Forza Hori­zon 4

THE Dri­vatar SYS­TEM Still De­liv­ers SOME OF THE MOST COM­PET­I­TIVE, ag­gres­sive and en­gag­ing ai COM­PE­TI­TION in a rac­ing Game

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One of the great tri­umphs of the Forza Hori­zon series – and FH4 is as great an ex­am­ple of it as any of the previous en­tries – is how it man­ages to make ev­ery type of car, ev­ery de­gree of horse­power, ev­ery vari­a­tion in han­dling, feel thrilling. The slow trun­dle up the car class or short-lived nov­elty of an iconic but un­der­pow­ered ve­hi­cle doesn’t hap­pen in Forza Hori­zon 4. In this game ev­ery car has some­thing to of­fer. From the most ridicu­lous hy­per car to the lit­tle P50 sin­gle-seater with three wheels, ev­ery­thing is a joy with which to ex­plore the tar­mac.

This re­ally comes down to two key el­e­ments. The most ob­vi­ous is the han­dling of each car, which can be very dif­fer­ent. Some have ex­quis­ite con­trol and pre­ci­sion that makes you feel in­vin­ci­ble on the track; oth­ers seem to slide around er­rat­i­cally, but if you can just tame them they rocket off with stun­ning speed and yet oth­ers play on the edge be­tween chaos and pre­ci­sion, drift­ing around cor­ners and nip­ping in and out of traf­fic. The sec­ond el­e­ment though is the course de­sign, which is bril­liant through­out. There are of­ten rec­om­mended classes for each race that are op­ti­mised for that style of ve­hi­cle, but so many of them are im­pres­sively ver­sa­tile.

There are so many chal­lenges to pick from at any given mo­ment, but each of­fers its own ap­peal. There are ac­tu­ally more events than there needed to be to con­tinue up through the ranks and progress through the race-by-race rank­ing sys­tem that has been in­tro­duced into this game. But ev­ery one of them has its ap­peal and can be ex­plored or avoided as you see fit. We’re not al­ways big fans of drift­ing, so we dipped in and out of that, but cross-coun­try and dirt rac­ing are an ab­so­lute blast, so we fo­cused in on those a lot.

Be­tween races, pro­gres­sion through the world and how you mea­sure your progress has been changed sig­nif­i­cantly, with largely pos­i­tive re­sults. For a start, the mul­ti­ple Fes­ti­val lo­ca­tions and lev­el­ling up of each is gone. In­stead you buy houses as your out­posts around the map and your lev­el­ling up is con­cen­trated on ap­ply­ing points to perk cards ap­plied to spe­cific cars. That per­son­alises the ex­pe­ri­ence in a way we re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate. Less suc­cess­ful to our minds is the avatar cloth­ing and ges­ture un­locks that eat up space on the ran­dom wheel­spins that oc­cur af­ter break­ing cer­tain lev­els. They’re fine, but we would re­ally rather con­cen­trate on the cars and in­vest in them as we see fit rather than un­lock­ing a new base­ball cap.

We should take a mo­ment to praise the gen­eral level of com­pe­ti­tion in this game

be­fore mov­ing on. The dri­vatar sys­tem, as silly as the name re­mains, still de­liv­ers some of the most com­pet­i­tive, ag­gres­sive and en­gag­ing ai com­pe­ti­tion in a rac­ing game we can think of. The game is al­ways push­ing you to in­crease the dif­fi­culty for a re­turn of greater re­wards if you win, and push your­self, and that’s wel­come too. There’s a con­stant re­la­tion­ship be­tween you and FH4 as it keeps feed­ing you new races, new show­case events, new hid­den cars to go hunt­ing for, new cars to buy, houses to move into and on and on and on. It might be built to keep your at­ten­tion and stop you from walk­ing away, but it feels a lot like Play­ground is just very ex­cited about shar­ing ev­ery­thing it’s made with you. There’s a lot of per­sonal in­vest­ment pour­ing out from these no­ti­fi­ca­tions and new icons pop­ping up on the map.

The live na­ture of Forza Hori­zon 4 through Forza­thon, re­turn­ing from the previous game, re­mains a great mix­ture of cel­e­bra­tion and chal­lenge as you meet up with other play­ers and take on col­lec­tive ob­jec­tives un­der a time limit. It’s a loose co­op­er­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ence that is un­like any­thing else out there. The ad­di­tion of sea­sons, each last­ing a week and hav­ing a worldwide im­pact on the map for ev­ery player, helps to main­tain that sense of con­nect­ed­ness even if you pre­fer to race alone. Forza Hori­zon 4 strikes a great bal­ance of at once be­ing more on­line con­nected and global than ever, but still be­ing to­tally vi­able as a sin­gle-player ex­pe­ri­ence.

Be­yond the filler of the lev­el­ling sys­tem that ex­ists in the avatar cus­tomi­sa­tion, it’s re­ally just a few tech­ni­cal is­sues that hold this game back from per­fec­tion. game stut­ter­ing was a big one, sud­denly hav­ing the game freeze and un­freeze for a brief mo­ment, of­ten af­ter leav­ing an event and re-en­ter­ing the freeform world. There’s also some frus­trat­ing ge­om­e­try out there that if you don’t rewind your­self to safety fast enough will leave you trapped and hav­ing to reload the game. We don’t know how we kept do­ing it to our­selves (we sort of do… our off-road­ing was some­times a lit­tle over-am­bi­tious), but it hap­pened a few times. These are things that are per­haps not so un­com­mon in an open-world game, but were par­tic­u­larly trou­ble­some in this for­mat.

These were ul­ti­mately small frus­tra­tions though. hic­cups in an oth­er­wise ut­terly joy­ous rac­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. This is about as es­sen­tial as any Xbox one ex­clu­sive has been so far, which we would con­sider high praise for Play­ground’s lat­est racer, but per­haps damn­ing for the state of the Xbox one’s lineup. If, how­ever, this sets a marker down for the next few years of games from Mi­crosoft Stu­dios then the fu­ture is very bright in­deed. Forza Hori­zon 4 is quite bril­liant in vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing it does.

above: Take a mo­ment when you’re climb­ing up a moun­tain only to leap off of it to the ground be­low and remember that this is a Forza game. You remember those stodgy, metic­u­lous sim­u­la­tion rac­ers you used to play a year ago? This is part of that series.

be­low: Forza broadly has be­come such a multi-faceted ex­pe­ri­ence that caters to so many in­ter­ests. rac­ing, car de­sign­ing, tun­ing, col­lect­ing, ex­plor­ing. You can re­ally cus­tomise your way of en­joy­ing this game.

be­low: Photo mode is go­ing to ruin our lives. We’re tak­ing three­times as long to fin­ish games be­cause of it, but we love it so much and it’s great in FH4.

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