Forza Hori­zon 2

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher Mi­crosoft De­vel­oper Play­ground Games, Turn 10 Stu­dios, Sumo Dig­i­tal (360) 360, Xbox One (ver­sion tested) Out now

360, Xbox One

Given the de­struc­tion wreaked on Colorado dur­ing the first Forza Hori­zon, you’d think the French and Ital­ian au­thor­i­ties charged with au­tho­ris­ing the fes­ti­val’s visit to the south-west of Europe might have re­con­sid­ered. Mere days into this lat­est mo­tor­sport gath­er­ing, olive fields lie in ru­ins, parked scoot­ers and restau­rant fur­ni­ture are scat­tered across the streets, and lo­cal driv­ers can’t ven­ture out for fear of los­ing their no-claims bonuses. But while our blar­ing pres­ence in this bu­colic idyll is do­ing lit­tle for the rep­u­ta­tion of Brits abroad, it’s hard to feel much guilt when we’re hav­ing this much fun.

And in a genre so en­am­oured of Amer­i­can tar­mac and overt spec­ta­cle, Hori­zon 2’ s set­ting is par­tic­u­larly ap­peal­ing. The sin­u­ous Euro­pean roads here aren’t as broad as the Amer­i­can high­ways that criss­crossed the first game, but are char­ac­terised in­stead by soft verges, chal­leng­ing camber tran­si­tions and all man­ner of el­e­va­tion changes. The world feels more or­ganic as a re­sult, and its road­ways more in­tri­cate as they wind through the gen­tly rolling land­scape con­nect­ing the small, char­ac­ter­ful towns that oc­ca­sion­ally in­ter­rupt the coun­try­side. Hori­zon 2’ s com­pact take on this part of the world is cer­tainly ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing in­cred­i­ble views, but does so with­out fall­ing back on red-rock canyons, neon light­ing (at least out­side of the fes­ti­val en­clo­sure) or vast, tow­er­ing forests.

Don’t ex­pect any such sub­tlety when it comes to the brash Hori­zon Fes­ti­val’s race sched­ule, how­ever. The first game’s list of event types is re­tained, in­clud­ing cir­cuit races, point-to-point sprints and dirt-track­based ral­lies. Here, they’re just as bois­ter­ous as be­fore, fur­ther im­proved by a net­work of roads that de­mands more of you as a driver, and Play­ground’s cir­cuit de­signs are ex­em­plary, al­ways mak­ing the most of Hori­zon 2’ s Mediter­ranean set­ting. Tar­mac sec­tions are marred slightly by Hori­zon 2’ s un­for­tu­nate in­her­i­tance of Forza Mo­tor­sport 5’ s ex­ces­sively slip­pery han­dling, which sees even four-wheel-drive ve­hi­cles break trac­tion around slow cor­ners, but the game’s han­dling model sud­denly makes sense once you ven­ture off road.

This is made pos­si­ble thanks to Play­ground’s decision to re­move Hori­zon’s road­side bar­ri­ers and of­fer a truly open world. Now if you can see a lo­ca­tion, you can drive there, in­flict­ing cul­tur­ally in­sen­si­tive dam­age as you go. And this new­found free­dom has al­lowed the stu­dio to in­tro­duce its most ex­cit­ing event type yet: Cross Coun­try. In th­ese races, you hare through wideopen fields, down densely wooded hill­sides and across peo­ple’s gar­dens – don’t worry about the fences; they’re de­struc­tible – as you wres­tle to keep your ve­hi­cle point­ing vaguely in the right di­rec­tion amid clouds of dust and con­stant con­troller rum­ble. It’s a bit odd be­ing asked to drive a Pa­gani Huayra on any­thing other than tar­mac, but stick to the 4x4s and rally ve­hi­cles and Hori­zon 2 shines. Th­ese events are so good, in fact, that you’ll be dis­ap­pointed when you use them up and have to re­vert to road rac­ing to ful­fil the quota of 15 cham­pi­onship wins to en­ter Hori­zon 2’ s Fi­nale.

Cham­pi­onships re­volve around a mo­bile hub that changes lo­ca­tion through­out the fes­ti­val, with four events to com­plete in any or­der. Once you’re done, a non­com­pet­i­tive road trip to the next lo­ca­tion be­comes avail­able, al­low­ing you to choose the dis­ci­pline of the next cham­pi­onship from a se­lec­tion that in­cludes su­per cars, hot hatches, track toys and off-road ve­hi­cles, then buy a suit­able ve­hi­cle. And some­times cham­pi­onships are brought to a close by re­turn­ing showcase events that, as in the first game, chan­nel Top Gear as they pit you against planes, trains and, well, bal­loons. There’s no rush to progress, how­ever, and there are plenty of dis­trac­tions beyond the main story. Break­able boards are dot­ted around the map that of­fer ei­ther ad­di­tional XP or dis­counts on fast travel, Barn Finds have you search­ing for rust­ing clas­sics and restor­ing them, and leader­board-driven Speed Traps are brought over from Hori­zon as well. But the se­quel also finds time to in­tro­duce Bucket List chal­lenges, which lend you the keys to some of game’s most ex­otic hard­ware and task you with reach­ing a des­ti­na­tion within a cer­tain time or, for ex­am­ple, scor­ing 15 near misses in on­com­ing traf­fic. They’re amus­ing, and you’re chirpily told that you can retry them any time you like, but the lat­ter va­ri­ety will frus­trat­ingly end when you hit the re­quired tar­get, even if there’s lots of time on the clock.

There are some other de­sign nig­gles, such as the fact that the world map, which you’ll spend a great deal of time us­ing, re­quires two but­ton presses to both ac­cess and re­turn to driv­ing. A far big­ger prob­lem is the in­tro­duc­tion of Turn 10’s AI Dri­vatars. Em­u­la­tions of your friends and other play­ers, Dri­vatars serve to make off­line events feel more per­sonal and gen­er­ate emer­gent mid­field ri­val­ries that can keep things en­gag­ing even if you’re not at the front end of the grid. But out in the open world, they’re bol­shie, obliv­i­ous to other driv­ers, and fond of dent­ing your car even if you’re out for a gen­tle cruise. They cre­ate an ac­cu­rate sim­u­la­tion of go­ing on­line with strangers, then, but they’re a scourge on Hori­zon 2’ s of­ten en­ter­tain­ing world.

It’s a shame that Forza’s much-vaunted AI tech proves an ill fit for open-world rac­ing, but even all the con­stant shunt­ing can’t break Play­ground’s char­ac­ter­ful, con­fi­dent blend of driv­ing, ex­plo­ration and fes­ti­val at­mos­phere. That vibe feels as fresh on Xbox One as it did in the orig­i­nal on 360. By re­mov­ing the bar­ri­ers that hemmed in the first game’s driv­ers, the Hori­zon se­ries has bet­ter re­alised the in­tox­i­cat­ing po­ten­tial hinted at in its ti­tle, even if the in­con­sis­tency of its parts oc­ca­sion­ally threat­ens to spoil the trip.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.