EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher Mi­crosoft De­vel­oper Play­ground (Turn 10, Sumo Dig­i­tal) For­mat 360, Xbox One Re­lease Septem­ber 30

Forza Hori­zon 2, Fa­ble Leg­ends, Sun­set Over­drive, Scale­bound, Fan­ta­sia: Mu­sic Evolved, Phan­tom Dust, Crack­down, Killer In­stinct: Sea­son 2, Halo: The Mas­ter Chief Collection, Ori And The Blind For­est

The show­piece of Mi­crosoft’s con­fer­ence was Forza Hori­zon 2, its phys­i­cally ren­dered sur­faces splashed with wa­ter, re­flect­ing light cast through a sim­u­lated at­mos­phere that makes its Euro­pean set­ting not only un­can­nily real­is­tic but beau­ti­fully oth­er­worldly. While Forza Mo­tor­sport patho­log­i­cally repli­cates re­al­ity, Hori­zon takes re­al­ity as far as it’s fun and then goes wild. Forza 5’ s physics model un­der­pins the han­dling, but don’t let that stop you tak­ing a Lam­borgh­ini of­froad through a vine­yard or deep into a for­est. It de­fies me­chan­ics but em­braces sheer en­joy­ment, and Hori­zon’s open world is truly open for the first time, plac­ing no ar­ti­fi­cial bar­ri­ers be­tween your car and an off-road scram­ble.

While Forza 5 lost tracks and fea­tures to make Xbox One’s launch, Hori­zon 2 is big­ger than its 2012 pre­cur­sor in ev­ery way, with a dy­namic weather sys­tem com­ple­ment­ing the day/night cy­cle, phys­i­cally ren­dered sur­faces that will ‘ab­sorb’ wa­ter ac­cord­ing to their porous­ness, and the full tun­ing sys­tem that de­vel­oper Play­ground was forced to cut from Hori­zon.

Play­ground has also fi­nally come to terms with call­ing the game’s style sys­tem ‘Ku­dos’, if only in­for­mally. Hori­zon’s take on Project Gotham’s Ku­dos points has grown to of­fer perks for stylish driv­ing, con­fer­ring metagame re­wards such as in­creased cash for sell­ing liv­er­ies and tun­ing set­ups rather than in-game cheats. In be­tween drop­ping the word ‘ku­dos’, cre­ative di­rec­tor Ralph Ful­ton speaks highly of Mo­tor­sport 5’ s Dri­vatar sys­tem, too – “the bench­mark by which all rac­ing game AI will be mea­sured” – and seems to recog­nise the im­pact of his sim­ple prom­ise that Hori­zon 2 will have none of the mi­cro­trans­ac­tion sys­tems play­ers hated in Forza 5.

Friends’ Dri­vatars will pop­u­late the world to be chal­lenged and raced, or fol­lowed to se­crets their owner has dis­cov­ered in their own game. One but­ton press will take your game on­line, seam­lessly syn­chro­nis­ing your time of day and weather with a friend’s game and spawn­ing you in their world with­out a load­ing time or even a pause.

While oth­ers con­tinue to strug­gle to make the Xbox One hard­ware sing, the Leam­ing­ton Spa-based Play­ground has man­aged 1080p at a rock-solid 30fps in a sump­tu­ous open world with phys­i­cally ren­dered ev­ery­thing and a light­ing sys­tem that’s sec­ond to none. Like Naughty Dog work­ing on PlayS­ta­tion 3, then, the stu­dio seems to have the magic key that un­locks the con­sole’s po­ten­tial.

The Lam­borgh­ini Hu­racán (above) makes its videogame de­but in

Hori­zon 2. Mi­crosoft brought the only Hu­racán in North Amer­ica to its E3 stand, mak­ing it the re­volv­ing cen­tre­piece of its Forza Hori­zon dis­play

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