Released: Oct 2, 2018
- Xbox Series X
Here's the thing. I am not a huge “car” guy but I do love racing games and I have loved playing them ever since I was a young child. More specifically - arcade racers. There's just something about these games with its simple premise combined with the adrenaline rush of “easy to learn but hard to master” controls that really depend on you to just get better and better with the rising difficulty. And most importantly, the sum of its parts leads it to just being pure fun. And it really is all about fun and Forza Horizon 4 understands this to a tee. There is no convoluted unnecessary storyline but the “campaign” - if that's what you want to call it - consists of one goal: be the best driver at the Horizon Festival.
I must admit, I do not have a long history with the Forza games and to be honest, this is the only real Horizon game I have actually owned since it released with the XBox Game Pass on the PC as well. But this game is the epitome of what I believe a great racing game is and honestly just might be the best racing game I have ever played - hands down. There is a lot to talk about this game from the gorgeous visuals, the vast open world, or even just the sheer amount of content in this game! Everything is top tier when it comes down to quality and it is so apparent how much love Playground Games puts into these titles.
Let me start by talking about the graphics because instantly right when you hop in, it is a fact that this is one of the best looking games in this console generation. This time around, the world you are able to explore is a fictionalized version of Great Britain and it so intricately and beautifully designed. With the day and night cycle, the game feels as if it is truly alive and it is so easy to get lost in the lush open areas while the sun is setting right behind you. The game is just incredibly immersive and with such realistic looking cars and atmosphere, it is hard not to get lost in this game at times. The map includes a variety of different locations such as beaches, cityscapes, vast open farmlands, mountains, forests, and even locations with old British architecture such as castles. Later on, you can buy houses and unlock other fast travel locations in the game by smashing billboards but instead, I found myself choosing to drive to each event instead just because it was so much fun.
The one thing I have to say I somewhat dislike in this game are the Drivatars. If you are not aware, Drivatars are the in-game “avatars” that you can choose with a few pre-made options for both male and female characters. If they really wanted to include this character creation mode, I feel though they could have gone all out with it. Though it is such an insignificant part of the game, I would rather the development team flesh it out more or not include it all. And that's the thing with racing games that want to include actual people for the cutscenes or for the story or whatever - it all just feels forced in some way. Back in 2008, Burnout Paradise was released and one of my favorite aspects of that game was that they just did not show any people (or even drivers in that matter) because it was just unnecessary. And I do understand that the whole concept of the game is to be attending the Horizon Festival and adding a minimal character creation system may be more immersive, but it wasn't for me. However, I did love the fact that I could have everyone in the game call me “Sausage.” That was fun. And honestly, there is a huge list of hilarious “nicknames” you can choose from such as Munchkin, Brotato, Earthling, or even Brantasaurus Rex. So yeah, if Forza Horizon 4 doesn't have your name in its list, there are a lot of hilarious nicknames to choose from that honestly kind of makes up for it.
But see that's the thing - none of that really matters with the actual point of the game: the driving. When it gets down to it, Forza Horizon 4 may be unprecedented as a racing game in its visuals, open world, and variety of events. It took me a little bit but a few hours in, you actually unlock all the online modes and you get to play actual timed events with other players - somewhat like an MMO. This is when I realized the real fun kicks it because even though this truly is a great single player experience, this is the only racing game I have ever actually enjoyed the online maybe just as much due to how integrated it is with the whole game itself. The map is constantly ever changing and with the in-game season changing, the map changes along with it adding new events for every player to take a part in. You can either go head to head with other players or even play a bunch of cooperative challenges that are all pretty unique and fun. “Forzathon” is one of the best parts of this game and I keep going back to actually put my skills to the test against players around the world especially without the use of the “rewind” feature which is a staple at this point. As a side note, the feature is still there online but it only rewinds you, not everyone else, so you do lose a lot of ground because of it. This is the part of the game that will have players coming back for more constantly because everyone knows what they are getting into with a racing game: driving. All that's left is an actual variety of ever-changing events and Forza Horizon 4 has got it down. It's funny how The Crew 2, a game advertising itself as a Racing MMO game, fails to actually feel online compared to this.
Some of the in-game events in the game are crazy as well, especially the “Showcase Events” that you unlock at the end of each season. The first one you get to play gives you the scope of what they are going for in this game which is pretty much just bonkers. You have to race a giant oversized hovercraft and along with the overall craziness of the event, the music just has you so pumped as well as you try to maneuver your way to the finish line. Having these story missions are great because they are usually, as far I have seen, much wackier than the online missions which is hopefully something that changes in the future. Seriously, the game has a showcase mission that lets you become Master Chief and race the Warthog from the Halo series. Sure, the actual car costs 850,000 credits later on to compete in more Halo-themed events but that just goes to show how much the developers just want the players to have a good time - all with a great soundtrack in the background. And let me tell you, Forza Horizon 4 has some of the best selection of music in any racing game I have ever played. There are a few radio stations you can choose from and essentially its like Bass music, EDM, rap, and rock but it is a pretty solid selection featuring songs from Flosstradamus, M83, MGMT, The Killers, A Tribe Called Quest, Duckworth, Kendrick Lamar, Starset, Chvrches, Papa Roach, Odesza, and so much more.
It's funny because though this is a racing game, there are so many great aspects to talk about in this game without even talking about the cars. But hey, this game boasts an expansive collection of 450 cars. With a huge selection to choose from, the game also allows you to customize each car and fine-tune their features exactly to your liking. It's a great detail that allows a lot more personability to each player enjoying the game. But also, if you just wanna choose the “auto-upgrade” button and have the game decide what to upgrade for you, that is also an option as well. Each of the cars feels very different and handle exactly how they're supposed to with cars ranging from 0-999 with the performance index. The performance index takes five factors into account being speed, handling, acceleration, launch, and braking. In many racing games, you cannot really tell a huge difference when these assets are varied - but Forza Horizon 4 makes sure you can really feel the difference. Another amazing feature in the game is that every single car has its own skill tree. Yeah, some of them do repeat some skills but I think it's amazing that the developers went in to really add more variety and skills actually pertaining to the car type. Now that is a sign of developers who really care about their product.
Playing this game running at 60 FPS on Ultra settings is absolutely stunning and I actually did get to play the game for a bit on the XBox One as well when it was capped at 30 FPS. Yes, the game still does look and run amazing, but I cannot deny the extra frames really did help me enjoy the game even more.
Forza Horizon 4 is bloody brilliant and if you are a racing fan of any sorts, this is a must-have in your library. You will not regret it.