For za Horizon 4
I’ve been driving in my car, sometimes it’s a Jaguar
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.