need to drive well to win against your friends’ Driveatar.
The surroundings you drive around feel wonderful British, but stone buildings, narrow streets and open landscapes. The city of Edinbourgh is different from everything else, and the same is the mountain landscape in the northwest. The variation in the seasons makes the surroundings feel alive and there are two very different experiences to drive in winter and summer.
The game also runs technically very well. On my slightly older PC, with a GTX 1060, I experience very little disturbances on frame rate or instability. It looks fabulous and it runs very smoothly. Also on my Xbox One looks and drives it stable, but obviously not as good as a PC. Both versions seem well optimized, better than the previous games in the series.
Forza Horizon 4 is a solid, engaging and wonderful car game. It’s by no means a simulation, so if you’re looking for a credible and real-life car experience, this is not the game for you.
However, if you are looking for a beautiful playpen where autumn leaves, snowy streets and wet deer jump around cars blowing down the road at 300 km/h, Forza Horizon 4 is for you. This is more of what made the predecessor good, with even better graphics, lots of delicious cars and a bunch of races, challenges and other more or less teething things to do on four wheels.
It’s revolutionizing nothing in the car chase, but the developers have seen what worked with Forza Horizon 3, adding an online part of the season that seems exciting and provided me with a new playpen with a mix of cool supercars and beautiful classics. What’s better than kissing along the coast of a Lamborghini Gallardo, watching the sunshine and taking a cup of tea?