For za Hori­zon 4

I’ve been driv­ing in my car, some­times it’s a Jaguar

Games Master - - Contents -

Roar­ing through the lanes of ru­ral Bri­tain in a souped-up Jag has never been this at­tain­able be­fore.

For the first time in its six-year his­tory, the Hori­zon fes­ti­val has made its way to Great Bri­tain. Yet un­like real life, there are ex­tended pe­ri­ods of sun, the mo­tor­ways aren’t jammed with traf­fic, and your car won’t dis­ap­pear if you leave it down a dark al­ley. The per­fect get­away, then, par­tic­u­larly when you fac­tor in the seam­less mesh of ar­cade and sim­u­la­tion game­play, set amid an ex­pan­sive and gor­geous-look­ing sand­box that would sat­isfy every­one from Jen­son But­ton to James Bond. Hori­zon’s take on Bri­tain favours lush land­scapes over city life for the most part, of­fer­ing a unique rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the is­land. It’s largely sep­a­rated into coun­try roads, vil­lages, and land­marks, with Bri­tish sta­ples like the Glen­finnan viaduct and Ch­ester­ton wind­mill fea­tur­ing as de­tailed beauty spots. Ed­in­burgh’s the ma­jor city in the game, recre­ated in im­pres­sive style, com­plete with the iconic Ed­in­burgh cas­tle and Scott mon­u­ment, but no hen par­ties.

These hand­picked bits of Bri­tain are sprin­kled through­out the map, and metic­u­lous at­ten­tion to de­tail brings them to life. You find your­self slow­ing down to an­a­lyse the per­fect repli­ca­tions of road signs and mark­ings, and peer­ing into the warm glow of cot­tage win­dows to see if you can spot any­thing (strangely, this doesn’t re­sult in you be­ing pur­sued by the po­lice). In­stead of con­crete walls, you’ll smash through wooden fences and stone-built struc­tures, send­ing in­di­vid­ual peb­bles fly­ing into the air.

It’s great to see Hori­zon fo­cus­ing on the less-ex­plored ar­eas of videogame Bri­tain, and the ru­ral bias of­fers plenty of po­ten­tial for high-speed driv­ing. But like Hori­zon 3’s Aus­tralia, the ra­tio feels just a lit­tle off, and it would have been nice to see more di­verse city set­tings. Even so, you’ll be mes­merised by Hori­zon’s al­lur­ing vi­sion of Blighty and will find your­self reach­ing for photo mode at prac­ti­cally ev­ery turn.

’Tis the sea­son

Hori­zon 4’s map of Bri­tain boasts a no­table ad­van­tage over its pre­de­ces­sor – the ad­di­tion of sea­sons. It dra­mat­i­cally changes the way the world looks and op­er­ates, re­sult­ing in four very dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments. Tak­ing on any type of race in the win­ter re­quires a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to tack­ling it in the sum­mer, while spring and au­tumn also of­fer unique weather con­di­tions.

You get to ex­pe­ri­ence them all in the first few hours, with the Hori­zon Fes­ti­val

“you will find your­self reach­ing for photo mode at prac­ti­cally ev­ery turn”

qual­i­fy­ing pe­riod span­ning a full year in-game. Com­plet­ing events, ac­quir­ing in­flu­ence, and tak­ing part in bom­bas­tic Show­case events pro­gresses you to the next stage, and af­ter this the game truly opens up, turn­ing sea­sons into live weekly events. Each week brings new sea­son-spe­cific chal­lenges and re­wards, and it all takes place within seam­less on­line worlds of up to 72 play­ers.

Other ar­eas of the game also rely on live and ever-chang­ing con­tent, the best ex­am­ple be­ing Forza­thon Live. These are hourly chal­lenges that ap­pear in a pre­de­ter­mined lo­ca­tion on the map, task­ing play­ers with set­ting group tar­gets as a col­lec­tive. It’s a wel­come fo­cus on co-op play, of­fer­ing a nec­es­sary break from the norm, and you’re re­warded with points to spend in the sea­sonal shop.

