Off the road
‘Forza Horizon 4’ changes with the times and the seasons
“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.