Forza Horizon 2
Would it be cruel to call the first
Forza Horizon a rush job? In the space of 18 months, Playground Games went from 19 co-founders and a vacant office to a full team and a shipped game that dragged Forza Motorsport’s physics model off the track and onto a scale model of Colorado. The first open-world Forza was a spectacular achievement, but one with notable omissions in the wake of Forza 4. With Playground’s fast turnaround, there could be no tuning, no car auctions, no technical HUD, and no Top Gear tie-ins. Horizon also put fewer cars on track and in players’ garages. But two years later on Xbox One, Playground has the advantage. After all, Forza 5 is proof that, yes, calling
Horizon a rush job would be cruel. Turn 10’s launch-day racer was a remarkable piece of technology, but missing two-thirds of Forza
4’ s tracks, 300 of its cars and countless modes and features. Forza 5 was a skeleton compared with the fleshed-out Forza 4. Worse, it skipped features Turn 10 had never promised but players had been anticipating for years: night racing and dynamic weather.
Turn 10 had all the troubles of working with a new engine on new hardware, but Playground is arriving a year later with its open-world sequel having enjoyed all the luxuries of working with newer APIs on more mature Xbox One hardware and with Turn 10’s new engine. Horizon 2 matches Forza 5’ s vehicle count with 200 cars, strips out that game’s controversial microtransactions, ups the radio stations from three to eight, includes a full tuning system, and adds a day/ night cycle and weather. But to frame this as a contest would be to miss the point; certainly there’s a degree of competition between Playground and Turn 10, but everyone wins.
“We now have two world-class teams working on the same technology and the same codebase, sharing ideas and pooling creativity,” Playground’s creative director
Ralph Fulton says. “I think that lets us push harder and further than we ever could alone.”
Armed with Turn 10’s new engine, Playground is responsible for reworking the code to fit an open-world game, which comes at a cost: the framerate has fallen from 60fps to 30fps, and the number of player-controlled cars on the road is down from 16 to 12. The payoff is giddying space and surpassing beauty. Spanning the beautiful south of France and northern Italy, Horizon 2 takes in the sights and spectacles of Provence, the Côte d’Azur, Tuscany and the rolling foothills and majestic mountains of the Alps, where the Horizon festival has set up shop for 2014.
“Setting your game in one of the world’s most beautiful places is a good start for
Ralph Fulton, creative director, Playground Games