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VIDEO GAME FORZA HORI­ZON 4 RRP £49.99

“It’s not your dream hol­i­day, it’s your dream life. That’s what I see on the hori­zon,” says fic­tional rac­ing cham­pion Re­becca – Au­tosport hopes we’re tak­ing her phonecall via a hands-free de­vice, since we’ve been thrust into the cock­pit of a Mclaren Senna.

Af­ter blast­ing along very fa­mil­iar Scot­tish B-roads along­side other ti­tans of the UK au­to­mo­tive scene, we’re straight into win­ter and driv­ing a Po­laris off-road buggy through an up­hill sec­tion in the se­cond stage of a rac­ing/cin­e­matic se­quence that could be the Forza Hor­zon 4 ver­sion of Mar­vel’s Avengers.

Over a jump, across win­ter farm­land and out of the mud, then it’s into spring in a Rahal Let­ter­man Lani­gan Rac­ing Ford Fi­esta from the Global Ral­ly­cross Cham­pi­onship as you hunt down show­boat­ing bikes.

Back into the Senna for the ‘Great Race’, which, if won, takes you through the sleepy town of Ash­ford and into the Forza Fes­ti­val. ‘Wel­come to Bri­tain’, the mes­sage says.

Phew. Sound fran­tic, over-the-top bom­bas­tic? That’s the Forza Hori­zon fran­chise, the Top Gear-like mad brother of the more se­ri­ous Forza Mo­tor­sport racer.

This is not a game for those who en­joy fraught sim­u­la­tion rac­ing pro­vided by the likes of Project Cars, rfac­tor or irac­ing, but more for the kinds of peo­ple who want to live out their Fast and Fu­ri­ous dreams.

The se­lec­tion of cars from mo­tor­sport is as eclec­tic as you would ex­pect from a sand­box, open-world game such as the Hori­zon se­ries, no doubt high­lighted by the stun­ning (if not road-le­gal) 1969 Penske Lola T70 in clas­sic Sunoco liv­ery, which in this game drives like a lightweight drift­ing ma­chine. Au­tosport pre­ferred driv­ing this over the more typ­i­cal Ford Tran­sit vans that lit­ter our road.

But tak­ing the Lola around the streets of a sur­pris­ingly ac­cu­rate, con­densed Ed­in­burgh, or through the tight-and-twisty con­fines of Cum­bria, is a gen­uine de­light. It’s a re­lief to see a large-bud­get video game ac­knowl­edge that there is more to the UK than the triedand-tested streets of Lon­don.

“TAK­ING A LOLA T70 AROUND THE STREETS OF ED­IN­BURGH IS A GEN­UINE DE­LIGHT”

But not all feels quite so fresh, and sev­eral el­e­ments still fall flat. The in­sis­tence on a game avatar – par­tic­u­larly a se­lec­tion so gorm­less – to in­tro­duce an el­e­ment of clothes cus­tomi­sa­tion is still as tacky as it sounds. Adding houses to buy makes for pleas­ant pho­tos, but lit­tle else.

In re­al­ity, there’s only one ad­di­tion – out­side of sea­sons – worth not­ing. Forza Hori­zon 4 is the first game in the se­ries to be to­tally on­line, which a gam­ble con­sid­er­ing the fail­ure of The Crew and its suc­ces­sor.

But the likes of GT Sport have proved it can be done and is in keep­ing with what the 2018 gamer wants.

The great­est suc­cess is the dy­namic sea­sons that drop each Thurs­day with a cu­rated song playlist – evoca­tively pre­sented as old-fash­ioned mo­tor­sport event posters that used to pro­mote iconic races.

While the ar­cade style may not be to the taste of ev­ery mo­tor­sport fan, the fact is that the Hori­zon se­ries, which started as a spin-off, has now over­taken the par­ent Forza Mo­tor­sport se­ries in pop­u­lar­ity. In an era of rac­ing games that are shin­ing new light on niche se­ries or tak­ing Formula 1 to new heights, that’s re­mark­ably telling.

Per­haps the knock-on ef­fect will be that the won­der­ful but un­re­al­is­tic Penske Lola will find a new au­di­ence to ap­pre­ci­ate it too. If not, the ad­di­tional con­tent such as gad­get-laden James Bond cars will suf­fice.

Au­tosport likes to pop to the vir­tual shops in the Lola

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