OK folks, I’ve been itching to tell you all about my thoughts on Forza Horizon 4 for some time now, and let me tell you, we have a lot to digest. I almost don’t know where to begin. I suppose we could just start with the facts as we all know them already. This year’s Horizon Festival takes place in a beautiful, (not exactly accurate, mind you) digital representation of historic Britain. You can collect and modify over 450 cars. You can play solo or team up with friends or even complete strangers to explore Horizon 4’s shared open world.
New this year is dynamic seasons. Enjoy the fall foliage, slide in the snow in winter, get muddy on dirt roads in spring, and bask in the warmth of the summer. Forza Horizon 4 is rated E for everyone by the ESRB. A play anywhere title, Horizon 4 is available on both Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs. Capabilities include: Single player, Xbox Live online multiplayer for up to 12 players and online co-op for up to 6 players, cross-platform allows PC users and Xbox One users to play together. The game is One X Enhanced with HDR10 and 4K Ultra HD for the ultimate in console realism. Even on a standard 1080p Television the scenery in action is quite beautiful.
Developed by Playground Games and published by Microsoft Studios, Game Pass subscribers will have access to the game on day one. Standard edition pre-orders will receive the Formula Drift car pack in both Horizon 4 and Motorsport 7. Deluxe edition pre-orders will also include the Horizon 4 car pass, providing players with 42 extra cars to race and customize. Ultimate edition pre-orders receive all of the above plus the Best of Bond car pack, featuring a number of the super spy’s best rides from the 007 films, the VIP pass, and two planned expansions set to release at a later date. The first expansion is set to drop in December 2018, and the second expansion you can expect in the first half of 2019.
Both expansions will bring new world locations, vehicles, and gameplay. Whew. Now that that’s out of the way let’s get into the actual game. Playground Games have provided an ample amount of entertainment. At the start of the game players must progress through a series of quick races in each of the four seasons before having access to the games shared world environment. In the pause menus you will see a number of tiles that are really quite self explanatory. Settings, car selection, friend invitations, and a variety of game modes are all accessed from here. While it may look a bit overwhelming, I found it to be more intuitive than what’s present in Horizon 3.
On the home page you will see the world map, in settings you can change a variety of options to suit your gameplay style, access your drone to fly around in the world (this is useful for finding those hidden barn-find cars), invite friends to your game, and access a list of players already in your session. The Horizon Life page is where you can view your stats, claim your wheel spins, check out the season planner – which gives you an overview of the timed events for that week’s season (seasons cycle every Thursday), and My Horizon Life, which shows your progression in every aspect of the game.
The Team Adventure page has quick, unranked adventures. Ranked adventures were unavailable at the time of this writing. I’ll assume this will change upon full release of the game. Create your own private adventure, check out series rewards, or find a team to join up with. The Creative Hub page is where you’ll find player created blueprint events, livery designs for your currently selected car, as well as custom tuning setups. All created by your in-game peers. The cars page has a shortcut to the Horizon Festival, where you can buy, upgrade, and customize your cars, access the cars you have in your garage, and new this year is the car mastery feature.
Similar to the skill progression trees of previous Horizon games, Horizon 4 expands upon this by providing a specific tree for every single car in the game. The Rivals page contains shortcuts to access rival races in any area or discipline in the game. The clubs page is where you’ll find everything you need to know about in-game clubs. You can even create your own. Finally, the Marketplace page is the one stop shop for all things DLC. Driving in the game is obviously going to feel more arcadey in the Horizon spin-off series than Forza Motorsport’s roots. That said, this year’s Horizon is easily the most realistic of the series, provided you dial in the settings just right.
Especially on a wheel. Racing wheel users who had a hard time setting up their wheels in Horizon 3 should find things much improved in that department. I still find racing with a controller to be easier in this game, but racing with a wheel is infinitely more fun. Hopefully with some practice I’ll be able to be competitive with my wheel. Gameplay is pretty much the same as previous Forza Horizon games. You drive from event to event competing in a variety of race types. Seasonal events are season specific and expire weekly. Then you have seasonal PR Stunt challenges. Again these do expire so don’t miss out.
Then you have your Road Racing series, Dirt Racing series, Cross Country series, Street Scene – which are unsanctioned street races complete with local traffic and no track borders – just don’t skip any checkpoints. Then there’s the Drag Strip (obviously), Showcase events where you race against trains and planes and a variety of other crazy opponents, and finally, the Playground Games, which have a variety of free-for-all type games such as Infected, Flag Rush, and King. If you’ve never played a Horizon game before, these games are quite a bit of demolition derby-type fun that breaks up the monotony of first to the finish races.
Visually, Forza Horizon 4 is a real treat for the eyes. The tiny details in the environment are exceptional. To truly appreciate the work that went into this you would have to pull over and just watch as clouds float by in the most realistic manner I’ve seen in a game. Flocks of birds randomly flying around as birds do with that kind of freaky avian psychic intelligence they have. Leaves fluttering by as winds pick up. Weather can vary from a light drizzle to heavy rain. I’ve not experienced an absolute deluge yet but a few foggy days were quite eerie. Snow hitting the windshield is markedly different from when rain hits the glass. The lighting effects in the game are absolutely gorgeous.
When you have bad weather it’s not just an effect in the sky but affects the entirety of the whole game world. When the sun comes out from behind the clouds the entire world becomes a bit more colorful. As I write this I’m literally watching clouds form realistically in the sky and watching tree branches become more and more exposed as the leaves fall away. Now as the seasons change on a weekly basis these things might not be readily apparent but it is an amazing thing to witness. Unfortunately I have to say that shadows still kind of tick like a clock across the landscape instead of spreading across the ground which does break the realism somewhat.
But this is only noticeable if you sit in one spot for any period of time. You’d never notice it when driving. The cars look pretty damn good too, offering up excellent care and attention detail across every model. Sound wise I couldn’t ask for more. Everything just sounds right. From the differences from car to car. The variety in the musical soundtracks. Collisions could sound a little beefier but I can’t really complain about that. Even the sound as a car drove past me on wet pavement sounded just right as I sit pulled over on the side of the road writing this review. The transitions from driving on pavement to gravel to grass to mud. You can hear it. When it comes to a games longevity you have to judge it by how long will this game be fun to play. Now one of the features from Horizon 2 that was largely absent in Horizon 3, aside from the drag strip (and one that was my favorite), was car meets.
I loved pulling into a parking lot and admiring other cars that were there. Car meets are still absent in Horizon 4, but that doesn’t matter. Let me tell you why. Playground Games have essentially turned the entire game world into a giant car meet. In this shared world you could run into anybody at anytime. It’s great. Back to the subject of longevity. One feature that has been highly requested for some time will finally make it into the game in a future update, coming soon. Players will not only be able to create their own races like in Horizon 3, but finally be able to design their own routes. This gives players an infinite amount of replay value.
Forza Horizon 4 is the most stunning, deepest and most engaging Forza Horizon game to date. The sheer volume of utterly diverse and wildly interesting content pushes the game’s longevity through the roof. There’s no shortage of activities to take to, set across a sprawling, vividly detailed representation of Britain. Safe to say that if you enjoy the series, you’re going to love this.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.