I may be a little late to the party on this one. Maybe I should have put my foot down!
I’m bad at racing games, but I like them rather a lot. I’ve recently been having a lot of fun playing Onrush (thanks to Game Pass) and liked that it was racing but done in a completely different way. Now Game Pass has provided me with my next car driving experience in the form of Forza Horizon 4. I like the Forza series a fair bit, but find that the Horizon games are the more enjoyable experience thanks to it having a greater variety of things to do. I remember having a great time with Forza Horizon 3, racing around Australia. So how does the fourth entry in the sub-series fare?
Forza Horizon 4 is set in Britain, and much as it pains me to say this, I enjoyed racing around Australia far more. The environment in this latest iteration just isn’t as varied. Whilst this makes sense considering the nature of the different countries, it’s still a fact that Australia had mountains, beaches, countryside, deserts, cities, and so on. There’s just less to choose from in this comparatively plain island (incidentally, I am British so I don’t feel bad being self-deprecating – it’s what we do) meaning the races also lack some variety.
The developers have attempted to mitigate this through the use of seasons. During the game’s seven-or-so hour ‘story’, the country moves through the four seasons, meaning the landscape changes in quite significant ways. Whilst summer and autumn are fairly similar, winter brings snow and ice making turning a lot harder unless you’re in a suitable vehicle. Spring tends to be quite rainy, making the ground slicker and cornering tougher. I like this variety as it makes the same race completely different depending on the time of year.
The downside of the seasons comes after you’ve finished the story. Once this happens, the seasons change based on a real-life timer. Every seven days, the season will move on to the next one, meaning if you wanted to race in the snow, you may have to wait up to three weeks to be allowed to do so. I appreciate why this is the case, but for someone who tends not to play against other players all that often, why can’t I set the game to be summer so I can have the experience I want to? If there is a way to do this, I haven’t found it, although I imagine disconnecting my console from the internet and setting the clock manually might do it.
With that said, the actual racing experience is as fantastic as ever. There are a huge number of cars to buy, from a large array of categories depending on what sort of race you want to have. Just like in Forza Horizon 3, you can set most races up however you want, so in theory, you can play most of the game with the same car (although you’d probably be missing the point). With that said, there are a lot of vehicle specific challenges you can play when you feel like it that range from being a movie stunt driver to owning a car rental business specialising in the fastest cars in the world. Then there are the always fun Showcase events in which you race against ever more absurd opponents. There’s a Halo-themed one this year which was just fantastic.
As ever, the game looks glorious no matter what you’re doing, and this is coming from a cheap person that has a regular Xbox One rather than the super fancy one. The cars look beautiful, the environments are gorgeous, and the lighting can’t be faulted. The sound has a few problems. Whilst the engine sounds and music are as good as ever (although I miss the Groove Music integration), I came across sound bugs on more than a few occasions. The engines would keep making racing sounds when I was stationary, or wouldn’t play at all whilst driving. For a series that prides itself so much on its level of polish, this was a little disappointing.
I know it sounds like I’m not a fan of Forza Horizon 4, but I really am. It feels great to play and there’s a lot of variety, especially in the range of cars on offer. It’s just that it feels like a bit of a step back compared to the previous game. It’s an incredible racing game though, and certainly one to play if you need a new racer.
Forza Horizon 4 was developed by Playground Games and published by Microsoft Studios. I played the game on Xbox One and would recommend you give it a go if you’re in the market for a new racing game, especially if you subscribe to Xbox Game Pass. Just keep in mind that Horizon 3 does all this too…