Off the road

‘Forza Hori­zon 4’ changes with the times and the sea­sons

The Gulf Today - Time Out - - BUDS & BLOSSOMS - Gieson Ca­cho/Tri­bune News Ser­vice

“Forza Hori­zon 4” is a home­com­ing of sorts for Play­ground Games. In the past, the team has taken play­ers to Colorado, south­ern Europe and Aus­tralia for the fic­tional rac­ing festival. This time around, the team didn’t have to go far for the new lo­cale. They just had to step out­side and ex­plore their back­yard.

It’s an un­usual move be­cause the United King­dom doesn’t stand out as an ex­otic set­ting com­pared to south­ern France or an iconic Aus­tralian beach, but the is­land has one thing go­ing for it — weather. The UK has four dis­tinct sea­sons and that is one of the ma­jor changes in “Forza Hori­zon 4.”

“It’s a source of pride, por­tray­ing Bri­tain at the best it could be,” said creative direc­tor Ralph Fulton. “There’s that as­pect of it. It’s var­ied. It has a sense of his­tory that’s unique to it.”

The se­quel con­tin­ues to evolve and stretch the bound­aries of rac­ing. In the third en­try, the team in­tro­duced drop-in and drop-out co-op. They also had Forza­thon, a liv­ing event sys­tem that gives play­ers new chal­lenges and re­wards. They even al­lowed play­ers to cre­ate their own races with the Blue­print fea­ture.

“The launch is just a start for ‘Forza Hori­zon 4,’ “Fulton said. The grand vi­sion is that play­ers will con­tinue to come back to a liv­ing and breath­ing rac­ing world that changes. Af­ter fin­ish­ing a six- to seven-hour pro­logue, they’re thrown in a world pop­u­lated by other on­line play­ers. Each week marks a sea­son. Four weeks make up a rac­ing year.

Play­ers can still race against Driveatars off­line but the rac­ing en­vi­ron­ment is per­sis­tent for all play­ers. If it’s win­ter for one week, it’s win­ter for ev­ery­one in the game. The next week spring will come and play­ers will en­joy those con­di­tions as well. They can’t choose what en­vi­ron­ment they want to race in. They have to take it in stride.

Of course, the sea­sons present different chal­lenges to play­ers. For ex­am­ple, spring is usu­ally rainier than sum­mer. This cre­ates mud and pud­dles on tracks, and in au­tumn, leaf piles be­come a fac­tor when tak­ing curves. Win­ter is a whole new ball game with frozen lakes that open new lanes and routes across the world. Roads are icy and play­ers have to drive more care­fully.

With the nitty-gritty of things, the weather and tem­per­a­ture have an im­pact on how cars per­form. Ev­ery sur­face has a con­duc­tiv­ity set­ting that in­flu­ences han­dling. That means if you want to set speed trap records, it’s best do it in the sum­mer when the en­vi­ron­ment is ideal.

Al­though the sea­sons are a fac­tor, Fulton said there’s no ideal car for each sea­son. Don’t ex­pect to see only rac­ing trucks that power through snow in the win­ter. Play­ers can get around some lim­i­ta­tions via cus­tomi­sa­tion. Rac­ers can out­fit their cars with snow tires to help them in the cold.

The game it­self fol­lows a pat­tern that will be fa­mil­iar to vet­er­ans of the se­ries. Af­ter an open­ing race that shows off the four sea­sons, play­ers take on the role of a rookie who is try­ing to rise up the ranks of the Hori­zon Festival. Bor­row­ing an el­e­ment from “Forza Mo­tor­sports 7,” play­ers get to choose their avatars. They can make them male or fe­male, dress them in different cloth­ing and give them emotes that show up af­ter win­ning a race.

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