Up: Graphics, location, changing seasons, fun-factor
Down: Why the techno-pop remixes of techno-pop songs??
Neutral: Once again, the best racing game on the market.
Before you even read this review you might as well quit now and go play the game. All I’m going to do is give praise to how amazing the graphics are, gawk about how much open world excitement it contains, get all giddy about how many cars there are to choose from, and then slide in one tiny, insignificant complaint; more of a pet peeve to be honest. So save yourself 15 minutes and just go buy Forza Horizon 4.
Still here? Well alright, here goes…
My old Xbox One was starting to feel a bit stale so I went and purchased the Xbox One X bundle that included Forza Motorsport 7 and Forza Horizon 4 (only available on Microsoft’s website) which was a hell of a deal. Since 7 is a few months old already, that review will come later, but believe me I dived right into Horizon 4.
I had already reviewed Forza Horizon 2 when it came out four years ago and Horizon 3 sort of slipped by my radar. It’s hard to buy every racing game every single year, ya know. But, for the most part, I knew what to expect. Horizon 2 wowed me with its festival themed race world located in the south of France, gorgeous graphics, and heart-pumping showcases. If you would have asked me in 2014 if Horizon could be improved upon, I would have said no way. However, Turn 10 Studios knew exactly how to make a nearly perfect game perfecter, and I’m going to list how.
If you’ve played a Forza Horizon game then you know they try to make your socks go up and down with the intro, and 4 raises the bar completely. Horizon 4 is the first game in the series to introduce seasons on top of dynamic weather. Yes, you read that right, seasons. Right when you hit “go” on Horizon 4’s title screen, you are instantly met with a perfect autumn day in Scotland. The game also puts you behind the wheel of the brand new McLaren Senna and launches you down a colorful backroad. Next up is winter where you race atop mountains in trucks, followed by spring in a full-on rally race. Finally summer hits and your back in the Senna blasting 200 mph towards the Horizon Festival. Mind. Blown.
Remember when you thought nothing could ever look better than the Nintendo 64, but then the Xbox came around? That’s how I felt about Horizon 2 until I fired up Horizon 4 on the Xbox One X in jaw-dropping 4K. That’s the way this game is meant to be played. There are no jagged edges, textures are detailed up close and far away, load distance is incredible, and for the first time the lighting seems damn-near perfect. Horizon 2 looked great, but the developers at Forza finally dialed in the way light reflects off the car in every environment. A+
Honestly, gameplay is nearly 100% the same. If you’ve played and Forza game, there should be no surprises here. But that doesn’t mean the game isn’t fun or fresh. I’ve always loved the way Forza feels, which is why I keep coming back for more. New additions to Horizon 4 are you can now buy a house so you don’t have to go back to the festival every time to upgrade or buy a car, you can switch cars at any time and place with no penalty, events automatically tailor to whatever car you’re already driving, and there’s a new drag strip mode. In actuality, Horizon 4 gives you a zillion things to do and I would never be able to cover them all in one article. Just trust me that it’s fun and easy enough to figure out without a tutorial.
The reward system in Forza Horizon 4 is overwhelming on paper, but feels natural while you’re playing. You basically get something in return for every single way you choose to play. Want to win races and events? You level up, gain influence, and earn in-game money. Want to break that top speed record? There are speed traps everywhere. Like to explore? There are 200 wooden signs for you to crash into hidden throughout the map. Want to tear up the countryside? You can rack up huge combos by mowing over plants, breaking walls, getting big air, etc. This game really wants you to play it however you want to and never make you feel like you’re missing out.
I consider myself fortunate that this is the second location Forza has chosen that I have gotten to visit in real life; Nice, France (2) and Edinburgh, Scotland (4). The map in Horizon 4 is basically the northern most area of England all the way up to Edinburgh (Edinburgh being the only major city in the game). Everything is incredibly detailed and I can literally drive right up to all the landmarks I visited during my honeymoon. You can immediately tell that Turn 10 Studios did extensive research in finding their location and the temperate countryside of the U.K. is my new favorite.
*Quick note: The current in-game season is Autumn, but Horizon gives you a taste of all four before it puts you into the rotating real-time schedule.
At any time during your play, you can hit the up direction on the d-pad and Forza will drop you into photo mode. It sounds cheesy at first, but, as a car photographer, I can tell you that you will never get these shots in real life. The built-in photo editor is fun to play with too as it gives you plenty of camera adjustments, filters, and motion blurring. Heck, every single photo in this review is one that I personally took in-game!
Here is my ONE pet peeve. From what I can remember, Horizon 2 had maybe half a dozen songs that I actually liked and the rest was techno-pop nonsense. Horizon 4 greatly increases the amount of music I like including stuff from Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Haim, The Killers, and so on. Kudos to that. But at the same time, some of my favorites that made it to the game are only in the form of remixes! And to make it worse, Midnight City by M83, which is already an amazing techno-pop song, has only joined the game in the form of a lackluster remix by some DJ. Grr!
Forza Horizon 4 also sprinkles in plenty of fun surprises. If you’ve played previous installments, you’ll probably remember barn finds and showcases. You may also remember from Forza 4 (I think) and on that Turn 10 Studios has had a pretty good relationship with the developers of Halo. I won’t spoil anything, but if you’re a Halo fanboy like I am, you might get goosebumps when you hear Cortana’s voice replace your GPS and say “Chief, I need your help.” You got em there, didn’t ya?
Forza Horizon 4 has inarguably eclipsed all of their previous games once again. You could say that advancements in technology have allowed them to make a bigger game, but that has nothing to do with how creative, special, and fun Horizon 4 is. Even if you don’t like cars, you can play around in this sandbox for hours without getting bored. And with the absolutely gorgeous, wholly-unique, in-game seasons switching up weekly, there will be plenty of reasons to come back and play for the foreseeable future. So just how could Turn 10 Studios possibly improve upon this Forza Horizon? I’ll tell you again in 4 years.