Every two years we get treated to a new entry in the spin-off series for Forza Motorsport with Horizon.  When the first game released back in 2012 for the Xbox 360, I was very dubious to say the least.  I was so used to playing the usual Forza Motorsport entries, as well as games such as Gran Turismo; so I never really thought this open-world approach would take-off.  Yet here we are in 2018 with Forza Horizon 4 being one of my favourite racers for quite some time.  There’s just so much on offer, this entry should last you years to come.  Heck, I’ve still got so much to do in 2016’s Forza Horizon 3 which is set in stunning Australia, let alone this entry.

Set in the United Kingdom, this location perhaps caught many off guard, because even though I was excited by its prospect, I was still cautious as to whether this setting could offer more variety than the last.  Yet it might surprise you just how much variety that Forza Horizon 4 has to offer.  Narrow countryside roads with tight, sharp bends and luring straights that encourage you to put the pedal to the metal.  Even when you go into some free-roaming countryside driving off-road, you’ll be surprised by the amount of hills, jumps and enticing locations that you might find hidden within, such as quarries and picturesque mountain top commutes.

Then when you throw in the dynamic four seasons; winter, spring, summer and autumn, the game opens up to a whole new level.  As each season comes into play, how much they alter the gameplay might just surprise you as it’s much more than a pretty aesthetic.  For example, playing during the summer, while there will be some rain (this is the UK after all), terrain is largely dry, with extra grip on the road, all while seeing the blissful sun over the horizon of a countryside hill.  Yet when racing in the winter, not only will you get snow filled landscapes and roads, but lakes will also freeze over, making some areas that were previously not accessible, accessible.  The dynamic seasons are also fixed to the online server of Forza Horizon 4, so everyone, regardless of where you’re playing in the world, will be experiencing the same season.  As each of the new seasons comes into play, some of the many events scattered across the map will change and bring on new challenges.  The dynamic seasons in Forza Horizon 4, is quite literally a game changer.

Speaking of events, there are loads to partake in the game.  While each Forza Horizon game has had a very loose and minimal story of working your way up the Horizon Festival ranks, that doesn’t seem to play as much of an aspect here.  Sure as you level up your career XP and fan influence, you’ll unlock new events, but in Forza Horizon 4 it’s very much the case of pick whatever event you want to play and enjoy the experience.  There’s quite simply way too much to list here, but you have Rally and Dirt racing, street circuit and off-road checkpoint racing, drift and drag events, and loads more. Also as you finish a series of events or championships, the game will give you more on the map.  So in theory, the game is constantly evolving and giving you more content on a regular basis.

Some of my standout events come in the form of the live events.  These will appear on the map and shortly before one is about to begin, you’ll be notified and given the option of setting a waypoint, so wherever you are on the map, it’s a race against time to get there and its pretty cool seeing all the other online players race to that same point across roads and countryside.  But unless you really take your time, you should always have enough time to get there and it’s a blast making your way to the live event in itself.  The live events can consist of all participating players clocking up a total speed gauge, drift points or stunt jump distances.  Once your group has hit the set target, you move on to the next stage of three to compete in the next.

Speaking of the online aspect, nothing that I found in Forza Horizon 4 feels intrusive, unlike games such as Need for Speed: Rivals.  You won’t get harassed by online players bumping into you, thanks to them being ghost cars in free-roam and during live events, and not once have I heard someone crunching Oreo cookies down the headset.  In-fact, during the few moments when I wasn’t connected to the online server, I always felt like I was missing out on something during that time, and if for whatever reason you lose connection, you won’t lose any of your game progress.

Other events that I really do love in Forza Horizon 4 are what they call story missions, which is very loose in terms of story-telling content, but some of the challenges they set are awesome.  For example, you have a Top 10 Race Cars in Gaming event that pays homage to games of old, most of which are outside of the Xbox franchise’s, such as Outrun and even Crazy Taxi!  I won’t say no more, because it’s fantastic seeing what cars you’ll get to drive next.  In a  similar vein you also have a series of Top 10 Stunt Races Cars and one that see’s you running a car rental business which has you speeding in some truly multi-million pound cars to show-off what the cars can do (which pretty much replaces the Bucket-List events).  As you progress in the car rental “story” missions, you’ll even earn a regular income of bonus cash, the more of the cars you take for a spin, the more money you will earn in the long-run.  And of course we have the showcase events, which will have you racing against all kinds of over-the-top vehicles such as trains, planes and more, but the less I say for your benefit, the better.

As you progress more in the world of Forza Horizon 4, not only will you earn plenty of money and unlock some fantastic cars, but you’ll also earn items for your in-game avatar.  Your avatar won’t walk around anywhere sadly, and you’ll only see them sat in the car, as well as in a kind of pre-game lobby (online and offline) and at the end of an event or race when you’re collecting you’re in-game rewards.  For your avatar you can unlock loads of items of clothing, emotes (such as that annoying floss dance) and so forth, you can even unlock car horns based upon popular Xbox franchises including Halo, Gears of War and Killer Instinct.  At first I turned my nose up at these rewards, but I soon found myself quite enjoying jazzing-out my avatar.  Thankfully I must also address that while rewards are presented like randomly generated slot machines, there are no microtransactions in Forza Horizon 4, at least during the time of writing this review.

Forza Horizon 4 is a mammoth of a game that just keeps giving, not only with the insane amounts of events that continually unlock, regardless of the dynamic four seasons, but also with the added aspect that the game featuring over 450 licensed cars at launch (the largest in this series), each handling different from the last and created with the utmost attention to detail.  While in its essence this is a very arcade influenced game, there are also perhaps enough tuning options available to those that want to push this game to more of a simulator experience (though not to the level of Forza Motorsport or GT Sport) if you wish, plus the added aspect of changing a whole host of difficulty or Drivatar options.  Forza Horizon 4 really does offer so much for just about any type of racing fan, even my 7-year old son who loves watching me play this game, even referred to it as being “kind of like an adventure game” and on some level, I’m inclined to agree, which really is a testament to the level of variety that is available in Forza Horizon 4.

I’ve been a fan of the Forza series since the beginning and while I will often prefer my sim experience to come from the likes of the recent GT Sport, for pure over-the-top, high octane fun, there’s little quite like the Forza Horizon series and I have no qualms in saying that Forza Horizon 4 is the best game of this series, and has quickly become one of my favourite racing games of all-time.  Whether or not this will be a console seller for Microsoft remains to be seen, which in my humble opinion, this is the best console exclusive to release on this platform.  Regardless of your usual gaming preference, at the very least if you already own an Xbox One, you owe it to yourself to give Forza Horizon 4 a slice of your time and if you do, you just might find it to be one of the best games you’ll play this year.

  • A Forza Horizon 4 playable demo is available on the Xbox Marketplace and Windows 10 Store and is available to download via Xbox Game Pass.


Author

Richard Lee Breslin
Richard Lee Breslin

Gamimg has been my life for 30+ years and will always be my passion. I have a BDes Hons Games Development and Digital Media, and I hope to one day turn my passion for gaming and writing into a living. My favourite gaming series are Resi Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, Assassin's Creed, Uncharted and The Last of Us. I collect gaming merchandise, comics and movies. I love football (namely Aston Villa) and WWE. I can also often be found wondering the outskirts of Raccoon City. Follow me on Twitter @Solidus5nake