Forza Horizon [Review]

  • Platform: Xbox 360
  • Published by: Microsoft Game Studios
  • Developed by: Playground Games/Turn 10 Studios
  • Genre: Open World Racer
  • ESRB Rating: T For Teen
  • Number of Players: 1, Online Multiplayer 2-8
  • Release Date: October 23rd, 2012

When Forza Motorsport 4 released last October I truly thought this generation of consoles had seen its best looking racing game, no way could anyone top the pure perfection that Turn 10 achieved with that game. Playground Games has come along and challenged my belief in that statement and put forth the best looking racing game of this console generation, hands down.

I’m sure a lot of people were a bit skeptical when it was announced a new Forza game was being released only a year after the last one, well in a lot of ways Forza Horizon is a totally new IP and its developed by a new developer called Playground Games, which is comprised mostly of people who worked on racing games like Blur and the Project Gotham Racing series. So even though they are technically new developers, they are well versed in the art of racing. If you were looking for another Forza Motorsport game, you’ll need to keep looking. Forza Horizon doesn’t play like Forza Motorsport, that is something fans of the series should know right away. There are no standard race tracks or seasons to complete, but the Forza beauty remains, the cars are all more beautiful than ever, but instead of realistic race tracks, we now have a fictional Colorado open world racer based around the fictional Horizon music festival. The thing you’ll notice right away is that music is a key element to this game, right from the opening cinematic.

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The amount of content included in this open world racer is astounding, hundreds of cars and hundreds of different challenges that spread across a huge landscape in Colorado. Even though Forza Horizon doesn’t play like your typical Forza game, it definitely handles like one, so if you’ve ever played a Forza game, the controls will make you feel right at home. The difficulty sliders are pretty much the same as the ones in Forza Motorsport, so even though this isn’t a full simulation racing game, you can up the sliders to make it as difficult as you want, the more difficult the race, the more money you earn in the game. You also earn the right to join in on different challenge races, you have a goal to become more popular, there are a ton of ways to do that throughout the game, if you draft behind the competition that initiates a race right out on the open highway, the closer you get to an object without hitting it, the more points you get. I definitely get a Project Gotham Racing vibe from this game, even though I must admit that I like Forza Horizon much better than any of the Project Gotham games, which is probably why they named this game Forza in the first place, people are probably going to pay a lot more attention to a spin-off racing game with Forza in the title, as opposed to a totally newly named IP.

Aside from the music themed atmosphere, there are a ton of differences with Forza Horizon, including the story mode that the single player campaign is comprised of. I will admit that some of the dialog is a bit weak, if there is a weak spot to the game it’s probably the cheesy dialog, but it’s easily forgiven when you consider it’s the first Forza game to actually offer some kind of story. I actually did enjoy some of the trash talking aspects and cut scenes, so it’s definitely not all bad. The radio stations are a brilliant touch as well, even though there are only three to choose from, I’m all about options in video games, there is a bit of something for everyone when it comes to the music. There is also a navigational GPS that informs you when you’ll be turning and even though it sounds like something small, it’s very helpful and important when you’re cruising down the highway at blazing speeds. Speaking of speeds, even though Playground Games cut the typical 60 fps that Forza Motorsport churns out, the steady locked in 30 fps doesn’t slow down at all. I actually couldn’t notice a difference between the frame rate of Forza 4 or Forza Horizon, there just wasn’t any slowdown at all.

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The graphics in Forza Horizon are the best I’ve ever seen in a racing game, the lighting is simply the best and well rendered in a racing game, there is absolutely no draw distance or pop in when it comes to scenery, and given the massive scope of this game, that is pleasantly surprising. When you think of open world racing games, usually some aspect suffers, either the graphics or the cars and features. Forza Horizon is the first open world racer where neither of those things suffer in the least. The big thing that surprised me about Forza Horizon is the vast differences and variations in the game itself, there are road races, rival races and even dirt road racing, you can even race airplanes in this game, trust me, it’s a must try feature if you are into fun and fast paced, edge of your seat racing. There is literally hundreds of hours of content on a single disk, and when you finish with all of the single player options, you can always jump into the blistering fun of online multiplayer via Xbox Live. Even though this Forza game isn’t like the Motorsport series, Playground Games has kept the physics engine from those games and it adds to the experience, I don’t think many people would argue that the Forza series has been the top racing series for a while now, and the realistic physics is one of the main reasons.

One of the other big reasons for the Forza success is the sound, no other racing game provides true to life sound like the Forza series and it seems that Playground Games even topped Turn 10 in the sound department, the cars all sound better than ever and you can tell that the people who crafted this game are actual car and race fans. If people had one complaint about Forza Motorsport it was that there was no day/night cycle, well that has been masterfully implemented into Forza Horizon. As I stated earlier, it seems no hoop went un-jumped and no expense spared when it came to this game, and as a racing fan I am absolutely thrilled about that fact. Everything about Forza Horizon screams AAA title, and Playground Games has definitely put other race car developers on notice that they are a real force when it comes to crafting a true racing game experience. There is a little something for everyone, if you own a Kinect, the menus are Kinect compatible, it is actually a bit helpful from time to time when you want to quickly navigate. The music in plentiful and fun, the characters are witty and goofy, the cars are gorgeous and sound better than ever, simply put, if you are going to buy a racing game this year, make it Forza Horizon.

FINAL SCORE: 9.5/10

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