Microsoft’s Forza franchise has been doing rather well for the company, staying mostly out of any kind of controversy. Sure, every year as the company announces the one new “feature” of the game, fans often ask “is that it?” but then again, fans will always want more. That is what has kept the Forza franchise going, evolving from being just Forza Motorsport to adding Forza Horizon to its portfolio. We are now being treated to the fourth installment of the open-world racing extravaganza and this time, there are a remarkable number of inclusions. However, new doesn’t always mean good, so we spend days playing the game so that you can make an informed decision about whether to buy the game or now.
The fourth installment of Forza Horizon is now based in the United Kingdom and is now called “the festival that never ends.” Besides the new location, the highlight of Forza Horizon 4 is not just the dynamic weather, but the fact that you race through four different seasons. You get to race through the British terrain in Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer. If you’ve played Forza Horizon 3’s Blizzard Mountain add-on, you may have a decent idea of what it’s like driving around in snow. For the most part, there is no real story to Forza Horizon 4, except that you’re at a very friendly mega-event created especially for car lovers.
Forza Horizon 4’s gameplay continues to evolve from its previous generations. As is the trend, Turn10 studios develop something new for Forza Motorsport and eventually, that development finds its way into the next Forza game. However, Forza Horizon 4 not only gets all the detail and realism from Forza Motorsport 7, but also gets dynamic season. Our review was mostly played in the Autumn season, but the weather in-game (online and offline) will change every week. The first few hours of the game give you a glimpse of all four seasons. In this, we saw some incredible attention to detail with regards to the environment.
You race across varying terrain; proper roads, wet roads, dirt roads, muddy roads, roads with snow on them and what not. You also get to drive across several feet deep virgin snow, but that’s only when you go off-roading in the free-roam mode. We drove across all terrain using the same car (without changing the tyres or turning) and discovered that the handling responded differently; minorly in some cases, and noticeably in some. For example, our Ford Mustang was great while racing on tarmac and dirt roads, but the steering response was noticeably loose while driving on wet roads. When driving in snow, drifting was always a bad idea (like it should be in real life) and as expected, trying to drive through puddles of water either led to hydroplaning or a sudden reduction of speed, depending on the speed and angle at which you hit the pedal. You will see unique aspects of seasons reflect in the environment of the game, such as the change in colours of the leaves, unique flora in the world and a completely new addition; sheep. While racing from one point to another to get to a race, we found stray sheep littered around the environment and no, you cannot hit them. Even the sheep change characteristic based on the weather and it is incredible the amount of detail that has gone into this game.
The gameplay mechanics have definitely improved with more realism being infused into the way the cars respond not only to the environment, but also to the engine tuning. These have always been a strong point for Forza games, and as with each game, this aspect only gets better. Is it ‘incredibly’ better than Forza Horizon 3 or even Forza Motorsport 7? Maybe not, but it is definitely noticeable.
The progression in Forza Horizon 4 is now broken up into multiple level-ups, depending on the races you participate in, the stunts you complete etc. There is also a new system called Influence that helps you progress through the game and unlock further portions. You can gain Influence doing practically anything; racing, performing stunts, challenging other racers etc.
The Forza Horizon 4 is an Xbox Play Anywhere enabled title, meaning that it an be played on both the Xbox One and PC, with all progression being carried over through both platforms seamlessly. I kept switching between the Xbox One and my PC, playing the game in 1080p and 2K respectively. On both the platforms, the visuals were crisp and there was no tearing or jitter whatsoever. When I Forza Horizon 4 was first loaded up on the PC, it profiled my system and automatically set the game to run on the highest setting at 2K. Every aspect of the game looks like a treat, whether you’re playing on the Xbox One or PC. With the Xbox, you know you’re going to get great visuals, but on the PC, you’re going to not only need a decently powerful rig, but also a decent monitor. IF you’ve got a gaming PC already, you shouldn’t have any trouble with running the game in its ful visual fidelity, HDR and all.
Forza Horizon 4 continues with the tradition of multiple radios to provide tunes while you race. Each radio channel has the familiar commentary which occasionally refers to your in-game achievements. It features an assortment of genres, everything from classical, to pop, hip-hop and EDM. The radio vibe of Forza Horizon is pretty neat and adds a lot of atmosphere to the game. The tunes are well balanced with the sound of roaring engines by default, but you can always tweak them in audio settings. In terms of surround sound, the game has a pretty impressive sound-stage, simulating the world extremely well on a 5.1 speaker setup.
The Verdict: Forza Horizon 4
The beauty of the Forza Horizon 4 is that in order to enjoy th game, you needen’t be invested in any of the previous Forza games. You can literally pick this one up and enjoy every single bit of the experience. After a while the game can feel a little repetitive given that you may be racing on the same track a few times, but there is so much to explore. In fact, the preset races are only a part of the Horizon experience. The other critical part racing against fellow players that inhabit Forza Horizon. In short, the game is worth the money, or if you have Xbox Game Pass, then its available to you for free anyway.
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