The fall season is associated with Pumpkin Spice everything, but for me, I believe the season is linked to the biggest games of the season releasing. We get sequels and new IPs, but what we don’t usually get are sequels that positively build upon their predecessors. Cue Forza Horizon 4, a game made by Playground Games. This year’s different, though, because the studio moved the location to the UK, a far cry from Australia in Forza Horizon 3. Featuring 450 cars, a head-bobbing soundtrack, and the tight racing control ever, Forza Horizon 4 might be the best entry yet.
Jumping from the coastal highways of Australia to the rainy streets of Great Britain, the Horizon Festival changes to a new space. Rolling hills and villages paint the landscape, unlike the sunny recesses of Australia. Don’t get used to it though because soon your Ford F150 or Aston Martin DB10 needs special handling to navigate the peaceful countryside.
And what a sight Great Britain is. I’ve spent hours racing through the snowy terrain, rain-filled streets, and everything. Playground Games incorporated several settings into one massive playground. Often, I’d ram through stone walls and watch as they crumbled under my tires. The impact and feeling of watching stone walls crumble never get old.
Seasonal changes are among the newest (and best) changes to the formula. The prologue lasts 4-6 hours and gives a taste of each season. After that, Playground Games expects each season to last a week in-game. After that, the following season switches over, and you can continue as you were. Seasons change the scenery and influence how your car handles the conditions. Snowy roads and ice call for slippery conditions; your car will reflect that. Lakes freeze over and open new pathways to explore. Rain makes for difficult braking and creates a ton of mud. Each season features several perks to driving in those conditions, and each one is exciting to play through.
The first order of business before getting your first car is to create a customizable driver. Spending a few minutes with the simple character creator, you’ll select the perfect outfit and accessories. Customization plays a massive part in the Horizon series, and thankfully, there’s an insurmountable amount of customization in this game.
Also, cars featured in Horizon 4 are packed with customizable features, too. With 450 cars included at launch (with more coming in the following months), there are many ways to customize your car. This is crucial to overcoming the seasonal changes the setting offers, so ensuring your vehicle is well-equipped makes all the difference. Of course, if you decide this part of the experience isn’t for you, you can auto-equip upgrades and rotate your garage.
If you’ve ever played a Forza Horizon game, you know what happens next. Race your heart away. Completing one sprint unlocks three new races. Completing a circuit against Drivatar earns you Rep and Credits, and those earn you better cars. Driving through the quaint hills of Edenborough yields a barn find, secret cars that unlock after a set amount of time passes. A multitude of signs lines the landscape. Some add Credits to your account; others add Reputation. All the signs include a challenge to break them, and some are even well-hidden.
Between races, you are free to explore as you please. The map has no restrictions and rewards those who wish to map every dirt road. With exceptional radio stations paired with the right car, you’ll spend hours exploring the sizeable area as many Drivatars share the roads. Every day new Forzathon challenges are made available; on top of the dozens of races already included, you also get daily challenges to complete where teams work together to finish the goal. These events play similarly to Destiny’s public events, where anyone close enough to the event can join and earn currency for the Forzathon shop.
Also, Playground Games is pushing the envelope in a joint open world where players live in one open sandbox. Encountering a car on the road that happens to be a real person playing is amusing. A lobby consists of 72 players, and every car is considered a ghost in your world, preventing other players from causing grief in your world. This is a seamless experience; you can play the entire game online or solo if you choose.
Playing on Xbox One X, I chose Quality mode over Performance. The quality mode consists of native 4K and HDR at 30 frames per second (I ended up staying here for most of my playthrough), and the Performance mode features 1080p and 60 frames per second with HDR. While the difference between the two is noticeable, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the sunrise as I sped into the horizon. The studio knows how to work the Xbox One and get the most out of the console because this is one of the most beautiful racing titles I’ve seen.
Forza Horizon 4 is an exceptional game; whether you’re a racing fan or not, consider playing the demo. With a massive open world full of hidden secrets and roads to discover, I wholeheartedly think this game is one of the best racing games ever. The changing seasons keep things exciting and fresh. Playing online with friends and strangers appeals to everyone, thanks to the easy back-and-forth transition. The car count is exceptional, from classic Japanese favourites to heart-pounding European car builds. Playground Games manages to expand upon the formula they’ve perfected and improve everything, too. Things are fine when your character creator ends up as the weakest part of the formula.