Dani veers off track in Forza Horizon 4
Being British I could talk about the weather forever. There are just so many types to comment on, from gentle, fizzing rains that cling to your hair and somehow ignore umbrellas entirely, to sudden downpours that everyone loves to hate. I’ve seen 50 different types of grey cloud in the last week and have had conversations about them in the office lifts. The weather is the perfect way to fill in all of those awkward silences without needing to delve into any personal topics. We’ve got this level of non-engaging conversation down to a fine artform here and I love it. And now that Forza Horizon 4’ s impressive seasonal cycling is here, I can share it with you all.
While going 200kmph in super cars on stretches of winding tarmac is lovely, I found myself more interested in sticking my head out of the window and slowing down to admire the scenery. Instead of going as fast as I possibly can in a Pagani Zonda, I much prefer pootling around in a 1980s Ford Fiesta scoping out potential picnic spots from which to admire Forza’s beautiful skies. Luckily
Horizon gives you that choice – unlike the more static and po-faced Motorsport side of the series, here you’re free to wander away from the tracks to find your own routes and even cut across fields to bother the local sheep if you wish.
Light of my life
After you get through the opening few hours the game transitions to a weekly schedule of seasonal changes, so you’ll be playing through a damp spring one week, followed by a bright summer the next. This gives plenty of opportunity for weather chat as it’s always changing, so your conversation will never get stale. Autumn is particularly good for this – the sunlight has a unique clarity to it that suggests a slight chill in the air, and shows off the radiance of the trees’ transitional reds and yellows. In spring the sky has a slightly heavier feel to it, like there’s a constant dampness being carried in it that subtly dulls the blue of a clear day.
“I can even play god and shape the weather in private races”
It’s tough to appreciate just how good FH4’ s lighting is because it looks so natural. You overlook the fact that several people have had to engineer it to look like that. Perhaps it’s because it was made by British developers and fellow weather enthusiasts that they’ve captured that realistic light so perfectly. I can clearly picture the chats that must have happened over the last year – the comments on how weird that day’s rain is to fill in the silence in a shared kitchen while brewing tea, only to return to their desks and recreate it lovingly. Sometimes we really do all live up to stereotypes, and it can pay off in a huge way. I get the same feelings about the UK’s weather in FH4 as I do when I idly look out of my window. While that light might be exotic to other gamers around the world, to me it’s comforting – I’m at home in this world of stupidly posh cars and stunts I could never dream of pulling off myself.
I can even play god and shape the weather in private races. While the world may change around you beyond your control normally, you have the ability to bend it to your will by setting up your own races. In the mood to talk about the sludgy snows and sleet of winter while it’s blazing hot outside? You can do that – your weather-based chat doesn’t need to be limited to what’s actually happening around you. Pick your favourite season and harp on endlessly about the drizzle if your heart desires.
It amazes me how something we often take for granted, such as lighting and clouds, really helps make a game what it is. Without the attention to detail in these small things the game’s version of Britain would be less convincing and perhaps not as compelling as a result. So even if the skies are sad and grey outside, be thankful that they helped inspire the best Xbox One console exclusive to date.