Forza has been the leading name for a “Simulated” driving experience when it comes to the racing game market, and that has been no exception when Playground Games introduced the Forza Horizon series of games. Even though Forza Horizon is more open and arcade-feeling than its brother, Forza Motorsports, it still leads the way on how racing games should feel and play. Over iterations of the Horizon series, the developers at Playground Games have improved on the feeling of driving, graphical fidelity, different terrain types and general quality of life improvements. They have continued to do all of those things with Forza Horizon 4.
Of course, the game is absolutely gorgeous. The setting of Britain really leans into the big new addition of seasons to the game, which are apparently supposed to change weekly in real time. When you start up (after getting the settings toggled and choosing your name), the game takes you through a tour of the four seasons, starting out in Fall racing in the brand new Mclaren Senna.
The landscape is brown and the skies get gloomy in the British country sky. It then changes to winter, and you go racing across the landscape in a trophy truck. The snow is falling heavily and the track condition is layered heavily with snow. Racing across a section of a frozen river, you hit a ramp where it changes over into spring. The spring setting is bright and rain puddles cover the road. Now, you’re racing in a souped-up Ford Focus against people on dirt bikes doing different outlandish tricks, trailing smoke while driving on back-country dirt roads. Because of the heavy rainfall, the dirt roads are now nothing but mud.
You end the race with another ramp where it goes into Summer, and back into the Mclaren racing towards the Horizon festival hub center with other cars joining the pursuit. It is a real display of the seasons and how they will drastically change the way people will want to approach their races. When driving in the snow and ice, it feels looser and less attached to the ground. In the spring, hit a big puddle, and feel the car bog down and hydroplane slightly. Also, with each season, you get a little taste of the attention to detail put into the game by what the terrain effect does visually to the vehicle. The difference between dry dirt in the summer or mud in the spring is a beautiful touch to the immersion the developers are trying to convey.
Notable New Features
Much of the game’s features looks similar to Forza Horizon 3, but there are some new features gathered from the demo, even though some of these were locked. The first thing that is big for the Horizon series is getting to choose what your driver looks like. A feature that was first available in Forza Motorsports 7, driver customization is a first for the Horizon series. You get to choose during the play through from a list of pre-made character models, with a customization feature for later that was locked during the demo. It has been mentioned that at some point you will be able to purchase houses throughout the British landscape, although this was also not available in the demo.
There are some new ranking systems noticeable in the demo that seems to differ between the different types of races you can do, but with the short hour-and-a-half of gameplay, I couldn’t decipher how exactly these ranking systems are going to work. Back on the customization end, the vehicles get upgraded the way Forza has done it for a few years now with the addition of full body kits to the repertoire. There is a menu option for Car Mastery, and I am interested in seeing if it goes even deeper into the customization of the vehicles, but unfortunately it was locked during the demo. Those are just the most notable features gathered through the somewhat short play through.
Even though the demo was short and many of the features were locked, I got the feeling that Playground Games have stepped it up from the highly impressive Forza Horizon 3. Its beautiful world design and amazing driving left me only wanting more to play more. There is a lot still left to be seen, but I am still really excited to drive around the countryside of Britain at high speeds and see exactly how badly I can destroy that new Mclaren. Whether picking up a copy of the game or playing it through Xbox Game Pass, Forza Horizon 4 is a still going to be one of the best racing games on the market. The full game releases on October 2nd, or you can get it early by purchasing the Ultimate Edition or playing the demo that can be downloaded from the Xbox Store.