Preview: Forza Horizon
When Forza flashed passed a speed camera straight onto the Xbox it quickly became one of the most highly regarded racing simulators out there, with its extensive list of cars, features, game modes and its amazing graphics giving even Gran Turismo a serious run for its money. Now into its fifth iteration, we come to Forza: Horizon which this time around is being developed by UK studio Playground Games who are better known for creating both the GRID and DiRT series of titles, perhaps an odd mix leaving a studio better known for arcade style titles in charge of your next racing sim?
Well when you get your hands on Horizon you’ll see just why as it is definitely a huge departure from previous titles focusing less on simulation and more on a free roam style of quick pick up and play racing. Set in the middle of a huge festival called Horizon you start as an unknown driver immediately thrown into a race with hundreds of other drivers to get a pass into the festivals annual race. Once inside the festival, all of Colorado and the festival campus is your playground, you can buy new cars and upgrades or take on races to win more wristbands which gain you access to more races, upgrades and areas within the festival campus.
Almost immediately you’ll notice just how beautiful Horizon looks, using the same engine as Forza 4 nothing has changed here, the scenery looks amazing while cycling through a standard 24 hour day (driving at night shows off some of the best lighting ever seen on the Xbox 360, with headlights bouncing gorgeously off your mustang chassis) and the cars are as authentic as they get. The physics engine hasn’t changed either with everything you’d expect from a Forza title, the damage and car handling are again truly brilliant. The races available vary, going from a standard 4X4 off-road race to, one of my personal favourites, racing a plane to the finish line to bag yourself a sweet new ride which yes is completely crazy but really is a laugh.
This for me sums up Horizons goal and just why Playground Games have been charged with such a mantle, yes its realistic and a great racer but you don’t have to focus on the serious side of racing if you choose not to, it’s a great game to just pop in for 5 minutes have a good time doing some amazing races then drop out when your ready too, and this style of gameplay is what Playground Games always do best, arcade/party play.
Online multiplayer is included with your standard head to head game modes and team up matches etc. but one of the brand new features I really enjoyed was the chance to send a friend vendetta challenges. Race a track in your best time then send the challenge to your friend who can go head to head with the ghost image of your run when they have the time, this idea is simple but works well and I can see it creating a community or even a way to just keep linked in with friends who perhaps can’t be on their Xbox at the same time.
With an amazing soundtrack, featuring three in-game radio stations spotlighting current artists and curated by Rob da Bank (renowned BBC Radio DJ and “Bestival” founder) a truly brilliant arcade theme handled really well and an endless supply of gorgeous cars then Horizon is on the right track. I don’t see this as a direct sequel, how could it be as its heart is in a different place, but as a chance to try something new I think every Forza fan should give this a go.
Out October 26th I suggest, get some mates round or plug-in a headset get on Xbox Live and have some fun, you wont regret it with Forza Horizon.