Microsoft’s greatest racing franchise returns and is better than ever now cross-combined with the freedom of the wide open road, expansive environments and the world’s best cars recreated to participate in the Forza Horizon Festival. Celebrating speed, music and style, in what is not just a racing game, but a journey where “competition meets culture” through a reimagined take on Colorado USA.
Unlike the massively popular and equally as sophisticated Forza Motorsports series, Forza Horizon takes a different approach with the racing series and unleashes a whole new breath of fresh air into it that makes the game similarly as easy to pick up and play for newcomers to the franchise, and just as special and authentic in many ways for the seasoned hardcore Forza player. With an open world and open road environment that centres entirely on a Horizon Festival that is bright, funky and extremely competitive; it is only for the best of the best and will put your racing skills to the test across a vast selection of terrains. Easing you into it gently with pre-festival joining races, before luring you into a Star Showdown where you’ll be required to put all your driving skills into a class A performance during a one on one race against some serious celebrity style Festival competitors!
Developed by UK based studio Playground Games, Forza Horizon is not just about driving at full speed down the wide open road with the music blaring from any of the radio stations you get to pick from; you are encouraged to participate in a series of Festival Events, Street Races, Car Showcases, and Star Showdowns which is just for starters as the game expands further when played online. Using the same physics of Forza 4, the gameplay and handling of the vehicles in Horizon still aims for the realism approach, although the whole game itself is a depiction of fun, daring and danger to see how far you will push yourself through the Festival to come out as a clear winner. The presentation style and theme through-out is that this game is an upbeat racing party with a bad attitude!
Although as an open world action-racer you cannot help but see many of the similarities between Forza Horizon and Atari’s Test Drive Unlimited, but Horizon takes what is a popular approach with the open world, open road racing and makes it feel fresh and unique. Forza Horizon could go a very long way as a standalone series aside from the Forza Motorsport circuit based games, the festivals, the music, the daring action driving scenarios and the competitiveness between drivers will have you wanting to spend more and more of your time on this than most other racing simulators – it’s not about the winning, it focusses heavily on the taking part and the adventure in exploring the area around you, the terrains you drive over, how you can handle your drift’s, hair pins and tracks through day or night. The better you play, the more skills you can showcase and even take on a race against planes! You’ll be awarded sponsorship’s for skilled gameplay as you progress and eventually you will up the ranks through the Horizon Festival as you increase your popularity levels.
Wristbands are the main awards through-out the Horizon Festival as the colour you’re wearing says a lot about your rank and skill level. The more races you partake in and win, the more points you’ll be awarded and of course – Credits, so that you can unlock and buy new cars to add to your collection as well as being awarded new wristbands, which in turn unlocks even more events per that level. The game has both classic and stunning new vehicles from your Alpha Romeo to your Aston Martin, Mazda’s, Mercedes, Lamborghini’s and the very sexy 2013 Viper GTS. The available cars from the start is very limited, but grows rapidly the further you progress naturally unlocking the ability to upgrade parts from Garages as well as buying and selling cars from the Autoshow. Everything that you need to get the most out of your Festival experience is centred all in the one area of your map on the Festival grounds, with the races and events themselves taking place out of the main grounds and around the surrounding Colorado areas. You can additionally set a route and cruise on by to your location admiring the scenery and stunning lighting effects as you pass by. For extra points you can try to get caught by a speed camera, or drift around bends, avoid near misses or indulge in a bit of head-on-collision.
The ability to don your best created decals, logo’s, and vinyl’s with a paint job of many colours still sits, and is one of the best ever tools to pimp out your automobile in some fancy artwork. Forza is renowned for its customisation options and storefront for designing your cars to suit you and depending upon the time and your artistic flair – it might end up an in-game masterpiece that could sell like hotcakes…or possibly not! Fully fitted with a Design Creator and Store Front you can create a Vinyl Group for your car and plaster all over it, even import saved Vinyl Groups from Forza 4 – or sell your design online to bring in some extra in-game cash.
…and talking of online – if you have access to Xbox LIVE Gold, you can expand your racing even further by putting your skills and experience to the test against other players and friends over Xbox LIVE. There are seven different race modes to find an online open session or to create one – from a Circuit Race, Point to Point Race, Street Race, Infected, Cat and Mouse, King and Free Roaming. Whilst the Free Roaming is challenge based, the more arcade style over general straight forward racing to win is that of King, Infected and Cat and Mouse. King will make one player the King whilst the other racers try to ram the car to then become King which is a racing equivalent of Juggernaut. Infected is very similar except all infected cars have to ram into the non-infected cars to make them infected, and finally Cat and Mouse is a team based event where the Cat team are trying to slow down the Mice. It makes a nice change from a typical race and ensures that Forza Horizon online could never go stale. The only downside is that whilst online Forza Horizon doesn’t allow for any co-operative online gameplay in the main Festival – single player sadly is well and truly a solo experience.
Visually, Forza Horizon is a shining light – quite literally, the bright effects and sun glare add realism to the games sunny Colorado backdrops that can distract from the actual racing. The jaw dropping effects and scenes in both daylight and night time capture the spirit of what would feel like an American road trip that graphically ignites the imagination. Intricate detail, realistic environments and perfectly replicated cars to get your hands on, upgrade or even smash to pieces.
Forza Horizon is the best racing game ever seen on the Xbox 360 to date, and it’s one we think others will spend a long time trying to beat; an outstanding addition to the Forza series that deserves to be a massive success.