Forza Horizon 4
THE Drivatar SYSTEM Still Delivers SOME OF THE MOST COMPETITIVE, aggressive and engaging ai COMPETITION in a racing Game
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.