The plen­ti­ful map-based events are ex­cel­lently var­ied, and re­vealed at a sat­is­fy­ing pace. You’ll have all sorts of ways to suit up be­hind the wheel, with ev­ery­thing from rally races, to stunt shows of­fer­ing unique ways to tackle Bri­tain’s roads. As al­ways, Forza Hori­zon 4 of­fers very few re­stric­tions on how you can choose to play, al­low­ing you to take on the AI, part­ner with a friend, or com­pete on re­li­able servers against play­ers from across the globe.

A new way to play this year is Team Ad­ven­ture mode, which throws you into team-based races, games, or a mix­ture of the two. You don’t have to join an of­fi­cial team – un­ranked play is an op­tion – but do­ing so of­fers perks such as cars and mode-spe­cific cus­tomi­sa­tion re­wards. There’s a good range of ac­tiv­i­ties to take part in, and the sea­sons change with each com­pleted event, help­ing to keep you in­ter­ested in the long term.

Hori­zon Blue­prints also re­turn as a way of cre­at­ing cus­tom race types to play with oth­ers, and a free Route Cre­ator is set to be added by the time you read this, al­low­ing you to de­sign your own races from scratch. The hills and wind­ing roads of Bri­tain of­fer ex­cel­lent po­ten­tial for this fea­ture, and as­sum­ing it goes off with­out a hitch, there’s real scope for the Route Cre­ator to be­come one of the se­ries’ big­gest high­lights.

Stylin’ and pro­filin’

There’s a greater fo­cus away from the race­track this year, too. The abil­ity to cus­tomise your char­ac­ter is ramped up in Forza Hori­zon 4, with a stylish se­lec­tion of out­fits and emotes to col­lect. Pre-race load­ing screens and vic­tory se­quences can now show­case ev­ery­thing from floss­ing to Fresh Prince-in­spired dances such as the ‘Carl­ton’. The only thing that’s dis­ap­point­ing is how lim­ited the char­ac­ter cre­ation suite is, be­ing re­stricted to just a few pre­set mod­els.

Im­prove­ments have been made to both the quan­tity and upgrad­abil­ity of the car ros­ter. You’ve now got over 450 cars to ac­quire, and all of them boast the out­stand­ing level of re­al­is­tic de­tail we’ve come to ex­pect from the se­ries. The han­dling dif­fer­ences from sea­son to sea­son will en­cour­age you to switch up your cho­sen rides, and each car boasts its own perk tree, of­fer­ing tai­lor-made ben­e­fits to spend your hard-earned skill points on.

The car cus­tomi­sa­tion suite it­self re­mains im­pres­sively deep – you can even set your horn to toot the Win­dows XP theme if you so choose. The only au­dio-re­lated down side is the ab­sence of Groove Mu­sic, which acted as the cus­tom ra­dio sta­tion in Hori­zon 3. Due to the ser­vice’s par­tial clo­sure, there’s no longer a way of im­port­ing your own tunes into the game, and while the sound­track re­mains some­what agree­able, we find the ra­dio sta­tions strug­gle to re­tain their ap­peal for long.

But sound­track is­sues and the like are the most mi­nus­cule of dents in Forza Hori­zon 4’s body­work; the rest of the pack­age re­mains sparkling. It’s un­doubt­edly the most fully-fea­tured and ac­ces­si­ble open world driv­ing game we’ve seen, with new fea­tures en­sur­ing en­joy­able rac­ing for weeks and months to come. Whether you’re a hard­core rac­ing nut or you’re brand new to the genre, you’ll want to ex­haust all that Hori­zon 4’s Bri­tain has to of­fer.

The Glen­finnan viaduct is fa­mous for hav­ing fea­tured in four Harry Pot­ter films. No cameos for the wiz­ard here, though.

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