UK game developer Playground Games, in cooperation with Turn 10 Studios, cobbled up a team of the brightest stars in the racing game development niche and came up with Forza Horizon, a spin-off of the hugely successful Forza Motorsport series. Unsurprisingly, gamers can expect the same lush visuals, incredible audio and game physics that can be found in Motorsport 4, a landmark game which garnered generous praise from renowned professional critics in the industry.
In Horizon, the designers decided to take the racer out of the circuit and drop him into the “real” world, in a bid to win the championship in an event called the Horizon Festival. Set in the surroundings of Colorado, the player participates in the festival’s races, each one with varying objectives. The tracks differ greatly; from standard racing tracks to makeshift circuits with alternating surface types (blacktop, dirt, or gravel). The locale can change dramatically from open roads to city streets; and, in the spirit of realism, there’s also a day-night cycle to further up the feel of the game. In addition to being the first to get to the finish line, there are special awards as well, which can be won by fulfilling certain conditions mid-race.
Forza Horizon continues the tradition of the Forza franchise and features a dizzying array of real-world cars at the player’s disposal. When not racing, one can take a favorite charger to the auto shop to soup it up before the next challenge. In terms of handling and vehicle feel, you’ll definitely see the differences from car to car. Motorsport 4 had famously tapped Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson to provide color commentary in-game; obviously his expertise was also instrumental in breathing personality into the game’s individual cars. Since Horizon is like Motorsport 4, albeit with a number of major twists, the same great vehicle physics can be expected.
Of course, where Microsoft is involved, no expense is spared to make Horizon a thing of consummate beauty. If you think Motorsport 4 is breath-taking in its graphics, just wait till you get your hands on Horizon. It’s simply awesome. Playing it you’ll get the feeling that you’re controlling an actor posing as a racer in a live movie: it’s that smooth. The sound effects do perfect justice to the visuals, from the high-pitch squealing of abused tires to the resonant (and distinctive) purrs of running car engines. You will appreciate the attention to detail that was put into the making of this game.
An interesting feature of the gameplay comes in the form of “unscheduled” street races, where players can drive amidst normal road traffic for additional cash to spend in tweaks and add-ons. From time to time, the racer may encounter a festival rival, with whom he or she may initiate a one-a-one. Don’t expect to win easily, though. These are no-holds-barred races. Your opponent’s car may just have more muscle under the hood than yours. If you don’t like getting trounced, consider assessing your chances beforehand; the game will provide you an idea of how difficult your intended opponent is prior to the impromptu race.
With all the genius that went into its development, it’s no wonder that Forza Horizon is both a wonder of game design and gameplay. Outwardly, it looks like a driving sim, but its also bedecked with plenty of room for mayhem and outrageous racing thrills to satisfy the fanatic. The combination of both will guarantee that there won’t be a boring moment while you’re at the wheel in Forza Horizon.